London’s new £500 facial — is it worth the hype?

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 (Shane Cooper)
(Shane Cooper)

“Darling,” gently chides Shane Cooper, the Insta-famous millennial aesthetician adored by London’s A-list. “It is not a facial. It’s a facial treatment.” We are in a serene, low-lit, wood-panelled suite at the London EDITION Hotel in Fitzrovia, on the first day of Cooper’s exclusive beauty residency (think Seamus Heaney at the Savoy but with serums).

He’ll be installed here one day a month through December, January and February; one man and his machines. For that is Cooper’s USP – he’s the proud owner of £100k worth of top-end, science-backed beauty tech and, boy, does he know how to use it. He’s got 18 of them at his South Kensington salon, three of which are here today. There’s one that does radio frequency, the one for LED light therapy and a cryotherapy gun, all gleaming intimidatingly by the treatment table.

This kit helps explain the facial, I mean, facial treatment’s £500 price tag, which, even by London standards, is steep. A scroll through Cooper’s Instagram feed, however, reveals astonishing results from his non-invasive, bespoke face and body procedures, plus appearances from Sienna Miller, Lily Allen, Vicky McClure, Maya Jama, Abbey Clancy and a host of other gleaming-cheeked celebrity fans. And, to be fair, if you compare Cooper’s handiwork to treatments that involve Botox and fillers and other surgical procedures, the outlay doesn’t seem so extortionate. For people like me who swerve the needle and scalpel on both ideological and ‘being a wuss’ grounds but still want to look, well, just better, Cooper offers an enticing way forward. Many clients, especially actors, prefer a natural look, he says. “They want people to say, ‘You look well’ rather than ‘What have you had done?’”

Despite the boutique hotel backdrop, an audience with Cooper is more The Gadget Show than pampering bliss, which he makes clear from the offset. He’s all about the results. So there’s no fluffy robe and no woo woo rituals. You don’t even have to take your shoes off before you lie down, and Cooper chit-chats merrily throughout so there’s no chance of a snooze. He’s fabulous company though, empathetic, sensitive and fun; treading that line between being conspiratorially gossipy yet utterly discreet – you can see why his famous pals love him.

Hand of god: Shane Cooper at the London EDITION (London EDITION)
Hand of god: Shane Cooper at the London EDITION (London EDITION)

Aged 33, he began his career counselling adolescents with mental health issues (hence the excellent people skills), before segueing into aesthetics after his beauty treatment-loving mother bought a micro-current facial machine to recreate the salon experience at home. Cooper undertook training to learn how to use it, was hooked, did his NVQs at beauty school and started accumulating both high-spec kit and word-of-mouth clients at a rate of knots. Seven years on, his salon appointments are frequently sold out three months in advance and he has a fast-growing skincare range. Everyone’s a winner with the new residency: Cooper reaches a new client base, while the hotel can boast beauty services, despite not currently having a spa.

Cooper takes a quick look at my skin, asks about my concerns (break outs, general sagginess) and cracks on. First he cleanses – which is one of the few times his fingers touch my face during the hour. A facial massage wouldn’t have gone amiss but that’s presumably too low-tech. Next, up is radio frequency tool, which uses heat energy to encourage collagen and elastin production and involves a pleasingly warm wand rolled across my skin. Then the LED light therapy gizmo which is placed over my head to alternately emit blue light (to target inflammation) and red light (wrinkles). It’s a bit like being at a rave with your eyes closed. Then follows my least favourite part, the Cryo-Cool Lifting Gun, designed to help oxygenate the skin, improving tone and lessening lines. It’s noisy and uncomfortable, with freezing CO2 and hyaluronic acid fired at my face at point-blank range for what feels like forever but is probably only about two minutes. At one point during proceedings, I’m aware of something being gently scraped across my jawline – a dermaplaning tool to remove peach fuzz for enhanced make-up application. I’m alarmed by this – I’ve never once removed the very fine, fair hair from my face but Cooper assures me I won’t be a bearded lady this time next week. Finally I’m slathered in hyaluronic serum and sent on my way.

Liquid gold: Shane Cooper’s skincare range (London EDITION)
Liquid gold: Shane Cooper’s skincare range (London EDITION)

I must admit the immediate results are underwhelming. “You need to look in your usual mirror at home to truly see the difference,” says Cooper, which turns out to be correct. The finishing serum is very sticky so this isn’t a treatment for directly before a night out – you’re supposed to go home, wash it off and apply moisturizer. I make the mistake of popping into Arket and trying on a black mohair jumper, the hairs from which become embedded attractively all over my face, so I become a bearded lady more quickly than I anticipated.

A few days on, however, and my face is looking good. Better than good, actually. No one is going to mistake me for JLo but my sallow winter skin is perky enough to nix the need for tinted moisturizer – although when I do try it, it glides on like a dream (I may belatedly become a dermaplaning convert). My hormonal breakouts are healing more quickly than usual. The most significant improvement is in the elasticity of my skin around my cheeks and jawline – I’ve always hated my side profile, with its rapid descent into double-chin wobbliness but a miracle seems to have occurred here.

Cooper promises longevity with this treatment – it’s not the usual ‘24 hour glow then back to normal’ that you get from a bog-standard facial. Would I fork out 500 quid on an ongoing basis? I’m not sure I’m prepared to default on my mortgage just yet but I’d certainly consider it. In the words of Parks and Recreation’s Donna, sometimes it pays to treat yo’self.

To book the Shane Cooper London EDITION Facial email info@shanecooperuk.com

Brow down: Suman Jalaf is the A-list’s go-to eyebrow guru (Suman London)
Brow down: Suman Jalaf is the A-list’s go-to eyebrow guru (Suman London)

Pricey pampering

Feeling flush? You’ll need to be to try these top-end treatments.

Scalp Harmonisation, Harrods, £250 (harrods.com)

Hair whisperer (and actual biochemist) Ricardo Vila Nova offers an indulgent facial for your scalp at Harrods Hair and Beauty Salon, involving a deep cleanse, hydration mask, massage and ‘scented steam experience’. He can also do a whizzy DNA scan of your bonce, from which to create bespoke shampoo.

The B.Beautiful Daycation, Bulgari Hotel, £910 (bulgarihotels.com)

This isn’t just any old spa day, this is one-day holiday at the blingy Bulgari Hotel. Guests enjoy use of the gym and 25m colonnade-lined pool, a 90 minute facial, a 90 minute body treatment, a mani and pedi, a haircut, shampoo and finish and a skincare gift from 111Skin to take away. Oh, and a fruit plate. They’ll probably peel the grapes if you ask.

Microblading, Brows by Suman, £650 (suman.london)

Suman Jalaf is the woman to see for the shapeliest brows in London, with Kate Moss among her starry client list. She’ll analyse your ‘brow architecture’ (yes, really) at her South Kensington salon, before working her magic with semi-permanent pigment. It sure doesn’t come cheap but it does last 12-18 months.

Cloud Twelve Signature Deep Relief KLORIS CBD Oil Massage, £240 (cloudtwelve.co.uk)

You don’t come to a chi-chi wellness and lifestyle club in Notting Hill expecting budget beauty options, to be fair. Cloud Twelve’s luxe signature massage includes deep tissue, stretching and aromatherapy techniques, using KLORIS’s award-winning CBD oil. Just don’t spend the 90 minutes of prostrate bliss panicking about your credit card bill.

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