No wonder Frenchwomen are such beauty salon fans when they can tap into treatments like these.

In my experience professional French salon treatments, when dispensed with due care, seldom disappoint. They are backed by strict training protocols and their regimes are honed on a nation of discerning women.

The smoother

A mid-winter reveal is always a worry, but I'd happily peel back the layers again for the Sothys Silhouette Programme. My thighs haven't felt this smooth since I can't remember when.

Like a turkey, I was basted and wrapped in tinfoil, but mercifully emerged without that scary just-plucked look. My skin felt silky for days, reminding me to make more effort to exfoliate. Best of all that sludgy bloated feeling had also been sloughed away.


Before my signature Sothy's body treatment began, therapist Heather at Herne Bay day spa Equipoise explained she would use lymphatic massage techniques and target any cellulite and water retention. A dual wrap, employing volcanic mineral salts and lactic acids would be applied, then a serum customised to my condition.

The wrap, which smelled appealingly of bitter orange, was applied to my thighs, buttocks, back and shoulders with firm strokes. I was then turned over for my stomach, upper arms and decolletage to be worked on. Well-placed use of towels and a heated bed ensured I was mostly covered and cosy throughout, but this is not a treatment for a shrinking violet.

After this extended exfoliation I was swaddled in foil to let the more active ingredients steep into my skin. During the interlude, Heather massaged my scalp and I was then left to shower off the wrap's gritty detritus before returning to the table for the extended application of a slimness modelling serum. This was chosen from three products for aqueous, adipose or fibrous cellulite. I was heartened to hear that my wobbly bits were the most superficial watery type. (Those suffering from adipose cellulite often have fat issues and the fibrous type is the hardest to shift and can look dark and mottled).

Drinking plenty of water, exercising and eating well can all help flush out toxins, advised Heather. If French dietary discipline doesn't do the trick, a course of French-style treatments may well be in order.

Sothy's recommends taking up to 10 of these, with shorter massage sessions able to fit around the full exfoliation regime. Additionally it suggests a two-week course of applying Slimming Activator serum ($187) to reduce stubborn cellulite. Toning and firming creams are also on offer, with its Silhouette programme also catering for mature skin and those affected by stretch marks and elasticity issues caused by weight fluctuations, including pregnancy.

I asked Heather, a friendly Scot with a wide experience of international spa ranges, what she liked about Sothy's and she said that it was both luxurious and results-based. "It's not so clinical that it takes away from the spa experience".

* The Sothy's Signature Slimming treatment costs $130 for 70 min at Equipoise, 100 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, ph (09) 378 9696. For a salon near you see or ph 0800 768 497.

The brightener

The latest Clarins facial is like a cocktail menu for your skin. Do you fancy brightening with a dash of hydration, or how about detoxifying with a splash of mattifying? Your therapist will mix up your very own request.

With its ability to address multiple concerns in one session, this is the latest in tailored treatments. A topical facial supplement to boost a specific skin function or deal with a particular concern is chosen in consultation with your therapist.

My prescription is made with therapist Debbie, a long-standing trainer helping roll out the Pro programme to Clarins salons across the country. We are at First Impressions in Epsom, where I say I don't have any major skin concerns, but fancy the idea of added radiance or brightening. So we decide on a Radiance supplement, with glycolic acid, one of seven mixes of active plant extracts. Other supplements include the Totally Gentle option, a Line-Lifting Smoother, Moisture Replenisher or Youth Activator. The facial treatment oil picked for me is Blue Orchid which helps with dehydration. The oils can be bought for at-home use (at $60), but the supplements are salon only.

If you've had a Clarins facial before you'll know it is impressively thorough, starting with a gentle double cleanse and a mild exfoliation to better prepare skin for product absorption. The centrepiece lymphatic drainage massage follows. Digi-pressure helps recharge circulation and firm contours. It also works the oil and supplement into my skin. I'm a huge fan of this massage technique which was pioneered in France, it really does the business in restoring plumpness when compared with rather pointless pampering strokes.

A whitening and moisturising alginate mask is then mixed up in a shaker and spread thinly across my face where it dries to rubber, which can be massaged over and peeled and flaked off. It's an odd sensation, but once removed, the skin is prepped to face the day with eye care, serum and moisturiser, along with a touch of makeup if required. Usually I'm reaching for a touch of foundation to cover redness, but my refreshed skin felt too clean and even-toned to meddle with. It also felt more supple and resilient.

* The Clarins Pro Aromatic Facial costs $150 for 75 min at First Impression Beauty Therapy, cnr Manukau and Pah Rd, Epsom, ph (09) 625 8909. To find other Clarins salons, ph 0800 804711 or see

The relaxer

Massage and aromatherapy combine nicely, so trying the Decleor version was enticing. Decleor may not have the same name recognition here as our other two featured French treatments, but the salon brand with a natural bent is well-known across Europe for its aromatic appeal and use of plant-based ingredients. It's not all pretty perfumes derived from essential oils, however, for there's active skincare, including brightening facials and firming body wraps.

At the spacious More than Skin Albany Day Spa, therapist Arwen says my soak in a hydrotherapy tub will be an ideal preparation for massage, relaxing both me and my muscles on what is a ghastly stormy day. Initially I eye the tub's capsule-like lid with trepidation, but it's firmly propped open and I soon relax into the spa jets and inhale the fragrant bath waters.

By the time a few subtle beeps tell me my time is up, I'm well ready to step to the massage table. My neck and shoulder tensions aren't as evident as usual so the lengthy soak did prepare me to go with Arwen's excellent flow. She mixes up her massage mediums, with long effleurage strokes, a little kneading and acupressure, but mostly gentle cosseting motions.

By now I'm picking up on the refreshing grapefruit aroma emerging from the balm she is working across my body. For those thinking this sounds like a standard fluffy, if well-perfumed, relaxation massage think again. It's French after all, so the balm and serum are labelled Slim Effect and contain caffeine and phyto extracts. Like the other brands, Decleor sells a number of these potions for use at home, with instructions on how to apply them to deter pesky orange peel patches. (The Aromessence Slim Effect Serum costs $127 and the Draining Massage Balm is $118).

To finish, there's a brief but welcome facial massage, so my feeling of well-being extends from toe to top.

* The Decleor Aroma-Massage Body costs $85 for 60 minutes at More than Skin and was preceded by the 30-minute The Spa soak at $60. (Decleor Body Wraps cost $135 for 60 minutes, but until the end of August they are offered as the Aroma Journey in combination with a facial for a special price of $225 which includes a bonus travel set).

We went to the Albany day spa, 15 Mercari Way, ph (09) 414 4140. See for Ponsonby, Howick and Manukau locations. For other Decleor salons see or ph 0800 105107.