Image: Jay Yeo
June 28 2011
My journey to Milan today is luggage-free, delay-free (and thus totally pain-free), and took less time than a recent train trip from Waterloo to Ascot.
On paper, this is a business trip, but of course there’s a spa component. From very early on in my career, my extensive work travel commitments have always been topped or tailed with “spa time” – this was often line-itemed in the client-critical paths as “recce” if I was going prior to an event, or as “wrap-up” if I was to stay a few days longer.
The habit lives on. In the course of my pre-trip research, I was surprised to learn that there are only three hotels in Milan offering serious spa facilities. Of these three, the perennially buzzing Bulgari takes the lead on the “aperitivo-and-spa” by a mile – but as one cannot sleep in the bar, or take business meetings in the spa, one must consider alternative accommodations.
Thus I find myself at the Park Hyatt. I had a quick nose at the spa and sports centre right after checking in and it looks fairly promising, so I have booked a few treatments for tomorrow.
All the business of this business trip is done, and now it’s time for the real business of reviving before my flight home this evening. I descend to the spa, dimly lit and deep underground; the sound of running water and a bright blue-lit Jacuzzi behind sanded glass walls greet me on entering.
I have decided to do a quick 45-minute cardio workout to aid my body in the arduous task of digesting the antipasti, primi e secondi, and many dolci – along with various wines to accompany each course – that were mandatory at the lavish all-male (apart from me) dinner I attended last night.
The gym in the hotel – like every other, bar none, I have visited this year – is fully kitted out with Technogym machines. Is there nobody else in the game? I am pondering their dominance in gym equipment as I battle away on one of their newest Stairmasters. You may be familiar with the old-school step machine, which mimics climbing the stairs; well, the next generation machine now has your legs stepping sideways, ensuring that those thighs get a good roasting, while your arms pull and push the handlebars set to a resistance of your choice. I think it looks worse than it feels.
I am led into one of the spa’s very ample treatment rooms. It is not, however, the private spa room that I’d read about, featuring “diffusion technology” – a sensory “emotional” shower that releases cold mist and eucalyptus essence accompanied by a soft mood-regulating blue light (and which I suspect is a posh term for what is essentially plug-in room air freshener).
Note to self: request private room very expressly next time.
“I would like your most advanced facial for brightening the skin,” I announce, indicating a few treatments on the menu. The therapist, who speaks little English, suggests we leave it undecided for a few minutes, until after she has cleaned and studied my skin, at which point she will advise on what is best.
After a few minutes of observation under the bright UV light, she says, “Madam, I think we should go for the power peel sensitive skin treatment. You seem to have quite a lot of redness and rosacea, which I would like to treat.”
I agree and moments later she applies an alcohol solution to prep my face for the first component of the facial: microdermabrasion. As almost everyone knows by now, it’s a cosmetic technique that uses a mechanical medium for exfoliation – usually microscopic rounded beads – along with adjustable suction. Essentially the beads are blown against the skin, the pressure sloughing off the cells. It was a huge sensation when it first broke onto the market about 10 years ago and was often complimented with (then-revolutionary) vitamin-infused oxygen spray. Both, of course, are now old hat in the more advanced clinics in London.
But there is no denying that it genuinely produces results in the form of brightened skin. Fine lines are less visible, as are scars and hyperpigmentation. And removing all the dead cells also aids in the penetration of skincare products by up to 50 per cent.
The therapist spends the next 15 minutes pulling the abrasive vacuum over my face. As I have very sensitive skin, she keeps it on a low level one. For older skin or to address heavier scarring, the pressure is increased to two or three, which obviously increases the discomfort; it can feel like sandpaper being rubbed on your skin. (If you follow this course, it’s a good idea to clear your social schedule for the night, as you may be a little raw and red for a few hours.)
“Now I am going to put on the Dr Murad mud mask, which will deeply nourish and rebalance your skin.” I have never used Howard Murad’s products, but in California, where his company is based (and where he was a pre-eminent dermatologist for decades), he is a pretty big deal – and he claims to have treated more than 50,000 people throughout the years.
“This line is very good for anti ageing,” says my therapist as she works. “There are three categories of Murad anti-ageing products, and the doctor believes it’s just as important to take supplements as to apply topical creams and serums.”
The first ageing category, it transpires, is genetic. The supplements, which claim to fight ageing from the inside and promote collagen production, address this. The second ageing category is environmental. These products are topical, and focus on external work: evening skin tone and reducing wrinkles and age spots. The last category is hormonal ageing. As women get older, their production of oestrogen declines and, according to Murad, this affects skin texture, elasticity, and tone.
All sounds plausible to me – and the creams smell really nice.
She finishes off with a lot of moisturiser and recommends that I buy the vitamin C eye cream, which I do.
And now onto the relaxation bit: she deftly flips me over onto my stomach, and I spend the next hour in the nirvana of a full-body massage. The pressure could have been stronger, but her technique was 100 percent sound.
HEATHROW TERMINAL 5, 6pm
We’ve just touched down. As I gaze out of the window and catch my faint reflection bounced back to me, I can’t help but notice that my skin is really glowing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What a wonderful thing to come back from a business trip and head straight to dinner looking better than you did before you left. That’s some kind of new pinnacle of job satisfaction. I say companies should make spa visits mandatory.
All in all, I was very impressed by the Park Hyatt in Milan and will definitely go back on my next trip.
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.