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I’ve never really been a fan of spa facials. My handful of past experiences have generally involved painful extractions and some mild shaming regarding fine lines and sun damage, but a session with Britta Plug—a holistic esthetician who works out of a serene crystal-decorated space in the heart of SoHo—turned me into a facial evangelist.
Britta’s own clear, bright, peachy-hued complexion doesn’t need an armory of makeup. It’s a perfect animated advertisement for her signature offering, Facial Attunement—a treatment that uses massage methods from Ayurveda and Chinese medicine to address the anatomy of the face, not just the skin that sits on top of it.
“It’s my greatest joy to see and feel real-time differences,” she explains. “To do one side of the face with an Ayurvedic lifting technique and just feel how completely different the tissue is compared to the side that hasn’t been addressed yet.”
I can sense exactly what this means when she begins working on me. Britta glides a cool piece of jade firmly along my jawline and into the hollow groove where it meets my cheek bone—a Chinese healing technique known as gua sha, which is designed to increase blood flow. She works the knotted muscle carefully with her soft fingertips and the whole right half of my face relaxes and drops. It’s such a dramatic difference that I can’t believe I’m only now realizing this is where I store my everyday anxiety and stress—a common issue among New York professionals, according to Britta.
Expensive, chemically complex products only target the superficial aspects of the skin, but more than a decade spent studying holistic approaches has given her an all-encompassing understanding of what affects our complexions. “So much of the time we have bound-up fascia [the web-like connective tissue encasing the body’s musculature] and really tight muscles,” she explains. “Things are are too stiff and rigid, which of course means we’re not getting our nutrient-rich blood supply and we’re not getting the detoxification of our lymph flow.”
The reverse can also be true. When there are too many gaps between our connective tissues—a spaciousness Britta describes as croissant-like—circulation is impaired. “When we get everything firmed up and in place again we get restored lymphatic flow, restored detoxification—everything is just moving the way it should.”
A Facial Attunement is the culmination of all this wisdom—an hour of textures, sensations, and temperatures, as well as scents that will make your mouth water. At one point she slathers on a natural scrub/mask made from honey, royal jelly and berries before confessing she’s tasted some of her go-to skincare products. They just smell too good to resist (plus they’re 100% natural and therefore safe for consumption, of course).
At the end of the treatment my face is swaddled in a warm towel and Britta leaves me alone for a little “skin savasana”, allowing my complexion to really absorb the goodness of the last hour. Five minutes later she gently pats my cheeks one last time and says “all finished, gorgeous.” I study my reflection in the mirror, and that’s exactly how I feel.
For the first time in a long time I’m confident going about my day makeup-free—the soft glowiness of my skin a perfect representation of my equally soft and glowy internal state.