Ambience • Rowland Place • Northwood

Stress Less

7th September 2012

Jill Glenn reviews a Dermalogica facial at Ambience, Northwood

The calmness at Ambience is palpable; I can feel the stresses of the day draining from me as soon as I walk through the door. The reception area – all pale walls; darker paint in the recesses for a hint of richness; wood effect floors – exudes tranquillity; frankly I could just sit here for a couple of hours and that would probably be enough to rejuvenate me. Owner Sima has other plans, however, and I’m soon filling in the standard questionnaire about my medical history and background. Sima works her way through it systematically, but also asks supplementary questions – such as how I’d rate my current level of stress and what would be my wish for my skin if she could wave a magic wand for me. I’m not going to reveal what I said to that (far too personal…) but Sima is clearly in the business of working miracles, so I’ve every faith she can achieve it.

You’ll be floating out… she promises me. And so it proves.

First there is an introductory neck and shoulder massage, designed to get the blood circulating and to stimulate the lymphatic drainage. It is, I?have to be honest, painful, but Sima is methodical and thorough, and I can (ouch!) feel the benefit afterwards. Then it’s over on to my back so that the facial proper can begin. There’s a pause. “I’m thinking what to use,” she says with a smile, before declaring that she’s tending towards an anti-ageing approach – something to boost the skin, to put moisture in, to even out the tone. In addition to the application of products to the face there are also extra ‘mini-massages’ – to the foot and calf, the arm and hand, the scalp; even an eyebrow tidy, which does seem to finish the whole thing off nicely.

I’d be hard pushed, though, to tell you precisely when all these elements occur, because the various stages of the entire process pass in a pleasant blur. When I check the details afterwards, I’m almost inclined to argue with Sima’s version of events. The scalp massage came then? The scrub was before the scaling? Surely not. But Sima knows her stuff; who am I to disagree?

First, apparently: the pre-cleansing, dissolving any traces of make-up (I can’t imagine there were many; it was a hot day, and I’d rushed to get there…) and preparing the skin. Then the cleansing stage itself: ‘a double cleanse, with steam’. The heat opens the pores, so that the products can penetrate. The skin prep scrub is an effective exfoliant, with corn cob extract, which helps to remove any surface debris, and is followed by the use of scaling fluid, available for professional use only; this looks not unlike egg white, or so I’m told, and is used to soften blackheads and blemishes etc, under steam, to facilitate their extraction without too much pressure. It’s obviously a tried-and-tested method because the extraction (which sounds alarmingly like dentistry to me, and makes me tense up at the very idea) proceeds without brutality – indeed, with every evidence of tenderness and care. After that, the facial massage, with a blissfully heady mixture of ylang ylang, lavender and sandalwood… oh, so soothing. Next, a multi-vitamin masque, with vitamins AC and E (it strikes me as no coincidence that these spell out ACE; in this context they definitely are) to calm the skin, to heal and repair. I can practically feel it doing me good. When I check the Dermalogica website later, I’m amused to see how carefully Sima has edited the official description: ‘an ultra-replenishing, antioxidant rich masque that helps rescue stressed, aging skin… apply after cleansing as a revitalizing remedy for dulling, dry, dehydrated, lacklustre, photodamaged skin’. Dulling? Lacklustre? The very thought! To finish, moisturiser of course, with factor 15. My ridculously over-sensitive skin responds to all these delicate products well; my wish has been granted, and I do indeed float out…

Find Your Local