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Elemis anti-ageing facial at the Hotel Intercontinental, London

by Adrienne Wyper
Hotel Intercontinental London spa

You don't have to check in to a spa to check out of your busy life for a while. And obviously, that busy life may preclude you from snatching a couple of days to spend solely on pampering yourself. So if you're pushed for time or strapped for cash, why not treat yourself to a facial?

My skin was feeling neglected: early starts mean my morning skincare routine is skimped on; I'm out in all weathers cycling every day from station to office, and that office suffers from an extremely dry atmosphere.

Spa InterContinental is on the first floor of the InterContinental hotel on Park Lane. I say Park Lane because that's where you'll notice the building: right at the southern end of the street, just across the way from the Wellington Arch. However, the entrance is round the back of the building, in Hamilton Place.

Arriving a little early, I'm ushered to a soft armchair and treated to a little plate of nibbles (blueberries, pecans and dried banana) with my peppermint tea. The dark wood on the walls, with orchids dotted around, together with the subdued lighting and the not-too-intrusive soundtrack of ambient music makes the outside world feel very far away.

My therapist, Melissa, takes me to the treatment room, showing me the little wardrobe area for my clothes and telling me I can leave my bra on but to slip the straps down. Once on the treatment couch I'm mesmerised by the egg-shaped lighting panel, with an aura of ever-changing coloured light.

As she cleanses my face and prepares my skin for the treatment, Melissa tells me that the Elemis anti-ageing facial is one of the spa's most popular, even though it's one of the most recently introduced.

After I'm washed, cleansed and toned, with accompanying wafts of rose and herbs, a tri-enzyme serum is applied, followed by a gel mask to allow it to soak in. The mask is deliciously cool and moist, with a fresh menthol-pine smell. I'm now wearing a weighted eye mask, which is strangely relaxing. The mild tingling sensation from the mask (perfectly normal) starts soon after application and I take this as a good sign. If I can feel it, it must be doing something...

And independent testing shows that this facial does indeed do something. Just one treatment is proven to visibly resurface the skin by up to 75%, and increase smoothness by up to 32%. The trio of enzymes - subtilisine, protease and papain - stimulate cell renewal and promote smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin. Among the other active ingredients are white truffle extract, which supports the skin's microflora, creating the perfect environment for the enzymes to do their work.

Melissa covers me with a warm quilt, and sets to work on the shoulder, neck and head massage. She works deftly and fluidly, not the easiest of manoeuvres when the person you're massaging is lying on her back. When she starts working on my scalp, my mind really starts to spin free... I'm just starting to drift off when it's time for the mask to be peeled off. It comes away easily, in one piece, with none of the tugging at the skin you get when a mask has adhered over-enthusiastically.

After a final tidy-up, Melissa raises the head end of the couch - which is great because I'm so relaxed I don't think I could have done it unaided! She invited me to feel my skin - wow! I've never felt it so smoth.

Back at work my colleagues agree that my skin does look smoother, brighter and fresher, and so does my partner when I get home. The brightened effect and smoothness are still tangible a week later.

Find out more

Spa InterContinental is at 1 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7QY. For treatment selections and reservations, call 020 7318 8691  or visit the website.

The Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Facial costs £90 for an hour's treatment but it feels like it lasts much longer, and you'll see the difference in your skin for at least a week.

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