One Spa's Offer of Free Botox Injections and Job Counseling for the Unemployed

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 6, 2009

In this recession, thoughtful companies give what they can to those in need. Some have donated free cellphone service, or grocery-store shopping sprees. It's the little things that matter: services designed to put on a happy face. Or at least, a face devoid of expression wrinkles due to direct injections of botulinum toxin into the forehead, eye and glabella region.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Botox Bailout.

"What is this?" Mari Negron, curly haired, intense, wearing jeans and a trendy cap, frantically jabs at the tiny frown lines between her eyebrows. The vertical crevices, right here; they make her look old and angry, she believes.

"The glabella?" asks Jenna Froess soothingly. "That's very common." Froess recommends the tiniest of injections to smooth Negron's creases away, to help give the out-of-work real estate agent the self-assurance and relaxed facial expression she needs in order to land a job.

A needleful of confidence for the downtrodden and the crow-footed, from an industry battling its own downturn. Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, which include everything from chemical peels to laser hair removal, decreased by 12 percent in 2008, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. There were 2,464,123 Botox procedures in 2008 -- 311,053 fewer than the year before.

"Our staff has always been community-minded," says Sally Amoruso, the president of Reveal MedSpa. "Many of our own clients had been affected by the economy. Hearing from them how much they loved the services, but weren't able to take advantage of them . . . " Well, you can imagine the heartbreak.

This is why, yesterday morning, the Reveal spa in Arlington's Pentagon Row opened its doors to the spa-service-challenged, offering free Botox injections and free career counseling to the first 50 customers to come in with proof of unemployment.

By 10 a.m., about 20 prospective patients have arrived, some in sweats, some in pinstripes, appearing in age anywhere from 22 to 60, because, honestly, age is really hard to estimate in a Botox crowd. They are mostly female, but there are two guys in the group. They chat in the lobby with several recruiters wearing black pantsuits, and in small consultation rooms with Reveal sales associates such as Froess, who wear minuscule black T-shirts with "BOTOX" in rhinestones across the chest. The spa's medical director is in the back, waiting to administer the injections.

At a little after 10, Amoruso gathers everyone around for an announcement. She talks about how, in hard times, looking good can make you feel good, which can make you seem good to potential employers. "That projection of self is so important," Amoruso tells her charges. "I hope your experience [here] is fabulous."

Benita Jenkins bounces excitedly in her seat. A former fundraiser for the Alice Ferguson Foundation before losing her job in February, Jenkins is first in line for treatment.

"I have no make up on," Jenkins apologizes, gesturing toward her flawless blond hair and velour tracksuit. "I just rolled out of bed to be the first one here." She's brought her "unemployment file" with multiple documents attesting to her joblessness. When she still worked, she would come to Reveal to freshen up for special occasions, and she is thrilled to receive the $300-to-$400 treatment gratis. "You need to look good to feel good," she explains. (Later, in the treatment room, she will beg Reveal doctor Shannon Ginnan for a little extra, right between the eyes. Only one syringe per customer, but Ginnan splits the dose between forehead and glabella.)

Just this morning, more bad news: The unemployment rate nationally has hit its highest rate in 26 years -- 9.4 percent in May. In this relatively insulated region, it stands at 5.6 percent, bad enough that this giveaway has drawn even the job seekers who care not at all about the spa services.

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