Hong Kong is more than a little beauty obsessed. It’s a city where you can get a mani/pedi on every corner or a massage at any time of day, and where regular facials are a must. But there are also some very different and not-so-mainstream beauty treatments popping up. We gave three of them a try:
Defying gravity at ZERO G
Zero G sounds like it might involve some scary and intense astronaut-style training in a strange machine with zero gravity – a test-your-limits kind of vibe.
You would only be right about the strange machine. I walked into Zero G in a leafy street in Happy Valley having done no research on the place; I wanted the session to be a surprise, and I was suitably excited.
A lovely assistant met me and showed me around, explaining what I was going to be doing. She pointed out how all of the gadgets worked, where the towels were, and everything I needed to make myself more comfortable.
As it turns out, the whole experience is based on relaxation, not the outer-space training programme I initially imagined. The treatment, known as floatation therapy, involves sitting alone, in the dark, emerged in Epsom salt water, in a strange machine called a pod.
It was quite a scary concept, I’m not going to lie, and I wasn’t sure if I’d like the enclosed space; but after being given all of my instructions, I slipped inside – and proceeded to totally relax. It was amazing!
I thought I’d have trouble floating but you actually can’t sink, because the water has a very high Epsom salt content, which makes you completely buoyant. It’s like being in the Dead Sea!
Once you’re totally still and the water is calm, you have no idea where you are, or if your head is facing up or down – it’s a definite loss of control, and over the course of the hour of silence I really relaxed.
If you want to switch off completely from noise, work and the chaos of life that is HK living, then this is for you. It’s a very cool experience. (And, if you’re nervous about the closed space, try it anyway!)
ADDRESS: 1/F, 29 Sing Woo Road, Happy Valley
PHONE: 2180 9192
Squeaky clean at SKIN LAUNDRY
The Skin Laundry’s laser facial must go down as one of the quickest treatments I’ve ever had. Hong Kong is all go and this company gets it!
My treatment was at the lovely Century Square studio, a very open, clean and organised space. It’s one of the company’s three convenient locations, the others being in IFC and The Pulse.
Met by friendly and efficient staff who led me through the process step by step, I was in my chair very quickly – and back outside only 10 minutes later! That’s how quick this is.
I’ve heard a lot about different laser and IPL treatments over the years and I’ve had an idea in my head of invasive procedures with the need for plenty of downtime, walking out the door looking like I had a seriously bad sunburn or something along those lines. (I have an active imagination …)
But I was wrong: this was so easy and painless, and the 10-minute duration is a real bonus – not to mention the price being so reasonable.
The treatment uses a very mild laser that is surprisingly gentle. The staff spent some time explaining that the procedure is more about cleansing rather than any dramatic immediate change in pigmentation, which was a strong selling point for me. You can also build on it as much as you want without the risk of overdoing things.
It felt like it took the top layer of the past week off my face to leave me with the fresh, glowing skin underneath – the kind of feeling you get after your favourite facial, but without the cream or oil (which melts in this heat) and so much faster than an hour and a half spent in a spa.
I recommend getting it done two days before any event or holiday, just because it feels so clean that putting makeup on it straight away would be a shame. The skincare range on offer at Skin Laundry is also good, and well worth trying; I personally love the Restoring Night Serum (US$50).
ADDRESS: Room 1201, 12/F, Century Square, 1-13 D’Aguilar Street, Central
PHONE: 2704 0166
Bright and white at THE SMILE BAR
I’ve been meaning to get my teeth whitened for some time now, so the chance to review The Smile Bar was great timing.
This place promises a lot: to bring back your once-gorgeous white smile from its current state of caffeine-abused, wine-stained colour in just 20 to 40 minutes – depending on the damage – while maintaining a decent price point.
I arrived with my friend Kate (my fellow guinea pig!) at the studio in Wan Chai, where we were met by Julien, the lovely French owner. He took very good care of us and guided us through the process thoroughly.
The setup here is great. It’s a light, relaxing room with individual pods dotted around, which gives you the feeling of truly being on your own; if you wanted a little more privacy, there’s a VIP suite for something extra-special.
Each person has the option of a few creature comforts to pass the time, from tablets to Bose noise-cancelling headsets – in all, it’s very comfortable.
It’s actually the first place in Hong Kong to offer this service and the technology behind it, which, Julien stressed to me, is the most important part. The aim is for a very natural approach to teeth whitening, which sounds odd when you often hear the process referred to as bleaching – probably as far from natural as you can get.
The Smile Bar, though, uses an extremely low percentage of bleach together with other ingredients that make it possible to correct your existing colour, returning it to its “naturally white state”, rather than a fake “Hollywood” white.
I was so impressed with the outcome of the first 20 minutes undertaken by our friendly guinea pig Kate that I didn’t hesitate to jump into a pod for my own 20-minute session.
Julien explained that the product used is very efficient and yet also gentle – so much so that you can swallow the non-toxic ingredients and feel no post-pod pain. (I’m always up for no pain, and I’ve heard several times how a standard tooth whitening can be quite the opposite, so this was a definite selling point.)
If you work close by, you could swap your usual coffee break for a session in one of The Smile Bar’s pods; or go along with a friend. Julien is a great operator and took such fantastic care of us. I will definitely be booking in again, as Kate and I both left The Smile Bar smiling!
ADDRESS: 1/F, Hang Wai Commercial Building, 231-233 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
PHONE: 2620 0615
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This article first appeared in the Aug/Sep 2016 edition of Expat Living magazine.