By Erin Williams
As I navigated the various quiet streets of the Lower East Side, I tried to imagine the likes of Penelope Cruz and Gisele Bundchen doing the same en route to a facial. It was a stretch. But they, and countless others you know and love, flock to the Christine Chin Spa on Rivington Street come fashion emergency or Fashion Week. What’s the draw you might ask?
If you haven’t heard about Christine here’s a brief update. Born in Malaysia and raised in Hong Kong, she has been dubbed “Mean Christine” by countless clients who are plucked, extracted, and otherwise tweaked by this small woman with beautiful honey colored skin. However, they keep coming back. She literally takes one day off a year and has a similarly minded staff. Christine has nurtured a huge following among models and actresses over the past 20 years because of her effective facials and skincare line.
I walked in the door and was surprised to find a very simple setup with rooms separated by partitions, so hushed tones were a must. Then I met Christine. I had an appointment for a Glow Facial and was set to be married in about two months. Christine took one look at me, saw the ring, asked when the event was happening, and shook her head, “You need microdermabrasion. I’ll help you.” The mere thought of microdermabrasion sent waves of panic through my system since I have acne-prone skin and have heard horror stories of exacerbating irritation. I pictured bacteria in my skin having picnics with the junk in the next pore and everyone making friends and leaving me with a face full of red. Oh, me of little faith.
Christine first applied a peel (to my face and decollatage after hearing my dress was strapless) and then onto exfoliation land we went. The microdelivery machine she used was literally gentle enough to go over my eyelid – my eyelid people!! She had the machine custom designed to her specifications and said that it was not normal for a machine, or the person operating the machine, to be that gentle. Christine does not mess around with false modesty. She and an assistant went to town; it felt like the air suction tool your dentist uses or a slightly scrubby sponge. There was no pain at all, which may sound silly, but I was nervous.
Then we went ahead with the extractions. Christine said extractions were considerably easier to do, and less painful, after microdermabrasion since you’ve basically just removed a layer of skin and you’re closer to the “bottom” of the pore. This part wasn’t comfortable, but I’ve certainly had worse. Next came a healing seaweed mask to help treat and prevent acne as well as soothe the skin.
I have to tell you, I’m used to looking like I’ve been through a war after extractions – this was quite different. My skin was very pink the first night and then it was fine. There were no spots that took weeks to heal, not even areas where I’d had been a blemish. It was a quick turnaround. I also noticed that my under eye area was significantly lighter and is to this day. I had some little bumps there that I’ve had since I was a child and Christine told me it was from oil buildup. They were nearly gone in two sessions and haven’t come back.
I’ve been using Christine’s skin care line for about three months now and have really fallen in love with some of the products:
The Clarifying Cleanser is interesting because you put it on a dry face with wet hands. It has tea tree, sage, thyme, and eucalyptus to purify the skin and it foams up to remove makeup and dirt from the day.
I use the Pore Purifying Astringent when my skin feels greasy; I have to redo my makeup mid day; or after the exercising. Christine said toners are important because they rid your skin of the minerals from your tap water and prep the skin for treatment. This particular toner targets blemishes and uses salicylic acid and tea tree oil to help.
Her Soothing Hydration Masque is perfect to calm and nourish the skin after a facial (or a lot of sun) and her sulfur-based Pore Purifying Masque keeps blemishes at bay.
One of my other favorites is the Retinol Smoothing Fluid. Vitamin A is blended with a non-acidic sugar complex that smoothes fine lines, wrinkles, and helps restore an even skin tone. The best part is that it’s gentle enough to use around the eyes!
Bottom line, Christine will tell you bluntly what she feels you need for your skin. It isn’t “mean” so much as honest. I enjoyed her very much and felt very safe using the products she recommended, so much so that I’m going to visit her soon for refills!
Christine Chin Spa is located at 79 Rivington Street in New York City. 212.353.0503 www.ChristineChin.com.