Mel Kenny, writer and friend of THE FILE, recently spent time in New York City—the land of bagels, cosmopolitans, and some of the best facialists in the world. Since we love Mel, and she loves pursuing great skin (especially after her skin decided to do a number on her in her late twenties), we sent her to four of the best spots in town. This is her second review—a detailed account of what goes on behind the famed, wellness-centric doors of CAP Beauty in NYC’s West Village. Take it away, angel!
The global wellness industry is emblematic of an era. The newfangled fixation, oftentimes packaged and marketed to hedonistic consumers with disposable income (see here a $4,399 bed that makes adjustments depending on your restlessness) or those who are staunchly plant-centric (see here a $700 juicer) is a curious yet compelling one. Show me a person who doesn’t want more energy, better sleep, or inflated ‘well-being,’ and I will react with authentic bewilderment.
Well, well, well. West Village’s CAP Beauty is an institution centred on wellness from within, and, by extension, great skin. One half organic product Mecca, one half spa, CAP’s shelves are replete with lotions, potions, powders, supplements, and oils; some near-unpronounceable, others from recognisable *cult* brands like Pai, RMS Beauty, and Vintner’s Daughter. According to CAP, “Plants boast the most life-giving, active, and effective ingredients. These powerhouse botanicals are the fast track to your most radiant self.” I love powerhouse things, least not vocalists and solutions to my disobedient skin, so I visit for a custom facial.
“You’ll notice we don’t use any machines here,” my aesthetician (my “wellness advisor,” in CAP dialect) Cara tells me, right before asking if she may extract a particularly enormous cystic zit on my cheek. I am fearful, because, without great quantities of artificial steam, how will I be properly groomed for the dramatic explosion? Will it hurt? Almost certainly. Will it scar? I imagine a hungry person banging on a malfunctioning vending machine, not the desired fountain, flowing freely. I sweat. Oils and lots and lots of gentle massaging is how. “A lot is coming out,” Cara informs me with the bravery of a person in very grave danger.
CAP’s notoriety is deeply indebted to its clean, holistic approach. What I received was an assemblage of piquant masks that were thoroughly coaxed into the skin. They were piquant in a earthy kind of way—like fragrant coriander that still has dirt stuck to it, or identifying the notes of Tom Ford’s Black Orchid coalescing with sweat and other immoral fluids on a dance floor at 4am. My favourite was a tightening lactic acid mask, which went on cool with one of those impossibly smooth flat brushes, promising to increase cell turnover and dilute hyperpigmentation. After this nature buffet, I can confirm my skin looked bright and dewy. The herculean zit, which previously manifested as a mini M&M wrapped in epidermis, had flattened like roadkill and was several shades less lava. Excellent. Oh—and if you like your tailored facial with a side of upper-body massage, go here. You will likely relax to sleeping point and wake up glowing, like I did.
Call CAP a feeder. “Everything we do feeds the skin,” says Cara. Like regular nutrition, the best skin food is indebted to nature. Rather conversely, I am a person who is very interested in manmade things: stuff from shelves, the Internet, cereal boxes, the non-perishable aisle at the supermarket. Stuff that can be incubated and percolated to more efficient or delicious ends. Stuff that never expires because of its extraneous, laboratory-founded ingredient makeup. I considered myself efficient. CAP considered me a hedonistic maximalist.
“Slow down on the chemical exfoliants” are Cara’s parting words (I alternate evenings between glycolic and a retinol). She recommends I use more hyaluronic acid for moisture, because without sufficient moisture,“zits don’t come to the surface.” It checks out—I do get clusters of small zits that hang around stubbornly but don’t present heads. (Fast forward to now and I’ve been using hyaluronic before this dense but fast-absorbing moisturiser on my acneic areas for a few months. I also double cleanse with coconut oil when I remember. I can affirm that these under-skin pests have been far fewer.)
Before leaving, I’m handed a steaming cup on a saucer. In it, an elixir of coconut butter, almond milk, something called He Shou Wu, and other things called Tocos Rice Bran Solubles. Its ingredients promise to enact all sorts of transformative toil, and, importantly, it tastes like a warm milkshake for sensible adults.
I exit for a late lunch with which I order a gin and tonic, because this is a holiday. Don’t worry: detoxing is not real. Therefore, retoxing isn’t either. C’est la vie! Carpe every diem!
Words, Melissa Kenny.