I’ve commented a couple of times on various TIA posts about my devotion to the Core Fusion exercise program offered at the Exhale mini-empire of spas.  (Exhale has five locations in New York City as well as facilities in the Hamptons; in the Los Angeles area; in Miami and Palm Beach; in Atlanta; in Boston; in Dallas; and, in case you’re in the neighborhood, on Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean.]  But while I’m a very frequent visitor, I had never tried any of their spa services, except for one massage last year.  (Fabulous.  One of the best ever.)  I’m usually the one slinking past the spa guests in their crisp cotton robes as I make my way from class.

Yesterday afternoon I took a yoga class and saw a one-day offer posted in the studio for a discount on their signature 60-minute facial.  They do offer specials on spa services during the quiet of summer for clients who take classes.  I wasn’t looking forward to going out into the sticky afternoon, and had a couple of hours free.  And while this week’s epic heat and humidity at least means I’m not struggling with dry skin, I’ve been particularly unhappy with my face – clogged pores, a couple of stubborn breakouts prominently displayed on my chin, etc.  Sweaty, clammy, miserable weather and skin to match.  So I gave in to temptation and experienced Exhale’s “True” facial.

“True” is one of a menu of facial treatments Exhale offers.  The repertoire includes cleansing and brightening facials, various peels, and treatments with ultrasonic, micro current, and light (LED?) based devices.  I have never been a big believer in facials—to me, they are more of a relaxation gimmick (low lights, nice new age music, all that steam), pleasant but not really therapeutic.  I’ve only had about a half-dozen in my life; maybe I’d feel differently if I did them regularly.  But I do value the deep cleansing and the professional removal of debris from those pores.

My next hour was a nice surprise and exceeded my expectations, I think in part because the aesthetician I was lucky enough to get had a particularly deft and practiced touch.  The room was attractive, and suitably dark, cool, and comfortable.  Cleansing; a nice arm and shoulder massage while the steam worked on my face; the all-important “extraction” (all over the face, and done especially gently and quickly) and vanquishing of those chin zits; application of a lovely hydrating masque with more steam (scalp massage, and then a quiet few minutes).  Application of serums (eye, lip) and bit of moisturizer, and the hour was gone.

I wondered afterwards what products had been used—to her credit, Mila, my facialist, didn’t accompany her blandishments with a sales pitch.  I knew she mentioned something about avocado as an ingredient, and that when she applied the moisturizing masque, I got a lovely hit of rosemary.  The retail desk staff told me when I asked that the spa practitioners choose from the several brands Exhale carries.  The lines I noted were Kahina, which has rated mentions on TIA for its argan-oil based products; Sircuit Skincare, also covered on TIA; Shaffali Skincare (an ayurvedic slant); Actifirm (another “natural” professional line); and IS Clinical, whose eye cream ranked a TIA “5 Best” in 2010.   But I’m pretty sure that Mila used a range called 302 Professional Skincare.

302 Skincare’s claim to uniqueness is its proprietary molecule Avogen™, “a 302 molecular weight alkenyl furan,”  a “natural lipid” derived from a rainforest species of avocado.  I leave it to the wiser heads at TIA to evaluate this claim (and its meaning), but glancing through the (extensive) product portfolio, the offerings seem to include, as promised, botanical and herbal extracts and oils, peptides, and vitamins, largely organic and largely preservative-free.  In addition to anti-aging, 302 offers products targeted at acne, uneven pigmentation, and chronic inflammation and rosacea.  They look like they might be worth a gander by TIA.

Mila pronounced my face brighter, and it certainly feels clean, smooth, and plump.  I’m still not sure what I really think about facials, and how much of the benefit is purely psychological versus serious treatment.  But I think I’ll visit Mila again.