January 19, 2011

What’s an Ayurvedic Facial?

In a Word: Scrumptious.

Review of Sensorielle Ayurvedic Spa

Our faces take up a shockingly small percentage of our skin, when you think about it. Yet it’s some of the most personal, expressive, and signature real estate on the human body.

While I certainly tend to my skin gently, I’m much more of a minimalist than a product princess: I wash my face with soap and moisturize if I remember. Until this month I’d never had a facial. They conjured images of chemical peels and pore-torturing tongs, for some reason. But the harsh, dry Colorado air and 80-hour workweeks had begun to take their toll on my sensitive complexion, so when I heard about Sensorielle Spa’s Ayurvedic facial treatment, I jumped at the opportunity to pamper my precious pores.

Every aspect of the experience at Sensorielle was a slightly better than I would have imagined. From the moment I walked into their small office in downtown Boulder, I was greeted with a sweet, calm receptionist, who invited me to relax in their waiting area. Often this initial interchange at a spa feels forced and perfunctory, but in this case I felt sincerely welcomed, and wasn’t rushed through the intake process at all, but rather invited to indulge in some tea amongst lush green plants and soothing music as I filled out intake paperwork.

I’d been curious about Ayurveda for some time, but I’d never quite “gotten” it. An ancient, comprehensive healing system, Ayurveda is perhaps most well known for its characterization of three distinct energetic types or doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Most of us are predominantly one (sometimes two) of these types, and this influences countless things about our bodyminds, including what foods are best for us, what climates we tend to prefer, how our moods run, and what diseases we’re prone to.

With the help of my esthetician, Joy, I was able to discern which type I was—something that had always eluded my test-taking efforts. (Joy, by the way, immediately earned my attention by having absurdly beautiful and radiant skin, not to mention the sweetest bedside manner you’ll ever hope to encounter.) Once we’d determined that my dosha was Pitta (the fiery one, which explains so much about my character and constitution, it’s incredible), Joy selected products especially good for my sensitive Pitta skin. Characterizing my skin as Pitta became an incredibly helpful framework for understanding why it acts the way it does, and I learned quite a valuable amount about how to treat my skin better based on its type.

The products used at Sensorielle are, as Joy explained, like food for your skin: far beyond “all natural,” they’re literally edible, organic concoctions of herbs, oils, and bee products, made locally by Helena Meyer.

Once our initial chat was over, though, there was very little thinking required of me and I was allowed to lie back and be supremely pampered. My skin was cleansed, exfoliated, steamed, misted, masked, moisturized, and massaged. I got some light massage on my feet, hands, and scalp, too, which was tremendously relaxing. As I reclined, I mused on this long tradition I was participating in: from antiquity to present day, women have taken the time in just this way to nurture and rejuvenate other women, helping each other be more radiant and happy. What a beautiful lineage!

It was within this context that I interpreted even the one uncomfortable part of the hour, the dreaded extractions. This process is beyond merely popping zits: Joy explained that there’s often a good deal of dirt, oil, and dead gunk trapped just under the surface of our skin. After proper warming and moisturizing is a perfect time to squeeze all that free. It was a completely optional part of the process, but I was game. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I’m so glad I took her up on it: she liberated quite a bit of goo that I was pleased to see go.

I left Sensorielle feeling pampered, relaxed, and radiant. I also felt more confidant that I knew better how to treat my skin in the future, and even had a vial of moisturizing tonic designed especially for my dosha.

Joy warned me that I might have a few pimples after our session, since she’d stimulated my skin to release impurities it’d been holding onto. I did have some breakouts in the few days after my visit, but nothing too severe. What’s been most surprising to me is how my skin has held up in the few weeks since my visit. Thanks to my Helena Meyer tonic, my skin’s been perfectly moisturized (yet not too heavy and oily, which drives my Pitta constitution nuts).

True story: one recent evening I was waiting tables and an older woman began beaming at me, her mouth slightly agape. I smiled back, questioningly. “You have the most beautiful skin I’ve ever seen! I hope you don’t take it out in the sun at all, it’s stunning!”

Need I say more?

If you want to make someone feel supremely loved and pampered (and that somebody just might be yourself!) I highly recommend Sensorielle. Their treatments aren’t for every budget, but even if you go just once I think the education you’ll get is incredibly valuable and lasting. Plus it simply feels darn good.

Visit Sensorielle’s website to learn more about their treatments.

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