First a nurse positions a steamer over my face, just as a facialist would. After 20 humid minutes, I’m rosy and sweaty, and Brandt wheels in the Isolaz machine, which looks like something you’d use in an alien abduction. He puts on protective goggles and approaches me with a hose that has an attachment very much like the kind I use to suck dust off my drapes. But true to his promise, the procedure doesn’t hurt. It takes less than 10 minutes and feels kind of like little electric hickeys all over my face. Afterward my skin is red and irritated, and Brandt tells me to use a special cream from his own line for post-laser calming. He also tells me to use his Poreless Cleanser, two prescription topical medications, moisturizing lotion, and sunscreen in the morning. I ask him if he's joking. He isn’t.
I assume that nobody really follows a regimen this intense, so I wait for the redness to wear off and my skin to become magically, flawlessly clear. (I’ve been to Madonna’s dermatologist! Surely I deserve to be acne-free.) I use Brandt’s products, but I neglect to get the two prescriptions filled. Days turn into weeks, and still I am a pizza face. My high hopes start sputtering. Finally, I fill the prescriptions and start dutifully cleansing, applying my Clindagel, then my sodium sulfacetamide lotion, then moisturizer, then sunscreen every single morning and repeating the whole thing every night (minus the sunscreen). By the time my next Isolaz appointment rolls around, I am as zitty as ever but much more frustrated.
“Everyone’s skin is different!” Brandt replies brightly when I ask him if my complexion should be clearing up yet. He then proceeds to suction and light-pulse my face. The results the second time are just as disappointing as they were the first. On any given day, I have at least one colossal pimple on my face, and now in addition to the time I spend meticulously dotting on oil-free concealer, I am also layering on what feels like 400 other potions. My mother is right: Vanity is for fools.