on the game-changing facial

“That’s the thing about a facial. It absolutely depends on the person doing it. It’s not the miracle products they claim it is, and it’s not their special method; it’s them.” 

- Jean Godfrey-June

I am a fan of the facial. That is, I am on a perpetual search for a good facialist. I don’t believe that the power of a facial is in the products - that is, unless I’m doing a microdermabrasion. I have a fanatical skin-care product arsenal already, and it’s wayyyy cheaper to buy a $200 cream than to pay $200 to have half an ounce of it rubbed onto your face. No, I believe the power of a facial is in the massage. And as someone who has placed my face and my credit card into the hands of person after person and, often, emerged disappointed, I can declare that - after ticking the usual boxes - the thing that tips a facial either side of the good/bad line is the massage. 

On my facial bucket list are Nichola Joss, Joëlle Ciocco and Isabelle Bellis. Three different cities, three wildly different price points, and all three almost impossible to get into. Perhaps you could say that all I really want is a facial from a Joëlle Ciocco-trained therapist. So I toyed with planning a 2018 sojourn to San Francisco to get a facial with the cheaper and slightly less booked out Kristina Holey. But then a casual Google of ‘Joëlle Ciocco + Perth’ led me to Sandra Levy-Valensi. Who, as it turned out, trained alongside Kristina Holey in Paris with Joelle Ciocco. Sold. Even with a six week wait, I booked a facial. 

Sandra runs her business out of a little home studio in Bayswater, two minutes away from where our personal trainer lives. I.e. one of the ten places in Perth I know how to drive to without Google Maps or Getting Lost. I took it as a good sign. Walking in, I took a seat next to a glass cabinet full of Odacite products - Californian cult product, and on my list to try after I use up my current hoard. Then came a Very Comprehensive Interview of my skin, its habits, my skincare routine, diet, and my drug use.

{Combination, but very dry as of the last two weeks. Very comprehensive skincare routine including serums and the crazy expensive combination of Vintner’s Daughter and Blue Cocoon. Pretty clean diet if you ignore the chocolate I keep eating at work. Yoga a minimum of four times a week. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. On paper, my skin should be fantastic. But of course, it’s not. A combination of hormones and gut issues, and perhaps a flaw in my genetic makeup. } 

I’d chosen the Le Buccal Massage, the famous Joëlle Ciocco technique of latex gloves in the mouth that I’d been desperate to try. As described, the 45-minute ($140) treatment as follows: 

Subtle and original technique this massage boosts all face muscles by an internal and external stimulation, relieving tension that creates expression lines around the areas of the mouth. This deep, manual massage is like “pilates” for the face. Extended benefits include relaxation of tight jaw muscles, noticeable plumper lips and smoother facial lines, due to the increased blood flow and collagen production.

The treatment started with a short guided meditation (yes, really!!) before the usual double-cleanse and what felt like oils aplenty rubbed over my face before the latex gloves were donned and Sandra began to pull and pummel at my cheek and jaw muscles. When I first read about the Le Buccal technique back in 2011 (from an Into the Gloss article, of course) I thought, how hard would it be to do it yourself? And, yes, I attempted to stick my fingers in my mouth to recreate the massage. But there is a precise method to the madness that I have a feeling only Joelle Ciocco can teach. There was no replicating this. 

Post-massage, a mask was painted on followed by a glorious scalp massage… and then… well, I fell asleep. Which, for me, is a good sign. Most of the time I find myself awake, trying to use the power of my mental brain waves to signal the therapist to massage more firmly or you missed a spot. I assume the mask came off somehow, and I woke up to moisturiser being smoothed on before a little gong was played to rouse me from my stupor. 

Before this, I’ve flitted between several day spas for my regular facials. Julianna at Limon in Leederville is one of my go-tos, as one of the few facialists I trust to do extractions properly. I love Alyssa at Jurlique for her face massages. I get my microdermabrasion done at COMO Shambhala. I also dabbled with Sodashi facials at Bodhi J, as has every other person in Perth who gets regular facials. But I’m eyeing a facial package with Sandra Levy-Valensi. And I know I’ll be back.