Anti-aging treatments now run the gamut from holistic to scientific. Discover how four spas across the spectrum keep us looking our best.
The idea that the skin is the body’s largest organ and a reflection of overall health predates modern beauty products. But it’s a concept currently enjoying a renaissance, especially in the anti-aging arena, where it resonates with the average 45-year-old, prevention-minded guest, says Lucia Cunha, spa director at the Six Senses Spa at Hotel Arts Barcelona. “They’re open to natural beauty solutions and prefer to stave off plastic surgery,” she says, particularly when they grasp that premature aging can be caused by stress, hectic schedules, sun exposure and diet — things that can be managed.
Take a focus on the eyes: They’re first to show the signs of aging and stress, in part because the skin here is the thinnest on the face and has fewer oil glands. So a Six Senses facial may incorporate lymphatic drainage massage around the eyes and hot and cold stones to stimulate circulation and temper puffiness and dark circles — as well as advice on using lavender essential oils to get more quality rest at night, staying away from salty foods that can cause water retention, and taking vitamin K supplements, which can help with under-eye circles.
A sea change is happening in spas, like the eco-friendly Wellness Center at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte in North Carolina. Its aging antidotes are natural skin-care lines based on nourishing essential oils extracted from flowers, herbs, plants and roots. For skin-refining peels, it uses botanical-derived exfoliating masks from Eminence Organics. Chemically speaking, oils are particularly effective anti-agers because they have a smaller size and lower molecular weight than creams. This means they can penetrate the skin and support the health of skin cells.
Also good for furrowed brows? The destressing influence that scent has on us, explains the spa’s lead facialist, Trisha Compton, who says most anti-aging essential oils offer a one-two punch. “Frankincense is a skin healer with antistress properties, chamomile is a skin calmer that works the same magic on the mind, and lavender locks in hydration while it puts guests to sleep during treatments,” she says. Pure essential oils are probably the only beauty products that can stimulate the brain’s amygdala and limbic system, say scientists. The oils can also influence our (mental) health in the same way that certain medications do.
Seeing Spots Run
Thanks to childhood summers spent without sunscreen, the desire for treatments targeting skin tone may now trump those that aim to remedy wrinkles — particularly in China, where lightening products have long held sway as the route to porcelain skin. Remedies for mottled complexions and melanin deposits — the dermatological term for what we call everything from pregnancy pigmentation and blotches left by blemishes to spots spurred by the sun — are popular in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, the skin care–conscious cities that are home to most of our spa guests, says Kelly Fu of ESPA at The Ritz-Carlton, Sanya.
But there’s a difference between whitening, a term usually tied to chemical-based skin bleaches, and brightening, a botanical approach that works more safely on uneven complexions and is used in the ESPA Skin Brightening Facial. That route includes using natural ingredients that slow the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the skin’s splotches. In the anti-aging facial, an exfoliating enzyme mask makes use of licorice root extract. Chemists the world over now favor the root for its ability to slow tyrosinase, an enzyme in the skin that sparks melanin production. Next, an application of ESPA Skin Brightening Complex with mulberry extract, shown to help fade the appearance of existing spots, follows the mask.
Exfoliation that helps the skin look younger and turbo-charged ingredients that help the skin act younger comprise the anti-aging dream team, says Skin Authority founder Celeste Hilling, who’s a science-minded sleuth about skin care. Hilling’s products are used in the new Transformation Facial at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Amelia Island, which focuses on “powerful ingredients that deliver anti-aging results.” Hilling likes glycolic acid as a vehicle to slough off dead, dry skin cells. The skin’s top layer is essentially a plate of armor composed of keratinized skin cells, she says. “It doesn’t reflect light, which can give skin a dull, lackluster cast. And it doesn’t allow effective skin-care ingredients to penetrate.”
Following the Transformation Facial’s tried-and-true exfoliating steps are a lifting facial massage, a hydrating mask and an ingredient from the newest frontier of skin care: human growth factor. The ingredient is now being used to help reverse the signs of aging, says Hilling, who bottles them in her Wrinkle Reversing Serum, a best-seller, which finishes the facial. “Studies on it showed significant increases in production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, elastin, fibroblasts and epidermal thickness in about a month,” she says. In other words, it makes mature skin act like it’s 18.