Women are often called upon to exude a demeanour of effortless, natural beauty, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t take advantage of external forces to nudge us along the path of comeliness.
That said, a string of late nights, constant mid-30 degree blasts, and generous intake of MSG-laced street food was all the inspiration needed to spur on a facial.
By the time I reached Christina Beauty School on Sihanouk Blvd to make my 9am appointment, my carefully applied face had already started to run from the morning heat – eyeliner was smudged, and blush no longer became necessary.
A young woman, noticing my dishevelment, immediately beckoned me to follow her up a narrow staircase and into a blissfully air-conditioned room.
She laid me back on one of several pink beds, wrapped my hair in a towel and got to work on my face, first applying a cool, smooth moisturising cream.
Hui Zhen, the name of the lady attending my face, then flicked on a switch near my head – the sound of boiling water bubbled its way into my hearing. The purpose of the boiling water was soon made clear: The steam it produced was directed to my face. While I silently struggled for breath – the steam was hot, thick and heavy – Hui Zhen applied an exfoliate.
I tried to enjoy the circular motion of her hands as she massaged the cream into my face but was distracted – I imagined my contact lenses melting into my eyeballs.
Relief came when the steam rays stopped. The next 20 minutes were used to zap wrinkles with an electronic facial massager. The small, hand-held device was attached to a large box with two knobs on it, which I later dubbed the wrinkle blaster. The name was only fitting giving the knobs read “wrinkles” and “intensity”.
The quiet hum of the wrinkle blaster and its trawl across the grooves of my face lured me into a sneaky mid-morning snooze.
The rhythm and hum stopped and a pungent odour that smelled like eucalyptus mixed with tea-tree oil infiltrated the air. Hui Zhen covered my face with white material – holes for the nose, mouth and eyes had been cut out.
A thick paste, the culprit of the smell, was smeared on top of the material mask, causing an unpleasant burning sensation. The burning subsided the longer it sat on my face.
Thirty minutes later the paste had hardened into a mask which Hui Zhen carefully peeled off. My new face tingled under the sweep of fresh air. She lathered a final moisturiser to seal in the effect.
All up, the facial took about an hour and a half.
The menthol coolness created by the pungent paste freshened the remainder of my morning.
Christina Beauty School is at #31 Sihanouk Blvd, north of Monument Park. A facial massage costs from US$15 to $22, depending on the products you choose.