The $475 Facial: Is It Worth It?

By Mary Ann Treger

Just between us (please don’t tell my husband) each year I spend a lot of money on facial rejuvenation. Charges for pricey peels, injectables, IPL (Intense Pulse Light) treatments, microdermabrasions appear on my credit card bill right alongside other essentials such as food, water and, of course, chocolate and wine. My bathroom vanity is topped with so many bottles of promises that it could easily be mistaken for a chemistry lab. Looking my best is a priority.

When I learn that the exclusive brand Biologique Recherche is now available at the Mandarin Oriental spa in Washington, D.C., my desire to experience their anti-aging, one-hour-fifty-minute Absolute Facial is equal to the intensity of an addict in need of a fix.

I have to have it.

Name-dropped in lofty publications around the world, Biologique Recherche has a global cult following among jet-setting celebs but getting access isn’t easy. Locations for treatments are carefully selected by their team of experts that includes a biologist, physiotherapist and doctor.

This French biological skincare line was originally founded as a scientific cosmetics research lab. It has maintained a buzzy reputation for over 30 years thanks to their expertise in developing products that use only pure, concentrated ingredients like Siberian ginseng root. The idea is to promote healthy cell turnover and regulate oil production. Truly obsessed devotees make the pilgrimage to the brand’s flagship beauty institute on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris but, fortunately for us, these products and treatments are now available less than an hour away.

While I acknowledge the worldwide praise, with a price tag of $475 (plus tax and tip), let’s face it, the Absolute Facial is priced for those wealthy one percenters. Fortunately, being a Beauty Editor has perks. While from time to time my job enables me to be out there exploring new treatments at no cost, my ground rules remain the same: I will tell all. What it’s like and is it worth it?

I am greeted in the Mandarin Oriental hotel lobby by a towering floral display, maybe 20 feet high. A light fragrance whispers in the air. After one intoxicating inhalation I head to the spa where I find a space designed for contemplation. (Think Zen, not glitz.) A hot
moist towel for my hands and mint tea to sip arrive within seconds. My shoes are whisked away, replaced by slippers. Orchid blossoms are everywhere.

Master Esthetician Ms. Lau adjusts my heated sculptural massage table before conducting an in-depth skin analysis. She examines my face with the concentration of a sculptor searching for hidden beauty locked inside a fresh block of marble. She determines the products and treatments I need. Each facial is customized to the epidermis—no two facials are alike. Extractions are expressly forbidden.

Due to my sun-damaged skin, Ms. Lau focuses on brightening, reducing fine lines and hydration. Each serum, each treatment is applied with a different technique. Some products warrant quick shiatsu-like pulsing strokes to work on the muscle for lift. Others are gently massaged into my skin; others are carefully sculpted on my face. The first mask tones the eye area and reduces dark circles under my eyes. My lips are treated with botanical, marine and biological extracts. All natural, no dyes, no perfumes.

A second mask follows—a light fabric permeated with marine collagen is draped over my face to hydrate the top layers of the epidermis. The fabric has holes for my eyes, lips and nose a la Hannibal Lecter. While the mask is doing its job, my neck, shoulders, feet, hands and arms are vigorously massaged. Warm booties are tucked onto my feet; toasty mitts onto my hands. I fight the temptation to fall asleep; I want to savor this lavish attention.

To aid product penetration plus lift and tone the skin, Ms. Lau follows up with the Biologique Recherche Remodeling Machine, a bio-electrotherapy device—the piece de resistance. A wand-like instrument is pressed all over my face and neck. While the initial “pinches” on my skin catch me off guard, I think of the sensation as strong kisses and focus on what I hope will be great results—tighter skin sans surgery.

At the end of the treatment, Ms. Lau hands me a mirror as if she is revealing her latest objet d’art. Voila! My skin looks glowing, brighter and I swear my neck looks more toned.

Returning home from this escape-from-everything I ask myself “the” question: Is it worth it? When I consider the all-day spa experience (including use of steam room, sauna, showers, whirlpool and indoor swimming pool), the products, multiple masks, skin lifting machine and massages, if you have extra cash, do treat yourself! Money can’t buy happiness but this is as close as you can get to bliss.


Mary Ann Treger is Health, Beauty and Travel Editor of Looking Good and regularly contributes to Style magazine. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and U.K.



The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Washington, DC,



More Affordable Facials Closer to Home


Facials can address every concern from acne to aging. Many spas offer facials for men, too.
Below is just a sampling; check websites for complete listings.

Chesapeake Eye Care

ZO Brightening Facial restores skin clarity and reduces discoloration. Moisture-rich
cleansing is followed by mild exfoliation and vitamin-fortified massage. Ossential Skin
Brightening sheet mask with arbutin and green tea brightens skin. Powerful ZO
antioxidants, coenzymes and sun protection inhibit melanin production. Stimulates
healthy cell growth. $135; 50 min.

David Alexander Salon and Spa

Esthederm Repair Facial (professional French line) focuses on re-densifying the skin’s
mattress. Improves quality and quantity of dermal fibers, plumps fine lines and wrinkles.
Customized to client, may include hyaluronic acid, spirulina extract, cyclanol, vitamin A
and vitamin C depending on need. $95; 75 min. Glycolic peel additional $60.

About Faces, Annapolis Town Centre

GM Collin Collagen Treatment is a pure native collagen sheet with ingredients to hydrate,
firm and reduce appearance of aging. For mature skin with strong expression lines and
wrinkles. $160; 75 min.

Varuna Aveda Salon Spa, Park Place

Anti Aging Green Science Facial uses high-tech plant technology of Green Science
combined with high touch skin therapy to renew, repair and regenerate skin. Clinically
proven to lift and firm, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and improve tone and clarity.
Reduces appearance of age spots. $140; 60 min., $160; 90 min.

Morgan Gerard, West Annapolis

Refresher Facial includes cleansing, exfoliating, extractions and mask. Customized to
each client; products selected after consultation. From $80; 60 min. Hydrating eye
treatment, additional $20.

Massage Envy, Festival at Riva

Customized Facials include cleansing, toning, exfoliation, mask, and massage to neck,
shoulders, arms, hands and décolleté area. $60; 60 min., $90; 90 min. (90-minute facial
includes seaweed mask and additional massage time.)