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

At spa summer camp, kids check Gameboys at the door

For a handful of kids, summer camp starts this week at the spa. Only they’re not getting Ice Cream Pedicures, as the WSJ suggests. Instead, from July 12 through July 25, Generation X-Box is attending one of the country’s best weight-loss programs during Family Week at Pritikin Longevity Center Center & Spa, in Aventura, Florida. Pritikin, if you’re not familiar, is the spa Michael Moore made semi-famous and where guests learn to reform their eating habits, lower their blood pressure, kick diabetes meds, and have their accomplishments published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The one- or two-week-long camp, now in its sixth summer, began when Pritikin physicians, many with kids of their own, witnessed just how difficult it is for children to eat healthfully and stay physically active, says medical director Danine Fruge, MD. “Fast food restaurants are everywhere, and gym class is no longer on every school curriculum.” And then, of course, there’s the epidemic rate of obesity in American children. Continue reading

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We’ve crossed the final spa frontier, Times’ reports

If “Sex in the City” were still on the air, we would have had some warning. Maybe an episode involving Samantha taking Charlotte to Kegel classes at the local pelvic fitness center. “But it’s embarrassing,” says Charlotte. “Shut up and clench,” replies Samantha, as she renews her unlimited monthly class card to Pelvic Pilates.

Instead, the debut later this month of Phit, a New York City spa run by gynecologist Lauri Romanzi, MD, comes as a bit of shock, dedicated as it is to “strengthening and grooming a woman’s genital area,” reports Natasha Singer, who covered the spa for the Times. Gee, and I’ve spent all this time and money on facials. Continue reading

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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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A spa treatment in your car?

Forget fabulously designed spa treatment rooms. There are days when my subway car requires some serious aromatherapy. (Soaring summer temperatures, festering puddles the size of kiddy pools on the platforms, and train cars packed with sweaty New Yorkers can test your olfactory limits more quickly than the blue cheese selection at Whole Foods.) Capitalizing on the way the rest of the country gets to work, and the limited amount of time women have to themselves, is Car-Ma. The company has created an aromatherapy equivalent of a Glade PlugIn for the car, only with mellowing lavender pebbles, rejuvenating eucalyptus mists, or vanilla discs that sit in a cupholder, rather than in the able hands of a skilled spa therapist.

I suppose a room of one’s own for many women is now a Toyota Prius, the commute providing the only personal space between home and work. So I can see how this product would appeal. I just wish I liked the ingredients used in it, which stray from the pure essentials oils and hydrosol distillations that aromatherapists craft. They’re more cloying than a Bath & Body Works store but less sneeze-inducing than a taxicab’s scented rearview-mirror pine tree. But even if the execution isn’t well done, the idea is an excellent one. Someone should strike a deal with the city to pipe aromatherapy into the subway system. I vote for rosemary mint.

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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


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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