Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Treat Yo Self: European Facial with Chelsey Gensel
Last month's Treat Yo' Self was not entirely pleasant, so as a new month rolled in I was ready to get back to an activity of a more relaxing nature. I briefly considered doing something patriotic to coincide with Independence Day, but then it occurred to me that I spend the bulk of July with a persistent sunburn and my skin could use a little TLC.
So I settled on a European Facial, which combines a deep cleansing with steam, exfoliation, and an upper body massage before culminating in a chemical mask that hydrates the skin, and I invited my friend Chelsey Gensel to come along.
Chelsey and I met in the journalism program at Utah State University, and more specifically at USU's independent student newspaper, The Utah Statesman.
When I was named editor in chief I hired Chelsey as my second-in-command, meaning that she made sure everything was spelled correctly while I engaged in ill-advised spitting contests with the school's student government and Greek Row (which were pretty much one and the same).
In 2011, we both moved to New York City and were basically neighbors in that we were separated by a couple subway stops and were two of the only seven white people in Queens. She's an extremely loyal and supportive friend and is passionate about the things she loves.
We checked in at Skinworks School of Advanced Skincare for our 2 p.m. appointment and had a few minutes to fill out a questionnaire in an phenomenally-aromatic lobby. The sun is really bad, guys, as our pages made clear by repeated inquiries into our regular levels of exposure and warnings against venturing out into the cruel harsh light except for the most exigent of circumstances.
From there we were taken into our private rooms, Chelsey by a woman and myself by a nice man named Mike who reminded me of Little Richard without the mustache.
My preconception of facials was largely based on television comedies, where groups of women sit together and gossip about their love lives with a green paste on their skin and cucumbers over their eyes. I assume that option is out there, but my facial was a very matter-of-fact affair, with the first 30 minutes or so consisting of the applications of various creams during a dialogue with Mike about my individual skincare needs and then 30 minutes of quiet relaxation while Mike applied a translucent mask and massaged my face, neck, shoulders, arms and back.
Mike told me I have great skin (I bet he says that to all the guys) and warned me repeatedly about wearing SPF since I'm a "Fitzpatrick II," which is skin-industry-speak for "Pasty white Irish boy."
Properly pampered, Chelsey and I headed to Oh Mai to conduct our interview over some Báhn Mì sandwiches and toasted coconut water.
Wood’s Stock: Who are you and what do you do?
Chelsey Gensel: I am Chelsey and I am a nanny in New York.
WS: Have you ever had a European facial?
CG: I’ve never had a facial of any kind before today.
WS: What did you think?
CG: I was pleasantly surprised with what a process it was. I thought you would just sit in a chair and they would put some gunk on your face and then wipe it off and moisturize you. But it was kind of like getting a massage. You’re in there for an hour, you have a bed and it was quite involved. And the mask was clear, I was not expecting that.
WS: Neither was I.
CG: You expect it to be like green or blue or mud colored or whatever.
WS: Walk me through it. What was it they did, you did, and so on.
CG: They had a lovely terry cloth dressing gown. A massage table bed. A warm toasty blanket, which was good because it may be summer and you think you’re not going to be cold but when they’re taking hot and cold washcloths off your face for an hour you get a little bit of a chill.
They started with some kind of a cleanser, lotion-y stuff. They wiped that off. Exfoliant – wiped that off. Mask, moisturizer, whatever the last one was. Toner? I think. And then a sort of upper body massage in between. Oh and the lamp, the check-your-skin-to-make-sure-you’re-healthy lamp.
WS: With my guy, the first half was a lot of questions and conversation and then the last half was mostly massage. Is that how yours went?
CG: Actually no, she was not talkative at all at first. I explained to her that I had my freshly-inked tattoo so I couldn’t have my arm rubbing against the blankets and moved around. The questions were very business-like, just about what was going to be happening. She asked what scent I wanted. But she never asked what I did, where I was from, anything like that. It was very little conversation.
WS: Do you remember which scent you chose?
WS: Mine was an East Indian Patchouli Oil and he said I had good taste.
CG: Patchouli Oil is nasty.
WS: I agree, but this was apparently differently.
CG: Yeah it was that or lavender or lemongrass. It was a toss up between lemongrass and lavender but there was no way I was going Patchouli.
WS: Was there anything else that surprised you or that you didn’t expect?
CG: No I don’t think so. I’ve been to salons before. I’ve read the service menus and kind of knew what to expect from a facial. I just didn’t know that it was like an hour-long process.
WS: How does your skin feel?
CG: Refreshed and glow-y, although a little bit wet. I keep waiting for the moisturizer to all soak in but every time I touch my face it feels a little oily.
WS: So let’s talk a little bit about New York.
CG: It’s still there.
WS: You’re a nanny there, how long have you been doing that?
CG: Three years.
WS: How do you like it?
CG: I still like it most of the time. I figure it has its challenges like any job but it’s something I generally enjoy doing and can still learn from doing and let’s me live the way I would like to and be comfortable and do the things I like to do.
WS: What was the motivation behind New York. Why that place?
CG: New York is my mistress. I’m just in love with it. I can’t explain it, it’s like it’s own little universe. I hated Salt Lake City growing up and I never would have figured myself for a city girl but I was nannying in Pennsylvania after my freshman year of college and visited New York on a weekend and just from the second I stepped off the subway I wanted to come back.
WS: I think most everybody, whether they vocalize it or not, wants to live in New York. Or they at least want to be able to. Do you ever find yourself surprised that you’re actually there?
CG: No, not really.
WS: You never have that moment where you realize “Oh right, I live in New York”
CG: I guess sometimes I do take a step back and think “aren’t I lucky to live in a place where I have all these opportunities and can do all the things I want to do, basically when I want to do them.” But that’s not happenstance, I did it on purpose, so it’s not like it’s a surprise to me. I picked New York because I wanted to be in New York for those reasons: to be able to do those things and go those places and have those experiences.
People always say “You’re so brave” or “You’re so adventurous.” It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. I went where I wanted to go to do what I wanted to do.
WS: So you don’t automatically feel cooler than the rest of us because you live in the Big Apple.
CG: Oh yeah. I totally do. But it’s not for everybody and I get that. I’m not like a New York missionary.
WS: What’s the best thing and what’s the worst thing about living in New York?
CG: I’ll probably have a different answer in a few months but right now it’s the smell.
WS: Yeah, the summertime…
CG: Summer in New York, it doesn’t matter where you go, it’s smells like hot garbage and body odor. That’s just the way it is. It’s hot and you think like you’re never going to be dry again. It’s like in Harry Potter when they play that quidditch match in the rain and Fred and George say “We haven’t been properly dry since August.” That’s how I feel starting in about May in new york.
WS: What about the best thing?
CG: (Takes a sip of toasted coconut water) I don’t like it. Not New York, I don’t like the coconut juice.
WS: You don’t like the coconut?
CG: It’s got chunks in it.
WS: Yeah it does! I love it. I absolutely love it.
CG: Texturally that’s not a thing that I am interested in doing. I’ll sip it. You should have told me there were chunks.
WS: You wouldn’t have gotten it if I had.
CG: That’s true.
WS: You need to be a more adventurous eater.
CG: That is totally untrue.
WS: OK I take that back, you still do like ethnic food and all sorts of things.
CG: As evidenced, I’ll try almost anything. Usually taste is not bothersome to me, it’s texture.
WS: Well I do feel like you put too much of a dealbreaker status on texture.
CG: I can’t help my brain chemistry. I’m sorry.
WS: You were born this way, is that what you’re saying?
CG: Yes I was. Actually I may have been born this way but I’m probably more adventurous than I would otherwise have been if I didn’t spend four years as a vegetarian.
WS: Yeah, that makes you experiment with food.
CG: What was the question?
WS: Best thing about New York?
CG: My head is swimming, I don’t know how to define it. If I get asked this question in a conversational setting I’ll either give a stock answer that makes no sense or I’ll wax philosophical for days because I love it so much.
It sounds super corny, but it always amazes me that as a city that is so connected to everywhere else in the world it can be so isolated. I feel like it has it’s own heartbeat. You can be isolated and find your niche and never leave or you can go 100 different directions and experience anything you want to experience and never see the same person twice for 10 years if you don’t want to.
WS: I know what you mean. I remember when I was living there I would tell people how I felt kind of alone and isolated and people would say “how is that possible?” but there’s so many people that you are just in a sea.
CG: And it can be really hard to meet people because it’s not like you just go to the park or it can be kind of an ordeal to go anywhere you’re going to go so you have to be purposeful about it. So if you’re not part of an office culture where you meet people at work or a church group where you meet people of your faith or you're going to school and you meet people in class, it can be very difficult because not everyone wants to necessarily meet the people they would meet at a bar on a night out.
WS: And without those groups there’s just millions of people…
CG: ...who never really intersect. Although you see dog walkers and dog owners pass each other on the street and strike up a conversation. I have started talking to people on the subway because I notice they’re listening to a band I like or reading a book I know.
A couple weeks ago I started hanging out with these four kids on the subway who were playing a word game where you start with the last letter of the previous person’s answer. This one kid kept using World Cup players and I caught on to it 3 or 4 rounds in so I interrupted on his turn and said “another World Cup player?” He was like “Dang, I’m caught” and I joined their game. For 20 minutes on the subway I played a game with these four strangers and will never see them again. But you can put yourself into wherever and whoever and whatever you want or remove yourself just as easily.
WS: I do miss that, that is a cool aspect of the city.
CG: And a simplistic one but I really like being in proximity to everything I want to do like concerts and stuff.
WS: Is there anything you miss about Utah?
CG: The mountains and my family and friends who are still here. When I come back it’s nice for about 3 days but everywhere I go I run into someone I know and can catch up and don’t really have to put effort into it. But then after a little while I’m over it and ready to go back to the city.
I’ve seen enough plaid cargo shorts, tank tops over t-shirts and crocs to last me a lifetime. I don’t claim to be high fashion or anything but I’ve had about enough.
WS: Would you recommend a European facial to others?
CG: I would say “provisionally.” It’s very nice but I imagine it can be quite pricey depending on where you go and unless you have skincare needs or issues I don’t know whether it would be worth it to do often. It’s certainly worth trying once, but I’m not sure it would be cost effective to do just for fun.
WS: Anything you want to promote?
CG: Ed Sheeran’s new album just came out. Go listen to it.
WS: Are you on Twitter?
CG: Yes, @ChelseyJane