February 27, 2020 9:10:07 am
Barring admission to medical school or catastrophic injury, most of us will go our whole lives without much contemplating the grisly framework that enables and constrains our bodily movement. This is for the best. It is alarming to understand oneself as a heavy, precarious pile of discrete muscles adhering to bones and skin, performing rote motions with little to no supervision, rather than as a person with ideas.
But what if, in exchange for subjecting yourself to that existential reckoning, for $285 plus tip, you could have zhuzhed cheeks and a temporary glow? Would you dare? For an increasing number of Brooklyn residents for whom any price is a small price to pay for any good or service, the answer is a radiant yes.
The result is what the aesthetician Carrie Lindsey describes as a “nonsurgical face-lift.” In her small, bright salon, Lindsey methodically rearranges the clay of her clients’ features until they resemble their own almost imperceptibly more attractive evil twins. She achieves this effect by smushing and smooshing and spreading and stretching their faces, for upward of an hour, and then (having donned gloves) rooting around inside their mouths for several minutes.
Lindsey, who has never been bitten by a client, first became aware of so-called Sculptural Face Lifting in late 2018, from a former employee trained in a similar technique. Lindsey learned to perform the version she offers this past November, in a four-day session led by its creator, Yakov Gershkovich.
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Before then, she said, if the salon booked one facial massage treatment “a week, we felt like it was a lot.” But after she posted about her training experience on Instagram, and began sharing post-treatment photos of her faintly luminous, delighted clients, demand exploded.
“I have three tomorrow,” Lindsey said, drinking hot chocolate on a bench near her salon on a recent afternoon. In January, actress Jemima Kirke uploaded a video of Lindsey pulling Kirke’s lips as wide as those of a cartoon character struggling to walk into a powerful wind, exposing the rarely seen far away teeth used to grind food into a swallowable paste.
“And this is going to make me gorgeous?” Kirke asks in the video, attempting to form words around Lindsey’s fingers.
“Yes,” Lindsey said, soothingly.
A description on the Carrie Lindsey Beauty booking website declares the treatment “the Brancusi of facials,” implying, certainly, that it is a service likely to be sought out by the type of person for whom those words impart a particular meaning.
Even if you are the type of person who does not know what Brancusi is, let alone what constitutes its facial equivalent, it sounds indescribably luxurious.
I was one such person. Until I experienced the Brancusi of facials for myself, I figured Brancusi was either a kind of fish, a very fast car or an Italian abstract painter. After the session, I discovered, on the Brancusi of search engines, Google, that Brancusi was a Romanian sculptor of what might be deemed very smooth faces.
So, what does the Brancusi of facials feel like?
It feels like being alternately treasured and ravaged, pulled and gently slapped and firmly pressed, like pizza dough that has dropped on a human skeleton and now must be rubbed into the skeleton to hide this mistake.
It was chillingly relaxing. My session seemed to have lasted less than 10 minutes, yet when I checked the time upon its completion, 80 minutes had passed, and I had been awake for all of them. It felt how autonomous sensory meridian response sounds, except that it was also intermittently briefly uncomfortable. The total amount of times my face will be touched in my lifetime surely increased by something like 2 million percent.
Before and after photos revealed that my skin no longer sagged in places I hadn’t known it sagged, until I saw photos in which it no longer did. It was as if my regular skin had received the unhelpful note “do better” and acted on it, but not in any specific way I could identify. I was my own mirage.
As a child in Illinois, Lindsey, now 46, was so entranced by her mother and grandmother’s Mary Kay rituals, she had a Mary Kay-themed party for her 10th birthday.
In her treatment room, over a low R&B soundtrack, she combines the intoxicating, fluid enthusiasm of a Mary Kay rep with the didacticism Thomas Eakins vividly rendered in his paintings of surgical theater lecturers.
After an initial assessment, during which she scrutinizes what she calls “the knit” of her supine client’s skin, Lindsey begins the treatment by pressing gently around the clavicle, underarms and jawline — locations of lymph nodes. She works her way more forcefully up the neck to the face, where the pressure becomes muscle deep. The movements, she said, are intended to encourage activity in the lymphatic and circulatory systems, to “feed” the skin.
“I’m not feeding it just topically with, like, a mask or a serum,” she said. “Your body’s feeding your new skin cells. And I think that that’s great.”
“Risorius.” “Buccinator.” More than a dozen face muscles are identified, personalized — “your orbicularis oris” — described, and rubbed.
“It’s very rhythmic to me,” she said of the repeated kneadings. “It’s almost like a dance.”
After earning her aesthetician’s license in Illinois, and working in Chicago, and later California, Lindsey moved to New York in 2012. She opened her first beauty studio in 2016, a stone’s throw from her current location, into which she expanded two years later. Lindsey spoke enthusiastically about the work of the site’s previous tenant, Courtney Washington, a Jamaican women’s clothing designer.
“He was a fixture in this neighborhood,” she said, “and I was sad to see him go.”
“It’s really hard to come into established neighborhoods, where people loved what brought them there, and take over a space,” she said. “And, to be honest, he was black. I felt like a young white woman — there was a lot.” Lindsey said Washington moved back to the Caribbean, which he confirmed over email from Kingston, where he continues to run his business.
“I love Fort Greene,” she said, describing her neighbors as “really welcoming.” Multiple passersby greeted Lindsey warmly as she sat outside.
At $285 for a 75-minute session, the sculpting massage service is, per minute, the salon’s most expensive treatment.
“I struggle with this,” Lindsey said. The price, she said, is intended to reflect “the energy of the massage and the time and the results.” Initially, it was $305.
Lindsey said she lowered the price to make the service “accessible” to more people, then added, “I’m trying to stay competitive but, also, I don’t want to price gouge. I’m not using a ton of products and I want it to be fair.” She said, “It’s a lot of money still.”
Lindsey said that the biggest “drawback” to the treatment is that “it is done best in a series.” She estimated that clients augmenting their sessions with “at home care,” may be able to maintain their results for “a good week or two.” My results, without home care, seemed to fade after a day or so.
But for that day or so, my skin looked great. And who can put a price on that?
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