L'Bel of the ball

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By Molly Freedenberg

We get press releases all the time asking us to consume things, listen to things, attend things, write about things – from the International Conference of This and Such (no, I usually don't go) to caffeinated vodka (damn straight I'm going to try that one...). But unless these releases have something to do with what I'm working on right this second -- as in, I'm invited to a press conference on proper pool enjoyment techniques the week I'm doing Summer Guide -- or they're offering me something I actually really want -- as in, Hey! Have this pair of oxblood knee-high boots from Fluevog for free! -- they usually go into the Pile o' Papers to be Looked at and Thrown Away Later.

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Forty feet o' spa goodness

But not when I got the invite for a mini-facial, skin consultation, and make-up application from the cosmetics company L'Bel. I mean, hey. The release said "Mobile Spa." I imagined it something like a fancy pizza delivery service: "Hello, I'd like to order a facial, a hand massage, and some flattery. Please hold the speech about how quitting smoking would be better for my skin. Please drop these off at 135 Mississippi in Potrero Hill at 2pm. Oh, wait. That's nap time. How about 3?" Who can resist that? Not me, the girl whose vanity (I mean, uh, whose dedication to the health of her skin) is only matched by her supreme laziness.

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Ain't no trash in this trailer

Of course, reality didn't quite measure up to my imagination. The L'Bel people didn't show up on my doorstep, gently coax me out of bed, and then take my pale, thin, starting-to-wrinkle face back to what it was in tenth grade, and then pour me a glass of juice from my own refrigerator. No, the reality of the mobile spa is essentially a 40-foot R.V. that the company is taking on a 120-day tour to raise brand awareness for the Peru-born, Paris-made, direct sales cosmetics line. Inside, it really does look (and act) strikingly like a spa: light wood floors, clean white walls, modern fixtures, comfy white leather chairs in the facial area, the skin consultation area, and the make-up counter, and even flat-screen TVs whose programming alternates between fresh-faced women and graphic explanations of how L'Bel products work. Yes, it's mobile -- but it's not that mobile. For example: When I visited today, it was parked outside the Olive Garden at Stonestown Galleria. Which meant, yes, I had to get my own ass out of bed and go to it.
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Makin' it up as she goes along, yo

But I can't really complain. I did get free services - and not just because I'm a journalist. The whole point is to give people free services and samples to get the word out about L'Bel (Yes, they're smart. And yes, I've just become a pawn of their PR agent. So what?). And the services weren't half bad. First there was the skin analysis, where cutie pie skin care expert John Krites tested the oiliness, moisture, pigment, number of pores and fine lines, and elasticity of my skin with a series of space age instruments designed just for them. Then a computer printed out my recommended products based on my skin type (normal to oily, medium elasticity, some open pores, some fine lines, even pigmentation, medium moisture). Who knows if the instruments and calculations really work? I was intrigued by even the illusion of customization.
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It's science...ish...

Next came the facial, which really was "mini" -- as in, a black-clad aesthetician simply applied and removed several of my recommended products and then sent me on my way -- but was still relaxing and yummy (though it made me crave the massage and warm mitts and booties you sometimes get during a real facial). And finally there was make-up application - always the scariest part of any such demonstration. Makeup artists rarely know what to do with my pinkish-olive skin, ginormous sunken eyes, and thin, purplish lips. And so I often come away from their chairs looking like somebody got into Mommy's makeup drawer - and Mommy's a drag queen. But my make-up artist was mercifully restrained. A bit of light foundation I could barely feel, a swipe of under-eye concealer, a bit of eye shadow, a bit of lip-gloss. She chose a smoky blue for my lids, which I initially didn't like, then warmed to, then hated later and wiped off. But everything else was rather good -- particularly the lash conditioner she put on underneath the mascara and the shiny-but-not-sticky gloss she used to fill in the lip liner pencil.
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Molly (that's me) and John, post-appointment. See? I'm shiny and new.

When I left, I felt smooth and radiant, rather than overdone (even though my colleague's remark upon my return to work was, "Well, you sure you do look made up.") And I felt like I really did know more about my skin than when I went in. Mostly, though, I was just struck by how nice everyone was.

So am I sold on L'Bel? Who knows? I'd be more inclined to use their skincare products than their make-up, as I'm not sure they have any cosmetics I couldn't get at Mac (though the PR girl assured me that because they're made in France -- where people consider cosmetics a way to indulge and take care of yourself -- they're slightly scented, more luxurious, and generally nicer to put on than cosmetics made in the U.S. So maybe I'm wrong.) But I am aware of their brand now, just as they'd hoped.

Now I just need to find the company with my version of a mobile spa. Anyone? Anyone? If you know of one, send 'em my way. I'll be in bed.

For your very own mobile mini-spa experience (or just to say hello to Cutie Pie John), catch up with the bus in these places:

May 10-11, 11am-6pm
Stonestown Galleria, San Francisco

May 12-13, 11am-6pm
Alameda Mother's Day Spring Faire, Alameda

May 17, 11am-6pm
The Shops at Tanforan, San Bruno

May 18-19, 11am-6pm
Napa Premium Outlets, Napa

May 20, 11am-6pm
Coddingtown Mall, Santa Rosa

May 31, 12-7pm
Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, Antioch

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