It's gonna get sappy up in here.
I’m going to be completely transparent and reveal the truth to you all – wear my heart on my sleeve and share the reason why I chose to become a fashion and (mostly) beauty writer: I’m in it for the free stuff.
Many moons ago while interning at a magazine, I was handed a giant shopping bag, a key to the beauty closet, and instructions not to leave until the bag was full. This gratuitous free-for-all was a milestone – the moment I became a ravenous, insatiable beauty junkie. I’m probably breaking a golden rule of beauty and destroying the mystery, but oh well. Someone has to speak the truth I guess.
An industry secret is that fashion involves significantly less freebies than beauty – even celebrities have to give back their jewels after the Golden Globes. I love both industries and have a degree in fashion, but we’re talking about perks here. Becoming a beauty writer exposed me to multitudes of brands and formulas, as well as the science behind new ingredients and technology. Your girl goes crazy for a juicy press release.
Access to limitless resources stimulated my intellectual curiosity. Understanding the role of cetyl alcohol actually plays a role in my job now, not just my personal bank of knowledge. I would never give up my position as a literate lab rat, whose responsibility is to experiment and test products to make shopping decisions easier for everyone else. I also love bonding with other passionate beauty lovers, sharing tips and secrets within the well-moisturized sisterhood.
Despite being so passionate about all things skin related, my spa experience is limited; I never tried anything beyond a deluxe pedicure or upper-body massage until recently. I also stopped getting my hair professionally cut years ago – if you want the job done, do it yourself, right? Well in terms of facials (which is completely new territory for me), this mentality does not apply.
LING Skincare & Spa in Union Square invited me to a complimentary treatment, to which I thought, OMG YEESSSSS PLEASE RUB MY FACE WEEE!, but responded with a calm, “Sure, that would be nice." A 90-minute Energy Lift Signature Facial with Body Wellness treatment promised to relax and restore the back of my body, with a facial involving focus on acupressure points for a pseudo-face lift. (Another thing you can’t do yourself are massages. Never have I ever enjoyed therapeutic effects of rubbing my own feet.)
The spa itself was immaculate with white decor, and I was offered a beverage upon arrival. (Pro tip: You’ve entered the right place if a receptionist offers you water or tea.) Once I entered my private dimly lit spa room, I was given a silky robe to change into before lying face-down on the heated massage table. Heated, I said.
Michiko, my lovely aesthetician, asked for a bit of background on my skin and past facial history (which was embarrassingly non-existent) before getting started. While I laid on my stomach, she massaged my back with a handheld Tourmaline machine emitting far infrared ray energy into the skin along my spine, neck, and shoulders. I’m fascinated by Chinese medicine, and this heat therapy supposedly opens the meridian channels for proper chi energy movement and lymphatic drainage. The level of heat is identical to that initial oooooh baby feeling of sinking into a hot tub before you slowly adjust to the temperature.
I found this treatment to be the perfect massage alternative for anyone who would rather not get naked and felt up by a stranger. Personally I love massages and getting rubbed by strangers, but to each his own.
Before I could slip into a pleasure-induced coma, I was instructed to flip over for my first facial. In between a glycolic peel and papaya-enzyme peel, my face marinated under a facial steamer. Guys, I never even knew facial steamers existed before this treatment. What planet have I been on? Why aren’t more people freaking out about these things? Basically, a fine, heated mist opens your pores while you lie on your back underneath a giant robot arm, and it’s like holding a warm washcloth to your face forever. Sigh…
Next, Michiko asked if I wanted extractions. I said yes because I’m fucking stupid. I’ve never had extractions done before, and did not know THEY INVOLVE POKING SMALL LANCETS (A.K.A. NEEDLES) INTO EACH PORE AND THEN SQUEEZING OUT THE GOOP!!?!?!?!? Sorry for yelling, but holy shit can someone fill me in next time? I expected the needles to make me die, but they actually didn’t hurt that bad once my panic attack subsided. I can be pretty dramatic.
I'm someone who mutilates her own pores with daily rampant blackhead genocide attempts, and the extractions weren’t any more painful than squeezing your nails into your own face. This just involves sterilized equipment. Michiko suggested my relative lack of pain could be because I have predominantly clear skin, just a couple pimples here and there. If you have angrier, cloggy pores, extractions will probably hurt, so beware.
After my pores stopped trying to jump off my face and run down the street, my skin was soothed again. I fell asleep during the following two mask treatments — one Herbal Clay Clarifying Mask and another Herbal Moisturizing Mask. Each mask application included a heavenly facial massage — it felt so good that I had to keep from smiling so Michiko didn’t think I was a pervert.
I also can’t forget to mention that the same far infrared-ray energy technique applied to my back was massaged on my face, infusing anti-aging ingredients like Apple Stem Cells and the LING DNA DoNotAge Cellular Youth Extension Cream into my skin. These far infrared rays increase circulation, stimulate collagen growth, and detoxify your face.
When the treatment was over, I was honestly sad to leave. I could have stayed on that table with Michiko massaging my face (having someone rub your eye holes feels good, y’all) for three days. Despite entering such a tranquil and relaxed state, I felt incredibly energized and particularly warm from all of the heat involved in my treatment. No one could tell me I was actually walking through cold and drizzly Union Square because I felt like I had just left a beach in Barbados.
You’re probably wondering how my skin looked after the procedure. Well, I looked damn glow-y, and the extractions actually did help my skin. Most of my pores were clear (although not all because getting a million extractions at once can traumatize the skin) and I noticed a clearer complexion the following morning.
I also left my first facial with two lessons learned: One, get more of those because holy shit they feel great. Two, I like being rubbed by strangers more than I would like to admit.
If you’re New York–based and want to copy me, you can try an Energy Lift at LING Skincare & Spa in Union Square. Each treatment will last about 30 minutes and will only cost $50 — cheap as far as most spa treatments are concerned. I’m not sure how many spas around the globe provide heat therapy, but if you can find one that does so, try it out to feel warm and stress-free on a particularly frigid day. Otherwise, I really do suggest that any of you skin-care lovers get a facial at your most accessible spa if you haven’t had one already. You’ll look fine as hell.
Am I the only beauty-obsessed person with limited spa experience? I’m sure some of you must prefer saving a few beans and doing the work yourself. But if not, what treatment will make you release your claws from your wallet?
Follow Courtney on Twitter and Instagram @courtneypizza