Facial vouchers are a popular gift option, and no wonder, they ensure the lucky recipient will enjoy some relaxing time out, something many women are hard-pressed to find the time or the money to do for themselves. To guarantee the most enjoyable experience it helps if the treatment is well-tailored, not just to meet any skin concerns, but also to deliver the therapy in a style in sync with the personality of the person you wish to pander to.
This Mother's Day, if you are dispensing the treats, weigh up what would be most appreciated and consider going along too for a shared experience. From the choice of luxury surrounds to a more clinical or holistic approach, it is a matter of finding the most appropriate environment. Some women will enjoy all-out indulgence, others an educational or high-tech time and for others it will be the opportunity to explore a different cultural perspective that might prove most satisfying. In the hands of a skilled therapist from whatever discipline they should emerge with healthy, glowing skin and a sense of well-being from the connection of caring human touch.
Today, we look at just a few of the facials on offer. For adventurous types there are plenty more to try, from acupuncture and yoga facials to pulsed light and dermal rollers. We have concentrated on more conventionally relaxing forms of therapy, albeit with their own twist.
FROM THE DEEP
The last time I was asked if I was claustrophic at a spa it involved lying in the dark wrapped in tinfoil; this time it was my face that was shrouded, in a less crinkly more cosseting experience. The whole process of Thalgo's Silicium Super Lift Facial would undoubtedly appeal most to women like me who've had more than a handful of facials and are look for something beyond pampering in their treatments.
You won't feel trapped in gauze, but there are undoubtedly some unusual aspects to this facial using a respected marine-rich range. It has proved popular in Europe and you can see why, given it mixes targeted massage, a particularly effective exfoliation and an intensive mask. Skin is well and truly worked over, with firm but friendly intent and left visibly smoothed. Post-treatment flush shows circulation has had a rev-up, but you can retain your equilibrium and ready yourself to face the day in Chuan Spa's relaxation room, where you are served both juice and collagen boosters, the latter described as a nutritional supplement.
All Thalgo facials begin with a cleansing ritual, including the decolletage. This silicium one then uses a resurfacing cream containing aluminium oxide particles in shea butter which are deliberately worked into frown and other lines. It is a grainy sensation, but not unduly abrasive, with surface skin stretched smooth, ready for subsequent serum applications. A series of different kneading, lifting and pressing massage techniques are used and layers of product applied. Marine collagen, said to reinforce your own, and hydrating hyaluronic acid top your face and a firming silicium cream extends down to the neck. These come under a cryo-sculpting mask, which is heat activated and gradually hardens as you lie blanketed.
If all that action sounds a bit hardcore, Thalgo also offers marine therapy in the form of its less intensive, hour-long Pure Collagen Velvet Facial which provides a good radiance boost. The 75-minute facial costs $280 at Chuan Spa, The Langham, Auckland, ph (09) 30 2960.
Many regular spa-goers will have enjoyed one of Pure Fiji's popular body treatments or taken home a sugar scrub or coconut body butter. Now the Suva-based company which infuses its products with a choice of dreamy island aromas has extended into facial skincare.
The small Face Care Solutions range, using nut oils and plant enzymes, provides an enticing everyday skincare choice, which you can also experience with a salon treatment. The team from About Face told me they expected the new facial would appeal because it contained a strong massage component to offer continuity with the body treatments. This was indeed a pleasing aspect of the treatment, giving it a two-for-one quality which included inhaling Orange Blossom vapours, enjoying a traditional lomi lomi back massage with oil, and a hydrating foot ritual in which feet slathered in body butter were packed away in wheat-pack booties while attention shifted upwards for a dry scalp massage (a conditioning oil-based Heavenly Hair Ritual, an optional add-on).
The facial's usual cleanse, tone and skin evaluation led to the application of a gentle exfoliating mask removed with warm compresses and then the press-and-roll application of Dilo Oil to the face and Exotic Oil to the neck and decollete, followed by a kneading neck and shoulder massage. It all ended too soon with a hydrating layer applied to my face while my feet and lower legs were massaged to help ground me.
Pure Fiji's New Zealand spokesperson Carla Konik explains that a feature of the skincare is its use of hydrosols as a base. By using these herbal distillates (sometimes called flower water) rather than standard water (which is the dominant content of most cosmetics), Konik said the skin was able to absorb more useful ingredients. As well as dilo, a traditional healing ingredient, these include passion flower extracts said to soothe and regulate sebum, and ngi grass which combines with deep-sea antioxidants and plant-based peptides. So far only a 200ml Purifying Cleanser and Balancing Toner (at $45 each) and a Multi-Active Day Dream (at $65 for 50ml) are available, but a serum and masks are on the way.
* Pure Fiji is available in a number of spas and beauty clinics nationwide, including the About Face chain in Auckland, where the 75-minute facial costs $105. To find your nearest stockist call 0800 7873 3454.
HOLD THE CREAMS
A twin bugbear of facials for many women is having unfamiliar and sometimes unsuitably rich creams applied and then having therapists try to up-sell them as take-home product. One sure way to guarantee this won't happen is to opt for a product-free facial.
I was intrigued to try one and impressed by the sense of well-being imparted by therapist Lynda Davenport's Facial Radiance routine. As a specialist in natural beauty and energy healing she is a firm believer in the transformative power of touch and focuses on the face's meridians and muscles to lift tensions. I'm a sceptic about much natural healing stuff, but the facial experience was relaxing and rejuvenating and did not stray at all into touchy-feely territory.
Anyone who enjoys massage, or needs to learn to relax, would benefit. Among clients referred to her have been sufferers of palsy and those getting over cosmetic surgery.
"The face tells us a lot about everybody," she explains. From clenched jaws and furrowed foreheads to blocked sinuses, skilful fingers can identify and help unwind pressure points. Muscles when de-stressed take on better tone and over time, facial contours can be encouraged upward. This notion is in line with the regular digi-pressure facials and self-massage and circulation stimulation European women follow, albeit those undertaken with slatherings of cream. Regular courses of treatment yield the best results, she says.
As well as facial massage clients are helped to unwind with attention to the neck and shoulder area and scalp.
Facial Radiance had its origins in Denmark and Davenport came upon it in Australia, refining her approach on return to New Zealand and now training other therapists across Australasia. She is masterful.
* A 60-minute Facial Radiance session with Lynda Davenport at Re-Ab, Grey Lynn, costs $95, ph (09) 360 2929 or see facialradiance.co.nz for details and other practitioners.
"Come for a cocktail," they said. Mmm, sounds good. But rather than a mix of tropical juices and alcohol bedecked with paper parasols, the mixture was of creams and serums - though fruit was involved - and there certainly was a similar feeling of relaxation as that brought about by a pina colada.
The lovely Natalia at Charisma, (previously Birkenhead, now at Milford) carried out the Rosactive Biostem "cocktail therapy", which promised to be a moisturising and firming anti-wrinkle treatment. The main focus of the system, developed in Italy, is that it has no parabens or allergens and uses vegetal stem cells from the apple to stimulate regeneration of our own skin cells.
The facial itself was the typical routine of cleansing, exfoliation, mask, moisturising and massage and once Natalia finished off with a mineral powder touch-up, I was left feeling relaxed, soft of skin and, yes, the wrinkles were considerably reduced. The fresh feeling stayed with me for a couple of days.
A course of five Biostem treatments is recommended, over two to three weeks for full effect.
- Sue Baxalle
* A one-hour Biostem facial using this system costs $150 from Charisma, Milford, ph (09) 486 6880.
Hot stone massages are a staple of the spa scene, but I've found they can be a bit trying, with some establishments taking as much time to heat the stones and carry them about as in getting on with the treatment. Fortunately this was not the case at East Day spa, where their Hot & Cold Stone Ritual was a pleasing new take on what for many spa-goers is an old favourite indulgence.
The ritual is in two parts, first a warming body massage, then a facial, which is where the soothing cool stones come into play. The body work included plenty of acu-pressure and an extended massage, with firm fingers as well as warm smooth stones applied with fluid continuity. For those who would rather, an entire treatment period can be booked for the body, but I enjoyed the mix of 30 melting minutes concentrating primarily on the back and then being swaddled for the switch to a 30-minute facial using chilled rose quartz stones and gentle Snowberry products.
The contrast in temperatures stimulates circulation and the facial oil used - a soothing mix of passionflower, rosehip and a chamomile extract - left my skin feeling more resilient.
Done well, I decide that stone massage still has its place, especially at this time of year when deep heat helps undo tired achy muscles.
East reckons that one stroke with a hot stone is worth four hand strokes, so I figure it could be justified as good value too.
* A Hot and Cold Stone Ritual at East Day Spa, SkyCity Grand Hotel, Auckland, costs $160. Hot stone body massage costs $150 for 75 minutes. Ph (09) 363 7050.
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