Writer Kate O’Brien

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Skin Alive

Skincare retreats in picturesque locales leave you looking better than simply well rested

For many years spas were typically rated on the basis of a standard massage. Now skin-centric treatments are coming to the fore with latest statistics from the Global Wellness Institute indicating that the beauty and anti-ageing sector represents over a quarter of the total US$4.2 trillion wellness economy.

Japan’s hot springs have been known as ‘the waters of youth’ for centuries with ritualistic bathing helping to rejuvenate skin and restore its radiance. Those who have visited know just how seriously this tradition is taken. In the Hakone region for instance, an estimated 25,000 tons of hot spring water gushes forth from 17 hot spring sources everyday. They are a rich source of sulphur that treat irritations and infections like rashes and eczema, as well as dry scalp. Japanese-style skin retreats mean daily immersion in these restorative waters.

Europe too enjoys a rich thermal spring water tradition. One of the best places to experience cutting-edge therapies is Stanglwirt, a slick retreat centre in the Wilder Kaiser Mountains, close to Kitzbühel in the Austrian countryside. The revamped spa is hushed, but its new look bright and vibrant. The brainchild of the owner’s daughter, Maria Hauser, the space is decked out with reclaimed wooden ceilings, stone grottos, clean white walls with living moss climbing the entrance.

Here alpine hospitality meets outstanding skincare. The focus is on intensive skin therapies courtesy of internationally renowned German dermatologist Dr Barbara Sturm, Dr Erich Schulte’s Quick Medical Skin formula, Dr Spiller’s Pure SkinCare, Maria Galland and Klapp Cosmetics. Results-driven treatments delivered by an exceptional team of therapists bring these world-class products to life. Just one Dr Barbara Sturm facial left my skin looking and feeling plumper, brighter and glowing, especially around my eyes, which are prone to dullness.

There are numerous body treatments on offer too, such as Alpine wraps and massages (Thai, Ayurvedic aromatherapy, hot stone) to Haki Flow (where the body is skilfully stretched and twisted while floating effortlessly in the pool). Aside from the spa, highlights include farm-to-table cuisine and cosy chalet-chic bedrooms.

Still in Austria, the diverse Bregenzerwald landscape is the inspiration for Hotel Post Bezau and Susanne Kaufmann’s eponymous skincare range. Kaufmann is a pioneer in natural active cosmetics committed to harnessing the active power of plant life in the surrounding Bregenzerwald. With soaring mountain views, fresh, clean air is assured, as is the pure scent of Kaufmann’s organic oils.

Elements of  traditional Chinese medicine are incorporated into the treatment menu. Kauffman says, “We believe that a beautiful face cannot be considered separate from the body, just as the body cannot be separated from health, and inner and outer beauty are inextricably intertwined.” In the signature three-day Holistic Beauty Retreat, guests learn how nutrition, appropriate care, sleep and exercise can make skin look and feel radiantly healthy. After a detailed skin analysis, a blend of focused cleansing and replenishing facial therapies revitalise faces, while bodies are brought into balance with massage, movement and detox cuisine.

The thermal waters of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in alpine eastern Switzerland have been a draw for royalty and rich retirees for over a century. Since 1242, the spa has been a place of traditional European bathing pilgrimage.  The spa is an immense 80,000sqft facility with its own operating theatre and laboratory. A 70-strong team treats cosmetic issues and performs plastic surgery, and also comprises specialists in neurology, psychotherapy and dentistry.

Dermatologist Dr Brigitte Bollinger says there is no ‘one treatment fits all’ solution, that the resort constantly strives to improve individualised treatments. “Our use of Universkin (a curated blend of dermatological products prepared based on individual skin issues) is just one example of how we excel in personalised, cutting-edge skincare,” she adds.

Advanced skincare programmes focus around stabilising fixture points on the face. Dr Bollinger explains, “Our older clients (50+) need more intensive skin care regimes. We no longer use fillers on every line and wrinkle, as the face takes on a round, unattractive shape if this is done over a long period of time. Instead, we remodel the face using meso, autologous fat or a three-dimensional facelift using a laser. These new technologies allow us to recreate the facial features, while allowing the original charisma to shine through.”

Guests can choose a la carte therapies based on their desired outcomes, or an intensive skin-centric menu of treatments designed to repair, restore and nurture skin from within. Capitalising on the resort’s thermal heritage, tailored bathing programmes are available as well as thalassotherapy treatments, beauty rituals and holistic body programmes.

Further west in Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, the hushed ambience of Clinique La Prairie has been wooing Europe’s well heeled since early 1930s, when Professor Paul Niehans devised his six-day anti-ageing revitalisation cell therapy based on the regenerative capabilities of foetal lamb liver extracts. While this formidably expensive Revitalization treatment (from £20,000) and Revitalization Premium (from £32,400) is still available, a celebrated immune-boosting revitalisation therapy is available orally via daily shots.

Medical innovation, scientific research and results-driven therapies work synergistically with emphasis on aesthetics. Each guest has a consultation with the medical aesthetics doctor, who then prescribes a bespoke programme. This might include a combination of injectables, lasers and/or other tightening procedures and a range of high-tech treatments including facial drainage massage and holistic beauty therapies using the clinic’s signature Swiss Perfection product range.

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