Spa Junkie at... Joëlle Ciocco, Paris

Our intrepid reporter has her facial ecosystem harmonised

After yesterday’s preliminary examination, there are a few more hoops to jump though before the facial can begin…

Friday

Loubna, Joëlle’s first-in-command, takes me through to a treatment room and hands me a form with questions relating to my family skin history, plus my skin’s physical state, my daily cosmetic routine and my general health and environment.

After carefully answering each question, I’m left to undress while the grande dame plots the treatment strategy. I am cocooned in a cosy bed when Joëlle floats in and gets straight to work on the all-important facial evaluation, so that she can give me a diagnostic at the end of the treatment. At last, I am ready for the two-hour Grand Soin facial to commence.

Joëlle prepares a made-to-measure cleanser in two parts. She explains that the double cleansing makes the skin more permeable, meaning that it can absorb more of the active ingredients during the next stage of the treatment. The formula addresses my skin issues: marshmallow for its anti-inflammatory moisture, saponin (a plant extract) for its pore-clearing abilities, and arnica for its protective qualities.

As she prepares the mixtures, she tells me more about her laboratory near Paris. Here her team works on a small scale, using the very best raw materials to create products that retain the physicochemical characteristics of their components. She also talks about her 30 years as a biochemist, studying the skin’s ecosystem, and her famous Epidermologue method, which involves using cosmetic products based on the skin’s nutritional requirements. Knowledge of genetics, personal skin ecosystems and the environment are essential for creating her bespoke treatments. Hers is a “haute couture” treatment, she emphasises. I’m left with the impression that her team must have virtually hand-picked the products for me.

Next, a personalised succession of active ingredients are chosen for the other lotions that will be used in the treatment, based on my skin characteristics. These include ginkgo biloba, a plant-derived supplement that protects against free radicals and firms the skin; propolis extract, which is rich in vitamins and minerals and is said to stimulate cellular renewal, promoting the production of collagen and elastin; and arnica, a herb belonging to the sunflower family that works to kickstart tissue repair. Joëlle explains that each of these natural ingredients will contribute to reinforcing my anti-ageing barrier, nourishing the skin and harmonising my facial ecosystem.

Once everything is prepared, Joëlle cleanses my skin: the first cleanse is light and fresh with a gorgeous botanical smell, the second is richer and milkier in texture. She then begins the first of three massages, using another lotion she has concocted. “The massage will activate the natural elements applied to your face and encourage your skin to absorb the ingredients,” she says. The technique focuses on my problem areas. Where my skin is prone to wrinkles, she pulls upwards towards my hairline across my forehead with strong and deep movements, and smooths out lines. This rather aggressive procedure lasts about 20 minutes.

Then the strangest thing happens: she puts both her thumbs inside my mouth and works them round my cheeks and jaw area using the Buccal technique, a rather intense type of massage that is supposed to improve blood circulation and oxygenation of blood cells. As she presses inside my mouth, she explains that stress and tension are often stored here too. This is one of the most bizarre massages I have ever had. Having a stranger’s fingers in my mouth is not very pleasant, but it seems to allow the therapist access to different passages – clearing out and releasing blockages, aiding lymph drainage and reducing puffiness and water retention in my face. It’s particularly good for ladies who have had fillers, she explains, as it evens out any lumpy areas. The best bit is when she works along my jawbone – after 20 minutes or so my face feels like it has had a major workout.

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The final 30 minutes of massage, using another lotion, involves more classic movements. She sweeps her palms and fingertips over my face, neck and décolletage, allowing the tissue to relax and oxygen to settle. After what has just gone before, it feels calming.

Just as I am lulled into a state of bliss, she moves onto the extractions, which are as painful as ever.

To complete the facial, Joëlle applies her Propolis Mask, which she says will rebuild the skin barrier and give my complexion a protective top-coat. A layer is evenly spread over my face and neck – the texture is smooth and soothing – and it is left to absorb for 10 minutes before being washed off with cold water. She explains that the mask has removed all the dead cells built up from urban pollution, eliminated impurities and lightened my complexion by balancing the sebaceous gland secretions.

As the treatment comes to an end, Joëlle recommends that I arrange to see a hormone specialist as she feels there may be some internal issues causing the eruptions on my face. I’m told to take more vitamin C and magnesium, and she also suggests I get L-tryptophan for jet lag.

Joëlle says goodbye and Loubna hands me a bespoke prescription, comprised of products for skin and hair – from shampoo to a Spring Mask – to use weekly. This, she says, will maintain a stable facial ecosystem while I’m dealing with daily stress.

Loubna recommends I come back in three months for another facial, as this is how long it takes for the skin's ecosystem to respond to the treatment.

The bottom line:

This felt like the most powerful and effective all-natural facial I have ever had. I have long moaned about the efficacy of organic products and always feel underwhelmed by them; however, Joëlle proves that with a thorough consultation and specially chosen and formulated products, natural can have seriously successful results.

The various massage techniques did a really good job of smoothing out my fine lines, tightening my face and evening out my skin tone. My blemishes are visibly improved and my pores are reduced. My radiance suggests a week of early nights.

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A couple of weeks after my visit, I am not only loving the products but my skin looks healthy, glowing and decongested. I cannot resist booking in for my next session.  

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