Shocking facial examination

by Sofi Papamarko

This story is part of our 'Funny Spa Stories' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our travel writing competition.

Photo by Dennis Wong.


Gregorian chanting. Essential oils. Deft fingers massaging my cheeks and temples. There are few things more relaxing than a facial. And they’re a great confidence boost - unless your ego is completely shattered in the process.

I booked a facial in Old Montreal and eagerly anticipated an extended state of relaxation. The aesthetician – an upbeat blonde – began by examining my skin.

"You’ve got some fine lines," she remarks casually.

"I do?"

"You sure do. On your forehead and especially around your eyes."

It’s worth noting that I was 24. The threat of wrinkles was filed alongside varicose veins and menopause. Yet visions of Botox injections now danced in my head.

"Don’t worry," she coos. "A good moisturiser should help prevent further damage. I have this incredible replenishing cream that you should pick up afterwards. It’s $60 but it’s a miracle in a bottle, I swear."

Ageing is natural. Normal. Lines around my eyes just mean that I've done a lot of smiling. My skin is otherwise beautiful. It is soft. It is smooth. It glows with youth and good health. It is my very best feature. My skin is nothing short of extraordinary.

"I’m concerned about your uneven skin tone," the aesthetician says. "Haven't you been using sunblock?"

"Uneven what now?"

"There’s some redness here. And here. Some darker spots here. You have dry patches. And your T-Zone is oily. Which brand of cleanser do you use?"

"This...stuff. From the drugstore."

There is a tense silence.

"Never trust drugstore products," she intones sombrely. "They’re not high quality. Your skin is yours for life. You must invest in it."

I feel like a first grader being scolded by her teacher.

"I’m sorry!"

"The good news is that it’s not too late to start a good skin regime. I have an incredible crème cleanser and freshening toner that you should pick up afterwards. A little pricey at $65 per bottle, but well worth it."

Mentally calculate exactly how much my new, perfect skin will cost me.

"Has anyone ever said anything to you about your blackheads?" my new best friend inquires. "I could see the ones on your nose the minute you walked in." Thank heavens for miracle astringent! "It’s about $60 with tax, but honestly, it’s otherworldly!"

Imagine my credit card sprouting wings and flapping away.

"Pair that with an excellent exfoliant – I also have one of those in our product line - and you can kiss your blackheads good-bye."

"That would be nice," I murmur.

I don’t want blackheads. Or dryness. Or oiliness. Or fine lines. How did I not notice these problems before? Why hasn’t anyone ever told me that my skin is a disaster? My heart races. My muscles ache with tension.

"But I’ll tell you all about our product line after we're done," she says soothingly. "For now, I just want you to relax..."

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