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January 26, 2008

When Cintra met Tracie


The New York Times sent Cintra Wilson to Manhattan's über-cultish Tracie Martyn Salon for a facial.

Ms. Wilson's droll account of her experience — featuring a facial performed by the goddess herself — is worth twice what she paid.

Which I'm sure the Times reimbursed, but hey — let's not be haters.

Here's the unabridged, unexpurgated story as it appeared in the January 17, 2008 Times.

Not one word has been omitted.

    A Transformation Is a Bit of a Stretch

    Over the holidays I visited my father’s photography portrait studio.

    “Hey, what are these?” I asked about a pile of long, skinny rubber bands.

    My father grabbed one, stuck it under his chin and behind his ears and then looped it over the back of his head. All of a sudden, he was as lineless and shiny as David Gest.

    “Instant face-lift!” He smiled triumphantly.

    “You’re kidding.”

    “I’m dead serious. They work great, especially under the chin.”

    If only skin care were really that simple.

    Facial treatments generally test the human threshold for fear, pain and anxiety. In beauty, torture gets results. As Lawrence of Arabia said, the trick is not minding that it hurts. Pink lasers invade your face, you smell your own burning flesh, you have black scabs for six days afterward and think “that wasn’t half bad.”

    Word of mouth on Tracie Martyn products is cultishly positive. Last year my friend Nancy insisted that I buy the Purifying Cleanser ($65). I have a promiscuous lack of brand loyalty, but the cleanser has such a luxe yogic wholesomeness and reassuring hippy-medicine scent that I ended up stockpiling it.

    Recently Nancy gushed: “I saw Susan Sarandon at lunch. She had just come out of Tracie Martyn and she looked 9 years old. You have to get the Resculpting Facial. It costs a million dollars, but it’s worth it.”

    The salon is nearly invisible from Fifth Avenue. Stairs lead to a brownstone interior on the second floor. One enters a serene roomful of gold Buddhas and silken tuffets. Venta humidifiers pump clouds of aromatherapy.

    I was given ginger tea and shown before-and-after shots by the gentle nutritionist Marius Morariu, Ms. Martyn’s partner in business and pleasure. Indeed, people appeared to have fewer chins in the after shots.

    Luck had smiled upon me; a “sudden cancellation” enabled me to receive my facial from the goddess herself.

    It is impossible to guess Tracie Martyn’s age; she is a luminous faerie person with shimmering blue eyes who could be the hot trophy wife of Bilbo Baggins.

    Ms. Martyn performs an agony-free facial. The microdermabrasion is performed with a suction tube like dentists use to desalivate your mouth. I wondered if I could get a similar fitting for a DustBuster. There are weirder attachments for DustBusters.

    With her soft British accent, Ms. Martyn has mastered a subtle conversational kung fu that prevents your topics from potentially ruffling the serenity.

    “Have you ever been to an open-casket funeral?” I asked.

    “Hmmm, no, I haven’t.” Chirpy, dry.

    “A drag queen friend of mine died. He had become quite Catholic at the end of his life.”

    “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” Deft deflection.

    “I finally understood the cliché: He looks so peaceful. It’s safe to say that when dead, one looks totally relaxed. It’s amazing how much harm personality does to the face.”


    A velvet icicle. Not unfriendly, just ... not having it.

    She was, however, willing to talk about beauty and purity, and her ever-improving methods for achieving both. She was visibly horrified when speaking of petrochemicals and parabens, which are found in most sunscreens.

    “They’ve been linked to breast cancer,” she said in a worried hush. (Well, “linked” overstates the evidence.)

    She has a paraben-free sunscreen in the works.

    The Firming Serum ($185) is chock-full of microscopic carbon spheres that combat free radicals with tiny broadswords and “patented glycosaminoglycans.” It could probably iron out a shar-pei if you slathered enough on him; unfortunately, it smells like a coagulated French-fry vat.

    Ms. Martyn rubbed her Enzyme Exfoliant ($90) on only one of my hands to show me the difference.

    I love this green, fine-grit tropical goop. I saw no visible difference, but I like attention lavished on me, so I lied.

    Then came hoodoo.

    Ms. Martyn attached herself to a device, put her wet fingers on my face and gently electrocuted my unbeautiful parts off.

    I once saw an ozone-generating Violet Ray quack medical device from the 1920s that had spooky glass electrode attachments for curing everything from acne to anemia with 120 volts of purple shock. No miracle healer, but a wonderful way to terrify cocktail parties.

    Ms. Martyn’s next machine was like having a miniature version of the robot from “Lost in Space” pinch your face and neck repeatedly. But the magic pliers did make my face feel tight.

    Finally, the cold oxygen feels so good that you want to grab the wand and start huffing it. It almost makes you hope the masks fall down on your next plane ride.

    At the end, my face actually appeared to have a sharp feline lift, for a minute there.

    “It looks fantastic, but your skin always looks fantastic,” Nancy lied, the doll.

    “But the experience — did you feel like it was special?”

    Dramatic pause.

    “I did. It was special. I thought it was worth two of most other facials.”

    Most Leading Brands are not going to beautify you as much as eight glasses of water and a good book. But you get something real when you pay for the touch of people who are keepers of their particular flame. Tracie Martyn is a devoted beauty expert: she has it, she sells it, she makes you believe she is capable of rubbing some off on you. Panacea or placebo, you walk out feeling pretty.

    I got a phone call a few days later from the salon. “Tracie wanted me to tell you that you really should get three Resculpting Facials ($329) in the first month.”


    Them that gots shall have, them that’s not shall use the ol’ rubber band. So the Bible or possibly Frank Sinatra says. Whatever gets you through the winter.


    Tracie Martyn

    59 Fifth Avenue (13th Street); (212) 206-9333

    Ohms A yoga-centric oasis of beauty ensures all the tranquillity money can buy. P.S.: Helps if you’re richer than Buddha.

    Watts Ms. Martyn abhors unnatural beauty treatments, but apparently has no problem with preternatural ones: “David Life at Jivamukti says he stands upside down every day and informs his cells to age backwards. He looks amazing.”

    Ooze Apparently the anonymous usually can’t get appointments just before the Oscars, but the writers’ strike gives hope to the Great Unwashed who need deep-pore cleansing.

January 26, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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What fabulously witty writing. I'd never read her before. This line: with tiny broadswords and “patented glycosaminoglycans.” It could probably iron out a shar-pei if you slathered enough on him; unfortunately, it smells like a coagulated French-fry vat - killed me. I can see the stick straight haired sharpei.

Posted by: Milena | Jan 27, 2008 4:50:33 PM

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