As many of you might know, I’ve recently relocated – a decision that brings many trials, not the least of which is saying goodbye to your favorite spa and esthetician. Not long after we finished the move, my skin was definitely in mourning. Rather than trusting my ultra-sensitive skin to a virtual stranger, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And after weeks of exhaustive research, I’ve moisturized, exfoliated, buffed and polished myself to the extreme, all to bring you this guide to the best of the best in at-home spa treatments.
First things first, a little background. I chatted with Kara Peterson, the national trainer for Clarins Skin Spas, and she let me in on what’s reasonable to expect from an at-home treatment versus a spa service. “You can definitely get deep hydration into your skin, or if you have a more oily complexion, you can get a very fresh, clean feel. You’ll see an immediate radiance and brightness, but more intense results will take more time, or a visit to the spa.”
So basically, expect your skin to be brighter, more balanced and generally happier – but looking for those fine lines to vanish, or rosacea to disappear is setting the bar a little too high. Fair enough. With my expectations sufficiently lowered, I forged on.
I started out with masks. Kara suggests layering a serum underneath any mask in order to maximize its benefits. I’d suggest Caudalie’s VinoPerfect Radiance Serum ($79) or Juice Beauty’s Antioxidant Serum ($45), both longtime favorites. My skin tends to be dry and is definitely sensitive, so a moisturizing, brightening mask is right up my alley. Hands down, my favorite option came from Caudalie; their Purifying Mask ($40) gave me just the right dose of moisture and topped it off with so much shimmery glow, I actually got compliments from strangers. Suki’s Bright Complexion Moisture Masque ($52.95) ran a very close second – and all of those botanicals mean it smells divine to boot. For drier skin, I’d definitely recommend Suki’s Transformative Facial Clay ($43.95), which wicked away excess moisture without parching my skin, and worked wonders on blemishes.
For serious facial exfoliation, I loved Dermalogica’s MultiVitamin Thermafoliant ($48). I admit that I’m totally sucked in by exciting features, and this self-warming mask had me from the moment it heated up in my hands. The ease of use on this mask was fabulous as well. I applied it in the shower, massaged it in for 2 minutes, and then just rinsed. No wandering around the house looking like something out of Kabuki theatre, waiting for a mask to harden before you can remove it.
My favorite pick for eye therapy came from Shu Uemura. Their Moisture Eye Zone Mask ($43) is as easy as that age-old cucumber trick, but oh-so-much better. I took Kara’s advice and stored these in the fridge before use. The individual packaging makes these simple to apply – just unwrap, place over your lids, and zen out for 10 minutes while they work their magic. The convenience factor and the indulgence factor (this really felt like a “treatment”) really made these win out in my book.
Next, I checked out body products. Kara’s advice was to take it easy on scrubs, both for body and face. “A lot of people over-exfoliate, which results in the top layer of your skin becoming too thin, and gradually losing the protective barrier of your skin. That results in the damage you do get being more noticeable, sun damage is more serious, your skin becomes more red easily, and can become more dry in the long run.” Overall, she recommends keeping your exfoliation down to 3 times a week; 4-5 times a week if you’re using a daily exfoliating cleanser.
That said, I started with body scrubs, and couldn’t get enough of Tocca’s rich Body Polish ($54) – mostly because I’m already obsessed with their fabulous scents. My favorites are Stella and Cleopatra, but all are just lovely. And the scent really sticks around, which was a great feature. If you’re looking for unscented results, Lancome makes a lovely Resurface Microdermabrasion Body ($46) that worked incredibly well, and didn’t make my fragrance-sensitive husband sneeze. I topped both off with Clarins Brightening Body Veil ($40), which promises to help stop my skin from producing its annual crop of freckles, and my skin was seriously glowy for the next couple of days.
Moving south, I’m a sucker for a really killer foot treatment, and I think I’ve found the perfect system. Start with Archipelago Botanical’s Milk Foot Scrub ($18). Follow with an oldie-but-goodie, The Body Shop’s Peppermint Cooling Foot Rescue ($18); I’ve just never found anything as soothing to aching feet. Slather on a healthy dose, top off with some clean socks (or splurge on some Moisturizing Booties while you’re at The Body Shop), and cue up Sex and the City in your TiVo.
For travel, I don’t think you can beat Shu Uemura’s Depsea Moisture Replenishing Mask ($55). Each box comes packed with 6 pre-packaged face-shaped masks. Just drape over your face, lie back, and remove 10 minutes later. After a long day on an airplane, this mask would be a godsend for your parched skin. Plus, it won’t take up space in your TSA-approved liquids Ziploc.
And last but not least, if you’re looking for serious, intensive skin repair from an at-home treatment, I’ll send you straight to Kinara for their 3-step Red Carpet Facial Kit ($145). We’ve reviewed this one before, and the TDO editors just can’t say enough about it. The system’s a little intimidating to use, but the results are definitely impressive – likely the closest we’ve seen to spa-quality.
Hopefully this list will make life a little bit easier the next time you head to your friendly neighborhood beauty department in search of intensive skin therapy. If you have other favorites, definitely let us know!