There are two kinds of journalists: those who observe and those who report. Although cowards from New York magazine, Allure and Frisky have written about a $250 Norwegian “Spermine” beauty treatment offered at NYC's upscale Townhouse Spa, I’m the only gumshoe who has the balls to receive a load in the face.
But nothing could've prepared me for the experience, not even bathing with actor Alan Cumming’s Cumming Clean body cleanser, which lives up to its name in color, texture and musky scent. (No other soap will make you feel quite as dirty.) The puns were relentless when I told friends of my planned procedure:
- “Milk this for all it’s worth, Beckerman.”
- “So it’s a facial-facial?”
- “When are you going back for sloppy seconds?”
- “Put it on YouTube—it will be viral in more ways than one.”
My girlfriend even offered to receive a Spermine facial beside me for emotional support. “No, I don’t want that on your face,” I shrieked. “From anyone else, I mean.”
The receptionist at Townhouse Spa gives me a confidential intake form.
“Confidential… that’s good,” I say. “No one will know about this.” Except for everyone on the Internet.
I write down the products I use on my skin (“apricot scrub… that’s about it”) and the date I received my previous facial (“NEVER”). Owner Jamie Ahn promises a post-facial interview and leads me to the upstairs locker room in which I discover:
- a sauna
- a shower
- an assortment of beauty products
- soothing new age music
- a naked metrosexual (apparently metrosexuals still exist)
I don my robe and oversized slippers, which Shaquille O’Neal would find roomy, and mentally prepare myself to have baby juice smeared all over my face. A friendly blonde woman with an Eastern European accent—let’s call her Anna—leads me to a room with dimmed lighting. I disrobe and lay supine on the extraordinarily comfortable mattress.
“Spermine really makes a difference?” I ask.
“It's very effective,” Anna says. “It’s a great, effective antioxidant, thirty times stronger than vitamin E… it’s really rich, really anti-aging."
“Why would a woman pay for a spa treatment if every guy is a walking cosmetics factory?”
“It's not just sperm; it has eye cream, moisturizer infused with vitamin C, vitamin E, a lot of hydrating ingredients and antioxidants... there is a home regiment you can buy.”
“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” I philosophize.
Anna places a towel or hijab or something over my hair, cleanses my forehead and cheeks, covers my eyes with pink goggles, and examines my pores with a light more powerful than the average sun.
“Your skin doesn’t have much acne,” she says. “We have to do some extraction of blackheads.”
“You should have seen me when I was a teenager,” I say. “I didn't lose my virginity until I was eighteen for a reason.”
She laughs politely, albeit uncomfortably (I have this effect on people), and then:
- performs a papaya enzyme peel and ultrasound exfoliaiton
- applies toner and essential oils
- blasts steam into my face
- yanks out the blackheads one by one by one with her fingers
“I can take it... pain makes me feel alive...” I writhe in agony, bite my lip, and gain a huge amount of respect for torture victim Sen. John McCain. "Beauty is pain… oh God… it’s like being amputated.”
And then she breaks out the Spermine. “It’s very fresh,” she explains helpfully.
HOW FRESH? I wonder. Is it from that naked metrosexual in the locker room?!?
“Just one second,” I say. “I need to do one thing before we start…”
I grab a flask from my robe, open my mouth and guzzle. “Jack Daniel’s is a very manly thing to drink… like sperm… okay, let’s do it, put sperm on me, sperm me up, milk it up!”
As promised Anna slathers Spermine all over my face; it doesn’t smell like semen, so that’s nice.
“My parents will be so proud of me when they see this,” I predict.
“Great!” Anna says sincerely. “Probably they would like to come here too!”
“Yeah,” I say, “I’ll buy them… uh… well… Father’s Day is coming up.”
She tells me all the “benefits” of this treatment: “It has a lot of vitamins… it’s hydrating… exfoliating, relaxing and improves circulation… it prevents the skin from sun damage, discoloration…”
“I should be memorizing this,” I say. “I’ve tried to talk so many girls into doing this, and they were all disgusted…”
She runs a red laser over the Spermine to “press the product” into my skin.
“What was your name again?” I ask. “I should probably know it as long as you’re sperming on my face… I always feel bad when I don’t catch their names.”
She applies a chamomile mask infused with more Spermine. “Chamomile tea and sperm?” I say. “I’ll have to try that in a cup sometime… cum-o-mile tea?”
Apparently I need ChapStick because she rubs the Spermine on my lips. “Don’t think of it like sperm,” Anna says. “This is antioxidants.”
“I just got antioxidants in my mouth,” I observe.
The facial continues for another twenty minutes.
“So I wash it off myself?” I ask when it’s over.
“No,” Anna says, “you cannot wash.”
“How long do I leave it on my face?”
“Until night… before you go to sleep.”
“Oh…” I gulp. “I didn’t know that!”
After I spend some time hunched over the toilet, I walk downstairs to interview Jamie Ahn about what the hell just happened. (What else can I get smeared on my face today? Vomit? Placenta? Aborted fetus juice?) She asks how my skin feels.
“Lighter,” I admit. “Actually it feels pretty good.”
“Spermine is an autoimmune booster,” Ahn says. “Scientists discovered that it stops fish oil from going rancid.”
“Which scientist made the leap to use it as a skin care product?”
“It’s made by a biotechnology company called Bioforskning, and it’s artificial—99 percent identical to the real thing—but there’s nothing human about it.”
“It’s fake?” I ask, shocked. “You mean I have my dignity back?”
This changes everything! If I had known Spermine was an inorganic compound—not actual human spermatozoa—I would have enjoyed the experience without nausea, terror, nagging questions about my sexual orientation, etc. Maybe I’ll need a few more procedures before I notice a huge difference in my skin, but my point is this: anyone considering a trip to the spa for a Spermine facial should not be afraid to—or of—come.