Renowned facialist Nichola Joss has trained Cowshed therapists to deliver
new bespoke treatments that use massage to heal the mind and body. We sent beauty journalist Sali Hughes along to try one
When it comes to facials, clients are, in my experience, forced to choose one of two distinct styles – relaxing or functional.
Historically, spas and salons have tailored soothing, peaceful, holistic facial treatments to those who opt for relaxation, and effective, results-driven, businesslike facials to the rest of us. But what if, like me, you’re exhausted, stressed and would like a little of column A with lots of column B? Or perhaps vice versa? What if your skin needs moisture for dryness, but also some decongestion for oiliness? Ancient massage techniques and state-of-the-art LED booster?
At Cowshed spas, there’s no longer any need to pick a team. Cowshed’s new bespoke facial, conceived and developed by the great Nichola Joss (my favourite facialist, and more importantly, Meghan Markle’s), is exactly that: tailored to the client’s exact requirements and preferences.
“I wanted to add sparkle, modernising and adding imagination and innovation to the existing Cowshed treatment menu,” Joss tells me. “The new treatments are about allowing the therapists to show their own abilities, experience, professionalism and knowledge to really lead the treatment specifically for the client’s needs at that moment, and moving forward.”
Joss spent some months secret-shopping in Cowshed spas before coming up with the new treatment approach, working with group head of spas Amie Jones and educator Jessica Sproson. She personally trained Cowshed therapists to help them ensure every treatment would truly tailored to the individual. “It was about changing how we interact with the client – there’s a procedure for establishing the treatment that they’re having, making them feel comfortable, then taking them into the room and moving through the journey with them,” she explains. “We’re doing a lot of meditation now before the facial and some breath work to establish an air of authority from the therapist to the client.”
This was music to my ears, so I went to Primrose Hill’s Cowshed spa to try the new treatment menu for myself (not the toughest day’s work, admittedly).
My own Bespoke Cowshed Facial began with a full consultation on my skincare concerns, lifestyle and expectations, and a choice of products (love Cowshed’s delicious-smelling oils and velvety cleanser butfavour Intraceuticals’ hi-tech serums and cutting-edge actives? No problem – they too can now be mixed and matched at will).
“This part of the treatment is about giving clients a sense of safety, security and empathy, that individual edge, so they feel they’re really being looked after,” says Joss. “Taking away the anxiety of having to pick a facial or a massage that may be wrong for them, or they’re not aware of what they need.”
This meant that all I had to do was undress, lie back and enjoy a deep steam cleanse, with two separate cleansers and a hot cloth. The area around my nose was carefully and cleanly decongested; then came a tingly AHA peel to address dullness. Next, a rich hyaluronic acid mask to address dehydration, and a shoulder massage while it got to work. This was followed by the application of some sumptuous, fragrant oils and the famous massage techniques that Nichola Joss has made her trademark.
“Massage is the essence of everything I do,” she says. “It’s vital touch therapy, healing the mind and the body, stimulating and encouraging organic health, youthfulness radiance and vitality.
It helps to connect mind and body and calm the chatter of the ego, allowing for a more relaxed, focused, calm mind, which in turn promotes healthy skin.”
My Cowshed therapist meticulously rolled, pulled and pressed key points across my face, repeating tiny movements so often and rhythmically that well, suffice to say I lost consciousness somewhere around the seven-minute mark.
The rest is a blur, but the results upon waking were instantly apparent. What I have always loved about the Joss massage technique is its immediate effect. My skin looked firmer and healthier; my face’s contours were more defined. The texture of my skin, too, was noticeably improved, thanks to careful cleansing, exfoliation and the gentle, swift clearing of my pores. My cheeks were flushed with good health, my entire complexion perky and bright. I went home very happily in no make-up, got straight into pyjamas, and slept like a newborn. If only every research project was like this.
Sali Hughes is a columnist for The Guardian and author of Pretty Honest: the Straight-Talking Beauty Companion