Showing posts with label facial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label facial. Show all posts

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Treatment Review: Philosophy Lunch Time Peel at Debenhams Oxford Street

Philosophy have ventured into treatments for the first time, giving fans a chance at a half an hour long lunchtime personalised pick me up.  Situated in the beauty room in the shiny new beauty hall at Debenhams Oxford Street, the treatment promises radiant skin in a flash.

First off, the treatment room is one of those used by multiple brands on a rotating basis, so it's fairly pared back and simple in its decoration - not a problem for Philosophy, whose stark white packaging looks very much at home in the stark white room.  When I visited, Krenara the therapist told me that Philosophy has been a runaway success so far - she's been booked up ahead of time for twenty slots a week, where bigger brands such as Dior and Givenchy have struggled to get even a single booking during their weeks in the room.

I suspect that part of the reason why is the therapist herself - I visited on her birthday, and her super-smooth, glowing skin made her look much, much younger than she told me she was turning.  Her passion for the products is obvious, and she explained every step of the treatment as she completed it - I left feeling well educated about the brand alongside the glowing skin.

The treatment itself is a pretty quick and simple affair - makeup is removed with a cleanser (don't worry, you can keep your eye makeup on), followed by the Microdelivery Peel application, which happens in two steps - crystals followed by an acidic solution which reacts on the skin to form a white foam.  Once that's been thoroughly massaged in and then removed, the skin is treated to an application of serum or oil, eye cream, and a moisturiser, all tailored to your skin type.  The treatment finishes with a spritz of your choice of Philosophy fragrances - I chose the one which smells of the ocean, which was a lovely invigorating way to finish a very relaxing treatment.

Afterwards, my skin looked bright and glowy, and I even met some friends for drinks later on without reapplying my foundation.  The next day, the brightness continued, and my skin felt incredibly soft.

For a half hour treatment, I was surprised at how effective it was - and I was impressed that all this is offered to customers for a mere £10 booking fee, redeemable against Philosophy skincare products.  Even if you don't want to indulge in any product, £10 is a very reasonable price to pay for an instant glow.  Upcoming dates, if you too would like to indulge:
  • John Lewis Cardiff:  2nd - 7th February       
  • Boots Cardiff - 9th - 14th February
  • Boots Fort - 2nd - 7th February
  • Debenhams Silverburn - 9th - 14th February  
  • Debenhams Glasgow - 16th - 21st February     
  • Debenhams London Oxford Street - 2nd - 7th February           
  • Debenhams Newcastle - 2nd - 7th February             
  • Debenhams Meadowhall -  23rd - 28th February    
  • Debenhams Liverpool - 23rd - 28th February
  • Debenhams Chester -  9th - 14th February

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary treatment for review purposes.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Treatment review: Elemis Face & Body Sensation at Debenhams Oxford Street

If you've been to Debenhams Oxford Street recently, you'll have noticed that their sprawling beauty hall has had a pretty major facelift.  Elemis have a spacious concession, hosting skin analysis stations, the entire range of face and body products, and two treatment rooms - one for quick, half hour long spa treats, and one for more traditional hour-long indulgences.

I popped down recently to try out a Face and Body Sensation - a 55 minute treatment designed to treat the face and the body in one session, for the time pressed.  We kicked off by analysing my skin using a special scanning machine which I've previously only seen at the Elemis spa in Mayfair - the results would be used to tailor my facial to my skin.

After being settled in the room on a very comfy treatment bed, the therapist started off by cleansing my feet with hot towels - which was a good thing, as I'd spent most of the day rushing around and was suffering from tired, sweaty feet.  This is a common start to Elemis treatments - it's refreshing and relaxing, and is a gentle introduction to a treatment.  The therapist then moved on to dry brushing my legs and arms with a stiff-bristled brush - a new experience for me!  I found it surprisingly invigorating, and my skin was left feeling tingly and refreshed.   My pink, freshly brushed skin was then massaged with body oil until I fell sleep from the dreamy relaxingness of it all.

After what felt like hours, I was turned over, wrapped up in a blanket, and my facial began.  A thorough cleanse and tone was followed by some facial massage, exfoliation using the cult Papaya Enzyme Peel, and a fantastic hydrating face mask mixed up and layered thickly onto the face - it dried into a rubbery full-face mask, and was peeled off slowly.  Finally, I was slathered with serum, moisturiser and eye cream - the end of the treatment was marked by the chiming of some temple bells (another Elemis standard).  I skipped out of Debenhams feeling relaxed, invigorated, and with skin that positively glowed with health.

I've been to the Elemis day spa in Mayfair for treatments before, and I can honestly say that the Skin Spa in Debenhams provides exactly the same level of experience.  Run, don't walk, for a little slice of quiet luxury in one of London's busiest shopping streets.

Disclosure: Complimentary treatment received for review purposes

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Review: Massage and Facial at The Chelsea Day Spa Boutique, Hollywood Road

Last week, I took myself down to The Chelsea Day Spa's boutique branch on Hollywood Road, a fifteen minute walk (or five minute cab journey for the lazy) from Earl's Court.  I'd had a long, tiring week full of unfeasible deadlines, late night calls with Americans, and endless meetings.  I really, really needed some down time, and was very much looking forward to the half hour mini-facial and half-hour massage I had booked in.

The spa itself is pretty compact - despite occupying a space as small as your average high street beauty parlour, it still manages to feel upmarket.  The reception area was small, but contained a pretty sofa for waiting, complete with a basket of oranges (for the healthy) and a jar of biscuits (for me).  The ubiquitous nail bar was secluded but still flooded with light - whilst it was still in the same room as the reception, it was boxed in with massive windows, to give privacy without making you feel like you're in a tiny, lightless room.

I was questioned pretty comprehensively about my tastes and health before I was led into a compact treatment room.  The bed was heated, and a vapouriser sat in one corner, giving the room and delicious lemon scent which was at once refreshing and relaxing.

My treatment started with a half hour massage - I'd asked for firm, deep pressure, as I don't really feel a massage has worked unless my usually tense muscles are forcibly relaxed with a good pummelling.  My therapist, Noemi, told me that she could sort my muscles out without pain, and she was as good as her word.  Using just her fingertips and elbows, she dug deeply into my muscles without making me yelp or tense up further - I drifted off into a relaxed trance, enjoying every minute.  Half an hour flew by, and before I knew it, I was rolled over onto my back, with my shoulders given a final stretch.

My half hour facial was surprisingly effective for being quite short - it included a cleanse, exfoliation, massage and application of various creams. My eye makeup was left intact, which I really appreciated - I dislike travelling home on the tube with a completely bare face.  The facial massage was the stand out part of the experience - Noemi used her fingertips to gently but deeply manipulate my facial muscles, and I was left with skin which looked firmer and felt plumped up, and absolutely glowed.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Chelsea Day Spa's boutique on Hollywood Road - after just an hour I floated off home feeling super relaxed and with skin which looked like it'd had hours spent on it, rather than just thirty minutes.  I'll definitely be going back for more of Noemi's magical massage.

The thirty minute Chelsea Girl mini facial costs £45, and the thirty minute back, neck and shoulder massage also costs £45.  Find out more at The Chelsea Day Spa website.

Disclosure:  treatments provided free of charge for review purposes

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating my copyright.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Treatment Review: Celgenics Facial with Marian Bourne

A few weeks ago I trundled down to a quiet suburban street in Wimbledon for a Celgenics facial with the founder of the brand, Marian Bourne.  I'll admit I was enticed into sampling the facial by the lure of a Beauty Bible recommendation - the Celgenics Eye Essential was rated very highly by the Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible for having a noticeable effect on the eye area.  I'd assumed that the range was a high science, high tech affair with lots of research and complicated ingredients.

I was completely wrong.  My initial consultation with Marian shattered any such scientific illusions - Marian is a nutritionist, kinesiologist and cranio sacral practitioner and her work falls firmly into the "alternative therapy" bucket.  Given that I'm an engineer by day and remain deeply sceptical of anything claiming to harness non-specific "energy", I started to wonder whether the Celgenics facial would be a good fit for me and my cynical skin.

As it turns out, it absolutely was.  The treatment is a good hour and a half long and surprisingly makes use of few of the Celgenics skincare products (meaning that the upsell is pretty much non-existent: very refreshing).  Instead, it focuses heavily on facial massage.  Marian's strong fingers pinched and rolled my skin centimetre by centimetre, concentrating on the contours of the face and expression lines.  Marian also used a "cold laser" to beam light into the skin.

Despite my cynicism, my skin looked incredible in the days after the facial - I wore barely any foundation and found that my jawline was more strongly defined, and my frown and smile lines were significantly softened.  I suspect that the hour-long facial massage played a major part in the effect.

All in all, I was impressed by the results I saw from my facial, and I'd definitely consider returning in the run up to a special occasion.  You can find out more by calling Marian on 020 8542 7907 or visiting the Celgenics website.

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Review: Spa Fabulous Organics Complexion Perfection Facial

Makeup free and still glowing
I recently had the pleasure of trying out the new Complexion Perfection facial from Spa Fabulous Organics at my friend Silvie's salon, Sakura, in Surrey.  I emerged with skin that was perfectly hydrated, even and glowing and with a new found appreciation for founder Neena Trehan's hand-formulated organic products.

Neena has worked in beauty for 22 years, and says she was inspired by her mother's use of everyday household ingredients to concoct beauty potions at home.  Having spent ten years travelling the world discovering and testing the best ingredients, she returned to establish Spa Fabulous Organics, a salon-focused range of natural and organic products, and facial techniques to go along with them.

My facial made use of the rather gorgeously scented products and the new facial machine, which makes use of gentle vacuum to sculpt the skin and improve circulation. 

Unlike some electrical based facials I've tried in the past, the vacuum machine was completely painless, although I did find it rather tickly.  My skin felt pink and warm thanks to the machine bringing the blood closer to the surface of the skin.  The machine is the icing on an already delicious cake, for me - the organic products used in the facial stole the show.

Highlights included the delicious balm-like Heavenly Glow Exfoliator, which Neena worked thoroughly into my skin with her fingers before polishing it off with gauze, and the surprisingly light oil-based Purifying Serum.  All the products were highly aromatic (some to the extent that I wanted to eat them), and felt richly nourishing without being heavy whilst on the skin.  More refreshing still was Neena's attitude - she says that skin will never be perfect, and that women should focus on making the best of their skin rather than wanting to completely change it with harsh chemicals.  She advocates avoiding magnifying mirrors, as they just induce paranoia as no-one ever looks that closely at the skin anyway.

All in all, I had a glorious facial, and ended up with skin which felt nourished, well fed, plumped up, and not at all imposed upon with residue or heavy products.  I liked the Purifying Serum so much I bought myself one at the slightly eye-watering price of £58.

You can find out more about Spa Fabulous facials and products at the Spa Fabulous website.  Neena does facials at her headquarters in Surbiton, Surrey, and on Wimpole St in London.

Disclosure: Facial received free of charge for review purposes.  Purifying Serum purchased by me because I just couldn't resist!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Mum Review: CACI Anti-Aging Facial

My Mum did enjoy her facial (and my rather invasive photography), she just refuses to smile in photos.  
I recently attended an introduction to CACI, a facial system which describes itself as a "non surgical facelift".  The system began life as a medical treatment to deal with facial palsy - electric microcurrents were applied to the affected muscles to restore muscle tone.  Now in use as a beauty treatment, a typical CACI facial involves a therapist using a machine to manipulate and re-educate all 32 facial muscles using microcurrent.  Some of its celebrity endorsers include Barbara Windsor, Dale Winton (eek) and Jennifer Lopez.

I was offered a complimentary CACI facial to experience the effects myself - but being a mere thirty, and having few lines and wrinkles (thankfully), I decided to pass the opportunity on to my Mum.  We trundled down to the very swanky Four Seasons Hotel to visit the spa, and my Mum was treated to a combined facial using ESPA products and the Ultimate CACI machine, which does microdermabrasion and hydration as well as microcurrent.  

She reported that the facial was lovely, with her therapist taking the time to explain products and techniques throughout in response to her questions.  I took photos before the treatment and after the treatment to see if the results were as impressive as CACI say (although, naturally, a course is recommended for the most dramatic effects).

I think I can see improvement even after the one session - even if I do have to look very, very closely (click on the photo to view it full size and high res).  Frown lines look more shallow, vertical lines around the lips look less pronounced, the skin looks overall brighter and more even, and I'm fairly sure that the cheeks look significantly smoother (which is backed up by my brother independently saying that my Mum's cheeks looked less wrinkly a few hours later).  Overall, it does look like CACI provides some skin-tightening, wrinkle-reducing effects as promised, even after a single session.  Even if the deeper wrinkles between nose and mouth and on the forehead seem the same as before.  My Mum's curiousity has been piqued to the extent that she's going to have a few more sessions at a local (less expensive) salon.  

Have you tried CACI?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: Facial treatment provided free of charge for review purposes.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Free (ish) Facials at Organic Pharmacy, Selfridges

To celebrate the launch of the Organic Pharmacy in the new Selfridges Beauty Workshop, you can get a 45 minute facial tailored to your skin type for £45, which is then redeemable against Organic Pharmacy products on sale at the new counter on the day of your treatment.  Which, by my highly dubious shopping maths, means that you get a free facial.

The offer runs for one week only, between the 16th and 22nd of September, and you can bet it'll be a popular one.  Worth popping in to book your timeslot in advance, I think..

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Worst Facial I Ever Had

A few weeks ago, on a rare weekend alone when my husband flew off on a stag do, I decided I'd treat myself to a facial and head massage.  Now, me being me, I decided this the day before I actually wanted them - something I do frequently (I prefer a spur of the moment massage when I absolutely fancy one).  I was lucky to find a double appointment at a local holistic beauty place, Pure Serenity in New Malden, and booked myself in for an Indian head massage and an Environ Rose and Camellia facial.

The Indian head massage was pretty decent - it was delivered whilst I was seated on a chair, which I much prefer as the therapist can really get their fingers onto all of the scalp that way.  At least twenty minutes of the half hour was spent working on my back and shoulders, which I thought was rather strange, given that I'd specifically asked for an Indian head massage.  Still, it was pleasant enough, if not exactly what I was expecting, and I then stretched out on the therapy bed, donned the obligatory towels, and awaited my Environ facial.

First of all, it wasn't an Envrion facial.  It was a facial using some home-made looking products in generic glass bottles with inkjet printed labels.  Turns out the salon menu is badly laid out so that this particular facial appears to be an Environ facial (being listed under an Environ Facials heading) but actually isn't. 

Second of all, the techniques used in the facial itself were not really what I was expecting.  Despite wrapping my hair, much of the cleanser ended up in my hair rather than on my face.  This was mostly down to the way the therapist applied the cleanser - she poured it into her palm, rubbed her palms together, and then rubbed her palms on my face.  I've had facials in the past which have involved the most precise cleansing action using only the fingertips, with the overall effect of cleaning my skin thoroughly and being incredibly relaxing.  Unfortunately, palm-cleansing was more akin to what I do to my own face when I'm drunk and trying to take my makeup off as quickly as possible so I can collapse into bed.

The rest of the facial followed the same pattern and I was glad to leave a scant forty minutes later.  I didn't really feel relaxed, my skin didn't really feel pampered, and I definitely did feel slightly cheated.  Being truly British and not wishing to cause a fuss, I slunk out of the salon and vowed never to return.

What's your worst ever beauty service experience?  Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Review: Karin Herzog Space Facial at Ajala Spa

I think I might have mentioned a few times before that I really, really love facials.  And that I also really love head massages.  So when I was given the opportunity to try out a treatment at one of Ajala Spa's four central London locations, I was instantly drawn to Karin Herzog's Space facial, which incorporates scalp and head massage as well as some quality facial action.

My evening didn't get off to the best start - the Ajala Spa in St Paul's has two addresses on the website, and having found myself in the general area of one of them, but not found the spa itself, I spent a few minutes wandering fruitlessly around looking for it.  Turns out that the spa can either be accessed by walking through the corporate-swanky Grange St Paul's Hotel, or through a tiny side street that's not marked on Google Maps.

Once inside, though, I promptly forgot my directions based annoyance.  Situated near to a gym, but not so close that the rhythmic pounding of exercise intrudes upon the peace, the spa was a little oasis of calm, with warm warm toned lighting, bronze statues, and wood accents.  After filling in the usual consultation form, I was invited to wait for my therapist in the relaxation room, which contained plenty of well padded recliners, glossy magazines, and complementary juice, cake and chocolates(!).

I was bowled over the the treatment room once I was led inside - it was a spacious double treatment room, with comfy elevated beds (which I did struggle to get into, I'll admit), flickering candlelight, and colour phasing accent lighting.  And the biggest, most beautiful freestanding bath I've ever seen.  I would have quite happily stayed the rest of the night in that bath.  Amazing.

Anyway - the treatment began with the usual removal of makeup, and then moved into the cleanse, exfoliate, mask, massage, moisturiser routine.  Each stage was interspersed with some incredible head massage whilst each product was left to sit on the skin - and indeed, once the mask had been applied, I was treated to a good twenty minutes (or maybe half an hour, I kinda fell asleep) of glorious scalp massage.  The therapist's fingers were probing yet gentle and I found myself dozing off several times.  In addition to the actual massage, there was a fair bit of hair manipulation, including some gentle tugging of the roots, which I found strangely relaxing.

An hour later, I was left with skin that felt firm, smooth, and entirely without residue, and an incredibly relaxed mind.  As the therapist had kept her hands free of oils when manipulating my head and hair, my hair wasn't overly disheveled, either, but was full of volume and tangle free.  If you love a facial for the skin maintenance, and also adore head massage, this could well be the treatment for you - I loved the fact that I essentially got a maintenance facial and a head massage in one - effectively two treatments in one go.

The Space facial costs £75 and lasts for an hour, making it a pricey but hard working relaxing treat.  It's also made me really curious about the Karin Herzog products, as they all smelled divine and left my skin looking fabulous and not at all overtreated.

Disclosure: Treatment was complimentary for review purposes

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Review: Spa by Car home treatments

Last week I was treated to a relaxing spa experience - in my room. Not in the usual face mask & a DVD way, but with a facial and back massage from a professional beauty therapist, on a proper couch, with candles and relaxing music.

This was all thanks to Spa by Car, a mobile beauty treatment company serving north London and surrounding areas. The therapist comes to your home in a dinky smart car (complete with logo) and brings everything needed for an at-home treatment.

I was visited by therapist Jodie (right), who is one half of the company's founding team (the other half being Lauren who is office-based). She arrived at my door with a folding massage table, a bag of products, muslin cloths and other bits and pieces, an iPad to play music on and use for a skin analysis, and even her own tea-lights to create the classic spa atmosphere. The only thing she needed from me was hot water.

We started with a facial, involving a double-cleanse, exfoliation, mask and face cream and eye cream, using wonderfully fragrant Spa Fabulous products. I was lying tucked up under the blankets on the very sturdy table, trying not to fall asleep as Jodie worked expertly on my face and massaged my scalp. She was extremely thorough, and I felt very relaxed - there was no sense that she might be watching the clock or have lots of other people in the waiting room.

Then she gave me a Swedish-style deep tissue back massage, which was absolutely wonderful, and worked on several annoying achy places in my back and neck that tend to flare up when I'm stressed.

The thing that really made it stand out for me, apart from how good the treatment was, was how nice it felt not to have to get dressed, tie up oily hair and fight my way home on the tube, thereby erasing all my relaxation. Instead I was at home and free to stay as relaxed as I liked. In fact, Jodie told me that most clients like to just roll into bed after the treatment is finished.

I would absolutely recommend Spa by Car if you're a north Londoner. I can vouch for the quality of the treatments - Jodie is one of two therapists at the moment and does all the training herself, with no contractors, and she is expert, professional and very easy to chat to.

Treatments include massage, waxing, makeup, blow drying, nails, eyelash extensions and pretty much every beauty-related thing you can think of. The facials start at £28.

Find out more at the Spa by Car website 

Disclosure - treatment provided free of charge

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Treatment Review: SkinBase Microdermabrasion Facial

Having tried a microdermabrasion facial quite some time back via the fabulous Nougat Spa and Crystal Clear, I jumped at the chance to try one from another brand, SkinBase.  My previous experience was of clear, gorgeously smooth skin after an hour's painless exfoliation and a moisturising mask.

SkinBase, I found, is a different kettle of fish to Crystal Clear - the machine looks and sounds much the same, and the microdermabrasion material is a similar crystal based product - but that's where the similarity ends.  Where the Crystal Clear facial was a painless experience akin to someone vacuuming my face, the SkinBase machine felt much more intensive - there was still the tickly feeling, but also a bit scratchy, and on areas of thinner skin (such as my neck), I did find it a little uncomfortable at times.

As before, particular attention was paid to my more, ahem, congested areas.  I was surprised to find that the treatment included my neck - I'd never really considered having it treated the way my face is pampered, but I did find that my neck felt much firmer after the treatment - worth the little bit of pain!  Overall, my face felt incredibly firm, and incredibly smooth (again, much like I'd applied a silicone based primer), and not at all red or irritated.  

Microdermabrasion facials often show their effects a few days after you've actually had them, and this certainly was true of the SkinBase offering - my skin looked steadily clearer and brighter for a few days afterwards, to the extent that a friend noticed my glowing complexion and asked what skincare I was using!  I did find that a couple of tiny spots surfaced after the treatment, presumably as it deep cleansed my face so effectively, but there were no major breakouts.

Incredibly, the treatment took an very speedy forty minutes including a ten minute cooling mask - combined with the lack of redness I experienced, this quick turnaround time makes this the perfect lunch time pick me up, or special occasion prep for the busiest of girls about town.  For those with scarring or uneven skin tone, SkinBase recommend a course of treatments a week apart to totally revitalise the skin.  I wouldn't hesitate to have another SkinBase microdermabrasion facial, as it refines and maximises the brightness of my already reasonably clear skin.

SkinBase microdermabrasion facials are available at salons nationwide - costs vary, but my facial cost around £40 for a 30 minute treatment and a 10 minute mask.  Tried SkinBase, or any other microdermabrasion facial?  Let us know in the comments!
Disclosure: Facial provided free of charge for review purposes

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Review: Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial at House of Rush, Piccadilly

The House of Rush is a new one-stop hair and beauty destination situated in the heart of London, on Piccadilly.  I trundled down one cold, windy Thursday night to try out an Elemis facial in the plush surroundings of the Rush group's flagship salon.

First impressions are great - walking in through the glass double doors, you find yourself in an opulent white and gold decorated atrium which has a few spaces for speedy hairdos, and a gloriously Renaissance styled staircase leading up to the main salon floor.  Following it upwards, I found myself in a large, carefully divided up space encompassing everything a girl could want from a super salon - hair stations, manicure and pedicure areas, treatment rooms, and plenty of high end products for perusal whilst waiting for your appointment.  The complimentary glass of wine has become a high-end salon staple in recent years, and the House of Rush takes it one step further with a snack bar just behind reception - I spotted some very tasty looking pretzels and cakes nestling under glass domes, awaiting hungry customers.

The treatment room was a continuation of the same luxurious, glamourous style - white and gold accents abounded, with glossy black cupboards, and thick treacle coloured towels.  The rooms have built in showers, and very comfortable, wide treatment beds - after removing various layers of scarfs and jumpers, I nestled in, covered with another thick towel, and gazed at the ceiling - shiny black, studded with twinkling LED lights, and looking not unlike a clear night sky.

The Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift facial is an anti-ageing heavy hitter, and promises to leave the skin looking radiant with up to 94% wrinkle reduction and up to 54% improvement in firmness - a lofty claim indeed.  It began rather unusually, with a bit of foot and lower leg manipulation, which started off the relaxation process nicely.  What followed was the usual cleansing, toning, exfoliation, massage and mask - and as usual for a good facial, I promptly fell asleep as soon as the massage part began.  The therapists' movements were incredibly light and gentle, stroking touches which delivered very effective massage without feeling rough or uncomfortable.  

I was pleased to find that the therapist didn't leave the room whilst a peel-off mask was applied to my skin, but rather gave me a wonderful hand and arm massage that really felt like a major part of the treatment as opposed to a way to use up a bit of time.  My arms were massaged with an ultra rich cream right up to the shoulders, leaving me feeling very relaxed and pampered.  

Post facial, my skin looked incredibly glowy - and crucially, not at all overloaded with product, nor greasy with heavy moisturisers.  Whilst I'm probably too young to notice a dramatic improvement in wrinkles, I did notice that my frown lines looked less deep and that my skin felt amazingly firm - so different, in fact, that I couldn't stop pressing my own face with a fingertip.  Impressive stuff.

Overall, I truly enjoyed my treatment at the House of Rush - the service was excellent, friendly and concerned for my enjoyment, and the facial was superb.  Having perused their extensive hair service menu whilst sipping a glass of water before I left, I'm extremely tempted to book in for a Shu Uemura Art of Hair ritual for my next visit - and given it's central location and long opening hours (til 9pm weeknights), I don't think my next visit will be too far off in the future.  If I had to make one criticism, it would be that the treatment rooms could be more adequately soundproofed - I could clearly hear people taking in the corridor, and particularly noisy buses and police cars outside the building.  Not that that stopped me from falling asleep though.

You'll find more info on the House of Rush at their website.  The Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial is from £80, and lasts an hour and fifteen minutes.

Disclosure: Facial received free of charge for review purposes 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Review: Traditional Thai Facial at Thai Square Spa

Situated in the heart of Covent Garden, Thai Square Spa is nestled beneath a food court- which makes for a slightly confusing entrance.  Head downstairs, though, and you're met with a gorgeously decorated space with an abundance of ambiance.  The colour palette is far away from the almost clinical beige-and-white of most beauty salons and spas - Thai Square is decked out in black, bronze and deep grey stone shades.  Add in golden accent lighting and traditional Thai carvings and statuettes, and you've got a space that soothes you from the second you step inside.

After slipping off my shoes in the entrance hall, I was led to a small but well equipped changing room to strip down and don a clean robe in preparation for my treatment.  After bundling my clothes into a wooden locker, examining the monsoon shower and wishing I had one at home, I was taken to the treatment room.  Much like the one pictured below, it was moodily lit, and had a beautiful copper bath tub stood in one corner - I was told it's used for some of the wet treatments.

After a cup of fragrant tea, I was wrapped up in towels and sheets on the treatment bed.  Like many facials, mine began with some incredibly delicate makeup removal (no scrubbing at eyelashes here, thankfully), followed by a gentle cleanse.  The cleansing process was incredible - my therapist's fingers fluttered across my face, and each product was removed with a never-ending supply of warm flannels.

About five minutes into the facial massage, I fell asleep.  When I awoke, my face was covered in a herbal smelling mask, and the therapist was giving me an incredible head massage.  Head massage is one of my favourite things ever, and to have one included as part of a facial is great - to have one as relaxing and invigorating as the one I received is incredible.

Post-head massage, the mask was removed with another warm flannel, and a variety of serums and creams were gently stroked onto my skin.  I was given a glass of water and led to the relaxation area outside the treatment room to laze upon a bed whilst I woke up fully, making the most of the relaxation.  Once dressed, I was given a quick tour of the facilities - the steam room and massage rooms look beautiful, clad in the same moody, evocative decor as the rest of the spa.

After the facial, my skin looked brighter and healthy, and I left the spa with skin that was clean and moisturised, but not oily with heavy moisturiser.  A few days later, and my skin still looks bright and happy, although I have noticed a few spots arising as a result of all the cleansing.

Overall, I had a wonderful time at Thai Square Spa - not least because the atmosphere and decor lent themselves to making my visit feel like a real treat, rather than just a maintenance facial.  I wouldn't hesitate to go back - I've got my eye on the half hour long scalp massage, since the one that accompanied my facial was so good.

Disclosure: My facial was provided free of charge for review purposes.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Review: Liz Earle Healthy Beautiful Skin Facial

I've had many facials in my time.  I credit my glowingly clear wedding day skin to regular monthly Darphin treats, which cost a bomb but gave me incredible results.  I've also had some duff ones - including those which ran too short, or which were administered with onion breath.  So when I tell you that my recent experience at the Liz Earle flagship store was absolutely the best facial I've ever had, I'm basing my comparison on a wealth of experience!

Tucked away in the Duke of York Square, a little pedestrian square of high end boutiques, the Liz Earle store and treatment rooms are light, bright, and airy.  Beneath the spacious and well stocked shop floor lie a total of seven treatment rooms, each named after bays on the Isle of Wight, the brand's home.  The treatment rooms manage to be both roomy and cosy at the same time, with soft lighting and a clean colour palette bringing a tremendous sense of calm.

I've often said that it's the little things that really make a good facial great.  The Liz Earle treatment rooms are full of those little touches - a proper lockable cupboard with hangers for your clothes, a ledge for your handbag, and a space to tuck your shoes away.  And the bed!  Far from the usual flat treatment bed, the Liz Earle beds are electronically controlled and give excellent back and knee support.  Add an electric blanket, plenty of cushions and throws, and I knew I was in for a treat before the therapist had touched my face.

Cuddled up in the warmth of the bed, I was given a comprehensive consultation on my skin, asked what I wanted from the facial, and any specific concerns.  After a thorough cleanse, tone and exfoliate, the therapist brought out some Superbalm and started the facial massage.  The Healthy Beautiful Skin facial makes a big deal out of this- at least half an hour of my facial was dedicated to targeted sculpting massage, concentrating on my forehead, where I'd highlighted some fine lines I was worried about.

I admit it, I fell asleep.  I might even have snored.  After the facial massage, a mixture of masks was applied to my face, and I was treated to a very thorough and effective neck and shoulder massage.  I absolutely adored it - my shoulders, which were achy and tense before the treatment, were left relaxed and unknotted.  And extra brownie points for not rushing out of the room while the mask is left on, too - a personal bugbear!

After an application of moisturiser, eye cream and lip treatment, I was left to ease myself out of bed at my own pace.  My skin looked fantastic immediately after the facial - plumped up, smooth and radiant, and that glow hung around for a couple of days afterwards.  Needless to say, I left the Liz Earle treatment rooms feeling incredibly relaxed and thrilled with the facial - and indeed, I've already rebooked for six weeks time.

The Healthy Beautiful Skin facial at Liz Earle just off the Kings Road in London costs £65 for an hour - well worth every penny in my mind.  I'll definitely be a repeat customer!

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be treated to a complimentary facial as a preview of the service.  

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Review - Agua Spa at the Sanderson Hotel

Disclosure - treatment was provided free for purposes of review

The Sanderson is a 5 star hotel located a few streets away from the frenetic foot-traffic of Oxford Street. From the outside, it's a monolithic, imposing building, but it contains one of the most blissful sanctuaries known to mankind - the Agua spa.

I'll be honest - I'm not the sort of person who can walk into a 5 star hotel as if to the manner born. I felt decidedly small and overwhelmed as I walked through the Sanderson's imposing lobby area for my treatment last week, but as I stepped out of the lift on the first floor and into the Agua reception, I immediately relaxed. I think it was the "quiet zone, no mobile phones" sign. (My subconscious probably thought I was in the geeky refuge of a public library.)

Agua is a maze of billowing white curtains, suspending from an incredibly high ceiling. It's probably quite a large space, but it's divided by miles of white fabric into a series of corridors and nooks that defy all wider sense of its dimensions. Without walls or windows, you quickly lose all sense of being inside a building, far less a busy hotel.

Beyond Agua's reception desk, the curtained pathways lead through to a central relaxation area. The lighting is low, and a cauldron-like water feature bubbles away, casting bright reflections on the ceiling. Elegant white chairs and side tables, custom designed by Phillippe Starck, are arranged around the edges of the room. Further along is a changing area with individual showers, mirrored lockers ready-prepared with robes and slippers, and a dressing table with thoughtfully provided hairdryers. There's also a steam room, and several individual relaxation areas; cosy curtained nooks with armchairs and lamps.

After a quick tour, I settled into a chair and sipped on a glass of iced water while I filled out the pre-treatment form. It was very thorough; even my taste in music was queried on the form and catered to during the treatment. After donning my white robe and slippers, I met my therapist Kasia who led me up some white stairs (who knew they were hidden behind all those curtains?) to a spacious treatment room. I had chosen the Restorative package, one of eight new "Inside Out" packages at Agua. Each one is different, but all are targeted at those who are short on time but keen to maintain their health and wellbeing. Each package involves a treatment followed by a carefully designed healthy meal and accompanying smoothie.

Before beginning the treatment, Kasia explained in detail how she would proceed, which was quite handy for me as I quickly became so blissed out that I wasn't really keeping track. First was the Eve Lom "Ultimate Cleanse" - a double cleanse of my face and decollete using Eve Lom's cleanser. (Kasia used natural sponges throughout the treatment to remove the products, which was a particularly luxurious touch as they're very soft and absorbent on the skin.) Next she painted several layers of warm paraffin wax onto my face to open my pores. Then she placed a warm cloth over my eyes before gradually peeling off the mask and finally performing extractions on the exposed skin. The cloth shielded my eyes from the very bright lamp she was using to check for areas of congestion.

I'd never had an extraction before, and to be honest I didn't think there would be much to extract, since I exfoliate regularly and keep a pretty vigilant eye on my pores, patrolling regularly for blackheads. However, several rather eye-watering minutes later she seemed to have honed in on quite a few problem areas and I was thoroughly purified.

Afterwards, a chamomile lotion and a layer of Eve Lom Rescue Mask were used to calm my skin and I lay back and enjoyed a massage with Aromatherapy Associates oils. The massage was slightly unusual in that I lay face up while Kasia slipped her hands under me and massaged my back, shoulders and arms. I was lying on a water pillow, so she was able to manoeuvre quite easily. The massage was the only part of the experience I might have wanted to change, and that was only because I wished it could have gone on longer.

Kasia was a great therapist - not only for her technique, but also her quiet, calm manner. She was gentle and careful in all respects, but also gave me a sense of assurance and expertise that made it very easy to relax with her.

After lying quietly for a while, I was installed (like royalty) in one of the private relaxation areas where I put my feet up and was served dinner - on a silver tray no less. To be honest, I thought the meal might be a bit "virtuous", but it was absolutely delicious - a light but fortifying meal that I enjoyed enormously. I had grilled turkey breast, quinoa with a salty dressing, watercress and roasted butternut squash. The coconut and fig smoothie that came with it was also very tasty.

I will let the picture do the talking - I ate every last bit.

After a luxuriously warm and powerful shower (with Korres toiletries) I dressed and reluctantly left the Agua premises. Stepping back onto the grey London street was like coming back down to earth after a few hours floating on a cloud. The experience was an absolute respite from daily life, which is, I suppose, exactly what a spa should be.

The Restorative package is £170 at Agua spa. For more information see the spa menu at the Sanderson Hotel website.
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