Book Extract: the myth of the skin.
It’s crazy that we’ve always been warned to avoid the very thing that the face is in desperate need of.
There’s a widespread terror of handling the face and somehow pulling it out of shape, whereas in fact handling skin is key to rejuvenating it. The experts must know this because medical procedures for the skin are rough and challenging: dermabrasion, chemical peels, needling. The skin thrives on these assaults; it’s spurred into rebuilding and rejuvenation by rough treatment. But nobody is letting on about it. we don’t trust our own hands near the face and don’t use them for anything more daring than applying a serum. To the general public the facial skin is a candidate for preservation, dead, to all intents and purposes, so we think that the consequences of doing something unexpected to it are there for all eternity. We feel vulnerable and need the expertise of large companies to formulate skin care and guide product choices.
We’re aiming to recreate the face we had at 20 by means of applying moisturiser, as if the skin were a leather sofa.
It’s bizarre that people are scrupulously avoiding doing something so beneficial, believing that facial skin can be pulled out of shape and rendered unwearable like a woollen jumper. No it can’t, because it’s nothing like a woollen jumper. The jumper we’re talking about doesn’t have the potential to renew and regenerate itself, and it isn’t held in shape by a thick layer of muscle and fat. Skin, including the facial skin behaves like other organs of the body, heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles, and it adapts to being exercised by growing stronger, or on the other hand, it responds to lack of stimulation and challenge with a decline in strength and resilience. Preservation is a dreadful idea. Youth is a state of change, going forward, not a fading recreation of the past. You age when you stop growing; a face needs a dynamic quality to project and experience it.
It’s not easy to have faith in the skin when everyone feels they know with absolute certainty that you should never drag or stretch it. You may even find a doctor who will say this, but if so they got the idea into their heads from the same rumours you did. If they thought about it they’d see that it’s nonsense. The skin loves being stretched. It feels really good, just like stretching the muscles feels good in bed or at a yoga session.
Nobody suggests that stretching the arm or leg muscles will pull them out of shape… elasticity is the ability of the tissue to regain its original shape, not a dangerous business that causes the limbs to come loose. You're allowed to do things that aren't in your cutting edge assemblage of matching cleansers and night creams, even if you haven't had express permission from an expert.
The experts don’t study the face and skin from this perspective: they won’t have looked at research projects or studies because there aren’t any. Only people like me would want them and I’m not going to fund them. People whose facial muscles have been seriously damaged by illness, disability or accident receive reconstructive surgery but no physiotherapy for the face, but at least some damaged faces are capable of becoming much stronger and more expressive after a few weeks’ training. I recently worked with a friend whose face was partially paralysed thirty years ago. Scientists are looking for something different in a different place and they just don’t know this stuff is out here.