While the jury’s still out on whether French women really do get facelifts, one beauty truth is held to be self-evident: More often than not, the chicest Parisiennes are on intimate terms with their derm (that’s dermatologist) and many visit said derm on a weekly basis for an array of treatments that even Google can’t translate. And the derm to know is Joëlle Ciocco. The Paris-based biochemist has spent over thirty years in the business, boasts a top-selling product line lauded by skincare guru Isabelle Bellis in New York, and counts Carine Roitfeld among her fans.
Last month, I met with Ciocco in her clinic just off Place de la Madeleine to learn more about her signature treatment, the two-hour, €570 facial that includes something called a “Buccal Massage” — and experience one for myself. Ciocco is a petite woman of indeterminable age with expression lines but plump, glowing skin. She talked me through her process and explained that the secret to staving off aging goes much deeper than the skin. “We have developed a technique that works to stretch the mask of muscle on the face, because treating anti-aging is not just about the outside skin tissue,” she said. “The stretching is really important, we work externally and internally on all of the muscles.”
Christiane, my assigned therapist, started off the procedure by explaining the importance of the cleansing process, which goes for almost 15 minutes alone. She used three kinds of cleansing milk — and warned me off washing my face with gel cleansers in the shower — as well as three different floral extracts from Ciocco’s range of products. (She has over 60 floral extracts to choose from).
After cleansing comes the facial massage. My face was greased up and sculpted like a piece of pottery, with particular attention paid to the cheekbones and frown lines. The massage is firm, but pleasant, and I find myself falling asleep. I wake, however, to the sound of Christiane donning rubber gloves — normally not a good sign. Pulling my lips away from my gums, she proceeded to massage my cheeks and chin from the inside of my mouth, moving her fingers right to the back of my mouth.
While the mouth massage was not the most relaxing experience — it felt more bizarre than uncomfortable — the coziness of the chair, and the thought of Kate Moss’s cheekbones, gave me the strength to hang in there. It was worth it as well: For days afterwards my skin had a healthy glow and the tired, grey look I’d been rocking over winter had lifted significantly. Despite the price tag, Ciocco's office recommends clients come in for this treatment on a monthly basis to maintain the benefits.
And there's even more anti-aging innovation on the horizon: Over the past year, Ciocco has been developing a new treatment called Massage de l’Arbre, which translates literally to “tree massage.” The technique starts near the heart region and moves upwards toward the face and head area. “We work with the energy of the heart,” Ciocco explains, adding that the chest area is representative the roots of the tree, the neck is the trunk, and the face and head make up the leaves and the flowers. This new treatment will be available in September, sans the rubber gloves.