Having kicked off the year with a new, healthy eating and exercise regime that shed the pounds and gave me renewed energy, it’s time to focus on my skin. Friends have recommended Dr Rabia Malik, who has set up a practice to bridge the gap between invasive cosmetic procedures and gentle spa facials, so I book in for a Signature Lite Meso-Peel with her at private women’s-only members’ club Grace Belgravia.
Full use of Grace’s lifestyle, beauty and fitness facilities might be for members only, but non-members can book some treatments and expert workshops. I’m whisked through the spacious reception area – all French greys, mint and wheat accents – to meet Dr Rabia, who is surprisingly young, given her international reputation for excellence.
As this is a one-off treatment rather than a course, she wants the low-down on my lifestyle so she can understand my skin. She points out a few broken veins and fine lines, but says it looks healthy for my age, and asks if I mind having a red face and going make-up free for a few days. I am a little apprehensive about any pain, but Dr Rabia assures me it’ll look redder than it feels.
I lie back on the treatment bed, and Dr Rabia removes my make-up with a gentle cleanser that’s free from fragrance, sulphates and parabens. She places protective eye shields on me, applies a cold numbing cream, and tells me she’ll use the smallest micro-needles (0.5mm as opposed to 3mm) for the treatment. She explains that these work in two ways: first creating fine channels for the topical ingredients to penetrate the skin, and second, stimulating collagen production to plump the skin.
With my skin nicely numb, she sets to work rolling the needles across my forehead, cheeks, chin and around my eyes. For the areas around my nose and lips she asks me to take deep breaths, as this is where the skin is more sensitive and thus the treatment more painful. Before I can wimp out, Dr Rabia convinces me to hang in there; she wants to see real results.
Once the micro-needling is finished, the first peel is massaged onto my face. It’s cooling and contains alpha-hydroxy acids (to soften skin and reduce wrinkles and hyperpigmentation), as well as natural antioxidants such as tomato-fruit lipids (to protect skin) and pumpkin powder containing vitamins C and A (which stimulate cell turnover). While the peel soaks in, Dr Rabia explains that it comes from the medical-grade product line Skin Therapy, which is formulated by LA dermatologist Julia T Hunter. The line is self-neutralising, which means it stops activating when it has done its job, so it doesn’t need to be washed off.
Time for the application of my second peel, and I’m warned that it could sting. Dr Rabia applies the product to one half of my face, as it’s too uncomfortable to treat both sides at the same time – but, she says, it will only be painful for around 30 seconds. She wafts a card over the treated area to cool it down, but I can still feel the burn. True to her word, the pain settles after 30 seconds, and then the same process is carried out on the other side of my face. This peel contains a potent cocktail of plant and fruit acids including lactic, mandelic and malic, which are gentle enough to use on skin suffering from rosacea, sun damage and acne, and help to heal and strengthen skin.
I’m still feeling a little tingly and so the next step of the facial is a delight: Dr Rabia massages in emu oil to calm my skin and help reduce irritation. She explains that the oil was originally used by aborigines to treat all manner of skin complaints – from dryness to blisters, cuts and scars – and contemporary dermatologists use it for hydration, healing and plumping. The final flourish is a layer of SPF 50 cream to protect my now-vulnerable skin from sun damage.
A shiny, red moon-face greets me as I look in the mirror. I whip out a supersize scarf and head off, incognito, to the Grace café for a revitalising juice – beetroot, to match my complexion.
The Bottom Line
I couldn’t wear make-up for 24 hours and was rather red for that time, but 48 hours later I was impressed with the results – my crow’s feet were less pronounced, and lines on my forehead appeared less deep (my boyfriend even asked if I’d had Botox). My skin texture was also more even; there were a few dry patches for a couple of days afterwards, but nothing that the sample of emu oil didn’t help soften. A week later my skin looks more hydrated and plumper. It may have taken time for the redness to settle, but it’s a great treatment.
Spa Junkie is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies.