Spa Savvy

Make the most of your next visit by choosing the right facial for your age.
By Kate Hanley

If you have already cut back on lattes, shopped your closet, and started that home yoga practice, all in an effort to trim your budget, monthly spa treatments will hardly enjoy top billing on your necessary-expenses list. Still, if you can possibly swing it, a well-chosen spa treatment can provide irreplaceable benefits to your body and your mind. “A professional facial, even once a season, makes a huge difference in your skin,” says Pamela Clum, founder of Plum Botanicals and Kisu Skincare. “It helps correct any damage, feeds the skin much-needed nutrients, and provides profound relaxation.”

The rub? An older woman’s requisite microdermabrasion could be a younger woman’s recipe for irritation. So if you’re watching your pennies, you’ll want to make sure you get what your face needs—not your daughter’s or your mother’s. To help you get the most out of your time at the spa, we consulted several holistic beauty professionals to develop a guide to spa treatments by age group—including some you can do at home for a fraction of the cost.

The carefree years: 25 to 35
With a busy work, family, and social schedule, you most likely skimp on your self-care: You pack as much as possible into your day, eat whatever you can get your hands on, and then forget to wash your face before falling into bed. Because so much of your skin’s future vitality depends on how you treat it now, you should focus on establishing a skincare regimen that emphasizes daily sun protection and regular spa treatments that favor deep cleaning.

At the spa: Deep-cleaning facial treatments can make up for any lapses in your home skincare routine—and keep your skin vibrant—by using mild enzyme peels made of acids from berries, pumpkin, and papaya. “The enzymes break down the outermost layer of dead skin so that it sloughs off, unclogging pores and revealing the new skin beneath,” Clum explains. If you have very sensitive skin, she says, skip the peel in favor of soothing masks of chamomile, rose, and aloe vera that calm the skin.
Try this at home: A combination of Dead Sea salts (to slough off dry skin and stimulate circulation) and organic chamomile (to soothe your nervous system) makes The Body Deli’s Island Ginger Body Scrub ($28, 16 oz; a particularly delicious whole-body exfoliator. If you are prone to redness or have sensitive skin, Julie Gabriel, author of The Green Beauty Guide (HCI, 2008), suggests making a gentler, all-over body scrub out of quick-cook oats, warm filtered water, and a dollop of honey to exfoliate and moisturize. “You can use this scrub on your face as well, including around the eye area,” she says.

The emotional roller coaster years: 35 to 45
The hormonal changes associated with menstruation, pregnancy, and birth control can trigger breakouts; previous sun damage can manifest as spots of hyperpigmentation; and the stress of working, raising kids, or both can aggravate inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and blotchiness. Sound bleak? Then treat your skin to stress-relieving and revitalization treatments as often as you can afford (monthly, if possible).

At the spa: Choose a full-body massage to banish overall tension or any kind of facial that includes a healthy amount of massage in order to release the muscles of the face, scalp, neck, and shoulders. Lisa Petty, author of Living Beauty (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005), suggests asking for a body massage oil that contains lavender, which is hailed for its soothing properties, and selecting a facial that uses antioxidant-rich ingredients—rose hip oil, resveratrol from grape skins, and pomegranate extract—to help soothe inflammation.
Try this at home: To lighten dark spots, Gabriel suggests grating a little bit of raw potato and applying the puree directly to the affected area. To rehydrate and stimulate your scalp and hair, use Yarok Serum 7 Spark Your Youth ($60, 2 oz;, which combines moisturizing yarrow oil and regenerative avocado oil. “Massage the serum into your scalp for 10 minutes, work the oil through your hair to the ends for 10 minutes, and spend 10 minutes with your hair wrapped in a warm, wet towel,” advises Spirit Demerson, founder of the organic beauty portal spiritbeauty

The gracefully aging years: 45 to 55
At some point during these years, you may gaze at yourself in the mirror and realize that you look, well, different. “As menopause sets in and your levels of estrogen decrease, your skin produces less collagen,” Petty explains, which accounts for those deeper laugh lines and drier skin. (For more on menopause, see page 56.) Earlier lifestyle choices, such as smoking and tanning, only compound the problem. Your monthly spa session should include hydration, hydration, and more hydration in the form of facials, masks, and oil massages.

At the spa: Seek out treatments that use intensely moisturizing ingredients—such as avocado, sea buckthorn oil, evening primrose oil, and borage oil—to counter the drying effects of declining estrogen levels, Clum recommends. “A lot of spas offer add-on treatments for your chest and eyes—now is the time to splurge on them,” she says, because the skin in these areas is particularly fragile.
Try this at home: Give your face and décolletage a megadose of antioxidants from organic seaweed extracts and hydration from beeswax, shea butter, and mango butter with Yüm Gourmet Skincare Nori Mango Butter Masque ($53, 2 oz; Cleanse first and then apply the mask, leaving it on for
15 to 20 minutes. Rinse well and moisturize.

The rediscovery years: 55+
While you can’t reverse the aging process—or stamp out the attendant thinning skin, age spots, waddle sightings, and wrinkles—you can take steps to temper the physiological changes it ushers in. “Older skin is thinner, drier, and less elastic,” Clum says. “Exfoliation—which deeply cleans and allows anything you put on your skin to penetrate—and nourishment in the form of moisture and antioxidants are your priorities now.”

At the spa: Petty suggests gentle microdermabrasion—a process that sprays a fine mist containing a natural abrasive, such as salt, over the face to remove dead cells, lighten sun spots, and reveal the more vibrant skin beneath the surface. You can also try treatments that apply microcurrents of electricity or light waves to your face. The currents penetrate to the deepest layer of skin and stimulate collagen production, yielding a tighter overall look.
Try this at home: Demerson suggests a facial serum with carrot seed oil, a great source of vitamin A—a natural retinol believed to reduce fine lines and improve the texture and appearance of the skin. Try Suki’s Pure Facial Moisture-Nourishing ($29.95, 0.5 oz;

New Spa Trends by the Ages
Sea sourcing
Seaweed, algae, and sea salt have earned a prominent position on spa menus for their trace mineral contents, detoxifying properties, and moisturizing abilities. The spa at the El Monte Sagrado resort in Taos, New Mexico (, offers the Deep Sea Oxygen Facial, which uses algae extracts to promote circulation and detoxification—an ideal combo for women 25 to 35 who need to prioritize deep cleaning.
Nonchemical peels
For years dermatologists have offered chemical peels—using alpha and beta hydroxy acids manufactured in labs—to remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells. Holistic spas are countering with fruit- and plant-based alternatives. Juju Spa & Organics (
in Philadelphia will add a Bio-Resurfacing Facial Peel to any skincare treatment. The peel uses alpha hydroxy acid derived from cranberries and beta hydroxy acid from white willow bark, great for those aged 35 to 45 whose cell regeneration rate has slowed. Extra bonus: The peel works its magic on sunspots.
Edible ingredients
The quest for greener, purer products has led many spas to incorporate whole foods into their treatments. At the Sage Springs Club and Spa at Sunriver Resort near Bend, Oregon (, the Organic Honey and Avocado Wrap doesn’t appear on the lunch menu; it’s a full-body experience. When you choose this treatment, the therapist uses a dry brush to remove dead cells and make your skin more receptive to the richly moisturizing raw honey and avocado butter she then slathers on your body, scalp, and hair. The emphases on hydration and the whole body make this treatment ideal for the 45 to 55 crowd.
Light therapy
Sunlight may be an enemy of healthy skin, but many natural spas use light (sans harmful UV rays) to penetrate the deepest layers of skin and stimulate collagen production. The Age-Defying Facial at Pratima Spa, an ayurvedic gem in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood (, deeply exfoliates with an all-natural dermabrasion, then uses pulses of light to tighten and tone skin. The gentle treatment’s noticeable results are ideal for those 55 and older who want more bang for their facial buck.