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Photography by Clive PigottI knew a trip to the day spa was likely to be more than, shall we say, tol­er­able, how­ever I didn’t expect to leave feel­ing so edu­cated. But, as I dis­covered, the Ella Baché Skin Care Salon is no ordin­ary spa. Ella Baché, loc­ated in the James Cook Hotel, is the brand’s flag­ship salon in New Zea­l­and, and although hav­ing been in oper­a­tion only since Septem­ber, it’s already got a bright future.

A wide range of spa-like treat­ments, such as relax­ing mas­sages, wax­ing, bronz­ing and make-up applic­a­tion, is only the begin­ning of its ser­vices. Helene, the James Cook salon’s own­er, and her staff try to provide ser­vices above and bey­ond, includ­ing cus­tom­ised indul­gence pack­ages, and col­lect­ing cli­ents from the airport.

Since its early begin­nings in the 1930s, the five-star Ella Baché brand has stuck to its fun­da­ment­al prin­ciples of pro­mot­ing know­ledge and under­stand­ing of the skin, and is known in the industry as a skin-care spe­cial­ist. The salon offers a com­pli­ment­ary in-house skin dia­gnos­is, that dia­gnos­is being a cru­cial part of its philo­sophy, that “no two skins are alike”.

Jana, my ther­ap­ist at Ella Baché, stresses to me that this is one of the most import­ant things to under­stand when it comes to skin care and that it’s import­ant to learn about your skin’s unique needs. Pri­or to this vis­it, I was under the impres­sion that I was doing right by my skin by pick­ing up whatever cleanser, exfo­li­ant and mois­tur­iser was marked with “for com­bin­a­tion skin”.

Once I’m tucked up into a bed (yay!) in a treat­ment room that can only be described as per­fectly ambi­ent, Jana begins with a basic cleanse of my face, and then brings into play the mighty True View, a tool designed to read skin and help ther­ap­ists dia­gnose their cli­ents’ skin con­cerns. Then, based on how my skin appears through the True View, Jana chooses an Ella Baché product that will bene­fit and pro­tect my skin, and explains that products are mixed and matched from vari­ous ranges to suit the indi­vidu­al skin being treated.

It is at this stage that it occurs to me that the dry/oily/combination cat­egor­ies we lump ourselves into are dis­tinctly limited.

I am then treated to a relax­ing mas­sage, which suc­ceeds in mak­ing the real world fade into a dis­tant memory, fol­lowed by a second cleanse and a lux­uri­ous face mas­sage. The next step is hav­ing some magic­al patches (activ­ated with a spe­cial wand) applied to my face, topped off with a mask that con­tains a pleth­ora of glor­i­ous ingredi­ents, includ­ing hya­lur­on­ic acid — babies’ secret to soft skin. I’m left feel­ing refreshed and entirely unwound, not to men­tion much wiser about skin care.

The Ella Baché ther­ap­ists’ approach is to provide a high-qual­ity treat­ment, while at the same time edu­cat­ing their cli­ents about skin care. The down-to-earth and unin­tim­id­at­ing man­ner in which they deliv­er that ser­vice makes the salon a delight to visit.

Eliza Romanos

A confirmed Wellingtonian, Eliza comes from a family of journalists and has recently completed a BA at Victoria University in Art History and Media. Now making her own way in the world of journalism, she has particular interests in fashion and art. She misses the DTL in lower Cuba Street and the dance floor being at the other end of Good Luck Bar. Eliza lives in a bitterly cold flat in Brooklyn but appreciates the walk into town through Central Park every morning.