Should You Go to Paris for a Facial?

Courtesy Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

I mean, is it ever a bad idea to plan a trip to Paris?

The beauty version of a Buddhist kōan goes something like this: How can you get yourself to look well-rested and vibrant after a red-eye transatlantic flight with a six-month-old? That question popped into my mind the minute I walked through the revolving doors of the impeccably chic Hotel Royal Monceau at the tail end of Paris Fashion Week. Surrounded by dewy skin and expertly coiffed, clad and shod fashionistas, I began to feel that my spit up-ridden outfit, blotchy complexion, and large dark circles needed to be addressed.  

As a new mother, I would give anything, possibly an appendage, to look less tired. I came to Paris to see if miracles could be worked at the My Blend Clarins Spa, a Philippe Starck -designed white marble temple to beauty, deep in the bowels of Le Royal Monceau. The treatment I had crossed the Atlantic to have was the My Blend by Clarins Facial. I was intrigued by its high tech, personalized system: A computer measures your pigment, skin tone, and redness, and customize the ingredients in the facial mask to the client.  There are over 6,000 combinations available between day and night creams.


Courtesy Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris

So something had to work for me, right?

My issues—shifting hormones, stress, lack of sleep—had taken away that pregnancy glow and replaced it with something more ashy. While the facial is available in six other places around the globe—but nowhere in the U.S.—Le Royal Monceau’s spa was the first in the world to debut the facial. Plus, Paris is always on the cutting edge of the cosmetics industry and, for French women, caring for your skin is practically a religion, so I wanted to head for the birthplace of Clarins, the line of plant-based based products.

The facial began more like building a profile for a dating app, with a series of questions about my lifestyle—everything from my exposure level to pollution and conditioning to what my stress level is. The survey is predicated on the main premise of the facial: your life shows up on your face. Dr. Olivier Courtin-Clarins, who was an orthopedic surgeon before he joined the family company as Managing Director, had a stroke of genius: that skin cell regeneration, a.k.a. the fountain of youth, doesn’t only depend on age or skin type, but on physical and psychological conditions.

Next came the famed Clarins technology. The machine, which looks like a large iPad, took three photos. Upon examining the pictures, I could see clearly the impact of not wearing enough sunscreen earlier that day.

My diagnosis confirmed that my skin was splotchy and dry. Next came the wonder of the process: finding out what I needed. The products certainly resonated, with creams named  “stress management” and boosters—high concentration serums—called “redness rescue” and “radiant burst.” There was also a serum called ‘jet lag’, which addresses frequent traveling, changes in the weather, air conditioning, fatigue, and over-eating. Check, check, check. I’ll call the serums little miracles for their ability to correct skin afflictions so quickly.


Courtesy Hannah Seligson

In the United States, I always associated a facial with someone looking at my face under an unforgiving light and then squeezing out impurities. Not so in Paris: Here, the approach was more about relaxation and rejuvenation—in other words, there was nothing removed from my face during the 90-minute treatment.  A LED mask was placed over my face. My facialist, Luce, suggested the red light instead of the blue light because red helps to combat inflammation and redness.  Next was Cyrotherapy—a cooling wand that tones the skin and makes you look like you’ve just woken up after a 12-hour night’s sleep on a tropical island. When I asked the spa director, Gaëlle Castex, why and how this frigid vibration was so effective for making my eyes look less puffy and dark, she told me: “This is because the cryotherapy has a direct effect on the eye counter, eyeshadows, and eye pouch. “

So was the facial worth a trip to Paris? Well, let’s start with the universal truth that Paris is always a good idea. On the topic of traveling thousands of miles in search of beauty—revolutionary is a word thrown around a lot in the cosmetics industry—but after my facial, three very fashionable Parisian women said I looked "great." That's about as much of a superlative as you'll get from the taciturn northern, urban French. And here’s another data point. My under eye concealer ran out at the beginning of my week-long trip to Europe—something that would have usually prompted me to immediately search high and low for a Chantaicelle anti-fatigue stick. But I didn’t feel that urgent need. The My Blend facial had erased, at least temporarily, much of the fatigued look from my complexion. Or maybe that was just Paris.