"Do you have any metal in your body?"
I looked up at the beautician, startled.
"You know, like a coil, tooth filling ..." she prompted as I continued to stare at her blankly.
I pondered her question for a few seconds, doing an inventory of my dentist and hospital visits to trace if I had ever had any metal inserted in my body.
"No!" I shook my head vigorously, and satisfied, she went back into the dim inner room, where she had been tinkering with equipment for a solid 40 minutes since I walked in.
WANTED TO RUN
I wanted to run out of the salon and never come back. Surely any treatment that couldn't be done on someone who had a tooth filling could not be healthy for anyone! What if I had some metal in my body that I did not know about? What if some enzymes had reacted with neutrons to form copper or iron in my body? What if I got electrocuted... what if ... what if ... what if …?
The beautician was back again, ushering me into the inner room where the facial would be done. I had had a manicure and pedicure treatment done here a month before, and though I wasn't happy about how it was done, I was eager to try the facial which one of the attendants had sung endlessly about – the one where a machine, and not the beautician's hands, did everything. That is what I was now here for, and that is what I was now facing with trepidation. If the beautician whipped out a consent form waiving any responsibility if anything bad happened to me, I would definitely run in Usain Bolt speed.
The treatment room was lit with a dim bluish light, with clinically white walls and an imposing machine that looked like one of those found in a hospital's ICU, complete with regular beeps as if monitoring vital signs and what looked like a dental light, in one corner, and the bare essentials (cleanser, scrub, mask) on a shelf in the opposite corner. The room was as cold as a hospital theatre, but I dutifully undressed and wrapped myself in the huge and cosy pearl white towel lying on the bed. I was ready for whatever would be.
The beautician came in and dove straight in. She slathered a cold gel on my face and rolled a pumice ball over it, just like a radiologist doing an ultrasound would, but only this time it was on my face, neck, chest and shoulders. A few minutes later, a brush foamed all around my face, chest and shoulders and every time it tickled the base of my neck, I stifled the urge to let out bubbles of laughter. And so it went on for a while: wipe, pumice, brush, tickle, stifle ... pumice, brush, tickle, stifle ... For a moment the glare of the dental light above my closed eyes, and the bleeping of the machine, went off and I heard the beautician shuffle out of the room, fumble with the mains before coming back to the pumice, brush, tickle, stifle rhythm for a few more minutes.
She wiped my face, and put on the steamers for a while.
"Is it too hot?"
"Only on this side," I answered, pointing to my left cheek.
After steaming, she massaged a cool gel on my face and used what felt like a suction pipe all over my face.
"Smooch! Smooch!" It sucked, and I couldn't help but smile.
Another wipe of the face and an "Usiogope (Don't be afraid)"
I twitched, "Kwa nini?" (Why?)
"Utasikia kama shock ..." (It will feel somewhat like mild electrocution)
Uh-oh! This was the dreadful part, right?
I could hear the buzz of a live electric current and felt welders' sparks meet my skin as if through a live wire. She was burning the acne but there was no pain. She burnt, and burnt, and burnt, until my fears were burnt away. Then she put the "welding machine" away and sprayed my face with a cool mist, then more steam, then squeezed a few stubborn blackheads with a blackhead remover.
She then used a stick to apply a sweet sticky gel on my face, something I recognised a few seconds later as a mask. And as it dried, she ironed my chest with a hot iron, only pausing to ask if it was too hot.
She then peeled off the dried mask, wiped my face with a warm cloth, and asked if I would use their night cream (I said no, I would use my own moisturiser at home). She then told me to sit up as she ironed my back with that hot iron, which I later learnt was a massager, and told me that for best results, I should go for three more facial treatments; one every fortnight and my face would thank me forever. I laughed, told her that my budget would never allow it, but promised to be back in a month.
As I dressed up, I thought of paying the full amount, contrary to what I had negotiated with the attendant; she had shaved off Sh500 from my bill after I haggled for a lower price at the beginning, but I now felt willing to pay the full amount. The experience was worth it. I paid my bill, sticking to the discounted price lest I jinxed future bargains, and walked home smiling from ear to ear.
That was just yet another adventure in my quest for acne-free skin. Another notable one was when I went all the way to Nakuru in search of one Dr Mapenzi, a dermatologist of repute, following a recommendation from a popular women’s beauty Facebook group. I woke up one Saturday, full of hope that finally my beauty and love woes would be fixed by one man. Going by the name Mapenzi, I was convinced that he would do as much for my ailing love life as he would to clear my face of its leopard spots. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side as by the time I got to Nakuru, Dr Mapenzi was long gone, and with him all my dreams of love and beauty. And it turned out that his name was actually not Dr Mapenzi. My struggle with adult acne could fill a whole book and then some – I still haven’t found the magic that would make my face smooth again. I keep yearning to try something new and as I nurse new breakouts and old scars, the next regimen to clear my face beckons.
Are skin or hair issues driving you up the wall? Or have you found a way around them? Interested in sharing your story? Email [email protected]