London's Most Extreme Facials

Photo: Anna Sudit
Facials, much like dinner parties and weekend breaks, come later in our twenties than they should. Living in cities, commuting on public transport, late nights and sleeping in makeup are all bad habits that far too many of us can't avoid, and they have a very real impact on our skin. But can facials really undo any of the damage? Do they make a difference?
In a bid to find the most effective facials, we went and tried the most intense and promising treatments that are calling on the latest beauty innovations and technology to get us all taking skincare more seriously (toothpaste on spots is not ok, apparently). We're talking the full-throttle facials at the forefront of the beauty and grooming industry – no knives or recovery time here, but some seriously exciting advancements. From lasers to deep facial massages and lymphatic drainage to fat-melting radio frequency, we road tested the most exciting facials on the market right now that are worth the hefty price tags.
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The 111CRYO facial

This is an opulent and efficacious facial with a bit of wow factor. The wow comes in the form of the breathtakingly cold 'cryo' element, which feels like someone is using a small Dyson vacuum in reverse on your face, but in Antartica. It's a targeted 60-minute treatment that feels so chilly at times you will gasp for breath but you get used to it, and it's never unpleasant. Plus the luxurious pre-cleanse, massage and 111SKIN mask (applied afterwards) are incredibly relaxing. Relaxation aside, the results are what sets this facial apart – expect an immediate baby soft feel, a noticeable improvement in tone, and the good news is the positive effects keep coming, even days later. How does it work? By using a controlled system of -30°C cooled air and pure CO2, the facial enhances oxygen levels, aids the improvement of microcirculation and provides "optimum conditions for collagen and elastin stimulation". As you might expect with anything on offer in Harrods ultra high-end, almost futuristic, wellness centre, it comes with a high-end price tag. One treatment costs a cool £250; six treatments will set you back £1200. Gulp. That said, as far as results go, this might be the best non-invasive facial in town.

111CRYO
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Su-Man is a bit of a legend in the skincare world, and when you meet her you’ll understand why – she is a fountain of skincare experience and knowledge. She’s also delightfully no-nonsense in her approach getting your skin looking its very best. A former dancer, each facial is choreographed to your needs, employing a blend of Shiatsu, Pilates and Oriental facial massage. The massage element is what makes it special, at times it’s borderline rough, but you know the minute you lie back on the bed that you are in the hands of an expert. Expect a rigorous massage on the chest, upper back, arms and feet as well as face (she even rubs your ears – which are connected to the kidneys) in order to get your lymphatic system working. As for imparting pearls of skincare wisdom along the way, one of my favourites was the Su-Man approach to applying what skincare. Her advice is to think of products the way you do breakfast and dinner – rather than dumping heavy creams on your skin at night you should have a good breakfast and a light dinner to allow your skin to work, then rest. Along with the sage advice, expect real results from this intensive treatment with visibly more even and luminous skin afterwards. Worth it's weight in gold.

Su-Man's Skin Reborn Sculpting Facial
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The Mesolift

Dr Dray (Best. Name. Ever) is the inventor of the Mesolift and women in Paris and London can't get enough of his supercharged facial. It's designed to make the skin look more youthful and radiant by getting anti-oxidants, Oligo minerals, Zinc, Fluor and Selenium, vitamins A & C, and Hyaluronic acid into your face, using lots of tiny needles. Sounds scary? It isn't. A single session is so speedy, 10-15 minutes max, and the results are good (they recommend two sessions about two weeks apart for best results). Numbing cream is applied over the face and neck and then Dr Dray or one of his colleagues gets out his gun (an airpressure gun full of microneedles) and moves it in a circular motion around your face, even over the lips, two or three times. There is no pain, but it's not exactly relaxing. Still it's all over in a flash and a moisturising hyaluronic acid mask is applied afterwards to calm the skin. There is no downtime, but my face was a little red and felt strange as the numbing cream wore off on my way home. The next morning I noticed my forehead looked tighter, my neck my pores were less visible and I had a little bit of a glow on my cheeks. My lips were definitely plumper too, but that didn't last more than a few days. A good option for women who are time poor but want to give their skin a boost.

Mesolift Facial
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Photo: Courtesy of Face Gym
Face Gym

Non-invasive, don't expect whale noises and candles. The technicians are referred to as face-trainers not beauticians but don't be perturbed, the effects are instant. Marly, my wonderful trainer explained how the three step process would work; she would begin by giving my face a deep tissue massage, segue into an electrical muscle stimulation to sculpt and lift, followed by a powerful Radio Frequency to melt fat and a non-invasive laser to target wrinkles, topped off with three power serums to plump and hydrate skin. The process takes 90 minutes and the Radio Frequency feels something akin to being on a really fast rollercoaster. There's something incredibly satisfying about being put through so many stages of rather intense tech-heavy processes. Marly encouraged me to take a before and after selfie and I certainly looked more lifted, taught and wide eyed.

This facial comes into its own about three days down the line. Most signifiant was the effect the laser had on plumping lips and my forehead certainly looked smoothed. Ideal for anyone not game for botox but looking for a tightened and plumper look. The Waterhouses are devout visitors.

Face Gym
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Infrared

From bacne to bum spots, we all know that skin issues have a nasty habit of flaring up all over – not just on the face. If you're looking for a solution that works on all of your skin, you can't do better than visiting an infrared sauna.

All saunas can work wonders as perspiration encourages your body to push out toxins which could block your pores; regular sessions can also improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation. Infrared saunas do an even better job, with studies showing they increase the amount of cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulphuric acid, sodium, ammonia and uric acid removed from the body by up to 17%.

Sensors at KXU's single-person infrared sauna mean the temperature is automatically tailored to ensure each user receives maximum benefit from each session. You can even add complementary colour and aromatherapy, then sit back and let your skin clear itself up.

Available at KXU
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Photo: Courtesy of Pfeffer Sal
Pfeffer Sal

This facial begins like most; with cleansing and steaming, however it ends with what can only be described as an LED "Opera mask" of which Jessica Alba is a fan. The mask has a similar effect to how a plant uses sunlight to grow and rejuvenate, and uses LED (Light Emitting Diode), which encourages collagen production and reduces inflammation.

If you have any concerns around acne this is a fantastic treatment. The LED mask's blue light reduces levels of acne-causing propionibacterium, tightens pores and helps heal infected spots.
And anyone with sensitive skin and inflammation will benefit from the red light (that follows the blue) which calms and soothes the skin.

Pfeffer Sal
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Hydrafacial

This facial finds the perfect balance between scientific expertise and holistic relaxation. Each treatment uses "advanced, patented vortex technology" (a very fancy looking handheld device to you and me), to massage your face and stimulate your lymphatic system. This is what your body uses to naturally detoxifies your body, stimulating it through facials and regular exercise is thought to provide long term hydration and remove any harmful debris from your pores.

If you're short on time this can all be done in about 30 minutes and can be a great monthly addition to your skin care regime if you're really trying to re-hydrate your skin.

Alternatively go for the more luxurious option that includes a gentle exfoliation treatment, extraction and a hydrating treatment which infuses your skin with botanical ingredients such as horse chestnut seed extract, red algae extract, copper, zinc and magnesium. Dreamy.

Available at Sk:n Clinics
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The DIY Solution

This is pretty pricy - but an incredible do-it-yourself (less extreme) facial which will save you the bare faced polluted journey home from central London. A facial from the comfort of your home which you can apply whilst watching Netflix. Apply a small amount nightly over a few weeks and watch your skin transform.

Eisenberg Melt-In Repairing Mask, £110, available at Eisenberg
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