Recently I had a facial at Chanel. It was one of those deals where you pay $70 dollars to receive 75 minutes worth of pampering. Your $70 is redeemable against products bought on the day. The only reason I knew about this deal was because they gave me a call when their Myer counter in Queens Street was revamped and I’m on their customer database.
I arrived at the appointed time with not a smidgen of make-up on for I wasn’t going to go through the hassle of face-painting, only to have everything taken off. I was met by a well-made-up therapist, who politely ushered me into their treatment room. There I laid down on the usual “therapy” table. The therapist placed a blanket on me, so as to keep me warm and comfortable.
“It’s okay,” I assured her. “It’s not too cold.”
The air-conditioning must have been coming out of discreet vents in the room for I didn’t feel any cold air, like you do with a conventional air-conditioning unit, jetting down on me.
“I’m going to inspect your face now and then do a thorough clean, followed by a scrub and a mask.”
“Ok.” Everything sounded above board. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.
“You have amazing skin,” she said, pressing my face, turning my head slightly left then right. “What do you use?”
“Oh, nothing special. Moo Goo face wash, which I might discontinue since my latest bottle has been irritating my eyes.”
“They do change the formulas to things sometimes.”
“Well, I wish they wouldn’t. Now I might switch to another brand.”
“How about scrubs? Do you scrub?”
“No. I don’t mask either.”
“The last time I had a facial was over 8 years ago. I was pregnant; my skin was super oily. The last time I masked was 8, maybe 10 months ago.”
“So what do you use then?”
“Sunscreen, it’s very important.” I tell this to all my friends who ask, but everyone seems to think I’m withholding some secret formula. “I wear sunscreen 365 days a year, rain, hail or shine.”
Indeed, I’m the poster girl for sunscreen in a land where the afternoon sun can cook an egg on the hood of a car. It’s strange that in this same land, most think of sunscreen as something to be worn only and particularly to the beach. We have entire walls of sunscreen products in most pharmacies in Malaysia and Singapore, but no more than 1 shelve full here. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find more than 10 brands at any one time. There are more self-tanning formulas available. Because of government regulation, the maximum SPF a manufacturer may claim a product to have, with testing, is 30.
“What brand do you use?” She was now massaging cream into my face.
“I usually use Loreal, but I’m out of that so I’ve been using La Roche Posay and Mischa.”
“50 PA+++ for Mischa, the highest possible amount of UVA and UVB protection.”
People only look at the SPF, but that just tells you how long you can be in the sun without burning. It doesn’t tell you how much of a tan you are going to get, sun damage.
The fact that your skin’s colour has deepened means you’ve sustained skin damage. Even dark-skinned people like Indians and Africans, can get sun damage.
“Do you use other products?”
I burst out laughing. “Nope. You’re probably wondering what you can sell to this woman since she doesn’t use anything.”
“No, it’s just good for you to come in for a pampering session,” she said in the same cheery tone I had heard throughout.
With most beauty places, you get pressured into buying things, but not here at Chanel. Perhaps it’s also because I know my stuff: I had my skin typified with the help of Leslie Baumann’s Skin Type Solution (a book about skin types) years ago, and have read books from Paula Begoun, the Cosmetic Cop, about the lies spun by the beauty industry, so I’m no pig ripe for slaughter.
“If at all I’m going to spend up big, it’d be to get Broadband light laser therapy, the next generation of IPL.” Yes, sirree, not creams and potions because nice though they are, don’t deliver the results you expect. “What I place my trust in is a good broad spectrum sunscreen and Hyaluronic acid serum.”
Hyaluronic acid serum plumps up the skin, attracting water from the air to it. I’ve bought other serums, composed of Vitamins and herbs but this produces immediate results. Friends and family also know I swear by Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel for everything from spots to, in my case, rashes induced by some facial products.
Friends, especially Aussie ones, often say to me, “It must be good genes though.”
Perhaps it is, but most Asian women are sun-phobic anyway. There are many who come to school carrying umbrellas to shield their faces. One of my Taiwanese friends even has a “school shirt” – a long-sleeved shirt she wears to shield her arms and neck from the sun when making the school rounds. I always wear a hat in the afternoons.
In Malaysia, the Malays and the Peranakan like their bedak sejuk, to cool down the skin. The Chinese call it “Sui Fan”. Obviously you can’t go around in it without looking like Caspar the friendly ghost. Made from fermented rice, it’s mixed with water and applied to the face as a paste. Many Chinese also like to put cucumber slices on their face to make a mask. This is reputed to be Gong Li’s secret to looking perpetually youthful and vibrant. Apparently Ashwarya Rai Bachan, a Bollywood Superstar, subscribes to it too.
The Burmese use Thanaka, made from the branches of the Sandalwood tree. They wear theirs all over the body, even in the day time. The Indians use Multani Mitti or fuller’s earth to draw out excess oil and supposed impurities. I’ve tried it before and it is effective, if very drying. Do remember to moisturise afterwards and/or mix it with yogurt to use. If Indians have zits, they drink a blood-purifier named Safi which is found in most Indian and Sri Lankan grocery stores in Australia. I’ve had two bottles of Safi in the past; it tastes really bitter. I’ve always thought Indians and Chilli inseparable but when they have zits, they reduce their chilli intake. Some omit chilli from their curries altogether.
For more beauty tips from around Asia, watch out for my next post.