From celebrity-endorsed sheets to hi-tech gadgetry, social media has gone face-mask mad. But which ones really work? Beatrice Aidin finds out
Behold the new Insta-facials – and their celeb fans
ime was when some steam, a spot of extraction and a good massage made for an effective facial. But around two years ago something happened: face masks became a social-media phenomenon, with celebrities such as Lady Gaga gathering 179,000 likes for her sheet-mask selfie, and Miley Cyrus attracting the approval of
400,000 followers when she masked up.
And last year, according to Mintel, the UK face-mask sector was worth £34.6 million. This in turn upped the ante for in-salon facials, which are becoming increasingly diverse and bizarre. These are the Instafacials – treatments that could have been designed for social media, using all manner of contraptions and bells and whistles of the 21st-century variety.
Take Spanish skincare brand Natura Bissé. Its Mindful Touch facial takes place inside a vast white bubble containing filtered, 99.95 per cent pure air, creating a perfectly clean environment. The treatment starts with an eight-minute virtual-reality experience: while wearing vast goggles – Insta-moment! – you see clouds, aquablue sea and a jungle, while a nice (prerecorded) lady talks to you throughout, using relaxing mindfulness techniques.
As someone who finds relaxing problematic to say the least, I was knocked out by the combination, so the following part of the facial was a bit of a blur; but
I do know I managed to ask the therapist
to take a photo of my face wrapped up like a mummy – again, all eyes on the social.
I am convinced that the results of the treatment were improved by Our Lady of VR, because I wasn’t as tense as a shellshocked crab and it showed on my face.
Fancy something even more bizarre? The Face Place might have an innocuous name, but with active electrodes, metal probes and a leather mask à la Hannibal Lecter, there’s nothing bland about it. Above all, the treatment is designed to be effective. ‘The electric, or galvanic, current provides the driving force for the damp cotton cloth that’s been soaked in our active ingredients – vitamin C, zinc and magnesium – to be deeply penetrated into the skin,’ explains MD Eilidh Smith.
Fine, but why the S&M mask? ‘Due to the current, it gets hot under there. Leather lets the skin breathe, so it’s the perfect material.’ After trying it, I noticed two results: firstly, my skin looked fantastic – lifted, glowing and all the things you want from a facial, plus a darned good extraction. Secondly, I had more likes on my Instagram account than ever before, plus a lot of questions about what the hell I’d been up to. Ergo, interest in the treatment. So does it lead to an upsurge in salon bookings when influencers post who have many more followers than my desultory – and private – Instagram account?
‘ When we treated the supermodel Ashley Graham before last year’s Victoria’s Secret show, she had 37,000 likes – but more significantly, there were 4.8 million views of the video she posted,’ says Gavin McLeodValentine of Intraceuticals, which also treats the likes of Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields and Halle Berry. ‘ We saw a 20 per cent increase in sales of products and treatments, which meant Intraceuticals had its strongest Christmas sales to date.’ The treatment delivers oxygen and nutrients into the skin and visibly lifts it with a pen-like device; the optimum use of social media is to treat half the face alongside the hashtag #gocompare.
Inge Theron, founder of Face Gym, has also seen the the impact of the Insta-facial. According to Mintel, the beautydevices sector was estimated to be worth a whopping £317 million last year, yet 61 per cent of British women believe some skincare procedures are too dangerous to do at home. Here are some not to be fearful of… ‘ We get so many foreign customers who can hardly speak English showing up pointing at a blog post and saying, “I want that, please.” Our new Five Minute Frozen Facial, which jets out frozen oxygen and vitamins from what looks like a hand gun, was previewed by health and beauty blogger Natalie Basma and we sold thousands of pounds’ worth of the service within a week.’
But five minutes? Instagrammable, yes, but can any treatment really have a significant effect on your skin in so short a time? ‘I refuse to buy into disposable beauty routines and I’m always on the search for newness,’ insists Theron. ‘But then I put everything through vigorous testing – on myself, my teams and our families.’
In contrast to smoking oxygen guns and other such devices, the Voya Deluxe Facial Experience starts with a massage – so far, so normal – progressing on to seaweed applied directly to the skin. Why? ‘An abundance of nutrients in seaweed help to balance the skin’s pH,’ says spokesperson Emma Roberts. ‘ Warm seaweed leaves are placed on your skin through which natural oils, sources of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants transfer into the dermal layer, promoting healthy and hydrated skin.’
Personally, though, I am partial to facialist Nichola Joss putting her hand in my mouth, a move she’s been doing for years, and with good reason. ‘ You can’t access facial muscles in the mouth externally,’ she says. ‘They hold deep tension from anxiety and stress but, once released, the face looks lifted, cheekbones sharper and complexion radiant as it’s flooded with oxygenated blood.’
Despite the wonderful photo opportunity, Joss is not crazy about the practice of Insta-facialling. ‘As women we scrutinise ourselves, but I think we’ve become more vain and yet unconfident at the same time,’ she says. I’m with her. Surely it negates the experience of a brilliant treatment to wield a smartphone in front of your face, worrying more about accruing ‘likes’ than enjoying and getting the most out of the experience itself? #somethingsaresacred.
DermaFlash: as close to DIY Dermablading as you can get, this American gadget removes dead cells, fluff, peach fuzz and – old wives’ tale alert – no, it won’t make hair grow back faster (£147 plus tax, dermaflash.com).
Beat ‘tech face’ with the new Play Skin sheet-mask – it plugs into your smartphone and, via the app, creates microcurrents. After 10 minutes it should have a lifting effect (£99 for one month of treatments; playskin.it/en).
The new Illuminage Youth Activator is the first at-home device to combine LED light and radio frequency; the dynamic duo activate new collagen and elastin to reduce wrinkles and lift the skin (£239, currentbody.com).