Maybe it's because I'm fast approaching the right side of 30, but this winter has hit my skin particularly hard. Despite trying several moisturisers, daily drinking my body weight in water and being vigilant(ish) about taking off my make-up in the evening, my face feels dry and tight - as if I've been scouring it, rather than giving it extra care and attention.
None of my old tricks were working, so I trotted off to see Nita Ladwa, at WebsterWhiteman (020-7493 4777), pretty much the only beauty therapist I've visited more than once, and the only one I trust when it comes to such matters. Some people see their hairdresser in times of crisis, others their therapist. With me, it's Nita. I like to think I trust her because she's Asian, so she knows what she's talking about when it comes to darker skin, but looking 10 years younger than her age probably has more to do with it.
It turns out that my skin problems are quite common. "Most black women will get dry skin around their mouth and eyes as they get older," says Nita, cheerfully. "You have a touch of hyperpigmentation [darker skin] around your mouth, and hypopigmentation [lighter skin] around your eyes; it's probably hereditary, rather than due to diet, though lifestyle can make things worse. Have you been boozing?"
Without bothering to wait for my lie, Nita starts cleansing and toning my face. She then applies a mask, which my skin drinks up at an alarming rate (I'm not the only one drinking around here, then). Next, she gets to work extracting my comedoes and milia - that's squeezing my spots to you and me. Grim, yes. Painful, yes, and all the worse because it comes with a dollop of humiliation.
Nastiness over, and the fun begins. The massage that comes with this facial is divine. It's difficult to know what is going on when you're this relaxed, but it feels like a gentle pushing, pulling and twisting of my skin, neck and shoulders. All I know is that I nearly fall asleep. I slide home, to wake the next morning with peachy soft skin and a vow to drink more (water) and less (alcohol).