Fast Facials Are the Latest Beauty Trend
Three, two, one . . . warns Angela, the laser therapist, and as the first sprinkling of light hits my face, I brace myself to flinch and screw up my eyes, hidden under protective metal goggles.
As a veteran beauty journalist, I've been zapped by many lasers and, while they're brilliant at making the skin look brighter and tighter, they tend to be a lengthy, no-pain-no- gain experience.
But this time there's no pain. Admittedly, it feels as if tiny drops of hot fat are being spattered across my face, but they are so small and so light that the sensation is just a sort of exciting prickling.
Exciting, because this new Skin Laundry laser-and-light facial is promising all sorts of wonders — from deep-cleaning my pores to brightening my complexion — in less than 15 minutes.
Light treatments have suddenly become ultra-fashionable — not surprising when you realise how quickly you get results. A brighter, tighter complexion in the time it takes to go for a blow-dry? Find me a woman who'll say no.
While London's top facialists, including Debbie Thomas, Teresa Tarmey and Joanne Evans, have long used lasers in their bespoke treatments — to tighten the skin, clear age spots and thread veins or stimulate the growth of skin- plumping collagen — these treatments aren't necessarily quick and they never come cheap, at around £300 a pop.
Now quicker, easier 'skin bars' offer laser treatments that will leave you looking fresher-faced and red-carpet ready in half an hour or less for around £35.
A quick fix of the gentler, cheaper LED light therapy, which you can find at super-fashionable Santi Spa in South Kensington and the Light Salon at Harvey Nichols in London and Leeds, is fast becoming the favourite pre-party pick-me-up.
LED light soothes irritation and gives skin a healthy radiance — and you can enhance the feel-good benefits by packing in a power nap, as the treatment is so warm and gentle it's hard not to drop off while the lamp is on.
Skin Laundry's facial goes one step further. It is to skin what blowdry bars are to hair.
Alice Hart-Davis says the treatment feels as if tiny drops of hot fat are being spattered across her face, but they are so small and so light that the sensation is just a sort of exciting prickling
Its high-tech lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) machines are the sort of sophisticated equipment used on high power settings for skin rejuvenation in medical clinics.
But in Skin Laundry's treatment rooms, styled like airy, laid-back Californian living rooms, they're used on a low setting so no skin numbing is needed and you are left looking fresh rather than reddened.
IPL is a treatment well known in beauty salons for its ability to get rid of age spots.
It's equally well known for that feeling of being flicked with an elastic band by the classroom bully. But as Angela fires the machine on my forehead, there's no pain, but just a pulse of warmth against the skin.
IPL over, Angela cleans off the gel, pats my skin with protective moisturising sunscreen and tells me I'm done. Only 12 minutes have passed, but to my amazement my skin is hugely improved. It looks airbrushed — fresher and smoother, as if my pores have shrunk. I'm hooked.
'The difference is that our treatments are mild and non-invasive,' says founder Yen Reis, a former oil broker-turned-entrepreneur who has just opened the first UK Skin Laundry treatment room at Liberty in London.
'The difference is that our treatments are mild and non-invasive,' says founder Yen Reis, a former oil broker-turned-entrepreneur who has just opened the first UK Skin Laundry treatment room at Liberty in London
'They're great for people who have never tried lasers before.'
She has always had what she calls 'complicated skin', the sort that will erupt in spots at the slightest provocation.
When she discovered how much conventional laser treatment improved her skin by reducing bacteria levels and keeping skin extra-clean, she looked for ways to make the treatment more tolerable but effective, and cheaper.
'The thing about lasers is that they reverse damage in the skin. They stimulate the formation of collagen and IPL disperses pigment in the skin.'
Skin Laundry has been a huge hit in the U.S. since Reis launched her first clinic in Santa Monica in 2013
Because of the gentle power settings, you need repeated treatments to get these results, but what you see instantly is the brightening deep-cleaning that happens when the laser beam penetrates the skin and vaporises dirt, oil and bacteria on the surface and in the pores. Yen Reis is so confident of these results that she offers the first treatment free. It's a leap of faith that has paid off: 98 per cent of people who tried the treatment loved it so much they have signed up for more.
Skin Laundry has been a huge hit in the U.S. since Reis launched her first clinic in Santa Monica in 2013.
The treatment gets the thumbs-up from experts. Dr Nisith Sheth is a consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic in London who specialises in laser treatment of the skin.
'This type of laser has been used in this way, with frequent treatments and a low-energy setting, for more than a decade in Asia and has been shown to be very effective,' he says.
Can a laser like this really clear dirt and pollution from the skin in 12 minutes?
'Oh yes,' he says. 'The laser light is attracted by the dark pigment in dirt and pollution particles, and obliterates it. It's a well-known use of laser. The British Museum has for years been using lasers to clean dirt and pollution from artefacts.
'Why your skin looks brighter is because the laser is taking away the microscopic particles of dirt that you don't usually notice and can't remove. It's similar to a chemical peel, but without the recovery downtime.'
My second session went by in a flash. I realised that the strange light frying smell was blackheads being vaporised in a sauce of pollution particles. Afterwards, my skin looked even clearer and tighter.
Could this be my new beauty addiction? Yen Reis has a treatment every week and her skin looks fabulous. I think I may need to follow her example and make it a lunch-time habit.
This article first appeared in The Daily Mail.