I discovered something more confronting than a mirror
Last year I reached a certain age. It began with a 4 and ended with me staring at my face in the mirror wondering what on earth happened. I am the type of person whose skin regime involves throwing a handful of water on my face in the morning and checking I don't have food on my chin when I leave the house. I did start wearing sunscreen on my face every day last year, partly because of the 40 thing, and partly because it's one of those things you really should do.
So when the opportunity came up for me to experience one of the new hydrafacials at Youth Lab in West Perth, it seemed like a good opportunity to find out the damage I had done by my neglect.
Discover what years of skin damage might look like
Located in a beautifully restored old house on Richardson Street, Youth Lab is understated elegance: think polished floor boards, high ceilings, and a certain stillness and calm most busy mums would never experience at home. A glass of cold iced fruit tea was presented to me while I sat in the small waiting area, a stack of high-end magazines and books to peruse while I waited.
New clients are given a short questionnaire to complete on arrival, where you indicate the areas of concern with your skin (for some reason they didn't have an 'all of the above' option) and discuss your current skin regime (I left that blank).
While Youth Lab might look like a day spa, it's actually a lot more than that. It was founded by Dr Kate Jameson and is described as a doctor led medical aesthetics clinic. It's science-based and results driven, but you do still feel like you are being pampered.
I was introduced to Alison Martin, a dermal therapist who first took some rather eye-opening images of my skin using Visia, a computer-based system which analysed and rated my skin.
While it was no different from a simple eye test (place your chin on the rest and close your eyes while three quick images are taken), the results were confronting. With the naked eye, my skin might look okay, but the Visia analysis looks beneath the surface and discovered years of sun damage, brown spots, wrinkles and congestion. It then compares your results with your age peer group, and gives a score, the higher the better. For one of the results I got 1%, meaning that in a group of 100 of my peers, only 1 other person has worse skin than me. I'd hate to be her.
The Visia assessment system sees what the naked eye cannot
This was not a lecture though, and I wasn't berated for my poor skin habits. Instead, Alison explained the hydrafacial and how it might help. It's never too late to start, was the gentle message I was given.
Unlike the well-known microdermabrasion, whose very name scares me, the hydrafacial does not scour of the top layer of skin. Instead, it utilises a special wand that simultaneously pumps out hydrating and exfoliating compounds while suctioning impurities and dead skin from your face. At no time was it uncomfortable or painful, although sometimes it was a little tingly. Prior to this your face is cleansed and exfoliated, and afterwards, the third stage of the facial is to smother the skin with more creams that your skin absorbs even more easily now it has been thoroughly refreshed.
I am sure you wouldn't normally be shown the waste products of the hydrafacial unless you asked, but I am both a writer and a researcher and I was curious to see what had been extracted. You could clearly see all the tiny black dots of extracted blackheads, and the liquid was cloudy with dead skin and other impurities. It's not necessary that you ask to see it, but I can assure you that the process clearly works. You can read more about the technical side of things here.
The entire process took around 15 minutes, although my consultation was about 45 minutes all up including the Visia assessment. It's not an enormous time commitment for something which potentially has long-lasting results. I was encouraged to consider a simple skin routine at home (the analogy being it's fine to go to the gym and work out, but if you go home and have a bad diet, the effects will be undermined). But there was no hard-sell of products and I left with a few samples so I could go home and make up my own mind.
The hydrafacial is gentle and is meant to leave your skin glowing, not traumatised, as such it's a popular treatment in the lead up to weddings and other special events. It works particularly well on acne prone skin. I did walk out with a shiny face and strict instructions to let the cream do its job (ie don't wash it off) so I wouldn't necessarily recommend going straight from a hydrafacial to lunch or an important meeting. But after an hour my skin did look smoother and there was a noticeable difference in the size of my pores. The following day I felt my skin looked softer and by day two I was still motivated to keep up the cleansing and exfoliation routine with the samples I had been given. Perhaps this is the start of a new me.
Is it a golden bullet that will stop the effects of ageing? No. Did I have strangers stopping me in the street to compliment me on my skin? Unfortunately not. Did I feel like my skin was cleaner and softer than it had been in a long time? Absolutely. And the tangible proof of that, was floating around in the little tube.
Youth Lab is located at 1 Richardson Street, West Perth. There are seven on-site car bays (five at the rear) as well as street parking. The initial Visia assessment with a dermal consultant is $50 but this is redeemable against the cost of a procedure if you decide you want to go ahead with a treatment. The Hydrafacial is $147 and you can opt to include the neck, décolletage or back as well for an extra fee.