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Muddy reviews: Skin Society’s spiffy new facial

Ready steady glow? We review a whizzy new treatment from Thame facialist April Russell.


Skin Society‘s April Russell used to work out of her house in Haddenham, Bucks but for the last six months she’s had a treatment room in nearby Thame, slap bang in the town centre, by the big car park (handy). It’s in the same building as The Space yoga studio, a quiet room up a little staircase. Previously she was part-time but on moving locations she’s bumped up her hours – you can now catch her every day except Tuesdays and Sundays.

free armchair white table vase flowers wicker basket


The room is warm and cosy, with plush carpet and pristine white walls. There’s scented candles burning and low-key acoustic music – but no pan pipes, thank God (when I am queen of the world, they will be illegal). April’s facials are not ultra-pampering affairs – she doesn’t waft around with essential oils, dish out hand massages or bang a gong when she’s finished . Instead, she’s no-nonsense and totally results driven, with a medi-spa vibe – her absolute focus is making your face look better. Which, let’s face it, if you’re going to fork out £90 for a facial is what you want, no? Personally, if I want a snooze in a beauty salon, I’ll book a massage.

massage table beige towel machinery


The room is dominated by April’s snazzy new HydraFacial machine, which wouldn’t like out of place on a spaceship and cost the same as a new family car. The unit is loaded up with lotions and serums, which she applies to your face using a probe with a rubber tip. This little wand both hoovers out the bad stuff (dead skin cells, blackheads, bacteria, assorted grot) and plumps your face with the good stuff (antioxidants, peptides and hyaluronic acid; the moisture-boosting latter being the beauty industry’s current buzz ingredient).

April offers a variety of facials but the 60 minute HydraFacial, with its numerous celeb endorsements, is her signature treatment and thus the priciest of the bunch. And while it’s not pampering, it’s not uncomfortable either. The probe feels like an electric toothbrush being gentle moved across your skin. As well as the expected cleansing, exfoliation and hydration, it also includes a glycolic and salicylic acid peel. This was incredibly gentle and only involved a bit of tingling, rather than leaving me like looking like a beaten-up beetroot à la Samantha in that famous episode of Sex & The City (always my fear when peels are involved). She finished by plonking my mug under a different machine, the Dermalux LED phototherapy one (Hero reviewed it here). You keep your eyes closed while bright light is shone on your face, in order to boost your skin cells. It takes about 10 minutes. There’s been a lot of buzz about the acne-busting power of blue light therapy in recent years, but April put red light on me to add collagen and elastin production.

While I didn’t emerge and immediately get booked for my first Vogue cover (she’s not a miracle worker after all), I did look pretty darn good if I do say so myself. This treatment is known as the red carpet facial, because it’s so gentle you don’t emerge blotchy, red, shiny and in need of a big hat and sunnies. You can basically continue with your day but with ridiculously soft, smooth, glowy skin. A stubborn patch of pigmentation on my cheek was diminished, as were some lingering spot scars and the fine lines on my forehead, while my annoyingly large pores looked visibly scrubbed clean.

When I did eventually get around to putting make-up on, it glided on like a dream. Must admit I wasn’t totally convinced by the extraction process – I still had some noticeable blackheads on my nose and chin, which hadn’t been sucked out. I wonder if the usual facial method of manual removal might be more effective. (Sorry if you’re eating your breakfast, by the way.) But overall, I was massively impressed – this is a London quality facial with lasting results. A week on and my skin still looks peachy.


blonde lady lilac smock

Basically, this lady knows her onions. With decades of experience, April’s worked at Urban Retreat in Harrods, the spa at The Grove hotel near Watford, Michaeljohn in Belgravia and various locations in New York and the Middle East. It’s reassuring to put your face into such capable hands, and she’s a goldmine of properly useful skincare tips. She took one look at my skin and ascertained I was using an overly heavy moisturizer for my breakout-prone skin (on the money – I’d just switched to a new one and had concerns about this).

She told me off for picking my spots and thus spreading bacteria around and causing more zits and pointed out I should be cleaning my skin morning as well as night (running a flannel over it in the shower doesn’t count apparently). We also covered how the difference between night and day creams is mainly marketing, so you should just use the product that suits you when you want to. She’s also passionate about new research in her field, and dazzled me with science-y stuff about new gadgets, ingredients, skincare ranges and treatments. As a result, she’s constantly evolving her treatments so you can be sure you’re getting the most up-to-date offerings. She also does massage, waxing and lashes/brows too.


The Hydrafacial, including a session of  Dermalux costs £90, with a course of 5 for £400. That’s more expensive than your average facial around these parts but compared to similar in a swish London salon, it’s a fair price I’d say. You can also add a 20 min Dermalux session onto any of her other facials for an extra £25.

Skin Society, Suite 1, 4 Upper High Street, Thame OX9 3ES; 07931 480 307;

Words: Kerry Potter

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