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Emma Hardie: Beauty is muscle deep
I was lucky enough on a recent trip to London to get a facial from Emma Hardie, skin care guru who counts Sophie Dahl, Angelica Houston, Mel B of the Spice Girls and many other celebs among her clients. I don’t normally go for facials as I usually walk out of one looking worse for wear, but Emma’s acclaimed Natural Lift and Sculpting Facial incorporates pioneering massage techniques which I was keen to take advantage of as they reputedly deliver firmer, plumper skin without harsh ingredients or invasive techniques. And while you would have to travel to London in order to avail yourself of one of Emma’s facials, you can stock up on her lauded natural products and practice her rejuvenating massage methods from the comfort of your own home.
In a crowded market, what’s so special about Emma’s products and procedures you wonder? The inspirational backstory, that’s what. Originally an interior designer and furniture restorer, it was a serious illness which led this A-list aesthetician on the beauty and wellness path. By the time the fresh-faced 52-year-old had reached her early thirties, she had been suffering from the debilitating effects of the Epstein-Barr virus for a dozen years. In her chronic case, these included muscle loss (extending to the face), impaired mobility, hearing and eyesight. The nadir came during a party when Emma simply collapsed on the floor. Unable to move, she became bedridden for months afterwards. She said that doctors couldn’t do anything for her and that’s when she decided to try heal herself. "If doctors can’t help you,” she says, "it’s down to you.”
So, she read books on facial massage, studied yoga and physiology and after practicing her newfound techniques on herself, got better in four months. There’s little that Emma, daughter of an Oxford University professor, enjoys more than research. Her studies continued over the next 12 years during which she took physiology exams, brushed up on infrared therapy, joined a world-renowned maxillofacial surgeon in the operating room in order to examine the structure of the face and traveled to Japan, a trip which resulted in a thesis on ancient Japanese beauty techniques.
What Emma has discovered is that the state of our skin is largely dependent on the condition of our body’s connective tissue. Made up mostly of collagen, connective tissue, as the name implies, is what binds our organs together, holding them in place and cushioning them. Emma’s philosophy hinges on shoring up this tissue. "It’s all about what’s underneath the surface,” she asserts. To that end, her products and facials are geared towards lifting and plumping "the lower layers down to the bone.”
A key ingredient in her Amazing Face product line is Moringa oil derived from the Asian Moringa tree. Sustainably harvested, the Moringa plant is a "miracle tree” because every part of it can be used at a pharmacological level – the leaves, the seeds, the bark, everything, reveals Emma. Loaded with nutrients and vitamins, it’s no surprise that in underdeveloped areas, its extracts are used as nutritional supplements.
When it comes to anti-aging, the amino acids found in the plant help promote collagen and keratin production while its anti-oxidant rich minerals help ward off free radicals. Emma’s Moringa Cleansing Balm is a cult favorite, counting Kate Hudson, Sophie Dahl and Bond girl Naomie Harris among its devotees. I am currently using this and really like its botanical scent, emollient texture and the fact that it actually conditions your eye lashes.
I also like the Midas Touch Face Serum and her newest product, the Protect & Prime SPF 30, which I massage into my face, neck and décolletage in the mornings. Both absorb quickly into the skin, leaving it soft and luminous – all glowy, not shiny – as they contain light-diffusing formulations. When I’m pressed for time, I just use the latter in lieu of foundation.
The application techniques are perhaps as important as the products’ ingredients. Because the connective tissue is linear, the products should be applied "in lines, not in circles.” This works with the ebb and flow of the circulatory and lymphatic systems, "re-aligning electrical pathways thereby strengthening and hydrating what’s underneath the skin,” explains Emma.
Practicing what she preaches, during my facial, Emma massaged my skin in linear movements, following the grain of the skin. But before doing that, she did something I had never experienced in a facial before: she simply let her hands rest on my skin, warming up the tissue and muscle underneath. Adhering to her belief that the face, like the foot, can be used in reflexology, she then gently tapped along various pressure points. "You have to be gentle with the body,” she declares. "When it relaxes, it opens up, expands and hydrates.”
Afterwards, my skin was smooth, even-toned and appeared a bit tighter along the jawline. The whole experience was deeply relaxing, almost zen-like. I looked like I had gotten a good night’s sleep (which certainly hadn’t been the case considering the jet lag and dehydration from nearly two weeks of constant travel prior to our appointment). No wonder celebrities like to let Emma’s hands do their magic before stepping out on the red carpet.
When Emma’s not busy giving facials or developing new products, she is lecturing at beauty colleges, teaching makeup artists how to contour the face with her massage techniques. "I want to teach the world that we are magic,” she says, referring to the body’s own self-healing and rejuvenating capabilities. Emma will be imparting her wisdom on our side of the pond in the not-too-distant future for she will travel to New York next year to promote her products. In the meantime, I plan on going "in lines, not circles."
Expert tip: After cleansing your face in the mornings, rub it gently (in a linear motion, going with the grain of the skin) with Emma’s microfiber cloth or a dry washcloth. This smooths out the skin, prepping it beautifully for the application of serums, creams and makeup.