It's one thing to look at your face in a mirror, but looking at your face with Visia is another story entirely. Visia is an imaging system that allows you to see details of your face that are naked to the human eye. The tool is increasingly being used by medspas to show people the condition of their skin. I recently had my skin analyzed by Visia, so I thought I'd take you through the process.

Before walking me over to the Visia machine, my esthetician asked me how healthy I thought my skin was. "I take good care of it, and I wear sunblock every day, so I think it's in good shape," I said.

"Just you wait! You might be surprised," she said. (Would you find that comment rude, too?)

To find out how the experience went, and to see a gallery of what Visio does, read more

So, here's how the process works. Basically, you rest your chin on a small stand and have your picture taken. From there, the photos show up on a computer screen. They'll show you sun spots, pore size, wrinkles, texture, red areas, and porphyrins (basically, bacteria). Additionally — and here's where it gets a little twisted — the report tells you how the condition of your skin compares to other women of your age and skin color. Finally, the esthetician can slide a knob on the screen to simulate the aging process.

Because I've been a huge freak about sunscreen, my face had few UV spots and wrinkles. I've got a few large pores, but who doesn't? And the aging simulation didn't scare me. The esthetician seemed rather flummoxed by this; I suspect she didn't know what kinds of services to suggest, since I wasn't horrified by anything.

On one level, I like the ability of Visia to detect sun damage. We all hear about how sun can damage your skin, but seeing it can make even a sun worshiper grab the SPF 30. Plus, there's something very fun and futuristic about seeing where your pores are large.

But I'm not crazy about it as a marketing tool. Comparing your skin's condition to other women of the same age and ethnicity seems oddly competitive to me. Picture yourself getting the results and finding out that, say, 82 percent of women your age have fewer wrinkles than you do. You might feel emotional ("I must look like a Shar-Pei!") or wonder what's wrong with you — so when an expensive course of treatment is recommended, you're more likely to bite. So if you try Visia — and I say, why not? — I'd recommend taking the upsell with a grain of salt.

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