Jacques Dessange

Both my skin and my wallet hurt.

The Friendship Heights branch of Parisian spa franchise Jacques Dessange doesn’t win any points for style. The waiting area has the feel of an old doctor’s office—a lone coffeemaker surrounded by Styrofoam cups, an uncomfortable couch, and dingy gray painted walls. Luckily, there’s Miti, the receptionist, to warm up the place. She’s friendly and welcoming and takes me on a tour before my facial appointment.

I settle onto the couch with an outdated copy of Jacques Dessange’s in-house magazine (in French), the only reading material in the waiting room. Fifteen minutes after my appointment was supposed to start, I’m still waiting. Miti apologizes, but I still wait another 15 minutes for my facial to begin.

My aesthetician doesn’t apologize, just hands me a towel. Her treatment room is the size of a closet, with a chair for nail treatments and a reclining chair for skin care. The messy remnants of another client’s waxing job litter her cluttered counter. The room is not soundproof, either—one hears people walking overhead, chatting in the next room, and using the intercom.

There is only one type of facial at Dessange—the 75-minute Sothys facial ($95). The treatment starts off normally enough. The aesthetician steams my face and does a series of soothing massages with masks and cleansers. She’s silent throughout the process, and I’m relaxed. Without warning, she begins pinching extractions. I’m used to extractions that hurt, but I soon feel a sharper pain and wince. She is using the tip of a syringe to clean out my pores, and then uses a lancet for others.

She follows that by going over my face with a glass wand filled with ultraviolet current, which crackles and buzzes like a bug zapper. It’s supposed to kill the bacteria on the skin.

When it’s over, my skin looks blotchy and red, and purple in the spots where she used the needle. A day later, the needled pores were still dark pink, sore, and starting to scab.

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