We’re continuing to practice our cleansing and toning, so tonight I work on Meg, who is wrestling with two milia that have erupted on her face.
We’re taught never to say pimple or zit, at Beauty U, mostly because it’s considered unseemly to tell a client that you’re going to pop a pimple for them. It’s classier to ask, “Would you like me to extract your milia?” Milia, because I know you were wondering, are “oil and dead skin cells trapped beneath the surface of the skin,” according to Milady’s. Miss Lisa says they may sometimes also be deposits of calcium or cholesterol, but then again, that could be just a myth.
Whatever they are, you want them gone. Brace yourselves for the illustrative skin shots:
(At least the baby is cute.)
So the mystery gunk hardens over meaning you can’t pop your milia open with your fingers in the bathroom mirror; it has to be extracted by an esthetician or a dermatologist. You can pop your comedones yourself, but that’s a whole other vocab card. (Yes, I made vocab flashcards this weekend at Miss Jenny’s urging, because there are a heck of a lot of technical terms to memorize for our Chapter 10 test.)
But back to Meg. After I finish my cleansing and toning, we call Miss Stacy over to take a look at the milia in question. She turns on the mag lamp, which is a lamp with a big magnifying glass attached and we peer at Meg’s milia together. I tried to come up with a clever metaphor for you on this, but it looks, well, like a magnified pimple.
I really enjoy Miss Stacy’s bedside manner:
Meg (worried): “Do my pores look so huge?”
Miss Stacy: “Yes. Because I’m looking at them through a giant magnifying glass.”
Miss Stacy puts on some vinyl gloves and prods the milia with a disposable lancet, which is like a little metal needle, though Meg says it doesn’t hurt. She prods and prods while I watch in the magnify glass, and a little bead of blood appears on Meg’s cheek. The gunk remains impervious. “I don’t want to hurt you,” says Miss Stacy. “But Miss Lisa won’t mind. She’s the queen of extractions.”
I fetch Miss Lisa like it’s the bottom of the ninth and we’re bringing in a ringer. She snaps on her own vinyl gloves and takes hold of the mag lamp. “Now what you want to do with the lancet is just come on in from the side,” she drawls, arrowing in with supreme confidence to land a hit just below the top of the first milia. It pops open without so much as a whimper.
“And here,” says Miss Lisa, plucking something off Meg’s cheek in triumph. “Is your milia!”
Meg and I examine the tiny piece of couscous sitting on Miss Lisa’s finger. “Go on, hold it!” Miss Lisa urges. It’s hard like couscous too. Meg holds it delicately on the pad of her thumb as Miss Lisa attacks the second one. This one doesn’t give up the ghost quite so easily and we determine that it needs another day or two to cook before it’s ready for extraction.
Meanwhile, Stephanie, Blanche, Sue and the other esthetics students swing by for a look at the milia. Us freshman girls are fascinated because we’ve witnessed our first extraction. The senior girls are excited for us because it was but 20 weeks ago that they stood in our shoes. They trade extraction war stories of pimples that wouldn’t stop gushing and smokers who bleed as soon as you prick them because smoking thins your blood.
The weird thing is, nobody is grossed out by any of it. Depending on our mood, extractions are either a fact of life (we all have skin, sometimes stuff oozes out of it) or a judgment on the owner of said skin (that’s what happens when you use the wrong products). We’re like the fighter pilots in The Right Stuff; the only ones who admit to danger are the ones who have the wrong stuff.
Is it a post-feminist way of embracing the body, warts and all, even as we groom it to milia-free perfection? Or is it just a form of self-preservation to buoy us up for the next encrusted pore?