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Skin Notes
Are facials really worth the expense?
Are facials worth the expense? Image Credit:

It’s a valid question. Facials are the beauty industry's equivalent of a champagne tipple, so are an indulgence, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. Sure, the heavenly massage is utter relaxation but beyond the blissful experience, what we’re really interested in is the results.

All hail the rise of the ‘super-facials’. These facials are worlds apart from their fluffy pillowed counterparts. They’re targeted treatments that draw on the most advanced technology to address specific skin concerns. We’ve tried and tested a whole host of innovative treatments that promise (and that’s a scientific promise) lasting results. That’s money well spent we’d say. Unfortunately, it often means more pain, less pamper but you have to suffer to be beautiful, right?

The radiance giver, Lisa Oxenham, Marie Claire Beauty and Style Director

The problem: Lacklustre skin that looks greyer than the London sky line.

The solution: Elemis Biotec Sonic Skin-Radiance Facial, £60 for 60-minutes.

After the prerequisite cleansing and toning an Ultrasonic Peel is applied to my skin which starts a gently exfoliation and boosts my blood flow and lymphatic drainage – the idea is to reduce puffiness and restore some natural luminosity to my dull skin. Then comes the hands-on part where my therapist massages my skin, I’m also treated to a very relaxing neck and shoulder massage using a combination of Balinese, Swedish and Hawaiian movements. Bliss. Next up is a Radiance Activator which uses antioxidants, hyaluronic acid and peptides to re-plump and tone my skin. Things then take a futuristic turn with galvanic currents, which encourage all these skin-loving ingredients further into the skin.

The results: I’m here for my face, I know this, but the very happy and relaxed neck (thanks to a spot of massage) is a welcome outcome. But back to my skin; it’s noticeably plumper, juicy almost and there’s a radiance to it that I haven’t seen in a while.

The instant lift, Suzanne Scott, Marie Claire Beauty Editor

The problem: For when skin starts to look like it’s melting.

The solution: Carita Cinetic Lift Expert, from £125 for 90-minutes.

Praised as an alternative to fillers and going under the scalpel, this treatment is designed to perk-up facial tissue. This high-tech treatment involved running electrical currents into my skin to boost microcirculation and kick-start the muscles in my face – it sounds uncomfortable but actually felt rather soothing. My therapist also donned a rather ingenious metallic glove – made of what looks like finely woven chain mail – to expertly direct the currents into my skin where it’s most needed. Again, this feels really quite soothing with the texture of the glove being so fine that you barely notice that she’s wearing it. LED light therapy follows: blue light to cleanse, yellow to brighten and red to stimulate skin cell metabolism. And if that wasn’t enough, ultrasound follows to stimulate oxygen flow in the skin cells and a round of micro-dermabrasion removes the dull outer layer of skin.

The results: I’m not kidding you, the results following this treatment really are not far off a face lift. Naturally, the effect doesn’t last as long. My cheek bones were instantly more defined and the overall lifting effect makes my eyes look wide-awake.

The decongestor, Jessica Lacey, Marie Claire Freelance Beauty Editor

The problem: I want fresh, juiced-up skin that would rival a baby's. Only light can't bounce off skin with bumps so I see a smooth complexion as my biggest hurdle for a glowing complexion.

The solution: Urban Retreat The Signature Facial, £120 for 80 minutes.
The beauty of this facial is it can be tailored to your skin's needs so after a quick consultation, my therapist Kirstie and I decide that she'll focus most of her time and energies on the deep cleansing and exfoliation elements. The facial begins with it a hefty dose of steam to open pores and prep my skin, before she gets to work on me with not one but two Foreo sonic cleansers that rhythmically pulse to massage my face, chest and neck and cleanse even more thoroughly. Next comes the extraction, which isn't pleasant but really is the only way to immediately rid skin of any impurities and only lasted a few minutes at most. Now time for the science bit. Kirstie works the high frequency ultrasound wand systematically over my face, neck and chest, to close my pores and create an overall antibacterial condition. It feels like tiny little zaps of heat but doesn't hurt at all. Whilst a luxurious mask works its nutrient-delivering magic on my skin, there's a very welcome foot massage and exfoliation, something that always thoroughly rejuvenates me. The treatment concludes with a complete skincare regime of facial oil, eye cream, moisturiser and even lip balm as the finishing touch.

The results: I expected to leave typically red and blotchy from all the different techniques but as I glance in the mirror on exit, I see my skin is only the slightest bit pink. It feels so fresh that I even feel guilty for being on the underground, subjecting my newly pure skin to the London smog. Four days later and my skin still looks perky, and more importantly, super smooth. The bespoke nature of this facial gives it a universal appeal for any skin complaints and I can't think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend it to.

The blemish beater, Alix Rentsch, Marie Claire Beauty Writer

The problem: Breakouts and stubborn acne marks. 

The solution: SkinCeuticals Bespoke Medi Facial, from £80 for approx 60-minutes.
It’s worth mentioning at this point, that if you want a fluffy facial with oils and massages then this is not the one for you. This is very much a results-driven facial and parts are a little, shall we say, uncomfortable. My face is thoroughly cleansed and a medical-grade salicylic acid peel is worked into my skin to penetrate deep into my pores. There is a fleeting discomfort as it’s removed because when wet, salicylic acid heats up and causes skin to feel like it’s on fire. This lasts less than 60-seconds though, and is quickly soothed when the Skinceuticals Serum 10 is massaged into my skin. Up next is a tingly fresh vitamin C mask to brighten my complexion. To finish, I’m put under blue light, which quickly kills off any blemish-causing bacteria on the surface of my skin. It also calms inflammation brought about by the odd breakout.

The results: The phrase ‘You’ve got to suffer to be beautiful’ springs to mind. It takes a couple of days for the redness to subside, but after a quick inspection of my skin my colleagues assure me that I’m looking smoother and more radiant than ever. Any residual blemish bumps have been smoothed over and are now virtually unnoticeable. I’ll be booking in for more.

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