In Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita, there’s a scene of miraculous rejuvenation accomplished by a magical cream. Margarita Nikolaevna, a thirty-year-old woman, is sitting on a bench in Moscow’s Alexander Gardens when a suspicious fang-toothed man (later revealed as an agent of Satan) presents her with a golden casket, heavy and ornate as a reliquary. He tells her to wait until exactly half past eight that evening before opening it and applying the contents to her skin. For reasons too complicated to summarize, she agrees.
At 8:29 P.M., Margarita can’t wait any longer: she
lifts the heavy box of gold and opens the lid. The cream is yellowish
and oily and gives off the aroma of earth, marshland, and forest. She
begins rubbing it into her forehead and cheeks, where it is absorbed
quickly and greaselessly, producing a tingling effect over her skin.
Then she looks in the mirror and drops the casket in shock.
Her eyes have changed color to green, and her eyebrows have grown
from narrow, plucked lines into perfect symmetrical arcs. A worry line
between them has vanished. Shadows around her temples and “barely
detectable sets of crowsfeet” have disappeared. The skin of her cheeks
begins to glow pink, her forehead becomes pale and perfectly smooth, and
the artificial waves in her hair are loosened into flowing
natural-looking curls. She laughs with glee, throws off her bathrobe,
and begins to rub the cream all over her naked body. A tense headache
that had bothered her since her meeting in the gardens disappears; her
arms and legs grow stronger and firmer. Jumping into the air with joy,
she sinks slowly and elegantly back to earth, as if being lowered by
angels. The cream has granted her the power of flight.
Bulgakov was trained as a doctor, and his book brims with vivid
clinical details: of blood spurting at a beheading, of a gently
persuasive psychiatric interrogation, of the grinding crunch of a leg
being severed. He brings the same attentiveness to the effects of the
cream. As a physician, he must have known that creams in the real world
can only slow the inevitable process of aging, never reverse it. To keep
skin looking youthful, what you avoid is more important than
what you rub on—smoking, unhealthy food, and sun exposure all add years
to the skin. Once its natural elasticity has started to fade, there’s
no cream on earth that can restore it. ... [mehr] https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2018/06/07/the-surprising-literary-history-of-skin-care/