Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Blue Peel Letters

Assorted approaches to aging skin: diversion, concealment... 

In spite of strict Skool rules against passing notes in class, SOMEONE has produced the following mysterious letters. They are signed only "A Lady."

Dear Miss X,

Few ladies, I think you will agree, enjoy the effects of time upon the complexion. I celebrated a milestone birthday recently. It so happened that my husband and I were staying in a fine hotel in the Far East-- Hong Kong, to be precise. The sun blazed through the picture windows, leaving me feeling mercilessly exposed. Catching sight of my reflection in the glass, I gave a start. The mirror in the powder room wasn't much kinder, although the light was soft. Horrors! It seemed that I had aged overnight. My face looked fatigued. I had fine lines, yes, but what troubled me more were the dark patches that seemed to shadow my face.

Over-exposure to the sun, you say? Those of us who follow Beauty Skool know your strict rules on sun exposure, Mistress Brown, and that you champion the white complexion of an eighteenth-century coquette. And yet I had, since a girl, shunned bronzing and had worn a sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather, for the last twenty years. What in heaven's name was going on?

This revelation cast a pall over the birthday celebrations my husband had thoughtfully prepared. I no longer felt at ease, in spite of his gallantries. The only thing solution was to procure a powerful sunscreen and concealer.  Fortunately, Hong Kong is not only a shopper's pleasure garden, it is also a place where ladies are particularly concerned with maintaining a luminous complexion free of dark spots. They make their way through the humid streets of the vertical city carrying parasols or-- less charming but equally practical-- ordinary umbrellas, and they buy "whitening" products (designed to erase the depredations of the sun) in vast quantities.

I took up my parasol and made my way through the steamy streets to market. Shiseido is a particular favourite among Hong Kong womanhood, as are luxury brands in general. Immense glowing billboards and magazine advertisements attest to this fact. After much consideration, I decided to buy Mac Prep + Prime Face Protect SPF 50 and some tried and true Maybelline Super Stay 24H Concealer to sustain me until we returned to London via Saudi Arabia-- another Eastern land where the ladies are mad for luxury goods-- and I could consult a dermatologist. I had resolved to make an investment, let us say, in my skin.

Burka Barbies- Role Models, Temptresses or Blasphemy


 The quest for beauty, Arabian style. Courtesy of Mattel.

Meanwhile, I adorned my face as best I could and enjoyed my birthday. With makeup I can make a tolerably attractive mask. These days, I have resorted to wielding concealer before my husband awakes. Oh! He stirs, and I must leave off my tale for the moment.

Cordially yours,

A Lady

We in the staff room were immediately reminded of a pleasing anecdote from the Beauty Skool Hall of Fame. A Vancouver scenester gal spent the night with a member of a celebrated English band in the early 1980s. After he had played at the Commodore Ballroom, they repaired to his hotel room. Now this gal liked her warpaint. We are not sure we would have recognized her without her white pancake makeup, sooty eyeshadow and liquid liner, and above all her brilliant red lipstick topped off, Helmut Newton style, with reflective gloss. She passed the night with this gentleman, and awoke early with a sense of unease: he was about to see her without her polished mask of pigments. So she quietly repaired to the powder room, reapplied it all to perfection, and slid back into his arms before he woke up. Triumph! Illusion intact.

Bee Keeping Dress
Beekeeping fashion: another strategy for dealing with uncooperative skin  

Dear Miss X,

Upon our return to England, I found that the malady still haunted me. I was terribly self-conscious-- not only before my husband, but other people as well-- about the dark spots and enlarged pores upon my visage, and felt that some kind of rejuvenation was crucial. In the meantime, inspired by our visit to Arabia, I took up beekeeping as a hobby. My boon companion, Mrs. X, kindly suggested a trip to take the waters at Bath. Tempting as this was, I felt that something uniquely designed for skin was in order. I therefore made an appointment to visit the Harley Medical Group, a practice which specializes in plastic surgery, but also offers a host of "non-invasive" procedures.

My fellow sufferers in the doctor's waiting room affected not to notice my new costume, and in fact chatted with me aimiably on the subject of rejuvenation procedures. I met a family of three-- father, mother, and daughter of nineteen. It emerged that the young lady had recently undergone an operation to enlarge her bosom, and had come to have her stitches removed. So the gentleman confided to me when the ladies were closeted away with the surgeon. "A father doesn't notice such things," he stated. I must confess I was a little taken aback when the nurse summoned him to join them in the consulting room! However, I busied myself with pamphlets. I soon had my heart set upon something called the IPL Laser, which is supposed to banish uneven areas and effect an overall tightening.

"Madame X?" a young and fresh-faced nurse stood before me. "Would you care to follow me?" At the Harley Medical Group, the initial diagnosis is performed by a senior nurse. This nurse did not appear senior, but her manner was professional. She did not attempt to further erode my self-confidence, as some of these practitioners are reputed to do, by suggesting that I  might need a new nose, chin, or set of cheekbones. However, she did persuade me that the IPL Laser was unsuitable. Apparently, it sometimes has the effect, albeit rarely, of intensifying dark spots, and is best used for freshening the complexion. She suggested that I undergo what is known as an Obagi Blue Peel, declaring upon her honour that she had never known a patient to regret the procedure.

And now I must leave off for the moment. Duty calls: the bees are in need of my attention.

Cordially yours etc.,

A Lady

My dear Miss X,

Pour etre belle, il faut souffrir, as our wise French sisters are wont to declare. Beauty demands suffering. My bees seem seem intent upon teaching me this hard lesson. More to the point, my charming gentleman surgeon does also. Happily, he relies upon words for instruction. During my most recent visit to his offices, he explained the Obagi philosophy in detail and equipped me with a large box of ointments and unguents, together with directions printed upon a card. The products are designed to acclimatise the skin, to prepare it for a certain... harshness. He exacted a promise: that I would use no other products upon my skin until  the Blue Peel itself is performed in eight weeks' time-- an occasion known mysteriously as "Smurf Day." I gave him my word. Also, I vowed to use only mineral makeup-- insofar as I use cosmetics at all, as I told him (haha!), I now use only Laura Mercier's powdered primer and foundation. It appears that other cosmetics act as a barrier between the skin and Dr. Obagi's creams. 

Let it be known that many types of mineral makeup are available, but Miss Mercier's offerings are particularly pleasing-- they include crushed pearls among their ingredients!-- if a little expensive. Maybelline has a line of mineral cosmetics, and I myself own a pot of their Pure Mineral Blush in Pink Topaz along with the concealer I mentioned earlier (and which I am now forbidden to use). In fact, London ladies are quite smitten with Maybelline, which boasts a kind of exoticism in this city.

I was told to expect a certain amount of redness and spontaneous exfoliation, as though I had-- perish the thought!-- spent some hours in the sun without my parasol. And indeed, after a week or so, I did begin to experience some strange phenomena which caused me to reach for my fan and wave it energetically.

Distract onlookers and obtain relief from a certain burning sensation with this indispensable item

But I am ecstatic to report that after this same week the dark shadows which had caused me so much distress had vanished! Soon afterward, the unpleasant symptoms began to abate (however, the nurse tells me that week four is typically the least comfortable). My complexion is wonderfully even-toned for the first time in a year. I look forward to what the coming days will bring, and to further describing my experiences to you.

Your faithfully,

A Lady

Stay tuned, class! Skool rules notwithstanding, we await the next missive from our veiled correspondent.

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