Showing posts with label spa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spa. Show all posts

Monday, 21 September 2015

Royal Massage at Thai Square Spa, Covent Garden

A few weeks back I nipped down to Thai Square Spa in Covent Garden.  Tucked down Shelton Street near Pineapple dance studios and the shopping mecca of Seven Dials, I'd visited it before for a post-work treat, and this time I was visiting to try out a Royal Massage, which incorporates the new oils from Thai Square's skincare line, iMantara (yes, weird name, no idea why).

I was surprised to find the spa somewhat quiet and almost empty at 7pm on a weeknight, but the quietness made sure I waited virtually no time at all, skipping from the changing room (which sports dark wood lockers with ornate old fashioned keys) to the softly lit treatment room, which sported bronze accents and carved wood.

I've had many a massage before, and I've never had one where the therapist stays in the room when you get changed and hoist yourself onto the table - but she did, and I did, and it was fine, if a little awkward on my side.  Once I was settled, I was treated to a massage with some very, very firm pressure as I'd requested - a Thai massage isn't a Thai massage unless it gets deep into the most achey of muscles.

The massage was a full body experience, although as usual most of the time was spent on the back, and my therapist moved from strong pressure to loosen any kinks to a softer, more relaxing pressure when I, as usual, fell asleep.  Luckily this time I didn't drool all over the table, and I awoke in time to be turned over for a finishing spot of head massage and some gentle compression on my legs and feet.

I really enjoyed the massage, and left Thai Square feeling much more relaxed, with much less tension in my shoulders.  Strangely, for a massage involving new oils, I didn't really notice any particular aroma as the massage took place - I guess the massage was so good that the more subtle scent escaped my nose.  Either that or I was asleep when I was best placed to smell it.

Royal Massage lasts an hour, and costs £75 - not the cheapest of massages, but not the most expensive given the location, either.  You can find out more about Thai Square (who are shortly on the move) and about iMantara on the Thai Square website.

Disclosure:  Massage received free of charge 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.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Treatment Review: The Comforter? at Lush Spa

A couple of weeks ago, I trundled down to the Kings Road branch of Lush, which houses not only an emporium of deliciously scented things, but also one of the Lush Spa locations.  I was lucky enough to be invited by Lush to experience their newest spa treatment, called the Comforter?.  It's a scrub/massage type thing - but with a bit of a twist.  The reason for the question mark, I was told, is that whilst the treatment is supposed to be warming and comforting, it also has a fun, light hearted element which is different to your average spa treatment.

When I first entered the treatment room, I couldn't help but smile.  A machine projected sparkles of green light around the room, emulating a starry sky, a bubble machine gurgled away to itself, and the lighting was predominantly pink.  I disrobed and snuggled into the extremely comfortable bed - there was a memory foam mattress and a heated blanket, making it incredibly snug and cosy.  The treatment is accompanied by a specially created soundtrack by Lush's spa composer Simon Emmerson, and it's about as far from whalesong and pan pipes as you can get.  A little bit of instrumental music from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a little bit of I Can See Clearly now - it was very uplifting, comforting in the way it reminded me of being a child, and it was actually something I wanted to listen to, rather than something washing over my ears in the background.

The scrub itself is administered with a molten hot chocolate product, which dries down onto the skin and is rubbed off, eliminating the need for a shower midway through the treatment.  As with the massage serum used afterwards, it was applied warm to the skin - and it smelled absolutely fantastic.  Warm, comforting, and deeply chocolatey, I kind of wanted to eat it.  Luckily I was too comfortable to try.

After a thorough scrubbing, I was massaged gently with a warm, liquid body serum in a rolling motion which was relaxing but not sleep inducing.  The massage wasn't the kind I'd normally go for - I'm usually a bit of a no-pain-no-gain girl - but it left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside and out.  After the treatment, my skin felt gorgeously soft and smooth, and I felt incredibly happy and content.

Emerging from the treatment room, I went to the country kitchen-style reception area and was treated to a special post-treatment drink - candyfloss and rose syrup mixed with sparkling water mixed in a cocktail glass - which was an unexpected and very sweet way to finish off a spa session (and quite different to the usual glass of water).

All in all, I really enjoyed the Comforter?.  My skin felt amazing, I felt uplifted and happy and for once I'd stayed awake throughout an entire treatment and appreciated every moment.  If you're looking for something a bit fun as well as a bit pampering, I'd highly recommend this - it's the antithesis of most spa treatments I've tried before, and I absolutely loved it.

Disclosure: Treatment received free of charge for review purposes

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Review: Thai Combination Massage at Sabai Leela

The other day, I swung by Sabai Leela, a Thai spa situated between Earl's Court and West Brompton, which also happens to be rather close to where I work.  The deceptively large spa offers a range of facials, acupuncture, waxing, manicures, pedicures, and a very comprehensive list of Thai style massages.  I chose to try out a Thai combination massage, which includes both intense acupressure, gentle stretches, and a more traditional relaxing massage to round it off.

The treatment began in traditional spa style, with me dumping my work bags and clothes into a locker, and donning a cream coloured waffle robe before pottering down to one of the underground treatment rooms.  Now is not the time to bemoan the prodigious size of my rear end, which made the waffle robe a little bit too form fitting, but it is probably the time to put down the Lindor.

Once settled in the treatment room, I lay face down on the massage table, expecting a standard massage administered with strong hands.  Gentle tinkling music played softly in the background.  Through the face-hole in the table, I could see an attractive bowl of flowers and pebbles instead of a utilitarian floor (nice touch, that).  And as soon as the massage began, I realised that the Thai style of massage was entirely different to anything I'd ever experienced before.

Instead of using fingertips to dig into tense muscles, the therapist climbed up onto the massage table with me and used her elbows, fingers, and other pointy bits to thoroughly pummel my tense muscles into submission.  She arranged my arms and legs into interesting contortions, and using her own bodyweight, gently led me through stretches as well as using direct pressure.

It was not relaxing.  It was not even really enjoyable.

And yet, it was incredibly, amazingly effective.  My shoulder muscles, which are almost always bunched up, relaxed to the point where I felt surprisingly flexible and loosened up, almost as if I'd done a bit of pilates.  After the acupressure part of the massage, I was expecting a softer, more gentle relaxing massage, but I soon found that whilst it wasn't as intense as the acupressure, it certainly wasn't as gentle as I thought it would be - the therapist continued to knead my muscles with a fair bit of pressure and strength.

Afterwards, I felt the most relaxed and bendy that I'd felt in a long, long time.  All the stress and all the knots had quite literally been pummelled out of my body, and whilst it wasn't a treatment I enjoyed - probably more a treatment I endured - the end effect was the most significant I've ever experienced from a massage.

If you like your massages to be akin to some gentle stroking which leads to a short nap, you won't like the Thai combination massage at Sabai Leela.  If you like your massages to leave you feeling relaxed, de-stressed, flexible and refreshed, then you absolutely will.  I'll definitely be going back.

Thai Combination Massage starts at £55 for an hour, going up to £105 for a two hour pummel-a-thon.  You can find out more about the massages on offer via the Sabai Leela website.

Disclosure: Treatment received free of charge for review purposes

Monday, 23 July 2012

Review: Foot Patrol Pedicure at Bliss Spa, London

Last week, I trundled down to Bliss Spa on Sloane Avenue in London for a pedicure after work.  Despite having walked past the iconic spa twice daily in the past two years (I work literally just up the road), it was my first visit, and I chose to indulge in the Foot Patrol pedicure.  Described as the ultimate power-pedi to address "Franken-feet", I figured it would be a great way to get my orthotic wearing, overworked feet ready for summer.

Having typically forgotten my flipflops, I requested extra massage or filing time instead of the usual polish that completes the treatment, which was thankfully no problem at all.  The treatment began with some dry filing, followed by a foot bath, followed by more filing.  Plenty of attention was paid to the very dry balls of my feet, as well as my reasonably dry heels, and an alarming amount of dry skin was sloughed off my feet onto a dark towel, which was both slightly embarrassing and quite gratifying at the same time.

I think the difference between a standard pedicure and the Foot Patrol pedicure is the sheer amount of time dedicated to softening the skin, via filing away dry bits and a good strong scrub with a foaming, grainy product.  Of the ninety minutes I spent in the salon, about an hour was spent filing, scrubbing, and filing again, with half an hour spent on moisturising with foot cream and a final paraffin bath. 

By the end of my hour and a half stay, my feet were transformed from being neglected and forlorn into something soft, pampered, and much more healthy looking.  Compared to the medi pedis I've had (and loved) in the past, this pedicure was less transformative, but also less invasive and more enjoyable.  

At £81.70, the Foot Patrol pedicure isn't something I'd consider making a regular thing.  As an occasional treat to whip my feet into shape for summer, though, it's definitely reasonable, particularly given the level of effort put in by the therapist! 

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

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Review: The Sanctuary Day Spa

Despite being a confirmed lover of all things beauty treatment related, and a native Londoner, I've never visited the famous Sanctuary Day Spa in Covent Garden.  This is largely because I've always found the entry fee (around £75) a little exorbitant given that you basically get use of the facilities and no inclusive treatments for your money.  This month, though, I finally went - with one of my best friends a couple of months away from giving birth to her first child, I figured that our lazy girlie days were numbered, and that we should see them out in style.  So, along with my two closest friends, I booked in for a day of rest, relaxation, and a 55 minute treatment as part of a package deal.

We turned up on a cold Monday morning to find the reception area heaving with women in pairs and threes, all looking for a bit of an escape.  Having checked in and donned the traditional white fluffy robes, we were given a quick tour of the facilities.  I was incredibly surprised at how big the spa is - hidden behind a single shop facade, there are five labyrinthine floors of treatment rooms, relaxation lounges, pools, jacuzzis, steam rooms and more.  We established ourselves quickly in the Koi Carp Lounge, an informal space littered with cushions, seating and blankets, and filled with quiet chatter.  

Starting off with coffee and tea, we proceeded to do absolutely nothing (bar a short dip in the famous atrium pool with it's infamous swing) for several hours whilst waiting for our treatments.  I've always said in the past that I wouldn't pay money to do nothing at a spa, when I could do nothing at home for free - but having done it, I now totally understand the difference.  The atmosphere was quiet, relaxing, and tranquil - there were no phones, no TVs, no distractions at all.  I found myself truly unwinding for the first time in ages.

I chose a Sanctuary Spa Therapies treatment, which lasted 55 minutes and included a facial massage, scalp massage, and full body massage, all applied whilst lying on a bed covered with a large hot water bottle.  It was pretty blissful - the therapist slid her arms between my back and the water bottles, massaging my back and neck without requiring me to move a muscle.  The scalp massage was utterly divine, and I can only wish it had formed a larger part of the treatment, as the facial massage was a little too hurried for my tastes.

After the treatment, I was left with soft, oiled skin and a very big smile on my face.  Retreating back to the Koi Carp Lounge, we had a light and tasty lunch and proceeded to do more nothing before indulging in the Sleep Experience.  This involved lying under some blankets for half an hour whilst a meditation tape was played - basically, it means a half an hour nap.

Overall, the day shot past, despite the lack of actual things filling it up - time whiled away at leisure, with people whose company I enjoy, made it a truly relaxing and reviving experience which left me feeling incredibly tranquil.  I wouldn't hesitate to do it again - despite the cost (around £120 each for the package), I really felt like I'd escaped day to day life and had a mini holiday, which was absolutely priceless for me.

The Sanctuary is located in London's Covent Garden and offers spa packages including use of facilities and treatments, from around 9 in the morning to around 9 at night.  I'll definitely be going again.  What about you?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Review: Ila Spa Body Scrub for a Blissful Experience

I recently met Denise Leicester, creator of the Ila Spa line of products and treatments, at an event showcasing some of the brand's high end, highly organic home spa goodies.  She's a down to earth, very regular lady who has a huge amount of passion for the products she produces in small quantities with a small team in a small barn in the Cotswolds.  Describing the very home-made, hand-produced process of creating the products, she told me that each finished jar or tub is blessed by the team as it's completed - bit weird, but excusable given the incredible quality of the products.

The Beyond Organic Body Scrub for a Blissful Experience pretty much does what it says on the gorgeously vibrant, classy looking purple box.  Nestled within the golden inner paper sits a big, heavy white tub of scrub, subtly embossed with golden lettering.

There's no chance of mistaking this tub for anything but an extremely high end product, and the luxe feel of the tub itself plus the outer box makes this a product that's sure to impress as a gift.  Inside the tub, the scrub itself is just as impressive.  It's based on Himalayan salt crystals, with a hefty dose of natural oils to stick it all together.  Scooping a dollop out of the tub, though, doesn't result in a palmful of oil with some scrubby bits floating in it - the texture straight out of the tub is rather dry and definitely not oily-heavy.  The scent is absolutely divine - if you're a fan of roses, you'll adore it.  Heady and potent, it fills the bathroom with a calming, warming scent which lingers on the skin for a few hours after use.

And therein is the other glorious thing about this product.  The directions instruct you to apply to damp skin and then, instead of rinsing off as you'd expect, you soak in a warm bath.  Once dunked into the bath, the salt crystals dissipate into the water, and the intensity of that spectacular scent is magnified twofold.  It really is a blissful, relaxing experience, and after a twenty minute soak, the skin is left coated in a fine film of non greasy oil. The oil sinks in slowly, leaving the skin feeling supple and soft, and scented with roses.

I have no qualms about saying that this is an incredible product, and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed using each time I've reached for it.  At £49 a tub, it is incredibly expensive.. but you only need a little per use, and given that you get a good scrubbing and a gorgeous bathing experience, it's really fulfilling the role of two products.  Yes, I'm sort of justifying it to myself.  This is because I rather suspect I'll be buying another tub when my sample runs dry.

Ila Spa's Beyond Organic Body Scrub for a Blissful Experience costs £49 for 250g and can be found at online organic stores such as Naturisimo.  You'll also find plenty more information about the brand at Ila Spa's website.

Disclosure: PR sample

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.  

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Review: River Wellbeing Spa at The Rafayel Hotel, Battersea

Another day, another Wahanda sourced reduced price spa experience.  The River Wellbeing Spa at the Rafayel Hotel were offering a 2-for-1 deal costing £135, which included full use of the spa facilities, mini massage, mini facial, and mini manicure, topped off with a cupcake and tea in the riverside restaurant.  My mum and I were quick to book for a Friday afternoon treat.

Arriving at the hotel, we were met with a beautifully modern, luxurious looking atrium, and were directed to the third floor spa.  A short ride in the lift later, and we emerged into a tranquil, quiet space decorated with a muted, peaceful colour palette and clad in accent wooden panelling.  After filling out the requisite forms, we were given a short tour of the facilities, which included a jacuzzi, sauna, gym, relaxation room... despite being quite small, the spa had plenty to keep you occupied for an afternoon, or even a whole day.

After bundling our belongings into a locker and wrapping ourselves in the white waffle robes and slippers provided, we were shown to our individual treatment rooms for the massage and facial part of the experience.  The treatment rooms were quite spacious for the size of the spa, and the tranquil theme was continued with translucent glass, muted light, and stone mosaics on the walls.  The massage itself was fantastic - my therapist Olga gave a very firm massage which didn't hurt as much as some I've had, whilst still effectively easing my tense mid-back.  Definitely not one of those massages where someone just strokes you for a half hour.  The facial was short but sweet, with the facial massage leading me into a light doze and just a couple of embarrassing snores.

Unfortunately, though, whilst the facial and massage were both technically well carried out, neither lasted the full half hour billed.  My massage came in at 25 minutes, and the facial at around 20 minutes - not a massive amount of time lost on each treatment, but overall the promised hour of treatment was over in just 45 minutes.

The manicure (and pedicure, which we opted for at extra cost) were both basic affairs, with no scrubbing or massage - just a cuticle tidy, file and paint for both feet and hands.  The polishes on offer were from Nubar and OPI, and there was a good selection of both brights and more neutral colours.  Some were fresh, but others looked like they'd seen better days - the brush for the topcoat came out of the bottle carrying a string of gloopy, old polish with it, and I had to request that it wasn't used on my nails.  Instead of finding a new bottle, a base coat was used instead, which I found very strange.

All in all, for the price, we had a relaxing afternoon and felt all the better for a bit of pampering time.  However, with the spa cutting down on promised treatment times and not providing fresh, good quality products for nail work, I'm not entirely sure the deal represents exceptional value for money.  If the spa were to deliver the full time promised, and replaced their ageing bottles of polish with new ones, £135 for two is a very good deal indeed, particularly with the inclusion of the cupcake and tea (both delicious) and use of the facilities.  Thanks to my low expectations, I wasn't all that disappointed - but I did leave feeling a little bit left down.

What do you think?  Visited this spa lately?  Ever had your treatment times cut down?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

At Home Beauty - Mobile Beauty Therapists

I recently had the pleasure of a massage and eyebrow shape in the comfort of my own home from Perfect 10 Mobile Beauty.  Claire, the owner of the business, turned up at my door carrying a portable massage table, Elemis oils, candles and a portable stereo - and in the slightly unkempt atmosphere of my kitchen/dining room, she managed to recreate a spa atmosphere and give me a thoroughly relaxing massage, with neatly groomed eyebrows to boot.

I got to thinking - why, despite our love of massages, manicures, pedicures and waxing, do we so often choose to shlep to a salon instead of relaxing at home?  Some treatments, like body wraps or spray tans, require too much equipment to be carried out at home, but the most popular are just as easily done outside of a salon.  

Take pedicures, for example.  I've had many pedicures which included a polish application, and spent twenty or thirty minutes sitting there after my appointment waiting for the polish to dry thoroughly.  Only to put my foot into my shoe and immediately smudge my perfectly polished toes.  The alternative is wearing those disposable flip flop things home - not particularly stylish looking, and completely impractical in winter.  Having a pedicure at home, however, means that you can wave the therapist away from your front door, and carry on walking around barefoot at home until your polish is totally dry.

Having had such a great massage at home, and with my level of relaxed snoring being at the same level as it is at a salon, I rather think that next time I fancy a manicure, pedicure or massage, I'll be calling a mobile beauty therapist instead of automatically booking into my local salon.

What do you think?  Had any treatments at home, or prefer the experience in a salon?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Sunday Home Spa

Does anyone else use Sunday late afternoons and early evenings to finish the week with a bit of a home spa session?  I feel much happier, more relaxed, and ready for the week ahead once I've given myself a top-to-toe treat.  Here's the lowdown on some great products to create that home spa experience.

Nothing starts off a home spa evening like a facial:  I begin with a good double cleanse.  A hard-working oil like Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil takes off any makeup, and something a bit creamier, like Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish*, completes the cleansing.  I skip the muslin cloth because of the exfoliation to come.

After a thorough rinse, I use NuBo's Diamond Peel and Reveal*, which is essentially a two-step home microdermabrasion treatment - you can only use this once a week, it's so powerful.  After use, my skin is incredibly clean, bright and smooth - but very, very dehydrated due to the intense exfoliating action.

A calming, moisturising mask like Decleor Harmonie Calm Comforting Mask*, or Caudalie Vinosource Moisturising Cream-Mask injects some much needed moisture into the skin - with the added benefit that both masks can be left on to sink into the skin completely whilst you relax.

A long, relaxing bath with a good book is a Sunday essential for me - and if I'm in the mood for foam, it's Soap and Glory's Calm One, Calm All, which manages to be both bubbly and moisturising, or for those bath oil days, Penhaligon's Bluebell Bath Oil* is supremely relaxing.

After a good soak, there's nothing like a full body exfoliation to make you feel fresh, clean and silky smooth.  I'm a lazy cow, so I use the Body Shop's Bath Gloves with whatever shower gel is nearby from top to toe, paying extra attention to feet and elbows.  A quick rinse down with some cool water leaves me feeling refreshed, and I finish off with some lazy moisturising - dry oil spray.  I've been using dry oil from Somethin' Special, a cottage industry company dealing in handmade products.  The oils, whilst not cheap, are very moisturising and come in hundreds of scents.

Topped off with a quick change of nail polish, my Sunday spa regime leaves me feeling very relaxed and refreshed, ready for a new week.  What's your favourite way to relax at the end of the week?  Do you have a home spa regime?  What products work for you?  Let us know in the comments! 

* Denotes PR samples

Friday, 18 March 2011

Superdrug Introduce Fish Spa in London Store

Despite recent concerns that fish spas aren't particularly hygienic, they're popping up in more places than ever.  And now, thanks to Superdrug, fish spas are coming to the high street.  Their Kensington High Street store in London will now be offering fish manicures and pedicures, with more stores to follow.

The prices are reasonable; a 20 minute nibble followed by a 5 minute massage will cost £20, or if you're in a rush and don't fancy the massage, the fish part alone will cost £15.

What do you think?  Tried a fish pedicure?  Want to?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review: The Sanctuary Brightening Facial in a Box

Disclosure: PR sample

The Sanctuary have branched out massively from their roots at the famous spa in Covent Garden.  The spa itself can now be found in Richmond, Surrey, as well as in Covent Garden, and a successful range of body and skincare products have been available in Boots for quite some time.  The Facial in a Box is a newer invention, and provides a targeted selection of products which are perfect for a home facial.  Available in Youth Boosting and Brightening varieties, the box contains not only all the product you need, but detailed instructions too.

I've had the Brightening Facial in a Box kit for a while now, and decided that post-Christmas was a great time to give it a try.  My skin is tired, congested, and a bit dull, thanks to a Christmas full of booze and chocolate, and chasing around after small children.

The instructions are very detailed, and definitely help to propel the concept into a true home facial.  It's the little tips that do this: the included muslin cloth isn't just used for polishing cleanser from the face; it's also used as a hot and cold compress to provide refreshment and open and close the pores.  Similarly, the instructions tell you precisely how long to spend massaging the exfoliator into your skin (30 seconds at least), and suggest that cotton pads soaked with cold water are a good compliment to the ultra-rich mask.  You're also directed to spread moisturiser between your palms and then press the cream onto the face, rather than rubbing with your fingertips.  These little touches do make the whole experience feel a little more like an in-spa facial than a quick scrub-and-mask at home.

The steps are:

  • Deep cleanse with Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser
  • Exfoliate with Radiant Exfoliator
  • Treat with Moisture Boosting Mask
  • Target with Brightening Eye Gel
  • Hydrate and Protect with Illuminating Moisture Lotion SPF15
The whole experience takes around half an hour to run through if you're not rushing, with 10 minutes of that dedicated to relaxing with the mask applied.  

Taken slowly, as a bit of ritual, in a warm bathroom with a candle burning, this is indeed a relaxing and spa-like experience - although it's never going to be quite as good as a facial in a proper spa (in my case thanks to the non-relaxing sounds of my husband playing Gran Turismo drifting up the stairs).  It does, however, come pretty darn close - and if you'd rather grab a box of pre-selected products instead of choosing individual ones from your collection or from a shop, then this is a very easy home facial experience.

After use, my skin felt super clean, fresh, well moisturised and very soft.  And I felt a quite a bit more relaxed (despite the Gran Turismo).  

The downsides?  Well, whilst there's enough of the cleanser, exfoliator, eye gel and moisturiser to go a second or even third round, the mask comes in a sachet, and you need to use all of it.  That's easily fixed by substituting a mask of your choice for your second or third go, but it would be fantastic if the mask was similarly sized - particularly as the price (around £16) is fairly high for a single use, but much more digestible for two or three uses.  I also had some trouble getting the instructions out of the box: I had to rip the box apart to get them out, which I found strange as the ribbon tag on the edge implies they can be slid out easily.

All in all, though, this is a very nice product for a bit of at-home luxury, particularly if you're looking for a bit of pampering me time without the salon facial price.  My skin, after use, was indeed brighter and did feel much more cared for - but I think the benefits of this product lie in the ritual, the relaxation and the long term maintenance rather than in immediate effects.

If you'd like to have a home-facial for yourself, you'll find the Sanctuary's Facial in a Box products at Boots, both in store and online (both the Brightening and Youth Boosting varieties are available), where they cost around £16 each.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Review: Scin Spa Great Portland Street

Situated at one end of Great Portland Street, home to private hospitals, doctors and expensive flower shops, Scin Spa London promises an altogether more superficial type of healing.  A bright, open reception area, with blinding white walls and matching sleek white furniture is the first glimpse you get of this rather large spa.

On arrival, I was quickly taken down into the rabbit warren of treatment rooms set under the reception and manicure area.  The usual pre-treatment questionnaire was quickly filled in, and I was taken into a cosy, clean treatment room fitted out with the usual comfy massage bed.  Having purchased a rather splendid Wahanda Mobdeal, this was a treat I'd had to book two months in advance - and with a 30 minute back massage, 30 minute mini-facial, Essie file and polish, and Murad product to take away on offer, I certainly didn't mind waiting!

Although the Mobdeal had promised a Murad facial, my therapist Amy was a Dermalogica facialist - and I was quite happy to switch, looking more for relaxation than for a heavy duty facial.  My 30 minute back massage was heavenly - using Aromatherapy Associates oils, Amy focussed on the areas of my back which were tense and knotty, even going so far as to apply some muscle gel at the end of the massage to help relieve the tension further.  The pressure was even, firm yet not too painful, and I found myself feeling more relaxed than I'd been in ages.

My mini facial was just that: a comprehensive double cleanse, tone, exfoliate, mask and moisturise.  I was very pleased to get a very effective hand massage whilst the mask was on my face - it's a pet hate of mine when therapists take the opportunity to leave the room after applying the mask part of a facial!  Again, Amy was very attentive - talking to me enthusiastically about all sorts of beauty products when I talked to her, but lapsing into silence when I was quiet.  My skin, post facial, was left looking very well rested and effectively cleansed - no massive differences, but my skin (and I) were definitely left feeling relaxed.

The Essie file and polish was excellent - often, quick nail treatments can involve just a rapid slapping on of polish without much finesse, but despite my just-cut-down short nails, the deep burgundy Luxedo shade was layered on immaculately.

Unfortunately, Scin had run out of the promised Murad product - although apparently it will be coming in the post at a later date.  But still - given the hour and fifteen minutes of relaxation I experienced for the tiny price of £28, I'm not too fussed - it was still a fantastic deal!

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Scin - my therapist was wonderful, the environment was quiet and relaxing, the premises clean and bright.  With spa treatments, it's often the little thoughtful touches that make the difference - and one such little thing at Scin was the artfully flickering LED candles; designed to give a warm, cosy glow without the risk of burning or accidental knocking over!

If you'd like to check out what Scin Spa have to offer, at either their Notting Hill, Great Portland Street, or Liverpool locations - you'll find plenty of details on their website.

What do you think?  Tried Scin?  What's your favourite spa?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Beauty in aid of Breast Cancer: The Sanctuary Spa

Last week we posted about a small selection of the special edition products being released to support Breast Cancer awareness in October.  Today, we're highlighting a special deal being offered by the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden, in aid of Breast Cancer Care, for the month of October.

The package, which costs £99, includes a £5 donation to charity (not a massive proportion, but every little helps).  The Pink Pamper Day includes day entry to the famous spa and use of its facilities, a 25 minute treatment, pink prosecco and cupcake, and a Jessica pink nail polish to take home.

I've always wanted to visit the Sanctuary, but found that £60 entry fee a little high given that it only includes use of facilities and no treatments.  While this package is more expensive, it feels like you get more for your money, as well as contributing a little to a good cause.  A good choice if you were planning a little bit of me time this month!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Review: Fish Pedicure at Aqua Sheko, Kensington

When I read that the fish pedicure treatment so popular and common in Asia had made it over to London, I had to try it out.  I find pedicures hard work, as I truly hate my feet, so the thought of having my dry bits sorted out without a slightly disgusted looking human being involved was definitely appealing!

Aqua Sheko is situated in a quiet road near to the hustle and bustle of High Street Kensington.  Nine small tanks, teeming with the little Garra Rufa fish, are set along the wall of the spa - add one leather bench on the opposite wall, and a small foot washing area, and that's pretty much it - it's a small area, but perfectly well equipped to handle all your fishy toe nibbling needs.

Upon arrival, my friend Zara and I were directed to remove our shoes and tights and have our feet washed before immersion.  When I first read about the foot washing, I'd imagined something a little bit more of a ritual than what I found in reality - my feet were simply washed down with a shower head, and patted dry.  After that, I was promptly directed to a tank - which had just been vacated by another woman.

I had been wondering how Aqua Sheko would handle possible cross contamination, as I didn't really relish the idea of sitting with my feet in a tank that had had many other people's feet in it.  Obviously, it's hard to refresh the water between clients, but still.. it did make me shudder a little.

Anyway, once I'd lowered my feet into the water, the fish immediately swam over towards them and started nibbling at the dry skin.  I've found it hard to describe the sensation - at first, it was intensely tickly, like pins and needles, but after a while I got used to it, and the sensation became more of a light background tickling.  Well, until the fish wiggled between my toes, which made me scream with laughter!

After half an hour, my feet were dried off and I was left to put my tights and shoes back on.  My feet did indeed feel noticeably softer, with the hardest skin feeling significantly less rough.  They were also a much healthier colour than they were prior to the treatment - I guess the fish got my circulation going too.

Overall, I really enjoyed my fish pedicure - it was a complete novelty, and was pretty effective too.  I had purchased a voucher from Wahanda to have the fish pedicure for just £12 - the regular price is £30 for a half an hour treatment.  Honestly, I think £30 is too expensive given that all the staff do is shower your feet down, and pat them dry twice; the fish do all of the work.  Had the treatment involved a massage, or a further exfoliation, I might consider it better value, but given that £30 will buy you a decent pedicure including polish application, I just feel that the fish pedicure experience costs too much compared to what you get out of it.  As a novelty treatment, it's great fun - but it's not something I'll be repeating.

If you want to have fish delicately nibble away your dead skin, a fish pedicure at Aqua Sheko costs £30 for half an hour, with optional massages available if you want a little more from your appointment.  Details are available on Aqua Sheko's page on Wahanda.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Review: Voya Lazy Days Seaweed Bath

Disclosure: PR sample

Voya are an Irish company who make products that harness the goodness of seaweed.  The Lazy Days product is a sort of home spa treatment, which uses seaweed to soothe and condition the skin.  And when I say "uses seaweed", I don't mean extract of seaweed, oh no.  The product is simply a bag of dried seaweed (plus some sea salts) which you rehydrate in a hot bath.

Having been slightly scared by the caveat on the box that the bag might contain sand, shell fragments, or indeed small crustaceans (!), I plopped the bag into a hot bath.  I'll admit that this isn't the nicest looking product.  A bag of seaweed is going to look pretty disgusting floating around in your bath, and if the aesthetic of a home spa treatment is important to you, this is probably one to skip.  If you're a lover of the sea, though, and can look past the trailing green stuff, you're in for a real treat: once thrown in the bath and rehydrated, this product definitely recreates the scent of the sea.  Salty, tangy, seaweedy and slightly sour, I found it very comforting - with the added bonus that it smells entirely authentic (unsurprisingly); no chemical scents here.

So, scent and appearance aside, what's the point of bathing with a bag of seaweed?  The instructions say that the gel released by the rehydrated seaweed has conditioning and soothing properties, and has been known to help with anti-ageing and cellulite too.  I can't really comment on the anti-ageing and cellulite claims, but I can definitely attest to the soothing properties of the seaweed.

Having squished the bag of seaweed under my feet to ensure that the maximum amount of gel was released, I found that it turned the water incredibly silky.  Silkier than any bath oil I've ever tried.  This is a strange sensation to describe; suffice to say that the water felt like it was gliding over my skin rather than running over it, and that it felt so lovely that I couldn't stop taking handfuls of water and running them down my shoulders.

I emerged from the bath feeling very relaxed.  The persistent rash I've had on my ring finger was significantly less red and itchy after my bath, and my dry heels felt smoother and softer.  While my skin didn't feel obviously more moisturised or coated, it did feel calm and happy.  I'd guess that this would be an excellent treatment bath for sensitive or irritated skin; while I'm not sure that my generally fairly hardy skin will require it very often, I'll definitely repurchase should I get sunburned or develop an itchy rash.

If you'd like to try a seaweed bath out for yourself, you can buy Lazy Days directly from Voya, where it will cost you a fairly reasonable €16.00, which works out at about £13.  It's not billed as a single use product; Voya say you can allow it to dry out again and reuse it within three days, which I unfortunately wasn't able to do thanks to my husband leaving it in the bath while he had his morning shower and re-wetting it!

What do you think?  Would you laze in a bath of seaweed?
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