Project refresh for (not so) yummy mummies!

By on March 30, 2009

Gloomy skin aching for some TLC? Check! A back as bendy as those of the local obaasan? Check! Hands that haven’t seen a proper manicure since French nails were in vogue? Check! Feet so sad you are considering a mushi-atsui summer in boots? Check!

Time for some serious me-time. Tokyo Families’ Maria Ahlgren searched town for the ultimate head-to-toe boosters.

Bliss for the back at the The Ritz-Carlton Spa by ESPA

It doesn’t get much more opulent than a visit to the Ritz-Carlton’s plush sanctuary on the 46th floor. It should be forced by law that everyone must at least once lounge in a hot-tub while soaking up spectacular views of Tokyo.

I arrive at the Ritz with an alarming stiffness in my back and shoulders. Heavy lifting and long days of acting as a means of transport has finally taken its toll.

Add to that skin so dry that my usual crow’s feet have expanded into a dried-out version of a river delta, and a head pounding from the stresses and endless must-dos of everyday life. Pamper me, pronto!

Calmness embraces me as I step into the reception. I’m ordered to change into my spa-gear and wait for my therapist in the Relax Room. In a dim-lit suite, a few women are snoozing on comfy beds or flicking through fashion mags. Just as I’m about to doze off, my therapist arrives.

In the treatment room, we talk about what troubles my body is currently giving me. I spill the beans on lost sleep, constant fatigue, flaky skin and a back-and-shoulder area that threatens to turn me into a hunchback.

The spa offers holistic treatments and carefully considers all the signs of your body. I am promised that not only will I leave with a rejuvenated body and glowing skin; my mind will also become clear.

After deciding on what aromatic oils I wish for my treatment, I lie down and say “sayonara” to any nagging worries. My therapist is a petite, soft-spoken woman, and I melt like butter in her hands.

She starts out by giving me a back-and-neck massage with a potion of ESPA aromatic oils known to relieve muscle pain. Whiffs of rosemary, mint, and lavender perfume the air.

After the oil massage, I am treated to the bliss of a hot stone massage. The heat relieves tension and my back is having the time of its life. I could glue those lava-stones permanently onto me – the sensation is, well, a sensation.

A divine exfoliator polishes my skin to baby-softness – perfect for spring’s sassy open-back dresses!

An hour or so later, focus is switched to my face. The list of ESPA-products used to replenish my lost sparkle is even longer than this week’s to-do list. There are masks, exfoliators, oils, lotions, and potions. Especially my tired eye area is pampered in moisturising goodies. Everything is natural and kind to even the most sensitive skin.

Finally, I get a lush head massage. Any tensions are gone with the wind, and as a bonus, my sorry excuse for a hair-do is smouldered in a nourishing treatment mask.

Leaving the spa, I’m floating on clouds. Both body and spirit feel refreshed and relaxed. Back home, I fall asleep as soon as I touch the sofa.

The morning after, my skin is glowing. I’m soft as a baby (well, sort of anyway) and there’s a new kick to my cheeks.

As for my shoulders and back, I might still be a cheese-doodle in the making, but my muscles are definitely more chilled-out.

Signature treatment: blissful back treatment and face and scalp treatment, 90 mins, ¥30,450.

The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo Spa & Fitness by ESPA

Ritz-Carlton Tokyo Midtown, 46th floor

(03) 3423-8000

Exclusive offer to our readers!

Mention this article and receive a 60-minute treatment of your choice for ¥22,000 (all inclusive).
Valid Monday-Friday, from 10 am –6 pm
Day Spa Entrance fee is waived!
Offers runs from Mar 1 to Aug 30, 2009 (subject to reservations availability)
To book your appointment, call ESPA Ritz-Carlton at (03) 3423-8000.

The UMO facial with the golden touch
If there ever was a Cinderella-treatment, well, this is the one. Brace yourselves, ladies! We are talking about masking your entire face in pure gold and boosting our beauty by it! As for me, I’m desperate for a golden touch.

Arriving at the salon, I am given the lowdown on the Gold Facial Treatment, a result of long and eager research by Japanese skin-care experts UMO. The secret lies in gamma PGA – a wunder-substance derived from fermented soybeans (natto that is to you, but let’s not dig into it any deeper, shall we?).

– As we grow older, skin’s natural production of collagen and replenishing hyaluronic acids slows off. Gamma PGA is a whole ten times more moisturising that hyaluronic acids, says Arica Aoki at UMO in Tokyo.

Gamma PGA transports moisture to the deepest corner of skin, making the treatment more than a mere quick fix. When teamed with gold, the properties of the gold are allowed to work wonders from the inside. Gold is known to be anti-inflammatory, to brighten dark spots and reduce fine lines and sagginess. It’s safe, and your skin can never overdose on it (well, then we agree on something, me and my skin!).

To literally drape your complexion in gold promises to make skin younger and firmer, skin-tone more even and bring a golden glow to your face.

After 30 minutes’ preparation with UMO’s especially developed nano-mist machine, my skin is ready to soak up the gold.

Arica brings out the box and starts covering my face in the most delicate 24 K golden leaves. Soon, I look like a Greek statue.

Fast-forward 20 minutes, and my amazement peaks. In a mirror, I witness how the gold is massaged into my skin together with Gamma PGA. Hungrily, my complexion absorbs the gold and soon it’s all disappeared. The gold is now officially under my skin.

In times of recession, I feel almost guilty about having stuffed my face with pure gold but quickly discard any humbleness when I see the result.

It sounds cliché but skin is glowing, gleaming, beaming. My skin is noticeably plumper, firmer, and my skin-tone is evened out. I am blessed with Nordic pink skin that tends to blush and redden easily, and now, there is not a hint of the usual red suspects. Skin is warm, well, golden, to the tone.

For days, I feel confident enough to leave the house with no foundation, powder, or concealer; something that hasn’t happened in years. I even go for cocktails at the Peninsula with no make-up – a first-timer.

And when I sit, cocktail in hand, by the panorama windows gazing over the Tokyo skyline with gold glistening under my skin, I must admit: life is pretty darn wonderful.

UMO Gold Facial Treatment is available at Tokyo Bay Court Club on Odaiba.
For enquiries, call (03) 6700-1111 or visit (Japanese only). Price upon request.

For more information and a list of spas and salons, visit

The ultimate ManiPedi at Boudoir Day Spa

It is with utmost embarrassment I remove my socks. I drag shame over the name of beauty journalism with feet that haven’t seen a file since Bush senior was in charge. My hands resemble those of a teenager (albeit an aging one with a wedding ring) with chipped, pink nail colour, and cuticles running berserk.

But with spring around the corner and my eyes set firmly on peep-toed Steve Maddens, it’s time for a drastic makeover.

My saviour of choice is Boudoir Day Spa in Harajuku, a funky parlour catering to those in the fancy of Western no-fuss treatments with visible results for face and body.
The baroque interior sets the decadent mood.

My nail technician, Hitomi, starts working on my feet as I try to forget my shame with one of the US gossips mags lying around.

She brings out a small drill to polish away any skin areas not living up to the standard of baby-softness. Hitomi is fierce, showing dead skin and rough patches no mercy.

Then she embarks on Mission Sandal-Proof Toe Nails.

With the precision of a surgeon, she removes any flaws, cleaning up skin and shaping my nails. Feet are soaked in a divine-smelling cream and then dipped into warm, pink paraffin to lock in all the goodness. While I’m lounging with the latest Grazia, my feet are resting in a super-charging wrap. Spoiled little brats!

My hands are treated with the same immaculate attention. Cuticles are honed to perfection and nails are shaped and buffed.

Out comes the lush paraffin bath, so seductively warm, I want to park my hands permanently in there.

Finally, time to choose a colour. Being an advocate of neat, short nails slathered in gothic hues, I opt for OPI’s Black Cherry Chutney for both fingers and toes. Tones of deep purple, black, and Burgundy-red are swirled into an elegant yet statement-making brew that’s both trendy and versatile.

The late winter weather being similar to that of my native Scandinavia, I decided not to bring a pair of the recommended flip-flops to keep toenails safe during home transfer. Instead, I hang around in the reception area while waiting for polish to set, flicking through fashion magazines convincing me I made the right colour-choice.

The next time I remove my socks, it will be with the utmost pride.

Boudoir’s signature Manicure and Pedicure Combination Pack, 105 mins, ¥11,025.

For more information, visit or call (03) 3478-5898

About Maria Ahlgren