My chin and forehead are pressed against a white plastic apparatus that is, presumably, sterile. Jaime, the pretty woman in the black scrub-like garments, did wipe the diagnostic bubble down with a couple of moist towelettes before I stuck my head in it, so I'm feeling pretty good about what's about to happen to me.
I relax my face, doing my best to loosen the skin around my eyes so I don't squint. I let my lips flop open just a bit so there aren't any wrinkles around the corners of my mouth. I am inside the diagnostic bubble, where the cameras see all, and I want them to see as few imperfections as I can possibly fake. You don't want to piss off the diagnostic bubble; one wrong move and it's Botox injections for life.
The bubble—a kind of half space helmet equipped with all manner of sensors and lights—is the pièce de résistance at Klinger Advanced Aesthetics, the shiny new "cosmedispa" at NorthPark Center. Attached at the figurative hip to the Sephora store, unsuspecting makeup shoppers could very easily wander right from the pout-enhancing lipstick display into a needle filled with super-pout-enhancing collagen, going from zero-to-duckbill in 60 seconds. OK, not right into the collagen, since they'd have to book an appointment first, but it is evidence of a trend: The distance, both perceived and literal, between plastic surgery and the average beauty regimen is growing ever smaller. And the bubble, technically referred to as the "360-Degree Diagnostic," is there to lead the way.
As the bubble scans my skin for texture damage, wrinkles and spots, my shoulders tense. I'm not even allowed to rent a car without paying an extra fee because of my age; if the diagnostic bubble tells me I need Botox, I'm going to wear a Mexican lucha libre wrestling mask for the rest of my life and refer to myself in the third person as La Reportera. You 'bout to get quoted, gabacho!
But my career in Latin American professional wrestling will have to be put on hold; wrinkles are not my problem. My bubble exam, plus a series of bizarre facial pokes with a black pen-like sensor that measures elasticity and the world's most gag-inducing name for oil, "sebum," revealed that my inner layers of skin are rife with sun damage. Below the smooth, pink surface of my cheeks lies a bevy of malicious little spots, poised to cause premature aging. Of course, Klinger has the answer to my future problem in the form of the UT Southwestern plastic surgery satellite office in the back of the spa.
All the Botoxing, chemical peeling and various other moderately invasive procedures happen behind the big glass door with the UTSW logo. The mini surgery center is the kind of pleasant little wrinkle-reducing alcove that Dallas ladies in need of a little freshening up can appreciate without all those bothersome sick people. Who needs to sit across from that baby with the cleft palate in the waiting room when all you want is a little Restylane before the cancer benefit Friday night? Seriously.
Jaime recommends something called "photorejuvenation" for my currently invisible sun spots. The answer to sun damage is more light. My skin gets a few rounds of flashing rays, then a bunch of little black spots rise to the surface of my skin. The next day, they fall off and I'm destined for MILF-hood when I hit 40. All I have to do is molt. But Jaime doesn't push the subject. To molt or not to molt; that is my option.
One important thing to remember, I am told, is that Klinger is not giving me medical advice. Yes, their facial cleansers and creams and pro-vitamin rubs are all called Cosmedicine. But this is not medical advice. These products have all been tested by the Johns Hopkins University medical branch, a fact emphasized by the Johns Hopkins logos on my take-home literature. But this is not medical advice. UT Southwestern, one of the most trusted names in medical care, has set up shop in their salon. But medical advice? Wrong! Sure, that's a diagnostic bubble, uh, diagnosing me, but it is not giving me medical advice. No, sir.
One of the criticisms of places such as Klinger is that cosmetic treatments such as Botox are actually kind of dangerous. They're bacteria and chemicals. What business do they have in a mall? But hey, if you're permanently marred by mall Botox, maybe it's just God's way of weeding out the non-breeders. Poke away, Klinger!
I decide I'll stick with the basic facial.The very valuable non-medical information supplied to Jaime through the sensors and non-medically diagnosing diagnostic bubble will tell my Klinger aesthetician exactly how to treat my skin during my customized facial, a 90-minute ordeal in which the skin is soothed, poked, rubbed, exfoliated and steamed to perfection. There will be calming music involved. There will be a soft-spoken girl named Jenny doing the whole thing. There will be one reporter terrified for her life. The last time I got a facial, I came away with less face and more chemical burn.
I was 16. I'd received a gift certificate to one of the hottest spas in cosmopolitan Arlington, and I was determined to spend a day getting ridiculously pampered, just like the popular girls. Instead, I spent the next week applying aloe to my peeling, cracked face. I knew that the gods didn't want me to be a cool kid, but did they have to be such effing jerks about it?
But I put on my game face—and a fuzzy terry cloth wrap—and gave myself over to Jenny, the doe-eyed aesthetician. The stark white treatment room was more like a space pod than anything else, with all manner of long-armed pieces of mechanical equipment straight out of Brave New World. Jenny's smart white smock said, "90 percent science, 10 percent beauty." Maybe I would be safe in the hands of these über-beauty experts, who replaced froufrou terms about glowing skin with the reassuring sounds of the laboratory. "Optimal health" and "skin deterioration" may not sound like the sweetest of phrases, but after years of buying things such as Soft 'n' Shine Skin Buffer and Bunnies and Kittens Lotion, it was refreshing. As long as they didn't try to make me buy Dianetics.
Over the next hour, Jenny told me I was "a little cloggy" and proceeded to empty every last pore on my nose of its sebaceous content. When I turned red after a little brow-plucking, she asked if I ever "get a little pink after a glass of wine." Sure, I told her. She should see what color I get after half a bottle of Jack. But I had to admit, my skin felt pretty damned awesome after an hour in the space pod.
I was sent home with my (totally non-medical) cosmedical product recommendations and the photos the diagnostic bubble had (not medically) taken. In the UV damage analysis, it'd taken a negative image of my face with little yellow dots where the sun had done its worst. Aha! Come out feeling like a million bucks, then you get home and see a picture of yourself that looks like it came out of CSI.
Then, you do what I did: call back and find out exactly how much that photorejuvenation thing costs. After all, what price wouldn't I pay for eternal MILF-hood? Well, $1,200, to be exact. That's what it'd cost me to molt and, hopefully, have great skin when I'm 40. Sorry, Klinger. Looks like me and my $20 moisturizer are going to have to risk it. I'm not molting until I'm good and ready...or rich.
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