I’m not the kind of guy who pampers himself, which, if I’m being honest, just means that I don’t take care of myself in all the ways I should. I floss sporadically, I’m not as on top of my toenail clipping as one would hope, and I’ve always had an “it is what it is” attitude when it comes to my skin. So I wasn’t exactly in my comfort zone when I went to get a facial for the first time.
I wasn’t nervous about what was going to happen, but new things can be intimidating, especially when they smell like cucumber. I walked in knowing two things: that I was probably going to get one of those facial masks like you see in movies and TV, and that there’s such a thing as an exfoliating apricot scrub, which I used a couple of times over the years.
The location was Heyday in the Flatiron, a new shop which I was told is hoping to make facials more accessible to men. My esthetician (I Googled it), Chrissy, led me to a curtained-off room with a reclining chair, similar to what you’d find in a dentist’s office. In fact, the whole experience was a bit like the dentist, only far more relaxing and with significantly less bloodshed.
Chrissy began with a double cleanse, stripping away the first layer of dirt and grime to better see my skin. While doing this, she asked what my experience was with skin care. It was my time to shine. “Sometimes, I use a face wash,” I began, “and every now and then”—wait for it—“I’ll use this exfoliating apricot scrub that my wife has.” Boom.
“Ah, the apricot scrub. Tell your wife to throw that away—it does more harm than good,” Chrissy informed me. “She can use it on her elbows and knees if she wants, but that’s about all it’s good for.” Everything I thought I knew about skin care went out the window.
After the oils came the first of the hot towels to dab away the various applications. I tried to keep it together but couldn’t contain my laughter when she looped the towel under my chin and pulled it quickly back and forth like she was shining a bowling ball. I dubbed this the “beard swab,” and it made me realize something obvious but important: this was supposed to be fun.
In my head, I was supposed to be calm and quiet and professional, showing respect for each step like it was a Japanese tea ceremony. In reality, I was paying to have someone make my skin look awesome and provide a brief respite from the noise, stress, and damaging UV rays of the outside world. It was okay to laugh.
Chrissy shined a super-bright light on my face and examined it through a magnifying lens. I was given an enzymatic exfoliation that I was told might tingle and actually felt like someone was slapping my face with mint leaves—but, like, in a good way. Some more creams were applied and removed. I was given a facial massage, which made me completely rethink how I feel about strangers manipulating my cheek flesh. At one point, Chrissy told me she was applying a serum—a serum! Granted, it was a hydrating and antioxidant serum, not a truth serum or whatever scientists use to create superheroes, but still…
And yes, there was the mask: a gloopy substance that covered my face and did…whatever it was supposed to do. She explained it to me, but I was too busy thinking, “This is what they do in the movies!” because I’m an idiot.
“Get ready, this is the last beard swab!” Chrissy said, indulging me, and yeah, I giggled again when it happened.
She finished up with some eye cream, moisturizer with SPF, and some lip balm. I got up, dazed after having my eyes closed for the last thirty minutes. I had closed my eyes instinctually but later confirmed that I was right to do so. “Having someone staring at you the entire time is creepy,” Chrissy said. “My dad does it every time I work on him.”
I touched my face and it felt softer. I saw myself in the mirror and I looked healthier. In a word, I felt happier than when I went in. As I walked out of the shop, I caught the faintest whiff of cucumber emanating from my skin—and it smelled great.
Jon Horowitz is a Brooklyn-based writer, where he lives with his wife and tries not to embarrass himself too much.