Handy Facials at Clarins Skin Spa

There’s a not-so-secret secret at Nordstrom South Coast Plaza: There’s a fourth floor. And on that fourth floor is a full-on, luxurious spa, complete with white terry robes and a staff that speaks in a soothing “spa voice.”

And the latest tenant? French cosmetics company Clarins.

Founded by medical student Jacques Courtin-Clarins in 1954, the company started as a day spa in the heart of Paris, offering massage and facial treatments. Fourteen years later, Courtin-Clarins decided to develop his own line, and Clarins was born. Today, Clarins remains a popular brand in Asia and Europe—though it has yet to make waves Stateside.

By the way, the alleged fact that French women receive facials on a weekly basis was repeated to me several times throughout the afternoon’s spa experience. While that sounds a bit excessive—even for skincare-obsessed me—I wouldn’t exactly, you know, object if someone insisted.

While Clarins Skin Spa at Nordstrom South Coast Plaza currently offers only facials, more treatments are on the way. For now, though, there are seven different facials on the menu, from the Youth Booster and Skin Firmer to the Oily Skin Rescuer and even a ClarinsMen Facial. In addition to it actually being a quality facial, the pricing is the real star here, with 45-minute facials coming in at $50 and one-hour facials priced at $75. But for the real bargain, Clarins offers a Facial Series, which includes four one-hour-long treatments for $220.

Aesthetician Lani Clemena greeted me at the reception desk and led me to a dimly lit room with a cushy treatment table and smooooth jazz playing overhead. She went through a series of questions with me that no aesthetician has never bothered to ask before: In addition to my skincare regimen, she questioned me about my exercise routine and diet—all of which, as you should know, affect the condition of your skin.

Then, based on my answers, Clemena customized a facial just for me and my skin issues. It was the most relaxing facial I’ve ever had.

Thanks to Clarins’ (rather logical) mantra of a non-traumatizing skin treatment—meaning no pulling, stretching, preferably extractions, etc.—the entire thing felt like a facial massage, consisting of a series of fluid movements (all part of that intensive Clarins training) done entirely by hand, which “delivers” product into skin via the “Rolling Technique,” while also supposedly improving the blood and lymphatic circulation.

“There’s no machinery—our treatments are 100 percent hand-based, so we don’t use anything except the hands,” explains Clarins Senior Director of Boutique and Spa Development Chantal Sanders. “We believe the hands are far more effective than any piece of machinery.”

And really? It felt good. There was a plant mask involved, dozens of products—including some professional-strength items—and a scalp massage. And my skin looked fantastic afterward, to the point where I opted out of makeup for the rest of the day. Always a good sign.

“The idea here is that with these products, they’re like a personal trainer for the skin,” Sanders says. “They give your skin a workout.”

Afterward, Clemena filled out an illustrated guide to all the products she used during the treatment so I could replicate the process at home. She gave me a handful of samples and sent me on my way, complete with that awesomely light-headed, post-spa euphoria.


Clarins Skin Spa at Nordstrom South Coast Plaza, 3333 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 850-2570; www.clarins.com. First-time customers receive 20 percent off.


This column appeared in print as “A Handy Facial.”

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