Above, waiting area of Rani Mirza's Knightsbridge salon.
The first time I met A-lister facialist, Rani Mirza, I told her that I wasn't really into facials... I'd been completely put off by an Elemis facial I had years ago which was nothing I couldn't have done myself with some oils and a bit of massage... all I had to show for my money was a mega greasy face which didn't even look or feel any better underneath the oil slick.
Taking my scepticism as a challenge, and noting my imminent wedding, Rani suggested I have a Red Carpet Facial at her salon in Knightsbridge, London. Given that Rani's clients include Naomi Campbell, Erin O'Connor, Anna Friel and Dannii Minogue, I was hardly going to turn down a "complimentary" facial.
The next week, I turned up at her private salon, tucked away down a side street away from all the Harrods-bound tourists, and had my faith restored in facials... or at least in facials by Rani Mirza.
The Red Carpet Facial has been a labour of love for Rani... she created this deluxe facial not just for her celebrity clients, but for anyone needing to look radiant for a big event such as a wedding. It's not cheap at £180 for two hours, but it's very likely the best facial money can buy.
Most of us will wince at that price, but if you have one day where you need to look like a star (especially if how you look that day will be captured in photos for the rest of time), the Red Carpet Facial suddenly makes sense. Rani's only aim is to have you leave the salon with glowing, radiant skin that is clean, toned and plumped. She recommends having the facial a week before the event (this is a serious facial with microdermabrasion and extraction), but she tells me she's done this facial even the day before on some of her clients.
The Red Carpet Facial isn't for the fainthearted... or for those just wanting a relaxing facial massage. I counted at least seven steps during the entire two-hour process. In between all of the deep cleansing, exfoliation and moisturising masks, there was intense steaming, extraction of blackheads/blocked pores, microdermabrasion and oxygen jets. Trust me, no pore was shown mercy.
I've never had my pores professionally extracted before. I didn't even realise I had that many blocked pores (I take very good care of my skin). But Rani was nimbly squeezing all over my forehead, nose and chin. And I'm not kidding, I heard popping noises.
She even used a (single-use) needle to gently break into the stubborn blocked pore on the middle of my forehead which had been there for months. It paved an outlet for a satisfying squeeze, to which she exclaimed in surprise, "That pore was full of fluid!" I had previously left it alone knowing that if started digging at it, I would only have ended up with a third eye on my forehead. Whereas Rani got it out clean... I can't tell you how satisfying that was!
Don't worry, it wasn't just about extraction, Rani also thoroughly massaged my face, shoulder and neck to aid lymphatic drainage before moving onto the rest of the facial.
I was worried about the DiamondTome microdermabrasion because my skin is quite delicate and blasting it with ground up crystals doesn't sound particularly gentle. But I've just found out that DiamondTome doesn't use crystals at all, just a diamond-encrusted wand, which explains why there was no abrasive grit and no ouch moments. I noticed Rani concentrated the vacuum around my brow bone and jawline (including just under the jaw). She mentioned this was great for lymphatic drainage too. Unbeknown to me at the time, I was later to get comments from two separate people about me "looking different" and that my "face looks thinner". YES!!! Did I just find a cure for my moonface??
One of the final steps was the Oxygen Therapy which was incredible. Its purpose is to stimulate cells and collagen production to leave skin hydrated and nourished. I don't know about that, but the jet of pure oxygen moving around my skin felt like heaven. Just breathing it in made me feel high.
Rani finished with another mask step, then applied eye cream (YonKa Nutri Contour Eye Cream) and moisturiser (YonKa Phyto 58). She actually used YonKa products throughout the facial, a brand I must now definitely check out.
When she was all done, I was prepared to see a red-marked face in the mirror after all the earlier extraction... but I was surprised to find there was no redness at all, not a pinch! I honestly don't know how Rani did it... whether she just has miracle fingers, or whether the later steps in the facial helped to calm any redness.
During the facial, I had been plotting in my head how I could get home without anyone seeing what I thought I must have looked like (red-marked and oily). But man alive, my skin looked AMAZING in the mirror. Amazing, I tell you! My skin looked perfectly even and dewy. Airbrushed. A friend the next day (who is used to my skin looking decent most days) actually noticed there was something different about me but couldn't place what it was.
So there you have it... that's what a £180 facial with the best facialist in town gets you. There was nothing in that facial that I could have done by myself. And despite her impressive client list, Rani remains distinctly humble and just so nice. She is pure professionalism and I get the impression that she wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing she'd left a single one of her clients' pores uncleansed.
You can find out more about the Red Carpet Facial (and her standard facials) at ranimirza.co.uk. Make sure to read the glowing testimonials too. Or maybe don't if you're on a spending cut, because it'll be impossible to not to want a facial by Rani after reading them...
You can book an appointment with Rani by calling her on 020 7589 9080.
And you can find her salon at: 41 Beauchamp Place, London SW3 1NX (it's very hidden away which adds even more to the experience of feeling like you're part of a very exclusive secret).
Disclaimer: This facial was complimentary, but damn it, this is going to be an expensive habit...