Another new day, another new spa treatment to review – it’s a tough job but someone has to do it, right? Provided anyone is still reading having not boiled over with beauty blogger hatred (#sorrynotsorry), the latest treatment on my pampering dance card was the ENVIRON Optimal Skin Facial at The Mandarin Spa in the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
These days, a simple cleanse, tone and moisturise just doesn’t cut it; in the quest for the final frontier of pampering perfection, facials are jumping aboard the high-tech space-shuttle, with more futuristic gadgets on show than the average episode of Star Trek. The Optimal Skin Facial is a case in point, utilising a fancy DF II Machine that helps ENVIRON’s supercharged serums penetrate deeper into your skin, with suitably rejuvenating results.
But before we get onto the science bit, a few words on The Mandarin Spa itself, which is pretty much the perfect antithesis to all that sci-fi shizzle. Instead, it’s understated Oriental opulence all the way – spacious and serene, with the optimum sprinkling of classy Asian touches. I challenge you not to have a design crush on the spa’s highly covetable blue-and-white ceramic sinks, which I obviously took far too many pictures of before being ushered away for my treatment.
Even with all the bells and whistles of technical gadgetry, it’s reassuring to know that cleansing is still the obligatory first stage of pretty much any facial. Here, it’s via the use of ENVIRON’s Lac Pam Gel, which features 10% lactic acid to slough off dead skin cells, helping later products penetrate your skin more deeply. This comes with that trademark tingly skin sensation, which doesn’t really faze me thanks to the current trend for this sort of chemical exfoliator (see also: Natura Bissé’s Diamond Brilliant Facial, Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate exfoliator), but is worth a mention if you’re not expecting it.
I actually found the use of a steam machine more uncomfortable but that’s just me (saunas may figure in my nightmares). Unlike many facials, this isn’t used for the purpose of preparing for blackhead extraction, but simply to soften your skin and increase circulation, allowing the products’ active ingredients to work their magic; a hydrating and detoxifying clay mask is also left on during the steaming process.
But onto the main attraction, the DF II Machine; I do have a photo of it but it’s not terribly interesting, so enjoy a picture of one of the Mandarin Spa’s lovely treatment rooms instead. The theory is that “low frequency sonophoresis and pulsed iontophoresis” (layman speak: sound waves and electric currents) helps lotions and potions penetrate more deeply into the skin, where the cells respond more effectively to nutrients, and enhances product absorbency in the long-term; in reality, this equals a buzzing metal wand that massages a vitamin-rich serum over your face, all under the practised guidance of your therapist. This isn’t really painful and on the discomfort scale of one to Skin Laundry, it barely registers; that being said, there’s no disguising the crackly sensation of being zapped at and it can affect different people in different ways – for me, it was sporadic small electric shocks down my left arm.
With a serum pumped full of Vitamin A and C to combat sun damage and signs of ageing, the process is supposed to boost collagen production, clarify complexion colour and re-energise cellular activity. Using the DF II Machine forms the bulk of the treatment and whilst it’s not painful, it’s not exactly gloriously relaxing either – despite the best efforts of The Mandarin Spa’s contoured beds, which would give even the most hardened insomniacs some serious snooze time. Thankfully, there’s still time for a heavy-duty alginate mask too, during which you receive a top-drawer shoulder massage… absolute bliss, with zero wires required!
The Optimal Skin Facial ends with a final application of Youth EssentiA Defense Cream and C-Quence Serum 1 – yeah, ENVIRON probably won’t be winning any awards for sexy product names anytime soon – both of which are packed to the brim with more vitamins, peptides and antioxidants.
If you want to prolong that spa-vellous feeling further, the Mandarin Spa has some nice facilities, including a Chinese herbal steam room, Kniepp hydrotherapy pool (layman speak: small wading pool) and experience showers – although I do have to mention that in terms of scale, these pale in comparison to wonderlands like the Landmark Mandarin Oriental or The Peninsula Spa. The swimming pool is restricted just to hotel guests but when I enquired, it apparently only fits three people, which sounds more of an oversized bath to me so I didn’t feel I missed out on too much!
In terms of results, the Optimal Skin Facial did live up to its claims of complexion rejuvenation and my skin was definitely clearer, brighter and more radiant post-treatment. That being said, I didn’t think it was especially any clearer, brighter or more radiant than it is after any really good spa facial, so I’m not really sure I noticed that much of a difference caused by the use of the DF II Machine. Maybe I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart? It’s also worth noting that this is more of a revitalise-and-restore facial; even with the Lac Pam Gel and clay mask, there wasn’t really the feeling of deep cleansing so don’t go expecting a huge difference in terms of blackheads, for instance.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking to reboot your beauty routine with some high-tech hijinks, the Optimal Skin Facial is certainly worth a go. It’s non-invasive, non-painful, boasts solid results and given the cushy surroundings of The Mandarin Spa, doesn’t feel too ridiculously expensive compared to some of the other machine-led facials around town (for example, Skin Laundry costs $550 for 15 minutes in a much more no-frills environment). It might not quite be boldly going where no one has before… but I’d definitely be up for another visit to The Mandarin Spa anytime, with or without the sci-fi swizzles!
The ENVIRON Optimal Skin Facial costs $2200 for 90 minutes.
The Mandarin Spa, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2825 4888
Note: this treatment was by invitation