Written all over your face


POSTED: Thursday, January 28, 2010

Izumi Montenero isn't psychic, but when she looks at people's faces, she seems to recognize afflictions usually kept secret between an individual and physician.

After about eight years of performing facials and talking to people, she says she can recognize dietary and digestive problems as reflected in a person's face, such as constipation and dehydration caused by a lack of water and vegetables in the diet. She also recognizes the spottiness that comes from hormonal imbalance. “;It's all connected. If they're taking too much vitamins, I can see that, too,”; citing acid buildup that results in blackheads and enlarged pores.

Although retaining a youthful countenance is a top priority for many people, few bother to learn proper skin care and might not realize their daily regimen could be causing more harm than good. Montenero, owner of Beauty Elements, says that she's come across only a couple of clients here who've done everything right, and they've been from Japan.

“;Many people use the wrong skin care, or they're oil cleansing or using heavy foundation and not washing their face properly,”; she said.

For these individuals, Montenero devised her Detox Facial, utilizing massage techniques intended to nurture skin in a way that keeps it clear and wrinkle- and sag-free for as long as possible. In other words, what every woman wants and every beauty practitioner promises. But Montenero's background and passion, not to mention an interest in her own skin health, made her uniquely qualified to follow through.

The former ER and orthopedics nurse from Japan said she was exposed to high levels of stress in the medical world and, in addition to her medical training in anatomy, nutrition and internal medicine, began studying aromatherapy, reflexology and relaxation techniques that she employed on her colleagues to reduce their tension.

At the same time, she was also interested in beauty and long-term skin health because she suffered from sensitive skin that reacted negatively to typical cosmetic chemicals. She eventually went to work for a plastic surgeon to learn as much as possible about skin as well.

Left unsatisfied by most facials she experienced, she combined her medical and holistic health knowledge to come up with her signature Detox Facial, one of many she offers in her Waikiki treatment rooms.

“;I call myself a beautician, not just an esthetician, because I'm drawing from medicine, massage, nutrition, diet and lifestyle to create my technique,”; she said.

HER 80-MINUTE Detox Facial ($90) starts with a gentle steam, followed by massage with her own blend of rose essential oil and hyaluronic acid, plus other ingredients suited to an individual's skin needs, such as oxygen or vitamin C.

Key to the Detox Facial is massage, and while many have discovered the wonders of massage for the body, she wonders why there's little focus on the face in the United States.

When done properly the same benefits apply, including improved circulation and flushing the buildup of lactic acid and other toxins from muscles and through the lymph system. The lymphatic vessels transport nutrients to cells while carrying away debris. When the lymph vessels are not functioning properly, toxin-filled fluid accumulates, just as in a clogged sink or pipe.

In skin the result is puffiness and jowliness associated with age, which drive some people to plastic surgeons.

Montenero said that by draining the excess fluid, “;I can make your face tighter and smaller.”;

She's not against Botox or laser treatments, but she says she sees women starting as young as 30, with long-term weakening of the skin, robbing it of elasticity.

“;Don't do Botox until last resort,”; she said. “;I want Americans to know what can be done without surgery. For me, like a lot of Japanese people, we're not into the quick fix. We want care we can practice on a daily basis.”;

Her Detox Facial massage starts by addressing the upper chest and neck, two areas, like the hands, that are prone to revealing age through lack of care. But beyond addressing the skin, her lymphatic massage helps to drain accumulated waste.

“;A lot of people have never had a massage there before, and they go, 'Wow, this is so great.'”;

She teaches her clients how to apply her techniques to themselves. For instance, gently pressing on a pressure point between the bridge of the nose and eye socket under the eyebrow will help relieve eyestrain and some puffiness around the eye.

Montenero also created a skin care line based on botanicals and a few key ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and olive squalane, a light emollient oil. Products run from $32 for a cleanser or toner and $68 to $78 for serums.

“;A lot of people get scared when they hear the word 'acid,' but hyaluronic acid is produced in the body to lubricate joints,”; Montenero said.

In the skin it helps to retain moisture, enhance barrier function and regulate tissue repair, but the body's production of hyaluronic acid slows with age, resulting in thin, brittle skin.

“;You look at a baby and it's pumped up with hyaluronic acid and good stuff,”; said Montenero, who believes topical hyaluronic acid can alleviate signs of aging.

She recently introduced a Beauty Elements line of sheet masks ($8 to $15 each) saturated with skin-brightening or moisturizing formulas to wear while at rest after cleansing.

“;It's the easiest skin care ever,”; she said.

Beauty Elements is open by appointment only at the Waikiki Trade Center. Call 551-5416 for an appointment.