Outlandish-sounding anti-ageing treatments almost always have, for me, Elizabeth Bathory connotations or remind me of the zombie Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. Too good to be true or gained in unholy ways, in other words.
If your eyebrows are still raised, take note: the credentials of the skincare brand behind the O-Placenta facial are very sound. Stem Cell Beauty Innovations (SCBI) was founded by Robin Gray who fell chronically ill and found that supplements which harnessed stem cell technology vastly improved her health.
Since starting her own line of skincare that also uses stem cells, her products have been used by top dermatologists (dermatologist to the stars Dr Harold Lancer in Beverly Hills has been credited for making it go global) with celebrity fans in Simon Cowell and Kim Kardashian.
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The stem cells are harvested from New Zealand sheep post birth, and the serum is then packaged in a very dainty gold bottle. A relief, as I had visions of an actual sheep’s placenta being slapped onto my face.
Placenta facials are actually not as 'out there' as you might think.
Look online and you’ll find a number of people raving about the anti-ageing benefits of the placenta facial. However, I was hard pushed to see how a non-surgical treatment could actually engage stem cells to work on a cellular level.
So I booked an appointment at the only place in London that does the O’Placenta facial – Harvey Nichols’ Beyond MediSpa.
It may sound like a place of clinical white and long corridors, in truth it’s like a very comfy hotel room. Lenka, my therapist, shows me to a treatment room – the space was small, as you’d expect in a department store but beautifully furnished – a gilt mirror on one wall, a dainty armchair in a corner, and quite possibly The Best Treatment Bed In The World.
It’s designed to fit your back like a glove, and it is heated. When I slide in under the covers – proper covers with a satin cover sheet – it is like crawling into a warm, immensely comfortable bed.
Depending on the intensity of the treatment (in other words, however many years you’d like to (literally) peel off), you can combine the treatment with microdermabrasion and a chemical peel. The latter does take some getting used to, says Lenka, and you’ll need to ensure that you aren’t exposing your skin to the sun too much. In other words, don’t do it just before you go on holiday.
If you’re doing it for a special event and it’s your first time, you also want to give it at least two to three weeks for your skin to stop peeling. Catching the horrified look on my face as she explains this, Lenka adds: “We believe it takes you back to a state of having baby skin. So it’s fantastic for anti-ageing.”
As I mentally park the prospect of a peel for another 10 years, we begin the hydro-therapy treatment. As I’ve chosen not to have a peel, mine will be a very intense clean and nourishment. The SCBI O-Placenta range includes a moisturiser, serum and eye-firming cream – all of which are used in the facial.
Lenka starts by removing all my make-up and cleansing the face. So far, so familiar. Until she brings out a little suction tube, similar to the one that a dental hygienist uses to suck out the water in your mouth pre-filling. Except this one is being used on my face along with a cleanser. “It’s our way of giving your face a really deep clean,” she says.
My forehead always gets congested when I’m stressed – and the last two weeks have been exceptionally so. No amount of exfoliant however appears to have shifted it.
Lenka peers at my forehead – I can just tell she’s looking at the mama spot near my temple. Suddenly I feel a rather intense pain and a pop and shazam! The spot is gone. She then takes this approach to all of the little bumps on my forehead and face, until – I assume – all of them are gone. “I’m nearly done with torturing you,” she laughs.
When it comes to the time of the sheep placenta application, I tense up a bit but there’s no need. The serum is applied to my face and then Lenka uses an LED machine that emits red light that supposedly enables your skin to absorb the stem cells in the cream better, giving you firmer skin.
When I look at my face in the mirror, I expect to see red marks made by the popping of all those spots and bumps, but instead, my skin looks very calm – and most importantly – smooth.
The redness and the extra hydration can be explained. Dr Preema Vig, medical director of Beyond MediSpa at Harvey Nichols says: “Clinical tests have shown the effectiveness of O-Placenta, the key active ingredient in the serum, in both the prevention and cure of against common conditions such as rosacea and acne.”
Am I convert? Even the next day, after I’ve washed the cream off, the skin remains ridiculously soft and clear. But, a week on, the effects have faded. Sadly I don’t have Simon Cowell’s bank balance, or I would certainly slot myself in for a monthly treatment but it certainly has done the job of -temporarily - giving me the benefit of much younger-looking skin. It's certainly one to consider for a special occasion or a birthday present to myself.
But as a birthday gift or a perk-me-up, £135 is not too bad for a 75 minute treatment.
The SCBI O-Placenta Facial is priced at £135 per treatment for 75 minutes. To book an appointment, visit the Beyond MediSpa website or call 0207 201 8595.
Simon Cowell has never been shy about his ongoing efforts to stay young. The 52-year-old media mogul has openly admitted his use of Botox. But his latest anti-ageing fad sounds like a load of fuss about nothing. Literally. According to report, Cowell has been inhaling cans of oxygen. It is believed oxygen helps to flush out impurities from the body, clear the mind and reduce sluggishness.
Jennifer Lopez admitted to spending £700 a week on this off-the-wall treatment. Invented by Russian scientists the facials involve the application of a cream containing human afterbirth. Placenta, which is known for its high concentration of protein, vitamins and minerals, also contains amino acid glycine, which is believed to give the complexion a youthful, healthy glow.
Nightingale excrement, collected from the Japanese island of Kyushu, is the secret ingredient of this decidedly dodgy sounding cult treatment. The facial was developed by New York facialist, Shizuka Bernstein. She explained: "The nightingale poo acts as an exfoliate that brings out the dirt and dust that builds up in the skin and leaves the customer feeling refreshed." But what made somebody decide a nightingale's poo would contain anti-ageing properties in the first place?
Leeches have been used as a treatment to cure all manor of ills since ancient Egyptian times. But while you're unlikely to be prescribed leeches by your GP, it would seem the clingy creatures have made a comeback in the form of a 'blood detoxifying' treatment Demi Moore, who paid for an entirely new body in her bid to remain ageless, told talk show David Letterman she had received the purifying treatment while on a trip to Austria.
Bee-venom facials are a favourite with youth-seeking celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Kylie. Beautician to the stars, Deborah Mitchell, has been treating Camilla Parker-Bowles with her £165 bee sting facial for six years - and sources say she passed on her beauty secret to Kate Middleton. For those who can't afford the A-List treatment, Holland & Barrett now stocks the Manuka Doctor skincare range, which contains more than 10,000 bee stings per pot.