I Tried L.A.’s $1,100 Facial — & This Is What Happened

Photographed by Maria DelRio.
"Have you ever had an oxygen facial?" my aesthetician, Heather, politely asked as we waited for the spa elevator on Monday night.
"Yes!" I replied.
"But have you ever have an L.Raphael oxygen facial?" she echoed back. While certainly her intent was not to facial-shame me, it quickly became clear that everyone at Spa Montage at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, was sure this was going to wow me, despite the fact that I have years of uncomfortable, controversial, unexpected, and even whimsical treatments under my beauty-editor belt. We'll see about that, I thought.
But I admit, the buildup had merit: I was about to get a one-hour facial that rings in at $1,100 — just a few hundred bucks shy of the average monthly rent in L.A. county. (A whopping $1,298 with Spa Montage's 18% recommended tip — that's over $21 per minute.) It's called the L.Raphael Oxy Star Anti-Pigmentation Treatment and it appears through our research to be the most expensive facial currently offered in L.A. — even more than what most celebrity aestheticians charge for treatments to target pigmentation issues. (We're not talking about pricey lasers and light therapy, FYI.) Would I volunteer as tribute to take a complimentary media appointment? Well, duh. Before we begin, know that L.Raphael Geneve was a big "get" for The Montage earlier this year. It's one of the first places to stock the Swiss skin-care brand, right behind outposts like The Four Seasons' spa in New York — and certainly the first in Southern California. Before we dive in, you may be wondering: Why so expensive? Well, the medical-grade machine used to administer most of the products to the skin reportedly costs more than $100,000 and the products themselves cost hundreds — the ingredient list includes things like white truffles, which don't come cheap. Plus, to be frank, The Montage hotel is on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, so everything is a bit more than one would pay elsewhere. To say that they're catering to the 1% would be an understatement.

It was too good to waste and I knew I would meet my soul mate at Trader Joes on the way home...

The facial began like most facials do — a gentle cleansing of my skin and a light massage. My aesthetician, Heather, then showed me a sealed box that would provide all the products used on me over the next 60 minutes — ampoules, tubes, and jars, each individually sealed, just for me. Nothing that hit my face was coming from buy-in-bulk jars and for whatever reason, that made me feel special. Heather then plugged my ears with cotton balls, secured a soft headband over my hair, and turned on the oxygen machine. Note: There are no extractions and no exfoliation of any kind in this treatment; the goal is to plump the skin using the pressure of the machine paired with a lineup of products intended to shrink pores and fade uneven tone. Heather warned me the air, which came out like a jet stream, would be cold — far colder than the average oxygen facial — and she was right: It was freezing. Remember those York Peppermint Pattie commercials from childhood where the actor bit into the candy and got smacked in the face with a burst of freezing cold air? Yeah, it was like that.
I quickly adjusted to the noise and temperature — like jumping into a pool — and it started to feel downright refreshing. Heather went over each inch of my skin very slowly, then it was onto the mask. First, she checked that I wasn't claustrophobic — I'm not — before cutting a piece of cheesecloth, applying it over my face, and piling on the mask, a thick orange goop that felt great and quickly firmed as it set. Most facialists leave the room for a bit at this point, but Heather continued my neck and shoulder massage. (At this point, I was feeling #blessed in the most earnest way.) After the mask was removed, she topped my skin off with a few more formulas — at least I think she did, I was so relaxed at this point, I can't fully remember the order of the products — and then, did another round of oxygen to seal it all in again. Which, after the soothing massage and masking, was far less invigorating the second time around. But, you know, all in a day's work. (Kidding.) Before I knew it, the jet wind had ceased and over a grand had been spent. Leaving the spa, my skin looked insane. Insanely amazing, that is. My visage glowed, every fine line was smoothed out, my complexion looked dewier than ever before. It was too good to waste, but unfortunately, I had no red carpet to walk onto, so I headed to Trader Joe's, instead. If there was ever a night to meet my soul mate in the frozen-foods aisle, it was tonight. Real talk: I don't think I've ever seen my skin look so beautiful — which makes sense, because while there are long-term skin-evening properties to the facial (I will report back if anything miraculous happens in the next few months), any treatment that plumps the skin with oxygen is temporary and meant to be done before a big event, like the wedding to your supermarket soul mate. Heather promised my glow would last somewhere between three days and a week, but that first-night radiance did start to diminish by the next morning. If you want to do this for a big event, I recommend scheduling it for the morning of, not the day before, because that initial glow deserves to be shown off immediately. A few days later and my skin still looks and feels great — incredibly soft and smooth, radiant, and more clear in tone — but I haven't noticed fewer brown spots, which I was told I might. (I am very fair and have a lot of spots. I like my freckles, but I'm not so into the melasma and old blemish marks.) That glow, though? I'll always remember it fondly. My one regret? Showing up approximately three minutes before my appointment. The Montage Spa is the kind of place you could spend a few hours in: There is a co-ed, mineral-laced jacuzzi big enough for a small army to relax in — or a private hot tub in the ladies' locker room, if that's more your speed. There's also a sauna, steam room, lounge with fruit and tea, showers, vanities with outlets, and everything else you'd need to put yourself together after an afternoon of rest. I know I'll definitely make use of the mineral pool on my next visit, which I plan to schedule right after I win our office lotto pool...

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