With beauty treats such as “Dirty Toothy Tabs”, shampoo bars called “Honey I Washed My Hair”, and bath melts including “Dreamtime”, cosmetics emporium Lush is certainly fun, but perhaps a little too Willy Wonka for those pushing 40. Nonetheless, on a walk down London’s King’s Road, wondering where I should go to alleviate my aching muscles, I find myself in the aromatic shop eyeing up their subterranean spa and a curious-sounding Synaesthesia treatment. Promising to fully engage the senses, it’s an 80-minute body massage choreographed to music – including specially commissioned orchestral pieces – and which uses a bespoke combination of essential oils. The lilac-haired girl behind the counter says she is sure I’ll be pleasantly surprised, so down the stairs I trot…
Awaiting me is a softly spoken therapist who shows me into a quaint waiting area that’s like a country kitchen – all distressed wooden tables, vintage china cups and dried flowers. Shelves contain an array of glass bottles of all shapes and sizes containing different coloured liquids (essential oils) and with little name-tags à la Alice in Wonderland. But instead of “drink me” and “eat me”, they say things like “determination”, “laugh”, and “content”.
Before the treatment begins I’m asked to look up at the chalked message on the wall: “what would you like more of?” it says. Underneath are words written in large letters: “humour”, “confidence”, “mind-cleanser”, “esteem”… I’m told to choose one that resonates with me and I pick “enlightened”. I’m asked to write it on a smaller chalkboard in front of me while the therapist fetches essential oils stamped with the word “enlightened”. She instructs me to choose one of the tinctures in the little glass bottles – I like the look of “laugh” (orange liquid in a big bottle) but am drawn to a little bottle saying “determined”.
She takes the chalkboard and bottle into the treatment room, stands in front of a large, stainless-steel pot and pours in a combination of oils, including a few drops of liquid from my chosen bottle. Clouds of white circle around the rim and pour over the sides. The therapist explains the concoction contains dry ice and the aromas of the oils will now fill the room.
I lie down, and as she touches my back I jump – her hands are freezing! Thankfully, the heated essential oils warm us both up. The chosen edition is used in a massage bar and they are made from shea butter and a blend of aromatic oils to uplift and enlighten. She strokes them over my body in long, deep sweeps alternated with kneading hand movements. The shea butter is silky smooth, not oily and I detect hints of rosemary, lavender and vanilla.
She massages in time to the sounds of “Morning”: gentle birds tweeting, a bicycle clattering over cobbled stones, and the soft chiming of distant church bells. The strokes are smooth and soft, up and down my back. When the music picks up, she uses her knuckles in quick sweeping movements, and in deep twists around my lower back. It is slightly painful in some areas, but she kneads to release the tension. She takes each limb and the sweeping graduates into a more concentrated, focused technique. Around my ankles, she moves her fingertips in small circular movements to help release any lymph blockages and to reduce puffiness. My arms and legs feel light and tension-free.
As the orchestra starts up and comes into its own, the massage becomes deeper and quicker. I find it quite remarkable how she works in time with the music and I love the score. The synchronicity of the music and massage and the scents of the oils really lifts my spirits.
For the second part of the massage I lie on my back, ready for hot stones, which are placed in a line on my chakra points to balance my energy. They feel incredibly soothing. The therapist also applies both warmed oil and cold stones on the pressure points on my face to increase the blood flow and help give the skin a healthy glow. It’s an unusual but rather delightful sensation. I’m less delighted with an unknown male voice singing “Scarborough Fair”, but by this point my time is nearly up.
My therapist takes the flask, wafts clouds of dry ice around me, and leaves me to rest. The smell of lime and peppermint is divine and wonderfully fresh. I feel as if I’ve experienced something quite special.
The Bottom Line
Lush’s multi-sensory delight is a fabulous mix of the homely and the unconventional. The choreographed massage left me feeling utterly rested, and the music is leagues above regular spa soundtracks and really relaxed my mind. It’s not a treatment I would want to do every week, but it’s a wonderful left-field spa adventure.