Ways to get your body in top condition for its summer debut.
The toe tickler
A jolly good pedicure is always a treat, but this was one of the nicest I've had. My feet were treated to a hydrating coconut milk bath, a sugar rub and more soaking before the pedicure proper ensured my cuticles were hydrated and tidied, my nails shaped and buffed and dry skin on the underfoot and heels given the heave-ho.
More Pure Fiji products were applied, first a body butter mask is applied and my feet wrapped and left to absorb the soothing natural plant oils. Then a traditional Fijian therapeutic massage worked body lotion into my feet and legs.
Finally my toes were painted - it had to be this summer's favourite, coral - and I wiggled them away in jandals.
* The Pure Fiji Exotic Pedicure (60 minutes) costs between $70-$90 depending on stockist. For a spa near you call 0800 7873 3454.
Viva's treatment was at About Face, 415 Mt Eden Rd, Ph (09) 623-8400 or see aboutface.co.nz.
The permanent solution
After half a dozen IPL (intense pulsed light) treatments, I'm well ahead of the predicted 80 per cent plus permanent removal of pesky lower leg and underarm hair. I'm pleased with progress over the winter months and now looking forward to a summer without regular waxing or shaving.
If you're not bothered by having to shave every few days or clambering up on a table to get waxed every month then carry on, and save yourself a lot of money, because laser hair removal doesn't come cheap.
But if the idea of spending your life removing hair (and that can cost a bit too) palls, and you start early enough (think of fashion's cost per wear equation) then it's worth considering.
Best get some decent advice though, to find out just what the cost will be and if you're a suitable candidate (my fair skin and dark hair is the ideal combination for the laser light to lock on to). Blonde, red and grey hair cannot be treated so successfully and neither can the hair of those with melanin-rich dark skin or the very tanned.
Beware of cowboys offering cheap treatments; in the hands of an untrained operator lasers can burn skin. A decent clinic should be happy to provide an assessment and consultation and explain the process to you. If you don't feel satisfied with the professionalism shown, don't proceed.
I liked that Skin Institute senior practice nurse Sally Ellison was quite upfront with me from day one that this method of hair removal isn't perfect, though with my colouring I should expect good results.
She explained that I should lose 80-90 per cent of hair after around six treatments (I reckon it's well over 95 per cent) and that it's not unusual to need a top-up treatment in a year or two as hormonal changes can stimulate future hair growth.
Treatments are spaced around six weeks apart to catch hair in its varying growth cycles and are best concentrated over the cooler months as sun exposure is not recommended on lasered legs - but if you're diligent about sunblock it's OK.
I've got used to sitting up on a table with googles on feeling the ping of the pulsing laser. A red light passes into the hairs attracted by pigment, and heat destroys the follicles, preventing regrowth. A little follicular swelling is evident afterward, but I've never experienced any blistering or lingering pain.
The Skin Institute offers numbing cream (I haven't felt the need) and during the treatment a tube of cool air is pointed on to the body, which does reduce the stinging sensation, particularly under the arms.
My hair removal was noticeable initially, then seemed to plateau for a couple of treatments, but at the final treatment I was troubled by only a few stubborn hairs, which I hope will have now been nixed.
If the odd one lingers, so be it, there's a great deal less than there was to start with and I can flick them off with a razor or pluck them out easily.
If I do need a follow-up treatment down the track, because it will be a short spot treatment rather than a blanket sweep, the session price would be lower also.
* Prices quoted on consultation (a full session can be up to $800) at the Skin Institute, Level 1, 3 St Marys Rd, Ponsonby. Ph (09) 376 8888 or for other locations skininstitute.co.nz.
* Caci clinics have this year introduced a Freedom programme, where after an initial course of VPL (variable pulsed light) treatments, free follow-ups will be provided for up to two years. This requires clients to contract to complete and pay a set price for the initial service.
The programme was introduced to provide clients reassurance and spread payments, especially as some give up part-way through hair removal, fearing they're not getting quick enough results for the outlay. caci.co.nz.
The skin brightener
Microdermabrasion is a professional exfoliation that removes the outermost layer of cells, leaving skin looking brighter. It shouldn't damage the skin and is not as drastic as some peels which can lead to flakiness.
Think of it as a dust and polish for the skin. It's a good spring cleaning option to whisk away surface dullness, revealing fresher looking skin beneath. Though salons tend to recommend regular courses, it can used as a quick pep-up a few days before a big occasion and would have the most marked effect on weathered skin.
I found the process at the Skin Institute interesting, and not at all painful. What was like a little vacuum cleaner with a crystal head passed over my face in circular suction motions. This felt fine, but left a light dust behind. Immediately after the treatment, which followed a cleanse, my skin had a slight redness on the chin and around the nose, but nothing lasting. A gel-like mask and sun block were applied afterward.
The end result was brighter, whiter, fresher looking skin, though this effect faded (or I started to take it for granted) in less than a week.
* Priced from $120 at the Skin Institute, Level 1, 3 St Marys Rd, Ponsonby. Ph (09) 376 8888 or for other locations skininstitute.co.nz.
The body firmer
Quite why I chose the detoxifying wrap, rather than the Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish treatment on offer I'm not quite sure - something to do with my Presbyterian upbringing perhaps. Rather than simply surrendering to the pleasures of the flesh, I figured I'd best try something a little more challenging. Three showers and quite a few toilet stops later, I was feeling lighter, but not exactly uplifted.
Actually I felt most like a little roast lamb, having been basted in rosemary and lemon oils and trussed up in foil.
Some people love this sort of "cleansing" thing, but after my hour of being wrapped, slathered, unwrapped, washed down, slathered again, wrapped, unwrapped etc ... I was wishing I'd followed the therapist's suggestion of a lovely summery treatment being massaged with divine smelling frangipani oil.
Instead after a post-treatment cup of tea and another toilet stop, I left East Day Spa wondering where the nearest public toilet was. This to me is proof of the skin's ability to absorb what we put on it.
The essential oils I'd been anointed with had quickly seeped into my bloodstream to prompt my sluggish system into action. That, of course, being the point of such detoxifying treatments.
Mine was using Elemis products, including a seaweed wrap. My skin was scrubbed down, deep-cleansed and massaged. During the times my body was wrapped in foil, pressure points were expertly worked on my face, but I skipped the de-stress head massage with oil.
The aim of the ritual is to reduce the appearance of cellulite and fluid retention. My body felt clean and a bit firmer, but I'm not so in touch with my inner-self that I fancied the recommended detox programme of twice weekly for a month.
No doubt the body could do with a good ongoing cleanse inside and out, but if I'm not willing to think more than skin deep, then I figure, why upset my fragile little eco-system?
* Cellutox Aroma Spa Ocean Wrap Ritual (75 minutes) $169 or the Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish (60 minutes) costs $160 at East Day Spa, SkyCity Grand, 123 Albert St, Auckland central. Ph (09) 363 7050. eastdayspa.co.nz.