A little while ago, a good friend looked at me with laser-like focus and said: "At this exact moment you'll never be this young again and you're as old as you've ever been." He let the moment land and, without breaking eye contact, put a spoonful of Chubby Hubby in his mouth, packed and smoked another bowl, then treated me to a ninety-minute hodgepodge of specious conspiracy theories that made the thing he said about the passage of time seem risible by association.
But I did the math in the cold light of day and sure enough, what he'd said checked out. So what of it? Well, getting older sucks. Not the feeling-more-comfortable-in your-own-skin part or the not-having-a-bobo-roommate part but the being-read-as-older-by-the-young-folk part. Particularly when—at 40—you're not quite finished fucking with the young folk stuff. I'm not talking about tagging bridges, or sniffing glue but going out and, y'know, dating.
Recently, a younger friend guilelessly asked me about taking her someplace to dance. I broke out into a cold sweat as I fretted about my relatively elderly appearance bumming people out. With this problem set to get exponentially worse, I daydreamed about freezing time. I quickly got word of an of an aesthetic treatment that promises to do that a quite literal way. It's called a cryofacial.
The cryofacial is an offshoot of a more general therapeutic area called cryotherapy—cryo coming from the Greek words for "cold" and therapy meaning "cure." The Egyptians were using cold to treat injuries and inflammation as far back at 2500 BCE. Napoleon's favorite surgeon, Dominique-Jean Larrey, used it to help amputate soldiers' extremities during the Grand Armée's retreat from Moscow though—as any student of European history will tell you—"General Winter" likely forced Larrey's hand in his battlefield innovation.
In the 21st Century you needn't be a banged up charioteer or a vanquished grenadier to benefit from cryotherapy's purported benefits. You just need slightly more money than you know what to do with.
At Skintology Cosmedical Aesthetics in Manhattan, a two- or three-minute session in their CryoSauna will set you back $85. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, spine inflammation, or just want to blast away up to 800 calories, 120-180 seconds subjected to temperatures ranging from -200 to -300F might do the trick. (Or you could go to doctor and take medicine—just saying. (The cryofacial, on the other hand, is an above-the-neck application of the same thing and costs $79.)
From Skintology's website: "The CryoCure Facial is a Cryogenic treatment, in which a controlled bean [sic] of vaporized liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the skin of the face, scalp and neck area."
The website then describes recipients experiencing an instantaneous tightness in the skin that fills in fine lines and wrinkles and an activation of collagen that produces more cells, causing skin to become more elastic over repeated use. The cryofacial, it seems, could enable me to double down on my Peter Pan complex.
Not convinced of its efficacy? Neither is Oksana. This is surprising as she works at Skintology and we've been planning to film my treatment with her for a week or two. "It doesn't work," she says to the producer when we arrive, then peers into my face in a disconcerting way. "But this man could use many, many other treatments."
Catherine, the flawlessly complected young aesthetician tasked with helping me blend in with a set of people who've never had to memorize a phone number, massages the message a little. "It does work but the results are pretty temporary, especially after just one treatment," she says. "For that reason it's good to take advantage of the effects shortly after having the treatment."
Catherine invites me to change into a robe and leads me to a treatment room. I lay back on a bed and gaze into her shapely nostrils as she starts the large machine that's fed with liquid nitrogen. Attached to the machine is a long back hose, the business end of which will be pointed at my face at a range of an inch or two.
"Is this going to hurt?" I ask, realizing that this is a question that I could have posed in advance of the session.
"Not at all," she says, with what seems like absolute certainty. "People find it very relaxing. A gentle, cooling face massage."
Catherine tells me that the beam (or possibly bean) of vaporized liquid nitrogen will be coming out at a brisk -185 Fahrenheit, which doesn't sound particularly relaxing.
"If I left the wand in one spot, you'd get a burn," she explains. "But I'm going to be moving it all over your face so that won't happen. Ready?"
I nod and soon Catherine is doing what looks as if she's using the wand to sign her name in the air at my face. As she'd said, the feeling is actually very soothing, like a maternal presence blowing over an ice cube at my face. The treatment takes around ten minutes and over its course I risk getting a frosty blast in the mouth by asking Catherine about the sorts of results I can expect to see.
"You're going to see a difference," she asks. "Are you going out tonight?" "Yeah," I say. "I'm going out to dinner and a show with friends."
"Well that's good because if you're only having the one treatment, the results won't last too long. After multiple treatments, clients have that fresher look for longer. So it's good that you've got somewhere to go this evening. Maybe your friends will notice."
Catherine carries on with her ministrations, and soon the experience becomes less like receiving blown kisses from ice fairies and more like being bukkaked by a gang of malevolent snowmen.
"How much longer?" I manage to say as brain freeze sets in. "Forty seconds," she says and I gird my loins to white-knuckle it through the remainder of my time. "Okay, you're all done!"
Later on, no one at dinner mentions my having a more youthful appearance, but when I mention how I've spent my day, my friend squints her eyes at me and says: "Y'know what? Maybe you do look a little smoothed out, now that you mention it."
Later that night, I take another look in the mirror. It could be the power of suggestion but I can't help but think that the lines on my forehead and around my eyes have indeed been lessened by the procedure. The difference isn't night and day but I feel slightly less like my face is going to wreck a formerly cool party's vibe.
Update: Skintology no longer offers the cryofacial, stating that they have recently chosen to focus more on laser procedures.
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