Spa Junkie at... The Institute, New York

Allantoin? Tamanu? Collaxyl? Our covert reporter returns to test an exotic, 11-product-strong über-facial

Having eked out the bag of beauty goodies picked up after facial number one, a low-on-supplies Spa Junkie returns for number two…

Four weeks later:

Having persuaded a member friend to give me a visitor pass, I have returned to The Institute and am lying in a room with soft lighting and gentle music, on sheets infused with calming chamomile essential oil, ready for a two-hour customised facial.

The four weeks since I was last here have been particularly busy and hectic. I have been outside in the sun a lot and have done watersports – and this has taken a toll on my skin. The therapist studies my face under the magnifying lamp. “There is general redness and dryness,” she says. “Plus I can see inflamed follicles around the left jawline – a little congestion family.” I sigh. She means a cluster of spots.

She begins the facial by using the signature Erno Laszlo Active Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil ($45 for 193ml), which consists of avocado, kurzii seed, sunflower, safflower and sesame oils. “This is one of Lazlo’s original formulas,” says the therapist, “and one of the products that the brand remains famous for. I’ll follow it with Phelityl Cleansing Gel [$39 for 85ml], which includes cucumber extract and green tea, then tone with the Hydraphel Skin Supplement [$49 for 340ml]. This particular toner contains hydrating glycerine and calming allantoin.”

As she massages the oil into my skin and works through the cleansing ritual, it feels and smells amazing: gentle, yet firm, and aromatic. It does tingle a little, which I put down to the fact that my skin is dry and sensitive.

“Now I’m going to massage your skin with Erno Laszlo’s Timeless Skin Serum [$125 for 48ml],” she says. “It contains pomegranate seed oil, which repairs skin quickly, and vitamin E, which strengthens.” It’s certainly soothing.

But before I can get too comfortable, it is time for the painful process of the extractions. My therapist dons some gloves. “I’m going to avoid the inflammation around your nose, but I’ll have to use the lancet on the ‘congestion family’, as they are in a deeper layer of the skin.” It hurts – but I know it’ll be worth it.

The painful part over, she uses a Light Controlling Lotion ($45 for 193 ml) that contains eugenol, a clove-extract antiseptic, to remove any residual bacteria that may constrict my pores.

The application of Transphuse Line Refining Cream ($225 for 48ml) begins a more pampering phase of the treatment. She says that this cream will stimulate cell rejuvenation. She also uses the 3-9 Balm ($245 for 48ml), which contains tamanu oil – a very good healing agent.


To ensure that all the nourishment penetrates to the skin’s deeper layers, she uses the hand-held BT-Micro tool for ultrasonic exfoliation. She moves it around my face for a few minutes – it feels hot.

Next is a cool Hydra-Therapy Skin Vitality Mask ($55 for four 35ml sachets) with allantoin and vitamin B5. “Allantoin is a healing anti-irritant, while B5 helps retain moisture,” my therapist says. “As the mask works its magic, I’m going to massage your arms and apply Erno Laszlo’s Intensive Décolleté Cream [$95 for 48ml].” It feels heavenly ­– über relaxing.

Once the mask has dried, she peels it off and removes the oily residue, before placing a Bioptron lamp over the inflamed areas on my face. She explains that this light-therapy device will help the skin to heal by stimulating the body’s natural regenerative process. It’s like lying out in the warm sun. 

After about five minutes, she applies a hydrating serum, which contains vitamins A,C,E and shea butter for cell regeneration, as well as hyaluronic acid. And the finishing touch: Active Phelityl Intensive Cream ($65 for 48ml) – Marilyn Monroe’s favourite product. Its main active ingredient is safflower seed oil, which helps retain moisture.

I glance at the clock to see that I have been here for two hours, but one look at my skin and it really is glowing and red-carpet ready.

The bottom line:

When I left The Institute the first time, my skin was radiant, my pores felt clean and my whole face looked fresh. This sensation and appearance lasted for several days. The experience was intense – it really felt in a different league.

The second facial was even better – one of the best treatments I’ve ever had. My red, dry patches and spots were taken care of, while my skin felt less sensitive and looked youthful.

I enjoyed using the samples I took home. Ritual usage has proven them to be effective – my skin feels moisturised and soft – and the 3-9 Balm has become my go-to, can’t-live-without product.

The Institute is a new generation of spa that still remains loyal to its founder’s principles, and the result is a very special, stylish space, brimming with history and scientific knowledge.


While the $3,000 annual membership price tag may seem a little steep, it’s worth noting that those who sign up receive a custom skin rejuvenation and maintenance programme, plus 15 nutrient-packed facials and regenerative peels performed with Laszlo’s serums.

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