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Microdermabrasion: Aging in a Skin Deep Culture

Aug 17, 2007
As a child, I remember watching the eggwhite lady "do" my mother's face; she came by once every two weeks to give my mother an eggwhite facial so that her skin could stay taut and firm. And it was in this way that I was introduced to the meaning of "feminine mystique"- the world of ageless skin.

I remember feeling very privileged to be allowed entrance into this kitchen-turned-spa. The routine was absorbing: first, the cucumber cleanser-a concoction the eggwhite lady made with diced cucumber, sour milk and a small rotary blade. She spread the mixture ever so lightly over my mother's face; this was followed by a gentle massage up along the temples, round the cheeks, down towards the chin, then around the neck, followed by a steaming hot towel and a rinse.

Only then was Mother ready for the eggwhite ritual-whipped egg whites and honey applied carefully over the entire face except for the cotton pads around the eyes. No one spoke during these moments, as words would have broken the spell. The eggwhites were magic crystals meant to stiffen over the skin and in the stiffening tighten up the loose and wayward cells that had spread through the outer dermal layer. Those were days when you pulled in wayward skin as you would children-with a stiff upper lip.

Mother never saw how ridiculous she looked with eggwhites spread over her face like a nylon mask and the eggwhite lady never flashed a mirror before her until her skin had been powdered, eyebrows plucked and redrawn and lips painted like a bowl of cherries.

I mention all this, because in our plexi-glass, techno-habituated world, we fare no better. The eggwhite masks have been replaced by its more technological variant-"microdermabrasion." Back in the fifties, no woman (least of all Mother who was herself brittle as eggshell) would have accepted a word that sounded like a road blaster. But in our highly specialized and technological world, anything that sounded less than new or revolutionary would never make its way to the marketplace.

And so it is with eggwhite facials-which have now been replaced by a facial of another kind-a fine mist of aluminum oxide particles sprayed over the face and neck area, then sanded away by a hand-held micro-blaster that literally grinds away lines and brown spots and everything that smacks of aging imperfections.

To my generation (50 plus), immersed in the bias of technology with its implicit faith that science will redeem all natural inclinations, including aging, these words sound very seductive: "microdermabrasion" actually sounds abrasive enough to be effective. Short of surgery, it is a non-invasive form of the extreme makeover. It is non-invasive because it uses no laser, no scalpel and requires virtually no recovery time.

In fact, microdermabrasion sounds like a miracle: your skin gets sand-blasted; it will feel raw and red, but only temporarily; the redness lasts only a couple of hours and the rawness is nothing a face cream will not soothe away. Is it effective? Yes-but only after 10 treatments, once every two weeks; the lines will disappear; blemishes and pigments of all kinds will seem less prominent, if not invisible. The cost is less than a dinner outfit-about $150 to $200 per session. Aside from the 10 visits spread over 5 months, the procedure sounds quite palatable.

I have not tried microdermabrasion yet, although it does sound more seductive each day, especially for someone like me who has become fixated on the unsightly sun-caused pigmentation over my skin. But then, I think of my mother and her generation and their implicit faith in the eggwhite lady. And I cannot help but sense that we have all been duped by an unspoken insistence that we need to defy nature at all costs. In the end, does it really matter whether those lines are erased or not? When my mother passed away at age 52, no one mourned the lines under her eyes or the dark patches over her skin. The memories we have of her then and still are those of a gentle, sun-shy woman who loved us to the bone, who loved brush painting and Chinese opera and gave unceasingly to those less fortunate.
About the Author
Copyright 2006 Mary Desaulniers
Mary is helping people reclaim their bodies through nutrition, exercise, positive vision and creative engagement. Visit her atGreatBodyat50 or at
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