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Facing it naturally
by Cheah Ui-Hoon

There are a few ways for spas to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market. It could be location or design, and of course the range of exclusive products each uses.

The latest trend, though, is all about holistic healing, and several spas are banking on natural ingredients to boost the therapeutic benefits of their treatments.

Ultimate Crystal Healing
Time: 90 mins
Price: $328
Where: Spa Club at Beach Road
75 Beach Road, Fu Yuen Building #01-00/02-00
6339 9238
Opening hours: Monday through Sunday 11am to 2am

Crystals - and their supposed positive energy - are the gems of choice at Spa Club, adding to the arsenal of organic material that are used for massages such as jade wands and hot stones.

The spa's crystal healing programme promises a calming and uplifting effect, using the ILA range of products, winner of the Best Organic Product at Asiaspa Awards 2013.

The 90-minute facial's unique point is its reliance on stones and nourishing plants such as rose which raise the "vibrational energy" of the skin. The face scrub has micro-fine garnet in it, for example (for regeneration and stimulating circulation) while the jade face mask has cooling jade elements.

The highlight is the lengthy facial massage with warmed rose quartz crystals that supposedly relax the muscles and ease up stress lines. Rose quartz crystals have apparently been used for a long time for its anti-ageing qualities besides giving your face a soothing massage.

The therapist at Spa Club does thoroughly massage the face in an elaborate sequence of strokes and presses on acupressure points - a combination of meridian tapping and Tibetan techniques.

This releases tension in the face, and encourages healing with the crystal's energy.

Amazingly, even though the massage is intensive, you'll probably still head to noddy land, that's how relaxing it is.

One needs to dig just a bit deeper into one's pocket for an indulgent facial like this - since it's difficult to measure relaxation and age-defying claims, but if crystals are your thing, at least now you know where to go for some rebalancing R&R for the face and emerge glowing after it.

The luxuriously outfitted 10,000 square foot spa is a great addition to Beach Road, offering a full suite of top-to-toe services, especially as it operates until 2am daily, and it even offers limousine services to locations in the CBD area.

Raw Fruit Facial
Time: 60 mins
Price: $98
Where: Immanuel Beauty
Parkroyal Hotel, 181 Kitchener Road, #06-11,
6681 6585
Opening hours: 11am-8pm daily

It sounds wonderful doesn't it, to cut up, crush or blend some fruit, seeds or nuts for an honest-to-goodness home remedy for the skin.

Until you actually try to do it and realise that the length of time it takes to prepare the ingredients, and the stress of trying to slather it on your face while not causing a big mess in the bathroom or the bedroom, and the problems with self-application, is just not worth it. And you'd rather just book a facial at a spa with its proper set-up and basically, have someone else do it for you.

At Immanuel, they have fruit and herbal selections for the face, from the German Sensocell (which feature natural plant ingredients and active minerals) range of products.

There are avocado, honey, green tea fruit and vegetable facials with ingredients that are free from chemicals, artificial ingredients or perfumes that could cause harm to the skin. It helps in anti-ageing, especially for those with problem skin conditions.

The therapist recommended the black sesame seed mask for my condition, as it aids in skin tightening. Sesame seed is rich in oil and minerals, besides being a natural anti-inflammatory agent with healing properties. The oil can even get rid of certain bacteria in the skin, and is soothing to suntanned skin.

But what got me was the detoxification of the skin, as the oil apparently attracts soluble toxins which can be washed away with hot water and soap.

What was enjoyable - even if it's standard service these days - is the shoulder and back massage you get while the mask does its work. In this case, I was in good hands with therapist Vivian Hoong, who's been a beautician since 2003.

Even if Kitchener Road isn't exactly Orchard Road, the contemporary styled spa in Parkroyal Hotel has a hook. What is interesting about Immanuel is its cooperative business model, where it offers experienced beauty and health therapists the unique opportunity to run their own business within a shared space.

Owner-therapists leverage on Immanual's systems and management expertise, as well as infrastructure, by renting their own treatment rooms and manage their own employees (if necessary) and customers.

"This frees the therapist to focus on her services and do what she is best at, to care for her clients. The customer will enjoy lower costs, as the therapist has the liberty to decide on the fee structure, without being constrained by the spa that employs her," explains founder and IT specialist Deborah Chiam.

In theory, one can be assured that one is in good hands, because the therapist is wholly committed and invested in service, being an owner and not just an employee.

Green Spa by Santaverde (Xingu)
Time: 90 mins
Price: $160
Where: Beaute by Kew
Block 2, #01-47, Everton Park
6534 8255
Opening hours: Monday - Friday, 11am - 8pm, Saturday, 10am - 7pm

The chic spa is a welcome addition to Everton Park, because why should a neighbourhood spa be any less inviting than the ones in town? Owner Lily Kew also has a deep interest in diet and nutrition, so the holistic slant comes naturally and permeates the cosy salon.

Because of her long experience with running spas, Beaute by Kew's services and products are quite boutique, and some of the exclusive boutique products the salon carries besides the aloe vera-based Santaverde range are Suki and Osea.

Santaverde products are all based on the nourishing organic aloe vera juice, made from plants grown in Spain.

A cleansing aloe vera gel removes make up and grime, cleaning without drying out the skin or harming the natural protective layer.

The toner too is rehydrating, with the aloe vera, and the rose ingredient in it revitalizes the skin. Throughout the facial, the different steps are separated by a warm compress of organic geranium essential oil - to calm the skin as well as to dilate the pores for deeper cleansing.

After a mild extraction, depending on the condition of your skin, the face massage that follows is again stimulating and relaxing at the same time.

The therapist uses a concoction of Santaverde Xingu serum, aloe vera repair gel, classic toner, extra rich beauty elixir and aloe vera cream for the face and neck massage. The Xingu features ingredients from the Brazilian rainforest, chosen for their high anti-oxidant properties.

The skin is then primed for a mask and eye mask, comprising the Santaverde Xingu high anti-oxidant prevention cream, pure aloe vera gel for lots of hydration, and a beauty elixir.

Your facial is finished with the aloe vera face cream and high anti-oxidant eye cream. As you're lying on the treatment bed in the air-conditioned room in Singapore, try to imagine the aloe vera fields of Finca Verde, the place between Europe and Africa, at the southern-most tip of Spain.

You might emerge into the the bright tropical sun after the treatment, but for almost two hours, your face would have been nourished by plants grown in sandy soil and under a very soft Andalusian sunshine, buoyed by winds blown in from the Mediterranean sea.

This article was first published on June 14, 2014.
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