As a youngster, talk of "health farms" and time spent swanning about in big fluffy robes and plopping into hot tubs with mountain views sounded like the pinnacle of glamour.
I dreamt of being an adult who would spend hard-earned cash on sweating in Scandinavian saunas or lying supine in a white room with scented candles and lotus flowers floating in pretty ceramic bowls. I've since learnt that it's all very well stealing floaty, fragrant me-time, but I'd also like some anti-ageing abracadabra to go with it.
In my twenties, as I was tense from 12-hour days hunched over a computer, my dark circles and partied-out liver pleaded to collapse in a spa. But while a splash of whale music and a nice lady rubbing in rose oil took me down a gear or two, it was not for long. And, after a while, I found relaxing to be a bit, well, boring.
Now, I've decided that medispas are just what the doctor ordered for this nearly 40-year-old: sexy, soothing hotel spaces as dazzling in function as they are form. I had this epiphany at Anassa in Cyprus, thanks to QMS Medicosmetics, a skincare range developed by a surgeon, Dr Erich Schulte. An oxygen-enhanced "classic collagen facial" in the luxury hotel's Thalassa Spa left me looking like I'd had a facelift. But instead of nips and knives, we're talking unguents and non-invasive applications. Being left blissed out was a mere by-the-by.
Now on a mission to age as gracefully as Jane Fonda (get me!), if I ever have a windfall, I'll be signing up for La Réserve Ramatuelle's "ultimate regenerating experience". A spell in this exclusive hotel near St-Tropez will set you back several thousand euros, but be assured it does include a full medical with a doctor, plus the tuppence-worth from an osteopath and nutritionist, personal training, low-cal haute cuisine, as well as "a morphological study and diagnosis of adipose tissue". Cool!
My Mr & Mrs Smith compadre, James Lohan, winces at recollections of beauticians of yore asking about his holidays in a sing-song voice. "The great thing about medical spas is you can be sure you're getting someone who knows what they're doing. I want it to feel more professional and not have to listen to someone tell me about her boyfriend troubles."
There's a fine line between medical and clinical, but we are as entitled to expect high standards from our spas as we do from hotels. I've spent time at Ayurvedic retreats where the practitioners of this ancient Hindu medicine can truly work wonders. SwaSwara in Karnataka delivers both authenticity and integrity: there's a minimum stay of a week and the intensive bespoke wellness programmes are overseen by qualified Ayurvedic doctors.
So the days of simply ringing down for a massage or rocking up at a broom cupboard for a facial are over. Wellness centres can't get away with simply being charming any more – we demand substance to their style. Needles and knives aren't my thing, so never mind the Botox, but if that person in a white coat can perform a longer-lasting spa equivalent of wiping a little Vaseline on the lens, I'll be booking in.
Juliet Kinsman is the editor-in-chief of Mr & Mrs Smith hotel guides (mrandmrssmith.com).
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