The mother of all facials

It's more a beauty therapy than a healing therapy, but many women (and apparently men) swear by the facial. We submitted to heat, the tug, the rough and the glide of the most extensive facial ever developed.

These are the live-more-diligently, be-more-organised resolutions that have trailed through my adult life like forgotten lunch dates:

  • - Diarise the year's annual check-up appointments for dentist, gynae, and dermatologist;
  • - Diarise annual appointments with tax consultant and financial advisor;
  • - Diarise facials once a month, and haircuts every four months;
  • - Diarise gym for three times each week;
  • - Diarise a dinner party once a month;
  • - Pack lunch every day;
  • - Stop resorting to amatriciana sauce on spaghetti every time supper catches us by surprise…

…I don't need to go on. There isn't a person on the planet who doesn't do the new-leaf-sweeps-clean (or whatever) thing every time life feels too chaotic. But now there's a new incentive for the facial: the Carita two-hour anti-ageing lifting facial has been invented.

What is it?
Well, it's a facial obviously, with all the attendant cleansing and creaming, massaging and smoothing, so even without the special effects, you're going to come away looking both sleepy and startled, like you've just woken up from the most delicious dream (which is, actually, what it feels like).

The two hours include a relaxing massage of your neck and shoulder, which trails into your head, so your hair gets full of delicious-smelling oils (incidentally, when I washed those out the next morning, my hair felt fantastic, so that seems to be an unexpected side-benefit of the treatment). Don't make plans for a big date straight afterwards, in other words.

But the special effects are the thing. Carita has a range called Rénovateur which does, indeed, seem to renovate the lived-in quality of skin: a fairly abrasive massage, a soothing refining cream after, and then – well, you know those little blackheads that invariably trouble your otherwise porcelain skin, even if you're a diligent twice-a-day cleanser and scrubber? One of the distinguishing things of this facial, is a set of sort of wired-up sponges which are hot, and pressed and passed repeatedly over your face, 'releasing the sebum', as my therapist tactfully referred to the process by which all the muck in the pores was vanquished.

Amazing. Now, about a week later, my chin is still virgin territory.

What does it feel like?
There's a mask for the face, a micro-mask for the eyes (the details are blurred, because by this stage I kept dropping off and jerking away in the usual horror of snoring) and the other extraordinary special effect, a 'sculpting massage'. Those roughish sponges come out again, and your face is – genuinely – recontoured. No kidding. While you're concentrating on not dribbling, your eyes are getting a full-on lifting treatment, and the skin on your face is tightened and lifted. I know it really happens because my therapist stopped halfway through the process – left side complete, right side undone – and showed me the difference. It was like looking into the mirror of time, at a version of me I haven't seen for a few years. My therapist said the effect would last about four weeks.

The combination of high-tech and natural products feels convincing – indeed, Carita is considered to be one of the world's most prestigious beauty therapy brands. And the smells are delicious.

Would I recommend it?
Hell, yes.

There is a downside: I have a sensitive skin (the result of growing up in the Northern Cape in the days before we really understood sunblock) and my morning-after glow was replaced on day three with a roughened skin. When I looked closely, it seemed I was peeling very lightly. So time it well, if you're tempted.

Within 36 hours, the peeling part was over, and the skin that emerged is fantastic – more moist and smooth than it's been for a long time. And, as I said, still so clean I feel like one of those self-righteous TV stars in infomercials.

It's jolly expensive, so this won't be a monthly event. But it's a treat worth saving for.

Where to get it
I had the treatment at the delicious Constantia Uitsig Spa (where you don't get much change from R1 000, but you do get tea and cakes served in the peaceful conservatory while you try to gather yourself afterwards and prepare for the real world).

Prices seem to be roughly equivalent wherever you go for Carita treatments, which are also offered at several other spas, including: Chelsea Spa in Wynberg, Cape Town (021 797 5001), the Verona Day Spa in Houghton, Johannesburg (011 880-0067), High Rustenberg spa outside Stellenbosch (021 809 3800); and Fancourt, George (044 804 0000).

- (Heather Parker, Health24, February 2008)

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