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Saturday, Jan. 12, 2002


Time for an ant, frog and cement facial

Most university students I teach have part-time jobs. These girls aren't using their money to pay for school fees, though. They use it to buy new clothes and go to "estee" facial treatments, starting at 25,000 yen for five visits.

As I was inspecting my face in the mirror the other day, I realized that although I am still in my 30s, I had somehow gone from having crow's feet to having centipede feet in just two years. It was time to find out what estee was all about.

When I went for my first facial, I resisted the "discount" programs involving multiple visits. Once would be enough.

A facial takes an hour, in which the eyes must be kept closed. Since you can't see anything, you have no idea what they are really doing to your skin. Unfortunately, this leaves much to the imagination.

The first 20 minutes was a facial massage. Then came a strange tickling sensation. I'm pretty sure the clinician had just released a nest of ants on my face and was letting them crawl all over, zigzagging and meandering about, while their little feet massaged my face. Luckily, none ventured up my nose.

Next, I felt something sucking on parts of my face. This must have been the frog hired to eat up the ants. I could even hear him smack his lips after each suck. Then I remembered the English menu had read, "Take black spot out by vacuum." Of course, it wasn't a frog but a Hoover sucking up the ants. Nothing like a good face vacuuming. I hoped she wouldn't leave any vacuum strokes in the nap.

Next, she said she'd take out the whiteheads. I didn't know I had any, but she assured me I did -- they were just hidden. Her trained eye could see them! These she dug out with tiny shovels. "No pain no game," she assured me in her best English.

When I heard the gentle rolling noise of a cement mixer, I knew it was time for the mask. After she applied this "active mud," within moments my face became unmovable, like stone. So this is where Rodin statues come from. Why would anyone pay for this discomfort?

After the mask was removed, accompanied by a loud sucking noise that could be heard all the way to China, I could finally see again. My tender face was definitely ready for the next step, "refresh face with cucumber." I never thought I'd be so happy to have cold vegetables sitting on my face.

Next was "acne care with herb." "But I don't have acne," I said. But her trained eye could probably see it anyway.

When I thought we must be finished, she said, "Don't you want to get rid of your mustache?" "My what?" I said. "That mustache on your upper lip." I had never really considered the silky blonde hairs on my upper lip, but now that her trained eye had noticed them, they seemed embarrassingly hideous. "Away with the mustache!" I declared.

This required waxing, a painful method of stripping off hairs. She painted on the wax, which looks like molasses, and within seconds pulled it off. "No pain, no game," she reminded me. I looked at the strip of wax with my hairs adhered to it and thought, molasses looks good with a mustache.

I knew it was time to get out of there when her trained eye noticed my eyebrows needed to be shaped. In Japan, this means shaving the eyebrows off, then drawing them in with an eyebrow pencil. No thanks. I passed on the eyelid and lip tattoos also.

After inspecting my face in the mirror today, I have to admit my skin looks cleaner and feels smoother. Not bad really, for just an hour of discomfort twice a month. Now, if I could just find a part-time job to pay for it.

Contact Amy at amychavez2000@yahoo.com or visit the "Japan Lite" home page at www.amychavez.com

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