We blanched when facials at some exclusive salons hit the $400 mark just a couple of years ago. But now, even as the economy is withering, a Beverly Hills salon has busted out what appears to be the most expensive facial in America: a super-luxe $1,250 single-sitting treatment. Perhaps operating on the theory that the more expensive (or bizarre) it is, the more the public will covet it, spas and skin-care specialists are offering facials more opulent than ever before. Here are 11 of the most decadent.
Personal Face Training, Dangene Bailey
Bailey’s Beverly Hills salon is so exclusive that she refuses to give out the address. Her treatment often requires the client move between three different rooms, and her bag of tricks includes chemical peels, lasers, light therapy, and oxygen. Bailey, who counts Heidi Klum and model Jessica Stam among her followers, recommends one session per week for the first six weeks. There is a bargain rate of $9,000 for a series of 12—for just a bit more, you could get an actual facelift.
3D Facial, Paul Labrecque Salon and Spa
For a grand, you get three different machines tightening and brightening your skin at this chic New York beauty emporium, which caters to Renée Zellweger, Kelly Ripa, Debra Winger, Kristin Chenoweth, and Regis Philbin. After microdermabrasion gets rid of dull, dead cells, the Titan laser heats the skin, causing immediate contraction as well as stimulating collagen production for more long-term tightening results. The third gizmo is the Laser Genesis, which treats fine lines, redness, and uneven skin texture. The session finishes with a collagen mask. A series of 10 sessions will run you $9,000.
Geisha Omakase facial, Shizuka New York
New Yorkers have gone from dodging bird poop to shelling out nearly $700 to have it brushed on their faces. This Zen oasis with rocks, waterfall, and a tea room is an ideal setting for the notorious Japanese facial that employs powdered nightingale droppings—supposedly once a Geisha secret—to brighten and soften skin. This luxe version adds a pumpkin or cherry mask for exfoliation, green tea for plumping, an electronic wand for lifting, and anti-aging Gentle Wave lights. Porcelain-skinned Marcia Cross and Karolína Kurková are fans, and there is a plastic surgeon on hand to administer Botox for instant wrinkle eradication.
Red Carpet Treatment, Tracie Martyn
The British aesthetician has a flower-filled waiting room in her Fifth Avenue townhouse where celebrities far outnumber mere mortals—Brad Pitt comes for some quiet time and closeup-worthy skin. As does Kate Winslet, Madonna, Rupert Everett, and Theodora Richards, who are all regulars, relying on her combo of microdermabrasion, light therapy, electronic muscle stimulation, and oxygen to keep the years at bay.
Invisible Face Lift, Aida Bicaj Institute de Beaute
A “silk peel,” similar to microdermabrasion—but using less abrasive liquid hyalauronic acid instead of aluminum crystals—preps the skin for a machine with metal probes called the Perfector. “It uses nanotechnology and it’s like ironing the face,” says Aida Bacaj, who recommends a once-a-week visit to her New York clinic for the first six months (do the math). She also uses the Perfector on her clients’ hands to rid them of creases. Jennifer Connelly, Kyra Sedgwick, and the Olsen twins are among those who trek to her tony brownstone.
Apple Stem-Cell Facial Sonya Dakar Clinic
Gwyneth Paltrow, Fergie, Jessica Capshaw, and Angela Lindvall are frequently spotted at this Beverly Hills skin-care center, where the latest innovation is a facial that uses stem cells derived from what Dakar maintains is an endangered Swiss apple called Uttwiler Spatlauber. Meant to boost the production of human stem cells, the facial is applied and then penetrated with LEDs. The goal is to repair DNA and produce fresher looking skin, while a natural Botox alternative from Mexican lavender helps erase wrinkles.
Babyface Facial, Townhouse Spa
Spermine, a natural antioxidant found in semen, is the key ingredient in this therapy at the luxe spa, which plays host to Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson among others. New York’s Townhouse has a lab-manufactured formula, which comes in ampoules and must be used within 24 hours of opening. Ultrasound and infrared light help penetrate the serum, said to protect skin from sun and other damaging free radicals. The treatment is followed by a 30-minute facial massage to improve tone and relax facial muscles.
Remodeling Facial, Yasmine D’Jerradine
Three types of electric current (for lifting) and an oxygen blast from a hyperbaric tank (for hydration and glow) are employed in the facial favored by Kate Hudson, Yoko Ono, and Nina Griscom at this Moroccan-style retreat. “You will leave looking like a baby; it’s instantaneous,” assures esthetician Nathalie DiNoia.
Sevruga caviar facial, Boca Raton Resort’s Spa Palazzo
George H.W. Bush, Christine Baranski, and Jason Biggs are fans of this impressive Florida spa, inspired by Spain’s Alhambra Palace. Extracts of nutrient-rich Russian caviar are massaged into the skin on the face, hands, and feet, and the treatment is followed by a ritual bath during which you are fed grapefruit sorbet as you soak in various tubs.
Lumina Facial, Ritz Carlton’s Cornelia Spa
Ground precious stones including rubies, emeralds, and sapphires are used to add a shimmering finish to the skin and target signs of aging. (Emeralds are supposed to smooth and correct discoloration, and sapphires help to firm the décolleté.) The treatment at this Palm Beach pampering center is ultra-luxurious, with a honey ritual (you are fed a spoonful of organic syrup) and bed sheets sprayed with lavender.
Hydrofacial, Dr. Jonathan Turk
Prince Albert and Carol Alt are among those who have gone under the scalpel of aesthetician Amelia Kozlowski; she uses the medical instrument to exfoliate, then applies human growth factor derived from infant foreskin to encourage new cell growth. Candles and aromatherapy make the medical office feel more like a spa, and treatments come with a scalp massage and complimentary face waxing.
It’s not just salons. Cosmetic companies have developed anti-aging remedies and packed them into over-the-counter creams and serums with price tags that could give you a coronary (if you weren’t so young). Here are four of the crème de la crème.
Revive, Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit
Price: $1,500 at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Neiman Marcus
The enzyme Telomerase, said to repair DNA fragmentation, along with Epidermal Growth Factor and Fibroblast Growth Factor, promises a 45 percent reduction in wrinkles, as well as firmer skin.
Amore Pacific Pure Essence 100 Skin Renewal Serum
Price: $500 at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus
Begonia and Mulberry counteract uneven pigmentation, green tea protects against free radicals, Korean red ginseng stimulates fresh cell growth, and bamboo sap hydrates in this serum that contains 100 active ingredients.
Orchidée Impériale Cream
Price: $410 at Saks, Sephora, and Neiman Marcus
After 10 years and the discovery of three new orchids, Guerlain’s developed this cream they say slows down the aging process and helps maintain young, active cells.
Darphin Stimulskin Plus Lift Renewal Series
Price: $370 for six ampoules at www.darphin.com
Deepsane, a microorganism that lives in the extreme depths of the ocean, is supposed to stimulate the immune system and protect skin from damage. An iron oxide called hematite improves tone, and acetylglucosamine, an enzyme derived from sugar, exfoliates for extra glow.
Beth Landman started her career in journalism at The New York Post as a restaurant columnist, and then headed to New York magazine, where she penned "Intelligencer'' along with features, and became the beauty editor. She currently freelances and has contributed to New York Magazine, The New York Times, and The New York Post among other outlets. Each summer, she writes the "Dish'' column in Hamptons magazine.