Time was, a professional facial was a fairly basic, necessary, and not always pleasurable affair. Twice, or maybe for the unusually high-maintenance, four times a year, women the world over would ask other women to cleanse, steam and – unpleasant but true – perform somewhat painful extractions, reaching the parts that, well, let's just say that one's own fingers simply couldn't. Not without causing a serious breakout, anyway. Blackheads – then as now – are in no way fashionable.
Today, of course, things aren't quite so simple: oxygen facials are claimed to plump up the skin of everyone from Kate Moss to Madonna; glycolic acid peels and microdermabrasion (watch it on YouTube and weep) both aim to achieve a younger, fresher complexion in a matter of minutes. The list goes on and is as potentially confusing as it is invasive/ blotch-inducing/plain unnecessary (delete where applicable, if not all three).
And so it was that yours truly – a neo-Luddite where such matters are concerned – found herself in the happy position of indulging in her first ever Eve Lom facial, which the therapist charged with the task in question described as "classic".
Indeed it was. In the first instance, the legendary cleanser – which also tones and exfoliates in a satisfying wash-and-go kind of a way – was liberally applied and then, er, removed again with muslin cloths. Simple but effective, and not even remotely traumatic. Next, a paraffin-wax mask was painted on, layer upon layer, warmer and warmer. This is Lom's answer to steaming for opening pores, but far gentler, apparently. The mask is peeled off gradually and, as skin is bared, what is known in the trade as "congestion" – traffic of the face, then – is attended to.
This is never nice but it is, in the end, the point of the exercise, surely. A camphor- based mask finishes the treatment, taken off this time with a camomile-soaked cloth and an icy compress that closes the pores.
While only a fool would claim a transformed appearance, the facial – dubbed the Ultimate Cleanse – achieves just what it says it achieves, which, let's face it, is unusual. More generally, the less-is-more approach that characterises the Eve Lom brand seems highly appropriate just now. True, neither product nor spa treatments might be described as a bargain, but no costly spritz/ night cream/serum is prescribed, just cleanser and mask in two no-frills tubs.
We do too much to our skin is the thinking behind it all. And that, my friends, is a result – where both time and money are concerned.