July 22, 2008

Article at The New York Sun

Getting a Lift

During a recent jazz dance class at Equinox, a gym acquaintance I hadn't seen for a while greeted me with this: "Uh, did you have some work done?" she asked, using the euphemism for plastic surgery.

The response was no, but I had discovered something easier, cheaper, far less invasive, and immediately effective - a facial called "the French lift." A specialty of the Jeffrey Stein Salon on the Upper West Side, the French lift uses low-frequency, low-intensity micro-currents administered through a galvanic frequency machine. Along with the micro-currents, clients are treated with products (made by Biologique Recherche) that contain active ingredients such as grapeseed oil, edelweiss extract, and walnut extract. They are meant to nourish, detoxify, and strengthen facial muscles. The French lift, which was invented in Paris in the early 1980s, seems to do all of that and more.

The result is virtually miraculous, a first-time client, Jill Matthews, said. "My face is nice and soft now, like baby skin. And my skin tones are even. I had some red splotches that are now sort of rosy, and some white patches that now blend in. I'm wearing hardly any makeup because my skin just looks great naked."

In part because the currents stimulate skin cells, the facial effectively treats fine lines, wrinkles, acne, enlarged pores, dark circles under the eyes, and broken capillaries, a facialist at the Face Studio at the Jeffrey Stein Salon, Valerie Mayo, said.

Ms. Mayo begins each facial by cleansing the client's skin, before deciding on a deep cleanse treatment, which she follows with the application of a serum designed to penetrate the top layer of skin better than a normal moisturizer would. Next comes the unique part of this facial - a stream of currents that work the muscle structure of the face and neck. "This is a very minute, light micro-current," Ms. Mayo said as she swept a disk-like tool across my face. "One current is a positive, which pumps and works the muscle. The negative holds the muscle." She also explained that one could get a similar, if weaker, effect with the hands - one hand holding up the jaw line, for instance, while using the fingers on the opposite hand to pluck the skin. Still, the micro-currents can go far deeper than what any hand manipulation can achieve. "Think of the skin as a muscle that needs stimulation, like any muscle," she said. "But as with any muscle, you have to be careful that you don't overstimulate it and produce a reverse effect." Ms. Mayo uses stronger, deeper currents on the jaw line, which has some thickness, and fine, light currents in the eye area.

During my visit, I asked about the long-standing principle among American cosmeticians that massaging the face could cause wrinkles and drooping. "You have to learn the correct movements for the area you're working on," Ms. Mayo responded. "For example, in the old days we were taught to move up on the neck muscle. But really it should be a natural movement down toward the shoulder. That's what you do intuitively, and it happens to be right."

After doing one side of my face, Ms. Mayo handed me a mirror so that I could see the difference for myself. It was a little spooky - one side lifted, tight, and glowing; the other side sadly not.

The effects of the facial seem to be both immediate and lasting. "This is the quickest fix ever," Ms. Matthews said. "I like that you don't have to wait three weeks and look like you went 10 rounds in a boxing ring before you look good," she added, alluding to one of the drawbacks of plastic surgery and some injections.

On some clients, Ms. Mayo uses a treatment called "smoothing," in which she mixes a serum and a powder to give the skin a very smooth finish. The smoothing mixture is called Soin Lissant and includes squash extracts to ease inflammation, hyaluronic acid to hydrate the epidermis, and a fatty acid complex rich in Omegas 3 and 6 to soothe the skin. She also frequently applies a mask to "let the skin muscle settle in and calm down after the stimulation."

The benefits seem to last some seven days - or at least, that's how long I got compliments. Ms. Matthews's husband stopped her one morning, several days after the facial, and said, "Hey, what's up with the skin? You look like you're 20 years old." Ms. Matthews is 44.

Cost: $185-250 a session; packages of six treatments available, $1,350 and up.

Where: Face Studio at Jeffrey Stein Salon, 495 Columbus Ave. at 84th Street, 917-319-7630; Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., by appointment only.