Business Times - 06 Jun 2009
Best face forward
What makes Madonna glow? Can volcanic minerals or clay restore your lost youth? BT Weekend checks out the latest beauty treatments and products
Fifth level, Grand Hyatt Singapore
10 Scotts Road
'PUT your hand on my skin, put your hand on my skin,' wailed Madonna in Skin, from her 1999 Ray of Light album. 'I'm not like this all the time...'
If the Material Girl had written that track a few years later, she might have had less material for it. After all, the pop star hasn't had much to complain about by way of problem skin since Intraceuticals Infusion was launched in 2002: the Australian facial treatment brand - along with facialist-to-the-stars Michelle Peck - takes care of Madonna's every complexion conundrum these days. And the 50-year-old (whose skin has been described as 'age-defying') is not its only fan: other celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Eva Longoria swear by it too.
In Singapore, the treatment debuted at the Grand Hyatt Singapore's Damai spa this week, and it looks poised to win over an even bigger following.
What sets Intraceuticals apart from other facial treatments is the instant results - a mini 'facelift effect' can be seen after every session, and skin feels juiced up and softly plump. Notes Ms Peck, who was at Damai for Intraceuticals' launch at the spa: 'Many different products are proposed to me constantly because of the clientele that I have, and I would say that 97 per cent, maybe 98, don't do anything. This, on the other hand, gives results.'
The non-invasive treatment is derived from the science of hyperbaric oxygen technology or HBOT, which is basically the use of pressurised oxygen for medical purposes. It is used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning and frostbite, among other conditions. Instead of the full-body pressure vessels employed for such cases, however, Intraceuticals' methods are far less intimidating. A special serum containing hyaluronic acid that holds a thousand times its own weight in water plus other nutrients - you can choose between two variations, Rejuvenate (that targets lines and wrinkles, and improves hydration) and Opulence (for uneven skin tone and pigmentation) - is poured into an oxygen compressor that then gently sprays the liquid out onto the epidermis via what looks like a dental cleaning tool. The high concentration of oxygen helps the serum get absorbed by the skin quickly to where it's needed the most. It's an odd sensation at first, as if you were a wall undergoing high-pressure washing with a tiny hose, but after a while it's actually quite pleasurable and may even lull you to sleep.
Those who want a bigger boost can choose to add on the Atoxelene treatment: this targets expression lines and eye contours, and plumps lips up, although not quite to Angelina Jolie-size. (For those who want to have exactly what Madge has 'before every single show': it's the Rejuvenate facial plus the atoxelene add-on.)
But does it really work? After a half-face facial administered by Ms Peck, the 'done' side of the face did look a little uplifted and the jawline, a bit more defined. Make-up also glided on better over the now-dewy skin - not bad for a 30-minute-treatment, with zero downtime. The effects, however, only last for between five and 10 days. For the full Madonna glow, six weekly sessions are recommended, followed by one every month subsequently.
As far as Ms Peck's experience goes, the treatments work on everyone aged 18 to 70, and 'women love it for the instant external results'. But there's more to Intraceuticals than surface beauty. 'The reason I love it is for the internal results my clients are getting. Their skin is being hydrated at the deepest level,' she says.
For those who want similar results, it's time to make an, ahem, firm commitment, then.
A 60-minute Intraceuticals Infusions facial costs $240 for the Rejuvenate treatment and $280 for the Opulence treatment, while a package of six facials including a home cleansing kit costs $1,500 for the Rejuvenate treatment, and $1,600 for the Opulence treatment. Retail products start from $68 for a cleansing gel.
TO celebrate the 100th birthday of its late founder Aiko Yamano, beauty giant Yamano Beauty Mates (Yamano) will embark on its first foray outside Japan's shores. In collaboration with a local partner, Yamano, the number one beauty retailer in Japan with 3,000 aesthetic salons, will open a facial salon called Face Plus in Orchard Central when the mall opens in mid-June. The salon will double as retail space for Yamano's beauty products.
'We believe that it is the right time for Yamano to expand,' explains Kouta Matsuda, co-chairman of Face Plus by Yamano Asia Pacific, on the company's decision to make its way to Singapore despite the economic crisis.
'Women keep spending on beauty treatments, even in bad times. In fact, last year, Yamano's sales in Japan went up by 5 per cent year on year. I think that is a good indication of how strong the brand's position is.'
Mr Matsuda reveals that Singapore was chosen because it is seen as a launchpad within South-east Asia.
'In Japan, people go to Tokyo to get new ideas. Similarly, with a good mix of nationalities and races in Singapore, we see it as a cultural gateway, acting as a launchpad for us into other areas in the region,' he says. 'The company undertook extensive market research across a umber of Asia Pacific areas and Singapore was identified as the most promising, in terms of demand and expectant growth.'
As part of its Asian expansion strategy, Yamano aims to open another five stores within the next three years in Singapore and 50 stores throughout the Asia Pacific region.
Adds Face Plus by Yamano Asia Pacific's general manager Reki Suzuki: 'Although each market in Asia Pacific differs, our entry into the Singapore market will enable us to gauge how successful our operations are, including our product range with consumers outside of Japan.'
Yamano's signature product is Doronko Clay - a mud treatment which Aiko Yamano developed in 1957 during a visit to Bayern in Germany. When applied to the face, the mud not only purifies the skin, but also acts as a natural healing agent.
A basic standard facial at Yamano costs $110 per 60-minute facial although additional anti-aging and hydration treatments are also available on request.
As in Japan, monthly memberships at $160 will also be offered as an option to customers. Membership will include two basic facials and a 10 per cent discount on products for that month.
The basic facial itself is in essence a no-frills, good old-fashioned process that prides itself on using good techniques to achieve results, but unlike most spa treatments that claim instant results, Yamano views its facials as part of a long-term regime to upkeep your skin instead.
The facial comprises an eight-step regime that focuses mainly on using Yamano's mud treatment in conjunction with an original hand massage technique that is said to aid the purification and stimulation of the skin.
Despite being a relatively simple treatment, one's skin does feel exceptionally clean after using the clay and also boasts a rosy glow thanks to the face massage.
The best part of the treatment though, is how relaxing it is. On top of a face massage, patrons get treated to a neck massage as well. Better yet, while waiting for the removal of the final clay mask (which needs time to work on your skin), the therapist surprised with a foot massage to help while the time away.
Drawing inspiration from Starbucks that successfully used its cafes to raise awareness for its products, Mr Matsuda hopes the facial salons can do the same for Yamano's beauty wares.
'When Starbucks first started selling coffee, it built coffeeshops first but now that it is a big name, you see Starbucks coffee selling even in supermarkets,' he says. 'That is what we hope to do with Yamano through Face Plus. We hope that people will come in, try our facials, like the products and start buying them on a regular basis.
'And when that time comes, maybe we will start looking to grow the retail aspect for the brand. But that is why we are starting out with the salons and not looking for a retail counter in one of the department stores.'
Volcanic Mineral Face Spa
The Sensory Suite Spa
14 Gemmill Lane
TUCKED away in a small enclave just off Club Street is the Sensory Suite Spa that offers an interesting facial treatment utilising volcanic minerals.
'We came across this Italian range of products and were impressed by the natural healing power of the energy-rich lava stones and active ingredients (malachite, rhodolite and silicium derivative) when used in synergy. Hence we decided to offer this treatment which is beneficial to stress-prone individuals,' says Michelle Chua, director of Sensory Suite.
'The Volcanic Mineral Face Spa is an invigorating face spa that re-activates the skin's cellular metabolism by promoting its natural anti-oxidant function by using precious stones, malachite and rhodolite. The key ingredient in this treatment is the special anti-ageing products with active volcanic minerals. The firm pressure massage of lava stones combined with the goodness of minerals help to re-densify the skin, reduce wrinkles and give the face a firmer, more radiant look.'
The lava stones from Mount Etna in Italy are specially produced in different shapes to cater to each part of the face. They are then used as a massage tool during the treatment and are said to help balance deficiencies in the body by acting as energy conductors.
At nearly two hours, the long treatment is an indulgence; each separate step is taken slowly without hurrying so as to encourage relaxation. Falling asleep during that time-frame is highly likely although time-strapped customers working around the area might be happy to hear that Sensory Suite also has a crunched down one-hour version to suit their needs.
All in, the treatment works well. The skin looks and feels brighter and one also feels more energetic, although it's hard to say if that's the result of the treatment or a quick nap. Still, who's complaining?
The Volcanic Mineral Face Spa costs $280 ($200 for the one-hour version).