Facial Features

By Melisse Gelula / September 7, 2011

Loose buns and relaxed waves. Long lashes and bold eyeliner. You’ll see these trends coming down the catwalk and red carpet this spring, but none of these looks can compare to the eternal beauty of naturally healthy skin that radiates from within. As if to prove the theory, dozens of natural and organic spas around the country are debuting new facial features that power skin-care techniques and wow-factor products. (Think apothecary chic, yoga stretches, and firming facial massage, and lots of berry-based antioxidants.) These all-natural all-stars are meant to deliver results now and healthy skin-care habits that last beyond the season. Here are five of our favorites from spring’s beauty bloom.

Priori CoffeeBerry Yoga Facial

Hotel Valley Ho | Scottsdale, AZ

This new, all-natural facial beats out the four others offered at Valley Ho, says spa director Brad Garrett. What’s wooing spa-goers besides the charming yet economical treatment description, which is written, like the entire spa menu, in haiku? (We’re not kidding: Antioxidants/facial pressure point release/youthful and relaxed.) The combination of highly effective coffeeberry—it’s a powerful antioxidant from the coffee plant that helps brighten sun-damaged skin and protect against future premature signs of aging—and the de-stressing yoga-style stretches and massage given throughout the treatment. Like in many skin-care services, here the facialist massages around the cheeks, temples, and jaw to firm and tone. But the shoulder and leg massage and energizing and stretches that follow transform this treatment into something more physically restorative (like a spa ritual for the price of a facial). The treatment has a high-tech touch, too. A Clarisonic Brush provides a deep clean and a new gadget called the OPAL Sonic Infuser painlessly drives the Priori products deeper into the skin, boosting results. Because the facial hits two of the main reasons people visit spas—results and relaxation—it’s a spa treatment home run. 60 minutes, $125, www.hotelvalleyho.com

Customized Organic Facial

Mandarin Oriental Spa | New York City

The Mandarin Oriental is the Metropolitan Opera of New York City spas: grand, seductive, and engineered for amazing experiences. So it’s the perfect venue for the debut of this facial that features eco-luxe favorite Amala Beauty. Amala sources its plants from organic farms around the world for its three skin-type–based collections: a clarifying blue lotus range and a cocoa bean-based rejuvenating line to one based on skin-nourishing jasmine. So after analyzing your skin, the facialist culls from these to tailor-make the facial treatment the spa-goer, explains spa director Denise Vitiello, who was wowed by the purity and potency of the line created by German aromatherapist Ute Leube. Vitiello attributes Amala’s integrity and results to its whole plant ingredients and concentrated seed oils, “which help soften skin texture, even out tone, and restore a natural glow.” (I fell particularly hard for the exfoliating scrub that used lychee-seed granules, an ingredient first for me.) “It’s a myth that organic products can’t yield results and that you have to be disrespectful to your body to get them,” Vitiello says. And as if to prove her theory right, not only did the products balance my combination skin, the effects of the firming lymphatic drainage facial massage, which de-puffed and widened my eyes, lasted for almost a week. All the better to see and be seen. 50 minutes $215/$225, 80 minutes $305/$320, www.mandarinoriental.com

Lab of Flowers Protect Facial

Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte | North Carolina

Artisanal apothecary-style beauty lines made with pure essential oils (and very little else) are reemerging as a niche and natural beauty genre. And this new spa, in the country’s first LEED-certified Ritz-Carlton hotel, is using them to great effect in the Protect Facial. Working with Lab of Flowers, an under-the-radar line of cleansers, toners, and serums created by master aromatherapist Michael Scholes, the new facial is meant to cleanse deeply without stripping the skin’s acid mantle and prompt anti-aging results without causing inflammation—the skin-care speeding ticket for spa treatments that provide immediate results, suggests Ritz-Carlton Charlotte’s lead facialist Tricia Compton. She’s a fan of Eminence Organic fruit-enzyme peels when they’re warranted. “But the point is that regular and consistent use of natural products works, too,” says lead facialist Tricia Compton. Call it a Buddhist approach to skin care. Also helping our state of Zen? “The skin-healing oils that have anti-stress properties, like chamomile and lavender,” says Compton, who confirms many spa guests nod off during facials. (Not just me.) That might also be due to the relaxing Hungarian lifting massage used around the eyes, lips, and jawline. (Look for a quarter-inch lift in the mirror.) A surprise: the creamy antioxidant mature-skin mask that contains rose and ylang ylang oils and aloe to lock in moisture may disappear into thirsty skin. “Our grandmothers were smart about using natural and simple hydrators like rose,” says Compton. What’s old is new again, and for good reason. 50 minutes, $110, 80 minutes, $160, www.ritzcarlton.com

Red Flower Nature Surge of Radiance Antioxidizing Facial

The Spa at the Carneros Inn | Napa, CA

You wouldn’t think it, but a generally inhospitable environment with frigid temperatures and a short-growing season makes a great garden for skin-care ingredients. That’s because the antioxidants are more potent in self-protective plants, says Yael Akalay, founder of Red Flower, which just launched its first facial and skin-care line called Nature. Inspired by Finland’s landscape and well-being practices (regular sauna anyone?), the six-step service feels like a languorous Abercrombie & Kent tour through Lapland. Starting with an herbaceous cleanser, the facial winds through a sea-plant and mushroom masque, a white-peat exfoliant, an ionizing floral mist, and facial acupressure that’s meant to be re-created in the shower at home to “relax facial tension and build radiance from within,” says Alkalay. (The Nature products each come with a how-to accupoint map.) The facial culminates in layers of fresh berry oil made from cold-pressed arctic berry, raspberry, lingonberry, cranberry, and a cloud milk cream that delivers an infusion of hydration. “Women buy organic products for their house and their body but are still convinced that scientific ingredients will be the thing that transform the face,” says Alkalay. “There’s no better chemist than nature. I wanted them to feel comfortable and confident using a natural line.” 75 minutes, $185, www.thecarnerosinn.com

Art for Art’s Sake

The Grand Del Mar | San Diego

The Art for Art’s Sake facial is an ode to the Renaissance philosophy of rebirth, the purity of nature, and the transcendence of beauty. It’s a lofty goal, even for the accomplished spa consultant Anne Bramham (she created the magnificent menus at the Montage and Ferragamo spas). Meant to provide an “entire spa experience through a facial,” it’s really a skin-care experience with an extensive massage portion and a divine outcome. (Almost literally.) It begins simply enough: My thorough facialist took a few minutes to discuss my skin and wax my brows (why don’t more spas outside Europe do this?). But not long after cleansing, toning, and gentle extractions, I started to get the feeling that I’ve had during great bodywork—that something had opened and changed. My facialist worked nonstop yet soulfully massaging my arms, feet, shoulders, and scalp for about 20 minutes, while the Purifying Mineral Mask managed my T-zone and the Maritime Mask hydrated my cheeks. Odd as it sounds, the handmade, organic skin-care line designed for the spa might also have something to do with the X-factor feeling of this facial. I couldn’t get enough of the products. (I’m still using them at home.) As Bramham explains it, “life-enhancing aromatics and botanicals nourish not only the physical body, but the emotional body, as well.” So I guess its fair to say they worked on me. I’ve had energy-work facials that go more than skin deep before, but this might be the first facial that actually took me higher. 90 minutes, $270, www.thegranddelmar.com

Melisse Gelula
Melisse Gelula

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