Six popular protocols for treating easily inflamed complexions.
According to multiple studies and reports, the majority of American women and about one-third of men say they have sensitive skin—and that number appears to be on the rise. Because of such concerns, women have become especially selective about personal care products, with nearly 50 percent now seeking gentler options containing natural or organic ingredients, according to a 2017 report from global information company The NPD Group.
Alas, many people discover the hard way that they can’t tolerate certain spa services. “Knowing what not to do—harsh peels or excessive heat and exfoliation—is essential,” says Heather Glenn, lead esthetician at Tall Grass Spa near Denver. Indeed, skincare pros can serve as the first line of defense when called upon to combat a variety of complaints including acne, eczema, rosacea and dryness. Armed with analytical skill and healing hands, here’s how six of them are doing exactly that, and providing their clients with much-needed relief.
1) Oasis Body Moisturizing Treatment (60-120 min./$70 a la carte, $40 add-on weekdays, $50 add-on weekends), Ivy Day Spa, Valencia, California.
Boasting a nourishing and versatile body mask, this signature service is especially beneficial for extremely dry, itchy or weather-stressed skin, says senior operations director Christina Lafayette. It begins with an exfoliating sugar scrub that is self-administered by the guest, allowing them to control pressure, avoid problem areas or skip it altogether if they find it uncomfortable. Once the skin is rinsed and lightly dried, an attendant uses a brush to apply a smooth body mask enriched with shea butter, coconut oil and aloe vera. Guests then relax in the hammam-like HydraCave, where the warmth encourages pores to receive the mask’s nourishing and healing ingredients. Finally, they rinse off in a rainfall shower, wrap up in a cozy robe and lounge in a cool-down chamber, sipping tea and enjoying snacks.
Sensitive skin all-stars: “The natural soothing and moisturizing properties of shea, coconut and aloe are instrumental to the deeply hydrating effects of this treatment,” says spa director Wendy Whitehead.
Kudos from clients: Guests say they feel like completely different people after emerging from the cool-down chamber, and love that the treatment can be enjoyed independently or with friends. They also appreciate being able to guide the experience as they move through the different phases at their own pace.
2) Estheticians Choice Facial (80 min./$120), A Natural Difference Day Spa, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Because customization is key, rarely are any two facials alike at A Natural Difference, says owner and operator Kimberly Bourbon. After analyzing each client’s skin, the esthetician selects which products and procedures to use in this seven-step session, often beginning with a calming, cleansing face massage using Yon-Ka Paris Cleansing Cream with peppermint to gently constrict capillary walls. Instead of hot steam, the complexion is then sprayed with a handheld Dr. Lucas facial machine filled with distilled water and Emulsion Concentrate, featuring Yon-Ka’s original blend of lavender, geranium, rosemary, cypress and thyme essential oils. Next, an exfoliating gel containing carob, brown algae, white nettle and lime oil softly rubs away dead
skin, leaving the face hydrated and soothed. A second analysis and repeat spritz from the Lucas machine accompanies a 15-minute face massage with ultra-gentle Yon-Ka Paris Sensitive Cream and a nourishing oil designed to reduce fine lines. The service concludes with a purifying mask, along with a moisturizing hand and foot massage.
Sensitive skin all-stars: The Sensitive Cream hides visible redness with natural green pigments from the Mirabilis jalapa plant, also known as “the marvel of Peru.”
Kudos from clients: “Guests say their newly glowing skin has never looked better and that they want this facial every day,” enthuses Bourbon, adding that redness and blotches are gone, leaving an even, “homogenized” complexion.
3) Hydra Medic Facial (60 min./$90), Oasis Day Spa, South Weymouth, Massachusetts.
Acne and rosacea are targeted by this service featuring Repêchage Hydra Medic products. After cleansing the face, the esthetician massages in a serum under steam. Next, a mask containing seaweed—high in essential fatty acids—preps skin for extractions by softening comedones, which helps minimize trauma. Following extractions, a mud mask is applied, reducing redness thanks to seaweed, brown and red algae, and an oil-absorbing mineral. That mask is removed and replaced with another containing calamine, zinc, buttermilk and tea. Once the final mask is taken off, a mattifying moisturizer designed to smooth skin and heal acne lesions is applied.
Sensitive skin all-stars: “The Hydra Medic line’s ingredients help regulate normal oil production and heal the skin,” says spa owner Julie Mahoney. Plus, the at-home Beta Hydroxy Serum combines glycolic and salicylic acids in a low percentage to remove dead skin and reduce sebum retention while minimizing irritation.
Kudos from clients: “People are amazed by this gentle healing approach, especially after trying strong cosmeceuticals that initially improve but never completely heal their acne,” says Mahoney, who
recommends monthly Hydra Medic facials, a weekly mud mask and twice-daily use of Repêchage home- care products.
A hydrating service for sensitive skin, as well as spa-goers suffering from sun overexposure, this offering begins with a gentle body brushing along lymphatic drainage pathways to release toxins, stimulate the immune response and open the pores. Next, skin is drenched in a creamy aloe and shea butter concoction, and the client is cocooned in a warm wrap. At the same time, heated neck and eye pillows are put in place for additional comfort, while the therapist performs a 15-minute scalp massage. To finish, the wrap is loosened and any remaining product is massaged into the body.
Sensitive skin all-stars: The crafty “cocktail” of aloe and shea butter is a vitamin-rich must-have for burns, inflammation, abrasions and other sensitive skin concerns; it’s also ideal for relieving dryness, alleviating damage caused by UV exposure and pollutants, and encouraging collagen and elastin production.
Kudos from clients: People who’ve been plagued by chronic eczema are floored by the wrap’s ability to rehydrate without irritation. “Because it helps kick-start the skin’s own ability to produce moisture and collagen, it can continue to relieve symptoms of eczema, dermatitis, dehydration and more, even days later,” adds spa owner Melissa Happel.
5) Treatment Facial (65 min./$125 Mon.-Thurs., $135 Fri.-Sun.), Tall Grass Spa, Evergreen, Colorado.
To accommodate clients with reactive or inflammatory complexions, this facial can be customized using the Éminence Calm Skin collection. The esthetician first washes the guest’s face with a chamomile cleanser. Then, often using a fan brush for a lighter application, a treatment such as the Rosehip & Maize Exfoliating Masque is applied, gently removing buildup while infusing the skin with protective antioxidants. Additional steps may include a pressure-point face massage to increase blood flow, LED light to reduce inflammation, a jade stone roller to bring cool relief, and a relaxing neck and shoulder massage.
Sensitive skin all-stars: A multitude of soothing ingredients include arnica, chamomile, lavender, horse chestnut, and BioComplex antioxidants that help naturally reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Kudos from clients: Because of the location’s lack of humidity, “air and sun suck the skin dry,” says lead esthetician Heather Glenn, whose esthetics career began because she wanted to figure out why her own skin was so inflamed and sensitive. “I discovered that home care is essential, so I recommend the Calm Skin collection to my clients with rosacea. It works wonders!”
6) Purifying Clay Body Mask (55 min./$100), Spa Lux, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
This head-to-toe service is as gentle as it is effective, with the client blissfully relaxing through a series of soothing steps. The esthetician starts by cleansing the skin in a hydrotherapy capsule, followed by a citrus crystal polish rubdown for nourishing and gentle exfoliation. A second body cleanse is then performed in preparation for the cornerstone of the service—a purifying French clay mask, which is delicately brushed on. Next, the guest rests in a steam bath—augmented by colorful, collagen-boosting LED lights—and receives a stimulating scalp massage. After the mask is set, a third and final cleanse is performed, and finally a vitamin E-infused moisturizer is slathered on.
Sensitive skin all-stars: Known as “living clay,” the dark green mask comes from rich volcanic soil packed with minerals that enhance enzyme production. The healing, detoxifying and nourishing formula includes amino acids, vitamin E, kelp, green tea and grapefruit, all of which work together to remove impurities, improve tone, reinvigorate skin cells, and tighten pores.
Kudos from clients: Guests love how the service gets rid of body acne. “It leaves the skin feeling hydrated, refreshed and looking healthier than ever,” says Spa Lux general manager Kimberley Shaver.
–by Vicki Arkoff
This story first appeared in the April issue of Dayspa magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.