Without wanting to sound like spoiled princesses, it takes a lot for a spa treatment to wow us. We’ve lain on too many couches twitching while a less-than-gifted therapist tells us she’s about to ‘flip us over’, or ‘close the pores’ with an astringent. (Truly, they’re not elevator doors!) But a handful of treatments over the years have genuinely wafted us to paradise – so we thought we would share a run-down of our favourites. None is cheap. But as far as we’re concerned, life is too short to settle for second-best on the therapeutic front. And taking care of yourself, we believe, isn’t indulgence: it’s entirely necessary, in order to help stay well enough to look after others and sail smoothly through a life in which all of us has too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time. Here are our five fah-bu-lous favourites.
Temple Spa Drift Away Massage at Soholistic: The Soho Hotel’s ‘spa’ isn’t a full-service destination with wet rooms and the like: it’s just four (sound-proofed) treatment rooms off their basement gym. But as big fans of Temple Spa (who make Skin Truffle the highest-ever-scoring ‘miracle’ treatment in The Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible), we were keen to try this massage. And it seriously didn’t disappoint. Therapist Emma is also an acupuncturist, so she knows her pressure points – and also how to un-macramé little knots of tension in the back, and legs. It’s genuinely a top-to-toe treatment: the face and scalp are also massaged (although we like the fact you can request for the otherwise blissful aromatherapeutic oil NOT to be used for this bit, if you’ve got a date/appointment afterwards and don’t want to look like an oil slick). The true test of a massage’s effectiveness is whether or not we want to book ourselves in for a repeat performance – and we already have. ‘Nuff said.
Soholistic, Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1D 3DH/020-7559 3000
Medi-Pedi at The Margaret Dabbs Foot Spa at The Bulgari Spa: We are devoted to Margaret Dabbs’s medi-pedis, which keep feet healthy and smooth as marble. In this instance – at the swanky Bulgari Spa – the treatment is something to make any time-and-motion man happy. Toes were treated (toenails trimmed, hard skin removed with a scalpel (then whisked with one of Margaret’s signature Superior Foot Files AND polished with a whirring foot-buffer – before slightly embarrassing incipient toe-fungus was blitzed with tea tree oil!) But at the same time, more glamorously, her hands got major TLC with a fantastic manicure. (It really, really lasted). Sooooo much more efficient than having one treatment, then the other…
Feet were swathed in Clingfilm for a hot emu oil deep treatment – and not only does the couch recline almost horizontal but there’s the option of an oxygen mask, for the face, to boost red blood cells all over. D-e-e-p-l-y relaxing, the whole experience. Polish is optional – but we do always opt for it, and Jo trotted out with feet that remain baby-soft, with barely a (micro)chip in the polish well over a fortnight later. The ‘twin’ treatments are most definitely luxe-priced – but foot-upkeep is something we’d pay for out of our ‘health and wellbeing’ cocoa tin, rather than the one marked ‘frivolous pampering’. (Of course these cocoa tins don’t really exist, but such is feminine financial logic.) As we’ve said before, and we’ll say again: happy feet make a happy woman).
Margaret Dabbs Foot Spa at The Bulgari Hotel, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW/020-7151 1055
Sarah Chapman Facial A rare cancellation by one of her stellar clientele first opened up an opportunity for us to experience a been-meaning-to-get-round-to-this-for-ages customised facial with Sarah Chapman, on Chelsea’s Draycott Avenue: 90 minutes of intensive facial massage, a red-spectrum light treatment and Sarah’s own award-winning products. (Which left us glowing as never before – in a good way, mind – and had perfect strangers asking us what we use on our skin). We were therefore SO not surprised to discover that among Sarah’s devotees is our friend, Bliss founder Marcia Kilgore (inventor of the ‘oxygen facial’, Soap & Glory and the fabulous FitFlops), who nowadays nips into Sarah’s clinic for complexion-perfecting. Marcia told us: ‘I can’t believe I don’t feel like correcting anything when she’s giving me a facial. And from me, that’s pretty damn good. She is spectacular.’ Say. No. More. This is a world-class facial, and worth saving – and waiting – for.
Sarah Chapman, 106 Draycott Avenue, London SW3 3AE/020-7589 9585
Aromatherapy Associates Boutique & Treatment Rooms: We’ve said it before. And we’ll probably say it again. (And again.) When it comes to mood-shifting, no oils have the power of Aromatherapy Associates’s to lift us up or waft us off to the land of Nod. (Fact: Beauty Bible’s No. 1 Desert Island Must-Have is Relax Deep Bath & Shower Oil.)
Their treatments, of course, are widely available – but our favourite AA ‘branch’ (as it were) has now become a renowned mecca for the stressed-out: a flagship store and treatment destination in Knightsbridge. Upstairs, you’ll find the whole range of oils, skincare and bodycare, beautifully showcased. You can experience mini-treatments, or learn by smelling the essential oils in their ‘raw’ form. But downstairs, heaven truly beckons: boutique-hotel-style treatment rooms where you can enjoy facials or body treatments from therapists hand-picked by AA. (These young women are the best in their field; AA’s founder Geraldine Howard is obsessed with training therapists to the highest-possible standard – and it doesn’t matter who you book in with: they won’t disappoint. Gift vouchers are also available).
Aromatherapy Associates Boutique & Treatment Rooms, 5 Montpelier Street, London SW7 1EZ/020-7838 1117
Ko-Bi-Do Facial at The Wellington Centre: It probably isn’t right for us to rave about this treatment here – because The Wellington Centre is the wellbeing destination Jo opened in her own home town of Hastings, five years ago. A few months back, Jo invited Victoria Health’s Gill Sinclair down for a ‘birthday treat’ to experience this facial, with therapist Karen Dunn. You can read what Gill wrote here. Since then, Jo’s booked in for the facial a couple of times – and is as ‘wow-ed’ as Gill by the results. (As she puts it: ‘I can’t believe this treatment was on my doorstep, and I didn’t realise…’)
The Wellington Centre, 44 Wellington Square, Hastings, East Sussex, TN34 3ES/01424-442520/www.thewellingtoncentre.com