I soap my hands up with cleanser and hover over Stephanie’s face. “Go on, get in there!” says Miss Jenny. “You won’t hurt her.” We’re spending a lot more time talking about how to touch your client now that we’re done with makeup and starting skin care. “Always let them know you’re coming,” says Miss Lisa. She cups a dollop of cleanser in each palm, then presses the tops of her curved fingers into Sue’s shoulders before proceeding up her neck and face. That shoulder move is key. “If you touch their face right off the bat, they’ll jump out of the bed,” Miss Lisa explains.
I press on Stephanie’s shoulders and then start stroking up her neck and over her chin and cheeks, circling into the folds around the nose and then around her forehead, until she’s covered in a thin layer of foam. Even though she’s lying on a facial bed wearing only a Velcro towel while I sit at her head and look down, it’s somehow less intimate than applying makeup. I think because her eyes are closed.
After spending four weeks with Stephanie, I know an assortment of random “getting to know you” facts: She has a 1-year-old nephew, she curses her oily skin, she just had two dates with a guy but there wasn’t any spark.
But suddenly she stops being Stephanie, aunt, skin-obsesser, dater of spark-less dudes, and just becomes A Face — an upside down series of planes and curves that I need to cover in cleanser and then wipe clean with a wet cotton pad. It’s like when you say a word too many times in a row and suddenly can’t remember what it means. Stare at the photo above for a minute too long and you’ll see what I mean.
I repeat the cleansing, per Miss Jenny’s instructions, and then apply toner. Then I stop, because we haven’t learned to do anything else yet. Stephanie opens her eyes and is Stephanie again. We laugh.
“Remember, we’re promoting relaxation,” says Miss Jenny. That means you want your client to totally unwind and let their guard down (“they become the bed,” Miss Lisa likes to say). But there aren’t many other scenarios where you see someone at their most relaxed — but also most vulnerable. If Stephanie and I were training for any other profession, I wouldn’t have much reason to scrub the underside of her nose. It’s a weird thing to be responsible for someone else’s relaxation when you’re feeling anything but that yourself.