"I'm getting a $1,200 virtual reality facial that uses John Mayer's favorite European skin-care products tomorrow — and it's in an oxygen bubble," I told my boyfriend last week.
Most men outside of the beauty industry would have thought this was odd conversation, but after seven months of dating, I have my boyfriend on a dedicated skin routine that's kept his complexion clear and bright — and he's into it. Meanwhile, he's exposed me to all that virtual reality, or VR, has to offer, including games, experiences, and a working knowledge of how the technology will inevitably change the future of media — and I'm into it.
So when I heard about a treatment that brings these two seemingly opposite experiences together, I had to try it out.
You may know Natura Bissé as the Spanish brand front and center in John Mayer's slightly-satirical stab at beauty vlogging last year. In the viral Snapchat videos, he shared his most effective hacks for better skin, including Mayer-isms like CNZs, or "crucial necessity zones" that should be always covered with face cream (so, basically just everywhere) and D.A.T., or "direct application technique," which involves squirting face cream directly onto skin to limit product waste on fingers. (Spoiler: This is not actually effective.)
Jokes aside, the reason these videos went viral is not because of his application techniques, but because his entire routine rang in at a whopping $1,457. But hold onto your debit cards, because this year, the brand's implementing a treatment that's just as novel — and nearly as expensive.
Called The Mindful Touch Experience, it is, according to the brand, "the most innovative and trailblazing venture within the spa sector, in which the results of Natura Bissé’s cosmetics are combined with the most advanced technology." So how does it work? "Through virtual reality, mindfulness and the therapist's expertise – the touch – we invite the client to reconnect with the here and now, to relax their body, to awaken their senses and to experience the pleasure of beauty in a more intense way," the official statement reads. Still confused? I was, too.
My Time In The Bubble
Let's get this out of the way first: At $1,200 for one hour, the facial is far from affordable. However, this has less to do with the bubble itself or the VR technology and more to do with the fact that the brand's products are just really pricey. Even though I was getting it at a comped press appointment, I still felt a little guilty.
The brand is famous for its bubbles and there are only a few, so you have to catch one while it's on tour. (Yes, the bubble has more expensive tickets and fewer tour dates than Bieber.) It's large enough for a bed, a table, and your aesthetician, and it's filled with 99% pure oxygen, which it supposed to help with the absorption of products. Once you enter said bubble, you remove your robe and lie down, then affix the VR headset.
For eight minutes, you're walked through a virtual reality experience — you travel through the ocean, wander around a brain, and are led on what is essentially a guided meditation to relax and let go of stress. Meanwhile, your aesthetician is floating essential oils under your nose and massaging your head and limbs to sync with what you're seeing. It was pretty amazing.
But then, after eight minutes, the headset comes off and the facial begins. As far as facials go, this one was pretty standard: cleanse, tone, mask, peel (but no extractions, unfortunately). As a wonderful added bonus, though, the guided meditation continued, so I was reminded throughout the experience to clear my mind and stay present.
The facial was great — my skin looked and felt radiant, soft, and hydrated for days (for $1,200 it had better, right?), but it wasn't unlike anything I've ever tried. What excited me most was seeing a beauty brand find a way to use VR to relax the client and add another layer to a classic spa experience.
The headset (a Samsung) and the content weren't the best quality I've seen, but in the context of where I was (nude, in an oxygen bubble, being fawned over in the middle of a weekday afternoon), it was pretty great.
After all, from Coachella installations to the future of surfing Facebook or watching YouTube, VR is on the horizon — and it's about time the beauty world dove in. Once they figure out how to do a facial with a headset on the entire time? Then things will get real sci-fi.
Natura Bissé just upped the game, so I guess it's your move, Mayer.