Do You Believe in Magic?

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but sound the trumpets: I have the skin of a 12-year-old.

Although I'm well beyond middle school, I’d like to think that when my Groupon-procured facialist told me this, she was in awe of my untainted and blessedly smooth face. More than likely she equated my complexion with that of a pubescent boy because at just three years out of college, my dermatological travails could still fill a Judy Blume tome. “Are you there, God? Should I be using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide?”

So when my coworkers encouraged me to attend a Facial Magic seminar, I knew my skin-care concerns were going to be hilariously out of place.

Just as I suspected: I was greeted by women who had at least 25 years on me, all there to hear from Cynthia Rowland. Cynthia is the enthusiastic leader and founder of the Facial Magic enterprise, the as-seen-on-TV series of exercises that purport to tone and tighten your face, thus eliminating the unsightly signs of age and any need for pricey surgery and injections. Articulate and personable, she has the entrepreneurial spirit fit for selling plastic kitchen gadgets and time shares in Panama City.

“How would you like to look 5, 10, even 15 years younger in just a few weeks?” she asked.

I didn't really want to revisit my haircut in my learner's permit picture, so while everyone else perked up—"Yes please! Give us the answers, oh Cynthia!"— I took to jotting down notes and examining my pores closely in the mirrors placed in front of us, pretending my frustration stemmed from crease lines instead of the pentagram of spots on my right cheek.

She held up "Before" posters of women in profile: "What do we see on her face, everyone?" Given the gravitas of her tone, I half expected to hear Sally Struthers pleading for donations and the strains of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" to come over the room. "Crow's-feet! Her chin is saggy! Under-eye bags!"

And in true infomercial form, the "After" photos showed smoothed necks, fewer forehead wrinkles, and diminished eye pouches, all supposedly results of Facial Magic.

"Where is that big double chin? Where is it?" Cynthia demanded. Gasps abounded.

We were given white cotton gloves as we attempted to mimic her demonstrations. In the first exercise, we placed our palms underneath our brows, away from our cheeks, forced our brows down, kept our eyes open, and smiled, in a fairly accurate imitation of brain freeze. Cynthia came over quite a few times to correct me. I'm not confident I've mastered it.

In all, we learned four of the 18 exercises, beating away cheek flab by pulling down our lips and smiling, strengthening our jowls by sticking our thumbs in our mouths and tightening our lips, and eliminating chin wattle by straining our necks and jutting out our jaws.

The first two weeks of participation call for just two exercises—targeting the upper eyes, upper cheeks—for 70 seconds a day, total. As for the rest? You'll have the buy the DVD.

Like any exercise routine, starting out slow and steady hopefully leads to everyday maintenance. When a few participants demanded to feel Cynthia's skin after she flipped up her bangs to show that she had no wrinkles, someone exclaimed—I’m not lying— “That feels like a rock!”

I passed on the opportunity to caress a total stranger’s face, so I cannot comment firsthand on her facial elasticity. However, I will say this: Cynthia is certainly not a "Before."

Nearing the end, Cynthia instructed us to bend over the mirrors and provoke gravity into showing our aging. (“Enough!” someone near me muttered.) While everyone else grumbled loudly, I had a very depressing epiphany: This is as good as it's going to get.

And thus began a downward existential spiral into glimpses of my future: the double-whammy of long-lasting acne and the onset of wrinkles. I stopped just short of Bridget Jones–esque visions of perpetual solitude and then inevitable death as Cynthia called on a doctor in the audience to gauge her medical opinion of Facial Magic. She confirmed these exercises seemed reasonable, but of course, we can't prevent all wrinkles. And why not? "Ultimately, sugar causes all wrinkles," the doctor said.

Skittles or wrinkles? I needed a drink.

Luckily, I was on my way to join up with friends for a nightcap. I nearly ran out of the seminar while everyone else stuck around to purchase the starter kit, but I was already quite late. 

"May I just say? Seriously? You're glowing!" a friend said as I walked to the table.

Undoubtedly the combination of dim lighting, several rounds of margaritas, and my hoofing it from the subway led to this assessment, but I went with it.

"Thank you," I said, and then I demonstrated how to get rid of chin flab. My jaws hurt, but not enough to turn down a gin and tonic—I had some catching up to do. But alas: Straws lead to lip wrinkles. Maybe I should have bought the kit.