Getting my first treatment has changed my views on male skincare products
Meeting up with my sister is always a merry occasion, but during our last encounter she hit me with a real sidewinder. "Look at the skin on your face, all unnaturally yellow and greasy," she said as soon as she set eyes on me. "And there's no hiding the pores dotting across your cheeks. It practically hurts my eyes."
Once I had composed myself, I countered: "Sorry if I have other priorities on my mind than polishing my face. Besides, it's not unusual for a guy to skip the odd face wash."
"Say no more," she instantly shot back. "I'll give you a homemade facial treatment, so my eyes can be spared and you'll see what you're missing. I give my husband one of these every now and then."
Knowing that my brother-in-law was in on the action prompted me to take up the offer, as he'd already set a precedent to prevent me from being judged. What's more, it's not exactly an ordeal being made to lie down and kick back while someone waits on your face.
So, my sister took me on a journey through the world of skincare. First, she washed the filth off, exfoliated the dead skin with mud, spread a gelatin mask over my face and massaged it for a good 15 minutes, which I have to admit I enjoyed very much. Then, she rinsed off all the slimy stuff and started spraying and patting two nondescript liquids onto my resuscitated skin before topping me off with a cream.
Throughout the operation, what had accompanied the pleasure was an inner struggle to reconcile myself to the feminine situation. Will this compromise my manhood, I wondered. Will I be turned into a metrosexual?
Yet, when I looked at myself in the mirror after all was done, the earlier shade of unsightly yellow did magically brighten up a little and I looked smarter. The joy of seeing a renewed face managed to supplant my earlier irrational uneasiness. Thanks to my sister's work, my previously burning face was now enjoying a sensation of coolness like nothing before.
My ambivalence over men's skincare comes from the traditional belief that looks weigh little in a man's life. My father used to give me a hard time when he caught me standing too long in front of the mirror, deeming it a distraction from more meaningful things, such as studying.
I believe most men must have received similar schooling at some point in their lives, so finding one of us experimenting with skincare products can be unsettling. I'd pass judgment whenever I saw some "city jade man" - the translated Chinese term of metrosexual - walk by and would rib male friends if they ever attempted to share their experiences of using cleansing products. But my very own facial trip put a new complexion on my stereotyped notion.
There's no denying that taking good care of your skin is high on the agenda for most women. However, if these products can take years off us and slow the ageing process, why shouldn't men be entitled to use them too? The truth is, when appearance matters, such as landing a job, showing up with a clean and smooth face can get us off to a better start.
Maybe getting a facial is going overboard, but it struck a chord in me that I should do the basics, for that I don't want to go back to my former self. Looking sharp does add something to confidence.
Besides, if I'm outshone by my well-maintained peers later in life because of the slack attention to my face, I might have to resort to expensive cosmetic surgery. Compared to that, day-to-day skincare seems the cheaper and safer option.