We’ve done the hard yards and tested as many facials in Melbourne as our (now glowing) skin can handle. Looking for those sweet additional perks? Or maybe you prefer a more clinical approach? We’ve rounded up some of the finest facials in town – encompassing a range of techniques and philosophies – where you’ll actually see results.
The “make a day of it” facial: Willow Urban Retreat
Touted as a “wellness experience” rather than a day spa, Willow in Armadale takes a holistic approach to beauty. Purified air systems pump fresh air into the building, which is made from toxin-free, ethically sourced materials, and has a crystal grid set in its foundation. Smirk away – but you’ve got to admire the dedication to the cause.
Begin your journey by consulting the facial menu, which includes the Vital Hydration facial, the Soothe and Enrich Antioxidant facial, and a range of Dermaviduals treatments. We particularly recommend the 24K Gold Infusion, which involves a 24-karat gold-leaf treatment. It’s designed to boost collagen production in the skin and increase skin-cell renewal.
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If you want to make a day of it, you can add a heap of options, including a range of classic massages, a body scrub, a visit to the infrared sauna or a yoga class. There are also excellent retreat packages accommodating up to four guests.
The “clinical” facial: Rationale
Australian beauty brand Rationale blends science with Australian botanicals and a generous slathering of luxury. “Eighty per cent of facial ageing is caused by the sun,” founder Richard Parker tells Broadsheet. Treatments respond to this, repairing and nourishing skin with “a customised application of complex professional formulations alongside cutting-edge modalities”.
First-timers begin by discussing their primary concerns (and desired results). After a double cleanse, a skin therapist analyses the skin under a magnification light, and then diagnostic images (taken with ultraviolet light) are used to show any problem areas hidden beneath the surface.
Your therapist then recommends the appropriate facial: options include the futuristic-sounding Cryogenic Resilience Facial, the LuminousLift Renewal Facial, the PhotoGenic Resilience Facial (which uses LED light therapy) and the Renewal Remodelling Facial Series.
Our favourite treatment is the EpiNova Brilliance Facial. It uses micro-circulatory massage and LED light therapy, a non-invasive treatment that targets the cells responsible for repairing the skin’s supportive structures, its advocates say.
You’re in good hands the moment you climb underneath the doona: the skin therapist never leaves the room, and you’ll get one of the best face, neck and head massages in town.
There are four Rationale flagship clinics across Melbourne.
The “celebrity-approved” facial: Melanie Grant
With a clientele including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Jennifer Aniston – and studios in Los Angeles and Paris – Melanie Grant has earned followers for her “signature glow”. Victoria Beckham is such a fan, she even preps her models with a Melanie Grant facial before her runway shows.
Grant opened her first salon in Sydney’s Double Bay in 2012, followed by a Melbourne outpost in Armadale in 2016.
There are many bespoke, corrective treatments to consider here, but the most popular is the cult Custom Skin Health Facial, which is tailored around the unique needs of your skin, using techniques like ultra-fine diamond microdermabrasion, peels, custom dermal boosters, sonophoresis infusions (which uses ultrasound to drive skincare deeper into the skin), massage, masking and LED light therapy.
Treatment rooms are sleek and minimalist, accented with fresh flowers and have soft blankets on the beds.
The “for the perks” facial: Chuan Spa, The Langham
You probably wouldn’t expect to find one of our favourite facial destinations in a hotel. But Chuan Spa at The Langham in Southbank delivers more than just a luxurious, effective facial.
If you’re looking to get bang for your buck, arrive early (and stress-free, thanks to complimentary valet parking) and take some time to relax ahead of your treatment with the “tri-bathing” ritual. (Step one is a soak in the zero-edge jacuzzi overlooking Flinders Street Station; step two is the sauna, which loosens tight muscles; and step three is the “snail shower”, which uses 12 jets to massage your body.)
Try the 90-minute Body Elements treatment, which combines a full-body massage with a tailored facial based on the five elements, or go all-out with a 2.5-hour Chuan Ritual, which adds your choice of a body scrub, body wrap or foot treatment to the massage-facial combo. The Chuan Yu facial is also a highlight, using the ancient technique of gua sha, as well as acupressure, which is said to lift and tone.
Follow your facial with a glass of sparkling wine, then explore the Langham’s lap pool and gym. It’s a staycation waiting to happen.
The “best for clogged pores” facial: Shine Skin and Body
If you’re as obsessed with Dr Pimple Popper as the rest of the world seems to be, then you’ll understand the value of a good blackhead extraction. Your best bet for a facial that channels the spirit of Dr Popper’s channel is the very popular extraction facial at Richmond’s Shine Skin and Body.
Your skin will be assessed and double-cleansed before your facialist commences half-an-hour of dedicated blackhead squeezing. Warning: it’s not comfortable, but it’s super-effective. (And you’ll be cosy under a doona.) At Shine, they don’t use tools for extractions, just their fingers; they say tools are harsher on the skin, and can potentially scar.
A post-extraction steam is followed by some high-frequency therapy (via a glass electrode), which is said to help heal skin and kill acne-causing bacteria. It’s an excellent all-round facial for skin maintenance.
The “for the hard core” facial: Victorian Dermal Group
If you’re looking for long-term solutions to combat troubled skin and ageing, head to Victorian Dermal Group in Kew for a more clinical approach to skincare. The expert dermal clinicians deliver safe and non-invasive treatments using medical-grade technology such as laser therapy and clinical skin peels. Your assessment will include high-tech imaging to see what’s happening underneath the epidermis for a multifaceted approach to your skincare plan.
When you arrive, your dermal clinician will assess your skin concerns and suggest the best option for you – and it’s not as scary as it sounds. If you want to start light, try one of the Mesoestetic chemical-strength skin peels. Most people only experience slight discomfort during it. The Clear and Brilliant laser treatment is an excellent all-rounder for brighter and smoother skin. Lasers penetrate deep into the upper layers, helping to repair and improve tissue.
The clinic has also recently added both Picoway laser and a needling device called a Skin Pen. Picoway laser uses short pulses to break down pigmentation, scarring, and tattoos, and potentially provides skin rejuvenation and anti-ageing. The Skin Pen is the studio’s newest microneedling device, used to treat textural concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, scarring and various types of pigmentation.
The “long-term care” facial: James Vivian
James Vivian’s Toorak treatment rooms have had a cult following among those in the know for a while now – but who are we to keep a good secret? If you’re looking for more than just a facial, and want a facial relationship that’s going to stand you in good stead as your face encounters everything life throws at it, this is your best bet.
You’ll start with imaging to identify any areas for improvement and point your therapist in the right direction. They have almost everything you could imagine on offer, from Pico, Clear and Brilliant, and Dermapen (for collagen and elastin production) to Mezotix, IPL and laser vein therapy (to target redness and visible vessels).
And the best bit? The work doesn’t stop in the treatment rooms. They’ll recommend an entire home treatment plan – when you’re a busy bee, a little hand-holding can be a welcome change.
The “I’ve tried everything else” facial: April Brodie
April Brodie travels between Sydney, Melbourne and London to treat her dedicated clientele, and has a waitlist about a mile long (six months, according to gossip around town). But once you’ve tried her cult Buccal Fusion Facial, you’ll know why.
The Buccal (pronounced “buckle”) Fusion sees Brodie don a pair of gloves to go where no facialist has gone before: inside your mouth. By working the inner jaw with a series of master strokes, she releases TMJ tension (which happens in the joint that connects your jaw and skull) while doing facial lymphatic drainage; you’ll see what Brodie calls a “natural Botox effect” transform your face within 90 minutes. And, though that sounds like a big promise, we’ve tried it and can vouch for the instant lifting results.
Along with the Buccal Fusion (of which Meghan Markle is reportedly a fan), Brodie also offers a unique Bee Venom Facial – a daring treatment that Kate Middleton has tried. Brodie has access to a tiny amount of her bee venom product Abeetoxin per month, and she’s the only Aussie facialist to offer the treatment, which reportedly aids in collagen and elastin production.
Brodie mostly offers her services in Melbourne in a chic, private suite at the Pullman Hotel.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on August 27, 2019, and was updated on September 22, 2023.