Urban Homme : “Once Upon a Time” No More

Since last night, I’ve developed a fetish for slapping my own face. And this is an account of how this strangely gratifying habit got formed. But please, this disclosure is not an invitation for you to slap my face when you see me. 🙂

First treatment appointment. At the entrance of Urban Homme Ngee Ann City before I step into its flagship outlet, The Cocoon studio. Will I emerge a butterfly? Will I become firm but not fat? Or will I remain as Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth? (Actually, I was trying to form the wings of a butterfly on my face but I ended up like a bad Halloween costume.)

A week ago, I had my in-depth skin and body analysis done for the Urban Homme Icon Challenge. I came face-to-face with my coarse pores and skin blemishes magnified 60X by the skin analyser. What a sight for sore eyes! Body-wise, I don’t have too much of a problem except for a firm rim of fat connecting my lower abdomen to my love handles.

Last night, after carefully reviewing all our test results and videos, Vince, the Branch Manager at The Cocoon finally tailored a facial and body sculpting programme that will help turn my image woes into woohoos! So for the next month, I’ll be going through an intensive 3 times a week treatment process. And I’ll be giving you the scoop on the various treatments and behind-the-scenes look at what’s it like for a guy to go through a beauty regime. Every step of the way.

This is Lyn (小玲), my therapist. We started the treatment session with a relaxing feet soak and mallet massage. Oddly, the song with the words "Hong Kong, Hong Kong" kept floating in my head. I wonder why.

Unfortunately, I can’t take too many pictures during the treatments in part because I want to relax and enjoy being pampered, and the other part being the sensitivity of revealing Urban Homme’s propreitary machineries and trade secrets. So when you see a pics on my Urban Homme blog posts, you know I went up knife mountain and went down fire sea to snap them.

I have more of a face problem rather than a body problem (although I think they’re both equally bad), so my treatments would focus more on rejuvenating my complexion. A penchant for the tanned beachboy look in my younger years is giving me Dalmatian skin now with laugh lines and fine wrinkles threatening to map out the whole MRT network of Singapore.

All the treatments will continue for the next 4 weeks and end with a grand unveiling of our new face & body at a 'live' event. Details will be announced later so if you're free on Friday, 12 Nov 10, join us for some fun! My knees are already soft from thinking about having to catwalk on stage...

So we embarked on our treatment journey with a 2-hour facial using ingredients that are fit for royalties. How does cleansing your face with diamonds and ginseng sound to you? It sounds like ouch to me but the results were stellar to say the least. And that’s when I started my face-slapping habit. I can’t get over how smooth and good to touch my skin is at the end of the facial. I think I’m slapping myself to wake up from a fairytale. But this is real. And here’s how my complexion achieved its silken tofu quality…

STEP 1 : Deep Cleansing

My face was cleanse twice. First with a cleansing lotion, followed by a cleansing gel. As my face belongs to the combination category with an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, the cleansing lotion will melt away grime and debris on my cheeks without stripping it of moisture while the gel cleanser absorbs the oil on my T-zone while removing dirt.

STEP 2 : Diamond Microdermabrasion

This treatment had me going gaga over because after it, my skin was visibly clearer and brighter. Lyn did half my face first to let me see the difference. While it is hard to tell under the low light condition in the treatment room, a closer examination in the mirror did show up a 钟无艳 (Zhong Wu Yan) looking back at me. Zhong Wu Yan is a legendary Chinese heroine with one half of her face white, and the other half black.

Yellow, yellow, dirty fellow... my dead skin cells, grime, whiteheads and blackheads were all extracted onto this piece of cotton pad through Diamond Microdermabrasion. Look closer, any diamond left behind too?

Here’s how Diamond Microdermabrasion works : A diamond tip wand made from natural diamond chips is used to abrade the skin to remove dead skin cells while a vacuuming effect sucks up the lose skin and debris onto a cotton filter. An older form of microdermabrasion is Crystal Microderma using aluminum oxide or sodium bicarbonate crystals. The micro crystals are jetted onto the skin with a high-speed flow to abrade the skin and the vacuum sucks all excess crystals and debris back. Diamond Microdermabration is also sometimes known as Diamond Peel.

Benefits : Apart from removing blackheads, whiteheads, and other skin impurities, the procedure gives the skin an instant rejuvenation. It is commonly used as an anti-aging treatment to smoothen fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars and sun-damaged skin.

I thought the process would be like rubbing sandpaper on my face but it was painless and after 10 minutes of being polished by the wand, my face as cliches would have it, sparkled like a gem. But the problem is, with my skin tone lighting up, my deep-seated pigmentations and skin tags became more obvious. Perhaps the upcoming facial treatments in the next few weeks can improve the situation. Just as Vince puts it, “The bad one don’t go, the new one won’t grow.”

STEP 3 : PHA Treatment (15%)

After the diamond polishing came the fruit acid treatment in the form of PHA (polyhydroxy acids) at a strength of 15%. PHA is a newer generation of fruit acids that doesn’t irritate the skin as much as AHA (alphahydroxy acids). There are a few acid types that are used in PHA treatments but Urban Homme uses Lactobionic Acid which is derived from lactose in cow’s milk. I did feel a bit of stinging (like ants bites) when the PHA was first applied on but it quickly dissipitated. After that, my skin felt like it had a big drink of water!

Benefits : As it is all natural and biological, and close to the acids contained in human’s skin, Lactobionic Acid is better tolerated so it provides the exfoliating benefits of AHA with minimal occurence of that red burning that sensitive individuals usually succumb to. But as with AHA, the skin does get used to prolonged usage of PHA and the strength of the acid may be increased to 30%.

How it works : As the Diamond Microdermabration may cause some dryness as it strips away the surface skin (epidermis), PHA is used to first balance out the PH levels of the skin to stabilize it before the moisturising action of the acid kicks in. PHA has been shown to bind more water in its molecules and forms a thin film on the skin to provide healing and hydration rentention effects. This leads to the skin plumping out and looking fuller.

No hocus pocus! This is the Oxy Epidermal Mist Spray magic wand used to blow oxygen and nutrients into my skin. Feels like an angel's continuous kiss. The kiss that has the real power for transformation.

STEP 4 : Oxy Epidermal Mist Spray

By now, I’m already half stoning and totally relaxed on the treatment bed so I didn’t asked Lyn too much about this procedure. Basically, a hydrating gel with various botanical-based extracts was applied onto my face and an air pen was used to jet oxygen onto my skin surface. Sort of like air-brushing.

The stream of oxygen automatically adjusts its strength according to the pressure on the skin and gently pushes the nutrients deep into the skin. The molecules of the gel content are also made smaller than our skin pores (but not at the level of being nano-sized) so penetration is faster and deeper. After the gel had been blown dry, my face felt light, like a tissue paper or feather.

STEP 5 : Foundation Mask & Ginseng Mask

After all the steps taken to deep cleanse and treat me skin, the final step before toning and moisturising was the application of 2 layers of mask. The first layer was a foundation mask which I gave up asking about because my mind was loaded with information on all the other treatments and I was fighting to stay awake. I just remembered it was thick and felt like a clay mask.

Mirror, mirror in my hand... who will be the finest urban man? You can decide with a vote and receive a S$145 Mary Chia / Urban Homme gift voucher. Christmas coming, can use to pamper yourself or give as gift!

But the second layer I remember. It had a very fragrant and refreshing ginseng smell. I love that smell and apparently, ginseng don’t just energise you on the inside. When applied to the face as a mask treatment, it can invigorate dull and stressed skin. Lyn told me the mask is freshly made by mixing ground ginseng powder (probably made from red Korean ginseng) with toner.

As Lyn applied the last stroke of the mask on my face, suddenly, the gentle rushing waves of the new age ambient music in the room filled me. The two layer of masks pressed firmly to my face like a security blanket, my eyelids heavier still, and the beautiful, light scent of ginseng filled my consciousness…

I dozed off for a while. About the 20 minutes it took the masks to dry. Just enough time for me to have a short reverie with my skin where once upon a time it was youthful and radiant.

But as the mask came off, the lights turned back on, I opened my eyes and saw myself in the mirror. And I just stood there… and glowed. I had to slap myself out of it.

This is my old face. I'm leaving it behind.

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