When I moved to my beach paradise, set for years of pleasurable lolling in the sun, I noticed some not-sopleasant occurrences. However gracefully I was aging into my late 40s, the surfing, walking, swimming and mere daily routines to and from my house were wreaking havoc on my skin.
And, despite the booming development around my adopted hometown of Tamarindo, on the northern Pacific coast, this is, after all, the tropics. All sorts of insects, bacteria, rashes and fungi had, at one time or other, made their way onto my face, neck, chest, back and arms.
Enough was enough.
I figured if I could make yoga and fast walking a regular workout routine to combat aging and keep healthy, why couldn’t I put the same diligence into a facial fitness regime?
Fortunately, Tamarindo drew licensed aesthetician Margaret Nevins to the area three years ago. Previously, she had worked at California’s Carmel Valley Ranch and The Spa at Pebble Beach before opening her own private skin care clinic in Carmel called Fronts and Backs, which provided her clients with massage, skin care treatments and her own signature product line, Epicuren. Now, she operates a treatment center inside her home in Tamarindo.
I embarked on a month-and-a-half routine designed by Nevins to get my facial skin in better shape and set me on a path to better skin care for the rest of my life.
Facial Fitness Workout Diary
Nov. 3, 11 a.m. The first thing I notice upon entering Nevins’ home and treatment center at ##19 Oro del Sol is the decor – eclectic, with a mixture of country, modern, antique and Balinese design.
I cannot for the life of me guess her age by looking at her skin, which is porcelain-like, etched only by fine lines, soft to the touch.
Her arms bear nary a bug scar or freckle.
In the treatment room, after donning a terrycloth coverup, I slip face-up under the soft sheets of the table, to the sound of peaceful music and the scent of lavender.
Today, as with all sessions, I receive a cleansing, steam, chemical peel, extractions and Microdermabrasion, a procedure in which the dead outermost surface of the skin is partially or completely removed by light abrasion.
Because of my sun damage and age, my regime will also include a hydrating collagen facial. Nevins explains, “I feel like people need to calm and rehydrate their skin after a Microdermabrasion treatment. My Microdermabrasion machine is medical grade, and when someone does regular biweekly or monthly treatments, I can increase the
power of the treatment.”
Of course, she says, the easiest way to keep skin looking great is to stay out of the sun and use sun protection of at least SPF 30 even when just walking around – easier said han done, as anyone living in a beach community can tell you.
“Sunlight contains several different types of ultraviolet light that over time cause significant damage to the skin,”Nevins tells me.
“Skin cancer, fine wrinkles, sagging skin, broken blood vessels, hyperpigmentation (brown patches) and freckling are some of the consequences of frequent sun exposure.
As we age, the collagen and elastin in our skin start to break down, causing skin to lose its resilience and creating wrinkles.”
“It’s never too late to protect your skin from further sun damage,” she adds. “While an estimated 80% of sun damage happens before you’re 18, that doesn’t mean you should compound it by not taking care of your skin now that you are in your late 40s.
“That’s where sunscreen and what I do come in.”
After the cleansing comes a chemical peel, which feels like a quick, cold swabbing of liquid. Then the Microdermabrasion begins.
My skin is sandblasted by aluminum oxide crystals that remove the top layer, the dead cells. I feel a tickling and dust flying over my face. Nevins tells me this will promote the production of new cells in the deepest layer of the dermis.
“Microdermabrasion cleans your pores thoroughly and hinders any future breakouts if used on a regular basis,” she says. “It also stimulates collagen networking to further even out skin texture and appearance.”
The level I receive is 23 out of a possible 79 on Nevins’ machine. She uses the metal instrument on my face, neck and décolletage area.
Next I am wrapped up in the hydrating facial and left to replenish fluids. I nearly fall asleep, I’m so relaxed. Twenty minutes later, I’m unveiled, cleaned up and soft as a baby’s bottom.
I stay out of the sun for the rest of the day and go home to work on my computer.
Nov. 15, 11:30 a.m. I’m on the table again, having completed the steam and cleansings.
Nevins has the magnifying glass perched over my face and is performing extractions of filthy blackheads from my pores, pushing metal stick into my face.
Up next: Microdermabrasion, level 26.
Today’s facial is a chocolate one, including enzymes, powdered oatmeal, fresh aloe vera and honey.
“Chocolate has many healing properties, is loaded with antioxidants and is very nourishing for the skin,” Nevins explains.
“And honey helps rejuvenate, is a good moisturizer, has antibiotic properties that help heal and open up the pores, and eliminates fine wrinkles.”
aving mixed up the concoction prior to my arrival, she slathers the moisture all over my face, neck and décolletage. Next, I’m covered with gauze, which is topped with more chocolatey goo. Plastic wrap tops me off, with holes for my nostrils. A hot towel covers my face, neck and shoulders. Then Nevins applies some of the chocolate to my arms to help heal the insect bites above my wrists. I’m allergic to bug bites, so it takes me extra time to recover; this mask is a promising new medicine.
After covering me from the top of my head down, she leaves the room for 15 minutes. When she returns, I’m washed off and free to go. Today I have an appointment at the pool. I wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, not taking any chances.
Dec. 4, 1 p.m. Nevins has a thing about vinegar. Not just any vinegar – specifically, organic apple cider vinegar. Today I arrive with a stomachache – probably the result of the cake my friend baked for my birthday – and Nevins tells me to add a capful of this special vinegar to hot water and drink it. I buy from her a small bottle of Bragg organic apple cider vinegar and whip up this remedy for my tummy.
This particular vinegar is also excellent for acne break-outs. I’m having some of these, too, perhaps also as a result of the
“It’s simple,” Nevins says. “Take one part organic apple cider vinegar to three parts water and apply directly on the blemish.
You can do this until it heals. Some people use the apple cider vinegar straight, undiluted, but straight vinegar can be irritating to others.”
Today my Microdermabrasion is level 30. My chocolate facial gets into my mouth, and it tastes like birthday cake batter.
I cover up with sunscreen and work indoors for the rest of the day.
Dec. 15, 9 a.m. Sometimes you’ve just got to go to San José, and today is my day.
Thankfully, I’ve got the wonderful Theodore Tomas, a registered nurse and naturopath, available to keep up my facial fitness workout routine. I take a taxi out to San Ramón de Tres Ríos, east of the capital, and enter his tree- and flower-filled compound, seeking the treatment center behind a lap pool overlooking the valley.
Tomas, who has been doing facials and internal cleansings for more than 40 years, is an advocate of pre-11 a.m. sun use for health care. He says that light is a great source of vitamin D, great for people like myself at the beach.
“It also takes care of bacteria on your skin with its ultraviolet rays,” he explains. “Plus, the sun feels good.”
In a Balinese-style, earthy-scented room, I undergo colon hydrotherapy to clean out my insides and am told, “Skin fitness comes from the inside out.”
“People don’t realize that skin is the biggest organ of elimination,” Tomas says.
“There’s sweating, which eliminates toxins, and you must exfoliate often, which is nature’s exchange of cells. So when people have clogged-up internal plumbing and a clogged-up liver, a lot of toxins have to come out of the skin, especially if one suffers from chronic constipation or digestive disorders.”
Healthy elimination, according to Tomas, is one to three times a day. He recommends a start-up program of four to six internal cleansing treatments of colon hydrotherapy; prior to my arrival this morning, I had already received three others.My skin has begun to shine, between all the work with Tomas and Nevins.
Today is my first facial with Tomas. He uses all-natural products for the deep cleansing, electric brushings and an ultrasound cleansing spatula to remove dead particles from my skin. Next are the extractions.
Tomas opts out of Microdermabrasion, choosing instead to use Himalayan rose salt on my face.
“It’s fabulous for sucking toxins out of the skin and also exfoliates as opposed to Microdermabrasion, which uses dry aluminum oxide crystals,” he says. “One is not better than the other, but I just like the more natural approach. I do the other on request.”
Next I receive Tomas’ version of a chocolate mask, which I learn has fresh ground aloe vera leaves and gel, plus secret essential oils as an antioxidant. Wrapped like a mummy for 20 minutes, I fall asleep.
After my face is cleansed, I learn about his natural homemade skin care products.
“I’m not putting chemicals back on the skin after cleaning and treating it,” he ays.
His products include moisturizing cream, eye cream and one I love called “Cure,” an ozone-based cream for acne, psoriasis and insect bites.
Both Tomas and Nevins recommend facials for fitness at the beach every other week. Tomas suggests colon hydrotherapy dded to the regime twice a year after the initial start-up treatments.
January 2008. Two months after starting my facial fitness regime, I have very few skin break-outs and the surface of my face is soft to the touch. I notice fewer spots and fine lines, and I’ve developed some good new habits, including frequent application of sunscreen and a twice-daily beauty regime that I plan to continue. I will also keep seeing Nevins and Tomas, because I like the newfound shine.
As a person who fully intends to enjoy life on the beach, commitment to facial fitness is worth it.
Where to Get a Facial
In this story:
Margaret Nevins, Tamarindo, 653-1540, $90 for a treatment including cleansing, steam, chemical peel, extractions and Microdermabrasion, call for à la carte prices.
Theodore Tomas, San Ramón de Tres Ríos, 273-5049, ¢25,000 ($50) and up for facials, ¢30,000 ($60) for colon hydrotherapy, ¢70,000 ($140) and up for internal cleansing programs.
Aloa Spa, San Rafael de Escazú, 588-1790, www.aloaspa.com, offers wide range of spa and medical treatments, call for prices.
Beauty Club, San Rafael de Escazú, 288-0059, ¢20,000 ($40) and up for facials, $35,000 ($70) for Microdermabrasion.
Roadway Beauty, Santa Ana, 282-0232, ¢30,000 ($60) and up for facials.
Costagenics, White House Hotel, San Antonio de Escazú, 588-0110, www.costagenics.com, offers wide range of spa and “age management” services, call for prices.
Sandra Magdaleno, San Rafael de Escazú, 288-1108, ¢28,000 ($56) and up for facials.
Serenity Spa, locations in San José and Pacific coast resorts, www.serenityspacr.com, $75 and up for facials.