It all begins with an olfactory oracle. I am at the new Neom Organics flagship store and treatment rooms in Wimbledon Village for some personalised therapy – and first is the consultation, using the so-called “science of scent” to determine whether my tailored treatment, Science & Scent Therapy, will be uplifting, de-stressing, revitalising or sleep-enhancing.
My therapist Manuel greets me and asks me to smell four giant unlit candles. One is an undeniable standout: “happiness”, a perky scent of white neroli, mimosa and lemon essential oils, which have been used since the 17th century as a pick-me-up. Had I been drawn to the invigorating blend of grapefruit, lemon and rosemary, I would have had the energising treatment; if it had been jasmine and calming Brazilian rosewood, the de-stress; and if lavender and sweet basil-tinged, the sleep-enhancing treatment.
Scent sorted and so to bed. I lie back in the scented, candle-lit room and the treatment starts with Manuel spritzing a medley of potent mood-lifting mists and rolling oil onto my pulse points. His initial movements – pressing down on my shoulders to relax me, and massaging the oil into my temples, inner wrists and behind my ears – are synchronised with a recorded meditation devised by Neom’s mindfulness expert Emma Mills, which half tells him what he should be doing (spraying here and there), and half tells me what I should be doing (relaxing, unwinding, letting go).
However, it soon becomes apparent that I am unskilled in the right sort of breathing. I can breath deeply into my lungs, but Manuel asks me to belly breathe – which he says delivers a larger amount of oxygen to the bloodstream, and releases more carbon dioxide. He presses down on my stomach to guide me and I try, but my coordination is terrible and my breathing feels disjointed and unnatural. He tells me to keep this up throughout the treatment.
Next I have a full-body scrub using Neom Great Day body scrub with wild mint and mandarin oils, and hot mitts, and then its time for the massage using a blend of therapies and techniques – and Great Day face, body and hair oil.
Manuel begins with reflexology to remove energy blocks from different parts of my body; the pressure on my feet is strong and as his fingers probe various areas there are moments of pain, but I belly-breathe through them. During the elements of Thai massage, although my legs are contorted every which way, the movements are more soothing than aggressive, like yoga stretches.
The abdominal massage to balance my energy flow sees Manuel pressing down deeply, sometimes a little uncomfortably: “This is your centre,” he says, kneading the area around my womb. “Where life begins.” He turns me over for a shoulder and back massage using strong-pressure trigger-point work that involves pressing and releasing key areas of tension. There are moments where it feels more tender, but I can feel the knots being worked away.
Oil is then applied to my face for a shiatsu facial – Manuel moves his fingers in small circular movements with medium pressure (slightly more across my forehead and temples), before drawing his fingers along my jaw and chin in repeated long, sweeping movements.
Finally he asks me if I’d like to finish with craniotherapy – a scalp massage using plenty of oil. Many opt out of this because they don’t want greasy locks, but I never say no to a massage that aims to decrease stress. Manuel says the muscles in our scalp hold a lot of tension, but as he kneads with just the right amount of pressure, I seem to feel it dissipate.
By the end, my abdominal breathing is pretty good and I do indeed feel happy – especially when Manuel tells me I did well.
The Bottom Line
The products smelt delightful but Neom treatments are no soft touch. This is a deep, strong massage treatment and Manuel’s strokes are standout. The shiatsu facial massage has given me a youthful glow. The cocktail of firm, intense massage techniques was both relaxing and invigorating – my limbs feel less stiff, I feel more nimble and my mood is indeed happy and uplifted, as promised.
Spa Junkie is the founder of FaceGym. She pays for all her own travel, accommodation and therapies. Follow her on Instagram: @spajunkiechronicles.