Who doesn’t love getting party invitations? When an ESPA invite dropped onto our figurative doormat, The Spa Spy snapped it up, speeding her way to London.
The event was held in my old stomping ground, Soho. I had to drag myself past The Groucho, resisting the temptation to pop in for a mojito, instead followed the calming wafts of Restorative Candles to a charming little four storey house. Inside, it was painted entirely white with Georgian sash windows adorned with ESPA herbs and flowers.
On the first floor, I saw shelves of ESPA products – but not as we know it. The brand has undergone a subtle transformation. Gone is the heavy burgundy. Instead, each range has its own muted colour code – soft greys, putty, blue, pale pink and a slightly softer purple. It makes everything so much clearer. If you have sensitive skin, go for the pale pink, for oily combination its fresh pale green. We rather liked the colour of the men’s range, the ESPA equivalent of Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath. The bottles are lighter and brighter, too.
Having set the tone for the spa industry 25 years ago, ESPA is a massive name in the industry and is always on the forefront of spa trends. Their legendary founder, Sue Harmsworth, pioneered the holistic approach in spas when she launched ESPA, taking inspiration from East and West, science and nature.
And Sue is a veritable advert for her own products, looking at least 20 years younger than her (unbelievable) 72 years. We were introduced and she talked to me about the content we're publishing; it’s a bit like meeting the Spa Queen (she has an MBE, so is only once removed), but she’s a surprisingly earthy, funny, warm person. You could be chatting to a friend, albeit one with astonishing spa knowledge and rather enviable hair.
On the second floor I sat at an all-white counter and learned how to mix the products. I have a few ESPA bits, but didn’t realise my beloved Wonderbalm was also a rehydrating face mask, good for split ends as well as lips and hands, and could be mixed in with a serum or moisturiser. The same is true with their best-selling Hydrating Cleansing Milk, which can double as a moisturiser, and their new Limited Edition Restorative Balm (launching in March), which you rub into your palms and inhale. It’s free-flowing, creative and fun.
On floor three, four treatment beds had been set up in the room. We sampled a ten-minute version of the new Mindful Massage, now available at ESPA Life at Corinthia. The treatment is slowly being introduced to ESPA spas across the country.
Luckily, you can keep your clothes on. I might have been a little shy stripping off in midst of a lively party with fashion types being all Anna Wintour. I removed my boots and lay down on the treatment bed. A warmed oat pillow was placed under my neck and another over my eyes. My therapist held her hands on my chest and stomach and invited me to breathe deeply, slowly counting one, two, three. Focusing on my breath helped me forget the hubbub in the room and I let go of any tension. She then invited me to visualise a colour (tangerine orange springs to mind) and imagine it flowing through my limbs, around my heart, down my legs and out through my feet. Now, I was thoroughly relaxed and able to receive a lovely, deep shoulder massage. At the end, she stroked my forehead with warmed pink crystal rods – I never did get to the bottom of why, but it was all very nice.
On the walls of the room were quotes from Sue that sum up her holistic philosophy. “We’ve spent the last decade focusing on looking after our bodies. We’ll spend the next decade looking after our minds.” A new focus for ESPA on meditation and breathing hark back to the founding principles – that stress and environment play havoc with our skin. Learning to be calm is as important as using the right cleanser and moisturiser, especially in these troubled times. We don’t want to end up with the skin of Donald Trump...