“Haven’t you got lovely skin?” is what the women (and a few men) at the beauty counters are trained to say when they demonstrate foundation base. At first I was flattered – for many, many years my skin was anything but lovely – but now I recognise it as part of the understandable sales patter. Fair enough. We’re playing a game here: you are going to make me up with your professional tools and your second-guessable lighting and I’m going to look and feel like a million dollars and buy your expensive product only to find that once I get it home it will be the wrong texture or the wrong colour (even though I’m careful enough to try several swatches) or I just won’t be able to do it as well as you. But tough. The foundation and, if you’re very clever, the powder, the concealer, some primer, maybe the shaping blush you let me sample, hey probably even a lipstick just because, are hobnobbing with each other, all beautifully wrapped in the exclusive little card carrier bag.
Goodness. How often have I been through this rigmarole with so many different brands? I’m not the sort of person who buys one thing and sticks to it, you see. I’m always looking for better, more youth-giving, more natural, more light-reflecting, more IDEAL.
Smooth, even-toned skin signifies our health and radiance. The glow of happiness, never better than when it radiates naturally, can be created. So much time and effort, and expense, goes into making us look natural or, rather, natural but better.
I thank goodness that, loathing the smell of tobacco smoke, and allergic to it, I never took up smoking: which has a hugely detrimental effect on the skin. Latterly I’ve kept out of the sun too, realising only belatedly that, while I only rarely burn in Europe, sun is so terribly, terribly ageing. The terrible acne scars of my youth went away but, just when I thought I was finally past all that, the merest hint of UV in April or May is enough to bring out the hyper-pigmentation on my forehead and cheeks from which I now suffer.
So what to do about it? There are a lot of creams about that are supposed to tackle age-related hyper pigmentation but they’ve never worked with me after all, a cream can only penetrate the top layers of shin and the pigmentation is way deeper than that.
The next step for me was the Phillips Réaura, which had a disastrous effect on my skin. It improved the texture temporarily, but left me with even darker patches. Unlike others did not get a free machine for review so I forked out £800 to confirm that my skin reacts to the slightest abrasion by breaking out in permanent and deep scarring. The sales people and the so-called after care people at Phillips shamelessly peddle the story that the little spots that develop on your skin after treatment are “Pigment coming up to the surface.” This is a complete lie. They are of course, teeny, tiny scabs. And scabs leave scars.
I have no idea why I did not realise that this would happen. Maybe it’s wishful thinking: that something hailed as a wonder skin treatment would actually live up to its billing. I know. I remember the day after one treatment one of my music teachers looking at my face in horror: it was so dark and sore that she probably thought I’d been hit or something.
Yes, I should have returned the machine to Space NK or Phillips back and asked for my money back but I felt stupid – I was stupid – and I also thought that perhaps the pigmentation would resolve itself as my colour faded to its winter wan. If anyone wants to buy it from me, I might be selling it on EBay. The machine is barely used as it was a replacement from Phillips for one that refused to work, but I would urge people with darker colour skin not to risk it, frankly. Other reviewers seem to have got on well with it. If you want to read the progressively more despairing posts, just search Réaura on this blog and try not to laugh at my folly please.
To remedy the RéAura damage I then embarked on an expensive course of chemical peels, which were supposed to even out my skin tone. Glycolic acid is spread over the skin until it blisters. Retinol is applied to try and prevent extra damage. Yadda yadda. I listened with interest to all the sales talk disguised as professional advice from a trained beautician and kidded myself that I was doing it for research purposes. Look, after all, at what I had found out about the RéAura.
Of course, the salons take the opportunity to sell you the very expensive moisturiser that is supposed to prep the skin for the peels. In this case it was Dermaquest’s Skinbrite Cream
You use only a tiny amount, and I was amazed at how little I needed but it’s dead expensive. I also bought the cleanser, which smelled of Immac hair removal cream in the 1970s, and not in a nice way, no matter how fresh the beautician said it smelled. I do however, very much rate the Zinclear sunblock. Tinted to vaguely my skin colour, it does not make my eyes water and doesn’t interfere with my eye make-up. I can’t vouch for the healing properties of the zinc oxide physical sun protection, but it is almost like wearing a tinted moisturiser on your face. So a thumbs up for that, I’d say.
But those peels! They do warn you that your face will peel but I had no idea to what extent. It’s all about the timing, as usual. My first peel was a couple of days before I sang the Messiah in concert with my whole family in the audience. I plastered on ever heavier foundation in an attempt to disguise my skin coming off in ribbons before my eyes. It makes you feel dirty and it’s really embarrassing. Chanel Perfection Lumière does not take kindly to being trowelled on. I hid behind my hair and shiftily refused to make eye contact with anyone lest they thought I had some dreadful skin disease. It’s frightening for children and not the best way to impress a special person, should your thoughts lie in that direction.
My second peel was equally disastrously-timed: the day before I did the Moonwalk. It was freezing cold and wet that night as we walked through London in our bras and hastily-donned clothing for nearly eight hours. We were wet through in the squally shower that would have to hit just as we queued to enter Battersea Power station hours before starting the the walk. My poor, sore face!
Anyway I subjected myself to this peeling 6 times in all – I had fallen for the half price special offer of a course of 6 ploy. The beauty technician who administered them was effusive “I can really notice the difference.” I could too: there were even more dark patches under my mouth in the areas that had been the most savagely affected by the peels. They had, however, drawn out all the deep-seated spots that I would otherwise have seen over the next few years.
I can’t really say that the hyper pigmentation has eased, though. I walked into the spa of a hotel in Mumbai a couple of months ago and the first thing the facialist said was “Ah, I see you have a problem with hyper pigmentation.”
So, creams don’t work; the laser doesn’t work; facial peels don’t work and they all cost a fortune.
People, usually men, have said to me “I don’t know why you women put yourself through it.” Well apart from a desperate desire to be patronised and berated for falling for the myths of the beauty business hegemony, apart from accusations of being anti-feminist or being far too concerned with appearance, why do I do it? Because I like to look good, yes. But I think I have a perfectionist streak and I can’t stand things being not quite right. And I feel I have to fix them. And everyone else seems to have perfect, unlined, non-blotchy skin, of course. My bad.
Funnily enough, though, something has had an effect. After spending a day out in the sun (with a sun hat and protected by Dermologica Pure Light spf30 as recommended by the Indian facialist and which I can heartily recommend) my skin was glowing and evenly textured. Which is ironic, don’t you think? That pic above of me with a sun hat on has had no enhancement whatsoever. Admittedly I have my Jackie Os on, so you can’t see my eye bags, but look how my skin is glowing.
From now on I don’t think I’ll be engaging in any expensive, radical beauty treatments. I’ll stick with hydration from inside and out (my beloved L’Occitane Creme Divine has just the right, light texture,) a healthyish diet and a little dose of soleil from time to time with protected skin. The correct foundation, deftly applied can even it all up. And after all, who is perfect?
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