A front-room facial... with a difference: Una Brennan impresses as she cleanses
'Well-kept beauty secret' is a term frequently bandied around about many products and services, but it's an apt description for über-facialist Una Brennan. Originally hailing from Ireland, she has no website, skincare line or even a salon (yet) - but dig a little deeper and you'll find raves from beauty editors, celebrities and clients alike.
A chief proponent of the 'old school' facial, Una's illuminated magnifying glass is as high-tech as it gets; her tools are her hands, known to administer one of the best facial massages in the country. Nestled in Notting Hill, Una's treatment space is her own front room: a luxurious, incense-infused space decorated with candles, chandeliers and pillars.
There's no one-size-fits-all here. "I don't know what I'm going to do until I take a look at your skin", Una explains, customising every facial to each individual. My skin is in a really desperate state, so she immediately checks if I am OK with extractions, and recommends a peel. I'm all too happy to go with her suggestions...
The first half of the treatment centres around warmth to soften the skin and open the pores. We begin with the spicy orange scent of a double cleanse, sponged off deftly - its slightly exfoliating properties leaves my skin feeling pleasantly tingly the second time round. This is followed by a honey and oatmeal scrub, then a gentle glycolic peel (mixed with the organic scrub, to really catch any reluctant dead skin cells).
A warm wax masque is then brushed on to make the pores blossom - the heat of the wax and the sweeping soft bristles makes for one of the most unusual, yet relaxing, sensations ever. "Now comes the painful bit", warns Una. Never a word of a lie - it hurts! Una peeled off the soft wax and meticulously pores over every inch of skin in the most extensive extraction session I've ever had.
While a cold Skinceuticals clay masque clarifies and calms the now-red, angry areas, Una busies herself by performing a sublime arm massage that leaves my hands feeling as if they are floating.
Second-most unusual sensation of the day: my entire face is covered with a cloth, and ice is rubbed and poured all over (including the eyes and lips): "the colder and wetter the better". It feels... weirdly amazing. A cold compress and a hydrating moisturiser rounds off the treatment, and I'm very sorry to have to sit up and finish.
So what's the verdict? £100 is a lot to spend on a facial, now more than ever, but I can honestly say that the premium is genuinely worth it. The facial is thorough and targeted, but don't have it on the day of a special event - the extractions will leave the face blotchy and your skin will need several days to settle down.
I glance at my watch after I leave, and am utterly bewildered at the time. Where did the hours go? But of course I know... it was spent in another world.
Una Brennan is opening her first salon in Portobello in May. For more details, or to book an appointment in her front room while they last, call 020 7313 9835. Facials cost £100.