Category Archives: skin care

Can this outfit be turned into a spa?*

From runway to Missoni lifestyle hotels

From runway to Missoni lifestyle hotels

Yes, says Rosita Missoni. The Italian fashion house has partnered with a Belgium-based hotel group to launch Missoni “lifestyle hotels” with spas, aimed at a design-conscious traveler. According to a company rep, the first two (in Edinburgh and Kuwait City, destinations that are way, way ahead of the curve?) will launch in 2009, followed by 30 more in the next 10 years. I don’t have to tell you that’s a staggering number.

I used to flinch when a fragrance company, a cosmetics brand, or a fashion house migrated into spas. But I’m revising my stance:

Bulgari did it successfully in Milan and Bali, probably by aligning itself with solid spa management (ESPA, in the case of Milan). Miuccia Prada created some surprisingly good skin-care products a few years back, and hired a talented North American to create Prada facials for a handful of Ritz-Carlton spas. And Guerlain’s new luxe spas, run by Spa Chakra’s team of perfectionists, are opening one after another. (Next up: Waldorf-Astoria.)

So now I’m far more curious about them: And here’s why: Too many spas tout the same design, share the same treatment menu, and offer life-enrichment programming that’s now decades old. This is instead of evaluating what’s been working, scrapping what doesn’t, and adding something completely innovative by drawing on the world beyond the spa gates. (Ian Schrager made this point at the 2008 Global Spa Summit, when he encouraged spas to look outside their industry for new ideas. See Susie Ellis’s blog entry for more on his keynote address.)

A guest room at Missoni Kuwait

What I’m seeing now, with outside industries coming into the spa world, is that they bring with them intense creativity, new spa-going terms, and a new tone—instead of a checklist of familiar must-haves. Who will up the ante and take us into a 21st-century-style of spa-going? Maybe the Missonis. Maybe not. But I am willing to be surprised.

(*A nod to Domino Magazine.)


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Filed under Design hotel, New Spa, skin care, Trend

Famed facialist Cornelia Zicu resurfaces at Red Door. But will she “resurface” it?

Fifth Avenue's newly renovated Red Door

Fifth Avenue

There it was in WWD—facialist Cornelia Zicu has returned to the spa scene in a new senior management role at Red Door. That’s some big news, which looks to be part of the part of the brand’s modern makeover (Fifth Avenue flagship, included).

It must be fate. Just yesterday I was investigating the new Lumina Facial at her former stopping grounds, the luxurious Cornelia Day Resort. It uses the spa’s new Jewelry for Skin line that contains crushed crystals and gems. (Favorite products: Emerald Eye Crème and Citrine Lip Plumper). Giving my radiance-boosting treatment was Alicia Villanova, whose youth belies her skill—though her absolutely gorgeous skin should have been a tip off. Turns out Villanova is a protégée of Zicu, the Romanian refugee turned New York City skin-care icon, who parted ways with the spa in January 2007, and had previously made a name for herself at the Peninsula Spa in New York.

Cornelia may have left the building, but her legacy lives on at the Day Resort in facialists like Villanova. Continue reading


Filed under beauty, Facial, Red Door, skin care, Spa treatment

A discourse on depilation, or my hair-growing, hair-removal conundrum

Here begins my somewhat feminist tract on body hair, a pair of words as unseemly to the polite lady spa-goer as third helping.

I invoke the historic form of the tract, because I find myself in the middle of a long-standing American beauty contradiction, one that should have probably gone out of fashion with the corset (not the Vivienne Westwood one):

At the same time I am test-driving a new eyelash renewal serum called RapidLash to fill out my spotty lashes and brows, I’ve been slathering on Bliss’s Get Out of Hair!, a body lotion meant to minimize hair re-growth, as well as exfoliate and moisturize. See what I mean, dear reader?

Bliss says its main fuzz-fighter is Narcissus Tazetta bulb extract, which must be a two-faced ingredient, because it’s also an anti-ager in the Elizabeth Arden’s Intervene range. (Face-waxers, I’d definitely reach for this foundation.) And at $49.95, RapidLash happens to be a fraction of the price of similar products and contains a load of promising peptides—I’ll let you know in four weeks if it works.

But back to my didactic tract: the prevailing beauty mandate—be bare from the neck down, but have lush, cow-like lashes and a shiny full mane—doesn’t correspond a bit to biology, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. And so, with lasers, tweezers, and women named Eliza, we’ve created our own highly idealized female pattern baldness. And while it’s definitely easier to attain with 21st-century skin-care products and technologies, a modern lady can’t help but feel a bit caught in Penelope’s predicament, weaving a robe only to unravel it each night.


Filed under body care, eyelash products, hair removal, skin care

When a beauty product speaks for itself

Some beauty companies need help with their branding. Not This Works, makers of Tired Eye Serum, Really Rich Lotion, and Dry Leg Oil, among others. The high-quality aromatherapy line has never minced words. Hence, Perfect Cleavage, a name (and a promise) that might otherwise give you pause. It contains nourishing essential oils, firming algae and plant-derived polysaccharides, and leaves a subtle shimmer—much needed for the fragile skin of the neck and décolleté (it has fewer oil glands than the face, but gets just as much sun exposure).

The brand-new item joins the widening pool of anti-aging products that are meant for use below the makeup line (my spa beauty predictions are coming true!)—only I suspect it’ll fair better than many others. Why?

Its simple syntax. Brands that load up labels with useless adjectives or sci-fi-sounding neologisms make me scratch my head. (Free advice to companies: That’s prime real estate for your product elevator pitch.) If I, a professional product decoder, can’t give sentence diagramming and name decoding more than three seconds (given the flood of beauty items boxing me into my office), will a shopper?

Simple is smarter. That must have been Kathy Phillips’s thinking, the International Beauty Director for Condé Nast Asia (she oversees Vogue, W, and Allure), who is also This Works’s creator. That Phillips sniffed out Sue Beechey and Geraldine Howard, the genius duo behind Aromatherapy Associates, a top spa line, for a hand with the formulations is another feature of the product that speaks volumes.

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Filed under Aromatherapy, skin care, Trend

What could cause U.S. Marshals to raid a cosmetics company?

Hawking a dangerous diet drug? Send them in.
Contaminated pet food? On the double.
Eyelash conditioning wands? Wait, what?

By announcing Allergan’s development of an eyelash-growing drug and the launch of Jan Marini’s new drug-free eyelash-conditioning product, Thursday’s piece in the Times (“Longer Lashes in a Tube, or Maybe Not”) put the spotlight on a growing battle between pharmaceutical and skin-care companies for the same turf. With drugs more commonly providing cosmetic benefits, such as Botox, Restylane, and Renova, and cosmetics mimicking drugs, the only discernable boundary remaining between the two in the moisturizer-soaked marketplace is the right to claim a product works (i.e., affects the structure and function of skin). And under the law, that’s a privilege reserved for drugs.

No doubt Jan Marini Skin Research incurred the ire of Allergan, the makers of Botox and of the lash-growing glaucoma drug supposedly used in Marini’s wildly popular Age Intervention Eyelash product. The buzz about and demand for the lash-enhancer was huge, and judging by the queues at last November’s ISPA conference, where spa directors go to learn about and shop for products, it made the company a killing. So, I suspect, when just a few weeks later on November 16 the FDA sent U.S. Marshals to the Marini warehouses and seized $2 million worth of “already embargoed” lash conditioners containing the “unapproved drug,” it wasn’t just for consumer safety, as the government agency claimed. Continue reading

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Filed under eyelash products, FDA, skin care

Guerlain Puts Product into Practice, Almost Perfectly

Guerlain Spa, The Regent Bal Harbour

My respect for Guerlain stems from a story I did on Orchidée Impériale, their gorgeously packaged $350 skin-care cream, whose anti-aging essence is derived from the roots of orchids. Because every single day a company tells me a story about their magical youth-preserving ingredient, I was expecting to get another. But instead I was wowed by the time spent on sensible science. (Seven years; two just on the orchid molecule-skin connection.) And by Guerlain’s nonchalance at surrounding itself with experts to get the job done right (including Philippe Lecoufle, a fourth-generation orchid specialist). The investment of time and expertise (Spa Chakra, as consultants, and The Regent, a top international hotel brand) is very present in their new Bal Harbour spa, which is why I predict Guerlain will become known as leading spa brand — not just a fragrance brand, turned skin-care brand, turned spa brand. Continue reading


Filed under skin care, spa travel, Spa treatment

Sunscreen Loophole Causes Personal Suitcase-Packing Panic

Baggie causes sunscreen suffering

It would be really easy to devote my blog entirely to sunscreens, and this month, it might look like I have. Here’s just one reason why: A few nights ago, when I was trying to make the products in my medicine cabinet, makeup bag, and shower caddy fit into a sandwich baggie for a research trip (to the country’s first Guerlain Spa at The Regent Bal Harbour—but more on this soon), I had to make a Survivor Island choice among my sunscreens. Which one would get to go spa-ing?

My daily moisturizer-Mexoryl combo with SPF 15? My cosmetically elegant, lavender-scented sunscreen with SPF 30? My shield of armor in a tube (AKA zinc oxide)? Continue reading


Filed under skin care, spa travel, sunscreen