But here’s the truth: I am far more concerned about the suggestion of wrinkles that I see on my face. Yes, I’m scared of ageing: I’m not yet 30 but those thin lines on my forehead, the faint indentations stretching from my nose to the corners of my mouth, and the area that will – at some point – host crow’s feet, are all cause for concern. And if there’s any wisdom about staving off ageing proffered by the older doyennes of youthful skin, it is: nip it in the bud.
I’ve had my fill of facials, and I’m judicious with night cream. But when I heard of the wrinkle-busting facials at the new Dior Institut at the Plaza Athenee in Paris, I was immediately interested. Christian Dior is your classic anti-ageing brand; it claims to have pioneered breakthrough technology too, with creams that stimulate skin cell metabolism, and contain anti-oxidants and unsaturated fatty acids to nourish skin. Potions such as Capture Totale Multi-Perfection Intensive Night Restorative are staples on the night tables of those who fear the signs of ageing.
So an Institut devoted to the battle against the ravages of time? Irresistible, particularly as the word “spa” has been replaced with something so much more academic and effective sounding.
Indeed, the Dior Institut is truly for the facially serious. Its star treatment, L’Or de Vie, is a 120 minute anti-ageing facial that guarantees the reversal of the signs of ageing. This one rings in at €500. The Timeless Global Anti-Ageing treatment is a relative snip at €320, also a two-hour jamboree of wrinkle busting, skin-nourishing treatments.
I tried this one. Those pre-wrinkles seemed to be deepening; no doubt from a summer spent frowning about the endless rain. My skin had a general baggy, battered look about it. Paris for a €320 facial? It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds – I hopped on the Eurostar at St Pancras at 10am, by 1pm I was in my chair at the Dior Institut.
Visually, it’s an astonishing place, the sort you see only in films, where the super-rich anti-heroine goes to look immaculate for her oil magnate husband. It’s futuristic, minimalist, painfully elegant: an homage to money and narcissism. All pink-lit, with grey leather, white expanses and even a pool with a spot-lit Dior logo, I feel myself growing younger just by association. I want to be the ideal of the refreshed, youthful and moneyed perfection that this space seems to represent.
I’m led into a chamber resembling a chic laboratory, with a long-handled machine in the corner and rows of multi-hued Dior bottles. The walls are lilac leather squares and the bed is firm, soft and luxurious. I lie on my front and the therapist administers a blinding back massage that seems to open up my shoulder blades and vertebrae one by one. At times it was like being karate chopped, but pleasantly. The purpose of this massage, called “the 3D Lifting” is to “awaken vital flows” and “reshape the structure of body” – it’s meant to relax and ready the face for the pummelling to come as well as better positioning the head.
Once face-up again, the piece de resistance: 40 minutes of micro abrasion (a delicate term for exfoliation) using the Institut’s “state of the art secret weapon” – a head of soft round spikes that vibrates around the face. Three times it was slowly wielded along every cranny of my face and neck – for a mild peel (the exfoliation); then for red and blue photo-stimulation and finally, lymphatic drainage. By now, my pores were wide open and begging for the layer upon layer of Dior anti-ageing creams that came next.
The creams (I lost count) culminated in a face massage, and finally, a mask. The therapist, after tearing off the peel with a flourish, handed me a mirror. “How does it look?” she asked expectantly. I felt pressure to say something dramatic. In truth, my face looked fresh and healthy, but not much different. She told me that it would take three days to see and feel the real effects. I left with a full-body sense of wellbeing, my face glowing though not necessarily free of those traces of wrinkles.
Two days later I showed up at some friends’ house. I hadn’t told them about my facial, and they all commented on how well I looked. My face felt firmer, and it glowed, the circulation properly stimulated by the treatment. As for my forehead: I can report no change. But then, who knows what it takes to beat wrinkles in the long run?
The Timeless Global Anti Ageing facial costs €320. For more information and to book other treatments, see www.plaza-athenee-paris.com/spa-fitness. Eurostar operates up to 20 services a day to from London to Paris. Fares from £59 return. Fastest journey time 2h15. Booking and information: www.eurostar.com or 08705 186186
TREATMENT TIME OTHER UNUSUAL (AND EXPENSIVE) FACIALS
UMO 24-KARAT FACIAL
Created by the Japanese company UMO, this has got to be one of the world’s most opulent facials. Beginning with a hydrating mist of fortified water droplets that contain a compound found in jellyfish, the next step is a mask of gold leaf in the form of paper-thin 24-carat gold sheets. Gold is thought to firm and brighten skin, reduce wrinkles and help drain lymph nodes. Worth a try, anyway. Available in Japan and in various locations in the US, for around $300. www.umouniverse.com.
BROWN’S SIGNATURE NATURA BISSE DIAMOND FACIAL
This facial is one of the most rigorous and luxurious available in the whole of Europe, stimulating skin and lymph nodes – and opening energy channels – using the vibrations of a tuning fork followed by a pressure point massage. Then comes the diamond mask, which contains diamond dust, and promotes firmer, plumper and smoother skin. Most people are thrilled with the effects. £150, www.brownshotel.com
RAW GLOW LIVE FACIAL
Ever had fruit on your face? Well it works, and pretty well, too. All the products (mostly edible) in this facial treatment are hand blended, freshly made on the day of your treatment, with totally raw ingredients. These include the ubiquitous superfoods, sea algae, organic cold-pressed oils, fruits and vegetables. These super-nutrients are full of antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. If that won’t work, what will? £85, www.glowurbanspa.co.uk