Treatments should feel nice, not like punishment
As a child born to placard-waving Left-wing parents, working in the beauty/fashion industry was always a source of unease. I once experienced the warm glow of respect from my father when I told him I was writing about cashmere, only to see it fade when he realised I meant the goat by-product, not the war-torn region.
In some quarters, the beauty industry gets a bad rap. Does it play on women’s insecurities? Will it make us feel like we are never quite good enough? Maybe, but it can also make us feel great.
A new study by Mintel reveals that 59 per cent of women say their beauty routine helps them relax. The soothing textures, pleasant smells and five minutes of self-focus provide a positive mental boost. Aromatherapy oils, as the name suggests, are properly therapeutic. They can alter brain chemistry, boost one’s mood and combat stress – and they also have antiviral and antiseptic properties. If a friend is going through a tough time, I give them Aromatherapy Associates’ Inner Strength Roller Ball, which costs £18. It’s like portable therapy. Honestly.
And then there is the power of touch. As humans, we need it – but as more and more of us live on our own, tactile pleasure is missing from many lives. Beauty and spa treatments are arguably the only way we can comfortably pay for touch provided by another human being.
The benefits are multiple, but it has to be the right kind of treatment. Choose the wrong one and you may feel peeved, not pampered. During a career of testing spa treatments, I think I have sussed how to choose.
I avoid any treatments that try to solve problems (eg, make you thinner, younger or more toned). This is especially true of cellulite treatments. They don’t work, and they can hurt – I’ve had pressurised water fired at my bottom more times than I care to remember – and it remains dimpled. Any facials that involve more than two masks (your skin can only take so much) are best avoided. Wraps in general are torturous; cling film should stay in the kitchen.
So what would I choose? Head massages, hot stone massages and facials that involve lots of lymph drainage, minimal machinery and delicious smelling oils. Oh, and scrubs – the granddaddy of feel-good treatments. I am a firm believer in spa treatments that actually feel nice.
Which brings us neatly to Chewton Glen (chewtonglen.com). It’s clear why it’s become so renowned as a hotel - and the spa doesn’t disappoint, either. You’d be hard-pushed to emerge from its spa and not feel fantastic. Its indoor pool is perfect for lounging around, making it perfect for groups of friends on a day visit.
Working your way round the hydrotherapy spa pool (the largest of its kind in the UK) is a great way to pass a couple of hours. Above the pool there’s a café selling healthy food with a daily alkaline buffet. Any buffet feels a bit fat-farm-ish, but here the food looks and tastes good – and there’s an à la carte menu, too.
The spa layout is slightly higgledypiggledy and so lacks the serene grandeur of Cliveden, say. And the
The indoor pool at Chewton Glen spa