The Chevy Chase office of James Bruno and Coleman Brown, board-certified plastic surgeons, is all bleached wood and white walls, with sleek furniture upholstered in mushroom-colored leather. A logo of mod back-to-back B’s that looks as if Jonathan Adler designed it hangs above the front desk. But at the moment, the receptionist is nowhere to be found. “Ha ha,” she singsongs to someone in another room, “we’re going to burn your face off today.”
Returning to her post, Rachel Mitchell, who has recently received her own face-burning treatment in the form of a VI Peel, continues her teasing. “Make sure you get that water spray!” she calls over her shoulder. “I’m telling you, your face will be on fire!”
In another room down the hall, Carter Brown’s face is experiencing the opposite sensation. As Brown lies on an exam table, aesthetician Cindy Jenkins paints her forehead with a hydrating mask that looks like sour cream.
Jenkins is readying Brown’s wife to receive an intense-pulsed-light, or IPL, treatment for a few dark patches on her face and a smattering of freckles on her chest—though Brown isn’t sure the IPL is intense enough.
“I didn’t even feel that,” she says as Jenkins zaps her in the forehead with something resembling a hand-held price scanner.
“I have it at the same setting as last time,” says Jenkins. A machine next to Brown’s left shoulder reads “40/20.”
Both women wear oversize black sunglasses that look as if they were designed by the surgical branch of Prada. A terrycloth headband pulls back Brown’s hair to reveal diamond ear studs as big as doorknobs.
As Jenkins continues her zapping, moving steadily across Brown’s lightly tanned chest, their conversation jumps from favorite products (Brown is a devotee of Obagi’s multi-step skin-care regime, which the office sells) to the women who overdo it with Retinol (“Their skin is so thin you can see all the veins,” says Jenkins) to Brown’s recent Halloween getup (she went as Joan from Mad Men, the busty redhead portrayed by Christina Hendricks).
“There I was, stuffing my bra with socks, and I thought, ‘I’m married to a plastic surgeon,’ ” she says. “I called Cole and said, ‘Bring home the biggest implants you can.’ ”
Being married to a man with the powers of rejuvenation is a pretty good arrangement. But do the obvious benefits—Botox on demand, post-baby tummy tucks, and other age-defying remedies done for free—come at a cost? If a plastic surgeon spends his days contemplating and producing the “ideal” in female beauty, is he also inspecting his wife and suggesting “upgrades” as well?
“He sees me as pretty no matter what,” says Michelle Schoenfeld, 41, the wife of Philip Schoenfeld, a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Renu Med Spa in Chevy Chase. “I have to say to him, ‘I think we need something here,’ ’’ she says, pointing to her eyes. “I’m always saying, ‘What can we do?’ ”
Love, it seems, is blind. It’s the wives who are not.