The Mandarin Salon launches a new machine-led facial on Monday, the CACI Intensive Lift. This promises to tackle signs of ageing, both on the surface and under it.
The decor at The Mandarin Salon is smart and minimalist, and I'm invited by friendly therapist Yumi Kwan to lie down, fully clothed, on a brightly lit treatment bed. This is a results-driven facial, not a pampering session.
First is microdermabrasion. After a gentle cleanse Kwan pulls out the new CACI Ultimate machine - which looks a bit like an electric toothbrush. She explains that it's gentler (with three levels of abrasion depending on age and skin type) and more hygienic (the tip is disposable) than other forms of microdermabrasion. The abrasive tip is gentle as it buzzes and flutters around my face.
Next is the "wrinkle comb", this time using LED light therapy. The red light supposedly nourishes and stimulates collagen while the blue light is antibacterial and healing.
I feel an electric tingle as she clicks the machine on and off the skin on strategic points around my face. It's not painful but vaguely uncomfortable and I can't help being slightly alarmed at having electric currents on my temples.
So when she brandishes her third tool, saying, "Tell me if you feel any pain," I brace myself for something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Instead, she glides two soft wet cotton buds, dipped in serum and attached to the machine, along my face. The tingle is barely perceptible and is relaxing to the point that I nearly doze off.
Apparently, these high frequency micro currents target deep wrinkles. Kwan says they "educate" the muscles into lifting upwards for a firmer face, as opposed to Botox, which just paralyses them. The next step is a cooling gel mask over which balls are rolled to charge the skin with micro-current and help it absorb the ingredients. This time the tingles verge on unpleasant, especially near my jaw, but it's over in a few minutes.
Finally, cream and serum are applied, and I look in the mirror. My skin definitely looks smoother, especially around the eyes - until I break into a smile and some familiar lines reappear. But minor imperfections look "buffed" down, and my face is slightly firmer. The cheek muscles are perkier ("educated", perhaps) for three or four days.
Best of all I leave the salon without looking like a burn victim. The CACI facial is a less aggressive alternative to other forms of dermabrasion, Botox and collagen injections, and will be most appreciated by clients with deep wrinkles. For serious results, 10 sessions are recommended, and a monthly maintenance visit.
The CACI Intensive Lift facial costs HK$1,600 for 90 minutes. The Mandarin Salon, 24/F Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central. Tel: 2825 4800, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org