I’ve just returned from a beauty treatment afternoon, bought for me as a birthday present back in September. The thing about buying Groupon vouchers as presents is that, unless you know the establishment for which you buying, it can be very hit and miss. The beauty lounge was just that, the front lounge of what used to be (and actually looks like its used as) some one’s house. The proprietor, an entrepreneurial 27 year old, managed to ingeniously cram 5 couches into a room about 20 ft x 18 ft. The room also included the reception desk, another therapist, and six very pink high backed waiting chairs. This was in keeping with the pink and black theme. Each couch was separated by black curtains, which, when closed, wrapped themselves like cling film around the therapist. Pink towels provided splashes of colour on the black coverings.
I was having a back massage, a facial and a foot soak. It was originally to be a fish pedicure till the bottom dropped out of the Garra Ruffa market, following the infection scare a couple of weeks ago. The far end of the room is used for customers who are likely to be there for a while, leaving the couches nearer the door for those popping in for hair removal; chin, upper lip, and eyebrows. There was a constant stream of them, mostly older Asian women, but also a few English women, most of whom joked that they would benefit from having a few pounds removed also.
The back massage was pleasant, but would not have shifted any stubborn knots if there had been any. My face was the main event. I was cleansed, exfoliated, steamed (not so easy to breathe with jets of steam blowing up your nose, but somehow I managed to drift off to sleep, only to be woken by the eye patches falling into my ears) and cleansed again. Then came the surprise.
My young therapist, who couldn’t have been more than 22, with flawless skin, said she was going to remove the black heads from my nose. ‘It may be a little painful,’ she lilted in an almost seductive Asian accent, before applying her instrument of torture. She slid something along my nose from bridge to rim, with the precision of a surgeon slicing through skin, without the benefit of an anesthetic. I nearly leapt off the couch. My eyes instantly sprang a leak and my body went into rigour mortis from the pain.
She tried to reassure me that they were coming out beautifully, and wanted to know what kind of mask I wanted. MASK! Was she about to disfigure me? No what kind of facial mask did I want? I told her I couldn’t think. ‘That’s half way done,’ she stood back looking pleased, ‘now I do the the other side.’ ‘More?’ I asked weakly? ‘You will like it,’ she said emphatically and dug in. Not since the birth of my first child have I experienced such pain, and said so. ‘Yes, but is worth the pain,’ she insisted. I got the impression she thought I was a bit of a wimp, but was oh so sweet about it.
Then she repeated the choices she’d been giving me during the torture which I could not comprehend then. Normal mask or whitening mask. ‘Whitening mask?’ ‘To make your skin whiter. It’s nice. We offer the Asian ladies. They like it. It’s good for your skin.’ She seemed genuinely surprised that I opted for the normal mask, and checked three times to make sure I didn’t want to change my mind. Now, I have heard about the amount of skin whitening that goes on in the Asian community, and I know it happens in mine too, but to be offered so blatantly, and so insistently…..I was shocked.
My feet were softened in a bubble bath, exfoliated and moisturised while I let the normal mask tighten my previously opened pores. More cleansing and moisturising and I was ready to go. ‘You should do this more often,’ they told me. You deserve it. Mmmmm….I’m not sure!
Photo: Keisha Diamond