My $1,000 Face: The Truth Behind Expensive Beauty Products

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Guilt Sets In

A few days earlier, when the box of goodies arrived in the mail, I'd stared at it warily, as though it might contain something illegal. That's because I'm not the kind of woman who would ever use this type of stuff. I clip coupons. I shop at Target. My mother swears I still have my First Communion money stashed in a shoebox. What would I do if these products worked? I couldn't spend $1,000 on my face. Not ever. Sure, that's cheaper than a few sessions of Botox or three days at a spa, but the fact remains that that money equals 250 pints of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie low-fat frozen yogurt, which is my idea of a luxury purchase. Plus, we're in the middle of a recession. Even if I could afford these products I'd feel immoral dropping that much cash on an anti-aging regimen.

But when I opened the box I knew I was in trouble. The fancy packaging alone made me giggle. I ran to my bedroom like a teenager home from a shopping spree at Abercrombie, sat cross-legged on my bed, and spread my fancy new dream creams and treatments in front of me.

Yves Saint Laurent Freshness Rinse-Off Foaming Creme Radiance Revealer
This would "refine and improve the quality of [my] skin," thanks to ingredients that sounded like Harry Potter's magical incantations ("Enantia chlorantha!"). It smelled delicious, much like the cologne of a man I loved for a few months back in 1996, and it was thus already worth every penny of its $38.50 price tag.

Kinerase Lip Treatment
The teeny white tube, $38, did not look, in any way, as if it had the potential to explode.

StriVectin Neck Cream
Everything about this $90 cream was medicinal -- the name, the scent, the box's serious simplicity -- which made me confident that it might actually smooth the two deep, train-track-like wrinkles bisecting my throat.

Murad Intensive Resurfacing Peel
This looked more like a chemistry set than a beauty product. The 12 doses were packaged in little bottles lined up like shotgun shells in a plastic case. Each contained glycolic acid and salicylic acid and extract from a pungent-smelling southeast Asian fruit called a durian. $165.

Chanel Sublimage Eye Essential Regenerating Eye Cream
For $200 you can buy what sounds like the ultimate eye treatment. According to the product description, it would help smooth away wrinkles and reduce dark circles, which have been the bane of my existence since I was 19. Included: A mini-spatula ("A free sorbet spoon?" Thad asked) for application.

Creme de la Mer Moisturizing Cream
Here's a company that isn't afraid of hyperbole: This stuff allegedly "defies the laws of nature" and is "where miracles begin." Not only was it supposed to make my face softer and "virtually creaseless," but each 2-ounce jar had also been hand-filled. Wow. No wonder it cost $230. I'd heard that J. Lo uses it as a body lotion.

Givenchy Le Soin Noir
This was like no night cream I'd ever seen: kind of gooey, kind of sparkly, and totally black, due to "vital black algae sap concentrate found in the depths of the ocean." (How did they come across that?) Supposedly it would "prolong cellular longevity." And at $360 it cost $11 more than my wedding dress.

And so, twice a day for six weeks I'd wash with the cleanser and apply the eye, neck, and face cream. In the mornings I'd moisturize with Creme de la Mer and, at night, with Le Soin Noir. During the four weeks in the middle I'd use the peel three times a week. I made Thad take a "before" photo of me so I could document my transformation. I figured that at the end people would be mistaking me for Natalie Portman.

Continued on page 3:  Life As a Lab Rat


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