Facials and beauty treatments are a dime a dozen in this city. Billboards and ads bombard and vie for attention wherever you look, from the latest injections and fillers to different machines and creams, and even cosmetic surgery, all promising the Holy Grail of eternal youth and beauty. But what happens when money is no object? Does paying more increase the quality or ensure the results you want?
I was invited for afternoon tea at an exclusive beauty launch at one of Hong Kong's most iconic hotels. With a name that conjures up the glitz and glamour of the international jet set from the French Riviera, Margy's Monte Carlo is an anti-ageing programme created by Margie Lombard, a famed beauty expert with clients such as Claudia Schiffer, Tina Turner, Shirley Bassey, Princess Charlene of Monaco and many others who fly into Monte Carlo specifically for her signature facials.
Lombard's illustrious career began when she graduated with a cosmetology licence from the prestigious Carita School in Paris and went on to head the Mabrouk Institut Esthétique in Gstaad, Switzerland, before opening her first beauty institute in Monaco in 1988. She launched her line in 1993 and is also one of the first to use collagen and hyaluronic acid in her products. Lombard, who was here with her team during the event, explained that her products are effective because they contain the basic biometric ingredients and active compounds that comprise the structure of the skin, allowing them to specifically target the main cause of skin degradation - inflammation. Over time, the epidermis becomes inefficient in responding to aggressors, which leads to the dreaded wrinkles and ageing.
To limit the damage, she chose ingredients such as oxidoreductase; vitamin A, E and B5 complex; active compounds extracted from land and marine plants; marine oils; and hyaluronic acid to enhance skin hydration and boost the function of active compounds. Also exclusive to The Peninsula are her range of Swiss-made products including collagen masks, wraps, serums, moisturisers, cleansers, toners and eye creams.
Four facials are available - there is a superlift vitamin C one for men - and the top-of-the-line offering that you will want to experience is The Ultimate Aesthetic Facial Treatment by Margy's (1 hour, 40 minutes; HK$7,800).
Using ultrasonic waves and controlled warmth of up to an optimal 40 degrees Celsius delivered to the skin's deeper tissues, it aims to transform the skin from the inside out by stimulating the growth of new collagen and elastin with collagen refill technology, while tightening skin and reducing wrinkles. The treatment leaves skin looking and feeling visibly firmer and younger, with optimal results appearing within three months. A customised programme of four treatments within four weeks is required, followed by monthly maintenance treatments.
Rainy Chan, regional vice-president of The Peninsula Hotels and general manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong, is the one responsible for bringing Margy's to Hong Kong after meeting Lombard five years ago. It took time because Lombard did not want to rapidly expand or commit to a franchise partnership, and it was only after a successful launch in the Middle East that convinced her that Asia was the next ideal location.
"Margy's Monte Carlo is the most sought-after name in beauty treatments and products in Monaco. While operating on a small scale with only four treatment rooms, for the past 27 years Lombard has attracted a very loyal following, many of whom are celebrities, socialites and government officials," Chan says.
"All her clients need to book three months in advance. But they are willing to fly back and forth to Monte Carlo specifically to receive the brand's signature facials. This is because Margy's offers exactly what they are looking for - treatments that provided visible, solid results without having to go through surgery or invasive treatments.
"It confirms that many people are [keen] to slow down the signs of ageing so that they will look as beautiful as they are today 10 years from now without having any cosmetic surgery."
A beautiful glow was promised when I spoke to Shoshanna Weinberg, the senior spa director of Four Seasons Hong Kong, while searching for some of the most luxe facials in the city. "I am developing this new facial where I can harness the skills of my most highly trained, sought-after therapists while using the most intensely effective products from across our skincare offerings," she says.
"Our guests are looking for a natural, healthy glow without risking skin damage from the sun, and I want to use all these hero products - the ones where money is no object, because we see the results and know what they are capable of doing to improve the health, texture and appearance of skin." I was sold.
A wondrous sign when greeted by my therapist was the glow illuminating from her face, even in the dim lighting of a spa. Within two minutes of lying down on the table, I blurted out that I wanted her skin. Making no promises, she kindly explained that this can all be simply achieved by anyone with products they normally use, and it really comes down to the basics of cleansing and the importance of toners, exfoliation and hydration.
That sounds easy enough, but after experiencing her expert facial massage, painless extraction technique and the facial - one of the best I've ever had - I would rather she do it for me, and I'll be back for more.
Recommended for those seeking a boost for milestone events the Eternal Glow facial (90 minutes; starts from HK$5,000) helps to activate the body's natural regenerative system to repair, restructure and balance the skin, while creating an immediate glow through oxygenated and nutrient-rich product lines.
Four serums are used: Biologique Recherche's Cocktail d'Actifs Régénérants containing a special cocktail of over 30 active ingredients; Ling's Hydra Squalane and Hi-Vitamin C plus another gold serum; a nano gold jelly-like repair face mask and double eye mask; and a two-part resculpting facial massage for immediate lift, facial drainage and reduced puffiness.
I could see an immediate difference with my pores after the treatment and, after a night's sleep, I was really amazed to see a razor-sharp jawline and that my jowls had vanished.
For those on a tight budget, numerous options for facials containing precious ingredients can be found in spas across Hong Kong.
A good example is Melo Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin, which offers AINHOA facials with precious ingredients - the Luxury Diamond Facial Treatment (HK$1,680/90 minutes), using diamond powder with rhodochrosite, retinol and peptides to combat ageing and external aggressions, and the Luxe Gold Facial Treatment (HK$1,290/90 minutes), using the highly effective ingredients of caviar extract and gold to revitalise and stimulate collagen production.
If you want to relax for longer and stay the weekend, the hotel offers a comprehensive spa package that starts at HK$2,030 per room per night. This includes hotel accommodation, a complimentary gift set of AINHOA Rose bathing amenities, a buffet breakfast at Cafe, late checkout at 2pm and either a HK$800 spending credit or a choice of Royal Jelly Facial Treatment (HK$980/60 minutes), designed to prevent and treat dehydration, or the Senskin Facial Treatment (HK$980/60 minutes), designed for highly sensitive and flaky skin prone to redness and irritation.