Saving Face

Being a man in my 30s, I decided it was time for me to start doing something about my face.

Previous attempts to deal with my face have produced mixed results. My first experience with waxing my eyebrows was positive; however, the second experience, which ended in an allergic reaction and grotesquely swollen features, was not. I have a weak chin, so sometimes I maintain a narrow beard-like growth on it. However, scruffy facial hair makes me look like 100 percent of the other men in Portland, and I fear people will think I have grown it simply to fit in.

But it’s my skin that I’m concerned with now, particularly the subject of aging. I recently noticed two lines on my face that have become permanent. One is between my eyebrows. You know the crease that appears when you furrow your brow in puzzlement or deep concentration? Yeah, it’s there all the time now — hidden by the bridge of my eyeglasses, sure, but still. I know it’s there. And on my forehead, one of the lines associated with an expression of surprise or great interest has etched its way into my flesh as well.

When I point these lines out to people, they say, “I didn’t notice them until you pointed them out.” But that’s how Nazism got its start, too. People didn’t notice it until it was pointed out — and then it was TOO LATE. (Same with disco.) So I need to deal with them now, eliminate them if possible, and do what I can to prevent new ones from forming prematurely.

Like most men, I don’t pay much attention to skin care. I wash my face with whatever’s handy, whether it’s bar soap, shampoo, or gravy. Sometimes I shave with the edge of a pair of scissors. And I figure if I’m going to put moisturizer on my face every night, I might as well wear a nightgown, argue with my grandfather, and in every other way become my grandmother.

But now it was time. Mother Nature was claiming territory across my face, Manifest Destiny-style, and if I didn’t act quickly, that wanton harlot would expand across the entire continent of my face. Problem was, I had no idea which products to use. They always talked about skin care on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” but I haven’t watched that show since 2004, when I realized every episode was exactly the same as every other episode. And I don’t remember anything I learned from the episodes I did watch, other than that being gay is totally awesome.

After some painstaking research — I called my gayest friend and asked him — I arrived at the Lab Series of men’s products as the answer to all my skin-care needs. I knew they’d be expensive, so I figured the place to buy them was Nordstrom.

As I entered the store’s makeup and perfume section, I saw women getting free makeovers from the cosmetics experts, and I felt a little envious. Men enjoy being pampered, too, and goodness knows we like free things. But there’s not really a male equivalent for the free makeover. Maybe if electronics stores had massage chairs for guys to sit in while they watched football games, with complimentary buffalo wings delivered by Hooters waitresses. (Are you listening, Circuit City?)

At the counter where men’s cologne is sold, I found Debbie, a smartly dressed and very professional-looking woman who asked if she could help me, and who seemed sincere in her desire to do so. I told her that the Lab Series had been recommended to me, and that I was on a mission to stop the march of time before it made me look like a 35-year-old (or, worse, a 36-year-old). Debbie revealed a bevy of Lab Series products, including the Multi-Action Face Wash, Invigorating Face Scrub, Hydrating Cleansing Bar, Daily Moisture Defense Lotion SPF 15, Age Rescue Eye Therapy, Skin Refinisher, Skin Revitalizer Lotion, Maximum Comfort Shave Cream, Mega Foam Shave, and Razor Burn Relief Ultra. These products come in tubes and are usually in gloop form, the same gloop in every tube, for all I know. Buying them all would cost me well over $12,000 and would require an additional four hours every morning and night to apply them. This seemed mildly excessive.

With some advice from Debbie, I settled on three particular items: the Multi-Action Face Wash, which will apparently wash my face with a multitude of actions (?!); the Age Rescue Eye Therapy, which you smear around your eyes to keep them from getting baggy and wrinkly like Gandalf’s; and the Super Lift Off! AHA/BHA Face Lotion SPF 15, which is supposed to make your skin look younger, healthier and possibly French. (“Baume Visage Dynamisant” is the product’s name in French. Did I see “dynamite” in there?)

Debbie said that she was going to put her business card in the bag with the items, and that if I had any questions or concerns about the products, I should call or stop by. Now, what possible reason I could ever have for calling Debbie at the men’s fragrance counter, I cannot imagine. But when I got home and looked at the card — “Fragrance Specialist,” it says — I started to think I should call her, just because I’m sure not very many customers ever do. I began to think up reasons for calling.

“Hey, Debbie, just a quick question on this Lab Series Multi-Action Face Wash: Is this for external use only? Because I may have eaten some.”

“Does Lab Series offer any exfoliants specifically for the knuckles?”

“Are Lab Series products tested on animals? I don’t want to use them unless they are.”

But this flight of fancy was a waste of valuable skin-care time! It’s only been a few days, but I definitely like the cleanser, which makes my face feel smooth and supple, possibly like a baby’s bottom, though I’m not sure I’ve ever actually touched one. And the other stuff seems to be doing the job of making me look younger, as evidenced by these “before” and “after” pictures.

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That long list of Lab Series products I gave is legit, and there are about a dozen more, too. You could spend thousands of dollars on their Web site, if you were wealthy and obsessive. Luckily, I'm just obsessive.

The only thing I really like about Nordstrom is that they often have live piano music playing instead of Muzak. In fact, one of my dream jobs is to be a Nordstrom pianist. Have I done anything to pursue this dream? Of course I have. I called the lady in charge of pianists at my local Nordstrom, and she said they already have enough. You know how there's also Nordstrom Rack, sort of an outlet store for old Nordstrom merchandise? They probably don't have pianists. They probably have a guy playing the kazoo. You know, 'cause it's a discount store. Ahem. Is this thing on?

Oh, all right. The "after" picture is my soccer photo, taken when I was (I'm gonna guess) 6 years old. Two amazing-but-true facts: I once played soccer, and I was once blond.