Skin in the game

Where do you find yourself in the skincare spectrum? Are you still assiduously doing your 13-step Korean beauty routine, convincing everybody your glistening face is not “hulas,” but glass skin? “The word is dew-y!” Or are you the basic sunscreen, a chemical and physical exfoliant or two, maybe slathering a peptide, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, or whatever serum is in vogue type? Or are you, “I will fight the ravages of time until my skin is as taut as a drum head and as supple as clouds, or I die trying?”

In a crowded field littered with skin and beauty “CEOs” being as high profile as the brands they carry, Skin Manila is positioning itself as a sober alternative, anywhere between Glenda, Rosmar (If you don’t recognize these names, maybe get thee a Tiktok app, Luddite!), the basic aesthetic clinics, and the Belo-Aivee industrial complex. Skin Manila has been around for a decade, and the brand quietly expanded to nine branches without much fanfare and hype, but they’re beginning to introduce it to a much wider audience.

The company’s choice of name
— Skin Manila — even has a generic bent to it. This is something they have done on purpose, trying to be above the fray of the skincare noise and hype, but also smack dab in the middle in terms of accessibility and affordability. Even Skin Manila’s retail line is called Prescription Skin Care, which calls to mind a no-frills approach, although a glance at the ingredient label will see active ingredients like niacinamide and salicylic acid in their creams and serums.

One of Skin Manila’s most successful branches is in Baguio, already bedecked with a Christmas-winter theme where people keep taking selfies. This is where we found ourselves trying its services, during its first anniversary. Apparently, red-cheeked Baguio denizens with what seems like the perfect temperate weather for good skin aren’t taking any chances.

Skin Manila offers infusion treatments, cosmetic surgery services, rejuvenation and skin repair, but a signature treatment I chose is the ALMA-Q/PICOLASE Carbon Facial (P8,000) because it sounded like a spacecraft model, and as someone middle-aged, you know you need something industrial strength. This is described on the brochure as “a non-invasive, painless laser skin facial that uses a formulated carbon liquid applied to the face that quickly and effectively treats a variety of skin imperfections. It is suitable for all skin types and particularly beneficial for oily skin, blackheads, enlarged pores, dull rough, uneven textured skin and acne.”

The Exilis is used to contour both face and body.


As the kind of person who registers a mere 2.1 on the tiis ganda scale, I wouldn’t call this procedure completely painless. You feel fluttery pinpricks when the laser hits the skin because a fan is administered alongside, so the pain skates away, but the memory of it stays? (Yes, this is still about skincare) along with the smell of singed hair? Flesh? This is definitely medical grade.

This is presumably nothing but a cakewalk to someone who’s already used to all sorts of facial treatments, but if a client is particularly pain-sensitive, the nurse can administer Emla, a topical cream-based anaesthetic. This same procedure is definitely painless on the underarms because skin is thicker there, and is more used to trauma with waxing and depillating.

The laser definitely stimulates collagen because immediately after treatment, your face feels very soft, but the results would reveal themselves over a couple of days and weeks. One of our companions said he received compliments days later from people who didn’t know about his facials.
The carbon facial is also supposed to reduce hyperpigmentation, which the aestheticist said wasn’t actually my main problem, and I could feel the smugness of my 14-year-old self for deciding to have an at-the-very-least-SPF-15-sunscreen-on-your-face routine whatever else happens because that’s what I read on the pages of Glamour in the late ‘80s.

One of my other companions tried the Exilis Face and Neck Contour (P5,000), “which is supposed to contour and tighten the skin by forcing heat deeply into the skin while using cooling technology. The optimal heat stimulates heat production of collagen, which tightens skin, and reduces wrinkles.” He took a picture of his face when one side had already been treated and this half did appear visibly slimmer. According to the clinic brochure, this type of facial is for maintenance after you’ve done the other medical-grade facials.

Aesthetic centers are like salons, where you go to a particular one because they make you feel good and pampered. Stephanie Nuestro, general manager of Skin Manila, said this is a large part of their training. “Customer training is as important as the technical know-how of machines…all our aestheticians are nurses.”

No matter where you find yourself in your skincare journey, the old adage remains true — the most effective skincare routine is the one you’re able to stick to.