Facialists: The Derma Dominatrixes Of The Filthy Rich

In the "Thursday Styles" section of today's New York Times, we learn that vanity and sadism go hand in hand — and know no limits! Beth Landman writes about aestheticians who are not just brutally honest — they are straight up mean. And the rich ladies who rely on them just love it! Isabel Dassinger, 50, sees Julie Lindh at NYC's Townhouse Spa. Ms. Lindh recently told Ms. Dassinger: "If you don't stay out of the sun and use the products I suggest, you will have saggy skin, jowls, and look like someone's grandmother in a couple of years." Ms. Dassinger was shocked at first but says, "You get used to it. Julie gets away with talking to people like that because she makes your skin look amazing."



Facialists used to clean pores, apply masks and rub cream on your face — now they "berate clients who eat poorly" and decide what kinds of peels, light therapy and high-tech skin treatments a client needs. Customers "used to treat us like maids," says Aida Bicaj, an aesthetician on the Upper East Side. "Now they are treating us like medical professionals." Except, of course, they're not. Aestheticians do have to undergo 600 hours of training to be licensed, and surely years of examining hundreds of faces add to their expertise. But their training does not even come close to matching a dermatologist's years of medical school. Still, women flock to them and obey. Rebecca Johnson first visited Ms. Bicaj's salon five years ago. She said that she didn't want electrical stimulation or any acid-based products on her sensitive skin. Ms. Bicaj, who charges $475 for a facial, overruled her: "Do you tell the doctor what you need? A client cannot tell me what she needs." A dozen facials and microcurrent procedures later, Ms. Johnson, 57, just loves her! "With Aida, my skin is better than when I was 35," she says. But what's with the attitude?

Sonya Dakar, an aesthetician who counts Gwyneth Paltrow as a client, tells the Times: "You can't be a diva unless you really know what you are doing. If you are spineless and vulnerable, you shouldn't come to me. I will tell them they have skin like a Shar-Pei." Christine Chin, an especially-strict aesthetician who ditched client Naomi Campbell for her chronic lateness, says, "I tell them, 'Your face doesn't match your neck.' Sometimes they start crying. If you don't like our rules, then we say, 'Goodbye, you can go somewhere else and you can keep your zits.'" The crazy thing is that an appointment with these women does not come cheap. Why are their clients willing to shell out cash to be berated? It's obviously possible to get good results without a caustic lecture. Are women with money so used to getting what they want that they feel a thrill in being told what to do, like powerful businessmen who are into S&M? Or are the aestheticians power-tripping, since they have women lying there, at their mercy? And would you continue to see someone who told you your skin was "saggy" — and give that person money? Because we'd be out of there before you could say "mircodermabrasion."

Aestheticians Who Get in Your Face [NY Times]