In all my years of being a spa junkie, I have come across many a weird and wonderful treatment, but not one has ever involved a culinary utensil. So my curiosity was piqued by Ushvani, a luxurious day spa in the heart of Chelsea, where one Malaysian-inspired treatment includes a chopstick-like device that’s said to aid lymphatic drainage and boost circulation.
Ushvani is designed to transport clients from our heaving metropolis to the heady Asian tropics. Feeling a million miles away from the South China Sea, and in need of some escapism, I book myself in.
I enter the Grade II-listed Georgian building at 1 Cadogan Gardens, SW3, through a discreet entrance, mop my brow with a refreshing hibiscus-infused towel and swap my heels for sandals.
My therapist gives me a tour of the facility, which is how I imagine Malaysia would look if Kelly Hoppen got her hands on it. The design and decor is incredibly luxe, from the dark wooden panelling with intricately carved hibiscus flowers to the vast aquarium containing bright-orange fish (symbols of good luck).
The dark wood and orange theme continues as we roam from the upstairs treatment room (used for male guests) down into the basement’s Asmara (meaning “love” in Malay) Couples Suite, which has two treatment beds divided by a screen. On the way, we pass a private steam room, a sunken stone bath with hydrotherapy jets (the water is infused with Ushvani’s signature Nutmeg Flower Bath Oil), and the Sentosa Studio, where a range of intimate yoga and relaxation classes are held (from Dynamic Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga and Hatha to meditation).
I take a dip in the small but perfectly formed female-only hydrotherapy pool and then nip into the steam room – so hot I can only handle 10 minutes – before lounging with a magazine in the relaxation room with its refreshing beverages (iced water and cranberry juice), nuts, sugared pineapple and melon cubes.
I am collected for my treatment by Sinead, a softly spoken therapist from Ireland. I sit on the bed and shrug off my mahogany robe before lying down on my back, naked save for a disposable G-string. Sinead adjusts the bed so my legs point slightly upwards, which feels restful. Her lilting Irish accent combined with the instrumental oriental music is soothing.
I begin by taking three deep inhalations of Ushvani’s “cure all” balm, which smells strongly of menthol and eucalyptus. Sinead begins a double cleanse of my face, neck and décolletage using a soothing coconut and kemiri cleansing milk and refreshing Damascus-rose toning water. She applies the cleansing milk with cotton pads, massaging gently into my skin to remove all traces of make-up. The smell is faintly nutty, the texture milky and smooth. Once my skin is thoroughly cleansed, she presses two pads into my eye sockets to relieve tension, before massaging a jojoba facial scrub with fine wax beads and lemon tea-tree first onto my lips and then across my face, to remove any dead skin. Her movements are very gentle and considered.
Now for the Penyepit (Malay for chopstick)Massage, using a wooden facial roller that glides over the facial muscles with an even pressure, to boost circulation.
She adds a couple of drops of conditioning coconut and hibiscus oil to my skin and rolls the tool across, paying particular focus to the jawline – where I’m prone to breakouts. She works the roller in a repetitive rolling rhythm, moving across my jowls, the sides of my nose and under my cheekbones, in sweeping motions. I can feel the tension easing. She also smooths under my eyes – on my sinus points – to help drain puffiness and excess fluid. Finally, she rolls the chopstick across my eyebrows to help lift the muscles and ends by applying pressure on my forehead and temples, which is gloriously gentle and very relaxing. I am lulled into a sleepy state of calm.
She puts the penyepit to one side and applies a mangosteen mask to my face and neck. The Southeast Asian “queen of fruits” is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, celebrated for its skin rejuvenating and anti-ageing, anti-fatigue and anti-inflammatory properties. The texture is smooth and the effect cooling, thanks to the aloe vera and kaolin clay, which should also help to draw out oils and impurities. As I inhale the subtle fragrances of rose and patchouli essential oils, I feel myself unwind.
While the mask sits on my skin for 10 minutes, Sinead puts a couple of drops of conditioning coconut and hibiscus oil on her fingers and performs a combination of pressure-point massage and deep rotations on my scalp and shoulders, to ease tension. By the end of this part of the treatment, I feel as if I’m in some sort of meditative trance.
Next up, Spa Junkie’s running-and-high-heel-battered limbs are in “knead” of special attention… Check back on Saturday August 17.