I still remembered the first time I went for a facial in 2004.
The therapist criticised the condition of my skin and made me feel so bad, I eventually signed up a package with them.
I went back 3 to 4 more times but strangely, my skin only got worse.
10 years and many many more salons later, I am now wise enough to recognize what my real problem was: going to a random salon without actually researching on how good the salon is!
For many unscrupulous salons, making the customer feel bad (by making things sound worse than they are) and in their moment of weakness, make them sign up for packages is a typical sales tactic. 7 out of 10 salons I've visited in Singapore always make me feel more depressed after the treatment than before I entered.
Older and hopefully wiser, I am now super selective about the salons I go to and the salons I recommend.
This post was created in partnership with SONA.
My love-hate relationship with facials was why I was super cautious when I first met the founder of SONA, Shiori.
It looked good on the surface - Japanese therapist, private location within the CBD area, prices were affordable.
However, I knew that I had to try the entire SONA experience for myself before I can make a firm judgment on SONA.
I made an appointment for a facial, since I've tried out so many salons for their facials.
I had to make the appointment a week in advance as Shiori had so many customers on her waiting list.
Still, she insists on doing the facial herself to give each customer the best experience possible.
The place was within walkable distance of Tanjong Pagar MRT.
I walked down the street of many many eateries and finally spotted SONA.
I walked up the stairs and saw a cozy, simply decorated waiting area.
Soon, I was escorted to one of their private rooms.
The room is spacious with several machines behind. There was also a sarong for me to change into.
Soon, the facial began.
After I lay on the bed, Shiori covered me with warm blankets to keep me comfortable throughout the treatment.
She also asked me if the temperature was okay for me; she's one of the few therapists I've met who actually bother about these small details that matter.
Once my comfort is affirmed, she went ahead to cleanse my skin. I wasn't wearing makeup that day so normal cleansing was sufficient.
Next, she performed a thorough skin analysis, probing various areas of the skin and explaining to me about my current skin condition.
In a factual tone, she told me that my skin was actually in quite a good condition except for the following issues: dehydration, black heads, uneven skin tone, thick layer of dead skin cells.
To combat these problems, she outlined her treatment plan:
After hearing her treatment plan, I was really impressed!
For the first time, I seem to have a therapist who really understood what she was talking about, targeting my problem areas with a wide range of machines and products.
I'm increasingly understanding what Shiori means by SONA's focus on effective treatments.
Once I gave the go-ahead, Shiori began to apply the Enzyme Peel. The enzyme peel contains natural citrus ingredients to remove the thick layer of dead skin cells on my face. As compared to other enzyme peels I've tried, this enzyme peel does not sting overly - suitable even for sensitive skin!
Shiori used a stronger enzyme peel for my jawline and neck as the skin at these areas are less sensitive.
Shiori removed the enzyme peel.
A thick layer of clay cleanser is then applied. Shiori shared that clay cleansers clean deeper and better than the usual milk and oil cleansers, which was why she chose to use clay. The oil and milk cleansers may also leave residues which clog up the pores, making the more expensive clay cleanser the ideal cleanser to use.
To thoroughly cleanse the skin, she used Ultrasound to cleanse the face on an even deeper level.
Why the focus on cleansing, I asked.
Due to frequent use of makeup and mild cleansing chemicals, dirt and impurities often remain on the epidermis. Bacteria grow easily when dirt and impurities remain, making it easier for bacteria to grow and causing acne.
Shiori therefore uses multiple products and machines to ensure that the skin is thoroughly cleansed so that the treatment can properly penetrate into the skin's deepest levels.
Although Shiori tries not to use invasive techniques to cleanse the skin, she performs extraction to remove the blackheads. Usually, this can be a painful process particularly if the therapist is not very skilled.
Maybe because Shiori has already cleansed the skin significantly, extraction of the blackheads was almost painless!
Definitely one of the least painful of all my facial experiences!
Now that my skin is properly cleaned, Shiori applied 4 different treatment masks customized to my needs. She applied the clay mask at my nose area to reduce blackheads, Vitamin A, C and E for cheek area to reduce the uneven skin tone and Diamond treatment mask for jawline to achieve whitening and lightening effect. Finally, a water mask is applied on the forehead and neck for hydration.
Once the masks are applied, she used radiofrequency to help the treatment better penetrate my facial pores!
After removing the mask, Shiori proceeded to perform a lifting massage for my face and eyes.
Finally, she ended off with a sleep inducing head massage and applied conditioning serum and sunblock to finish the entire massage.
I had such a relaxing time at SONA, I was reluctant to leave even after the facial is complete.
There was no talk of packages, no talk of hardselling and best of all, I saw an immediate impact on my skin!
See how vibrant my face is after the treatment?
More moisturized. More even skin tone and definitely much cleaner (No more Blackheads!)
No redness from excessively harsh chemicals / extraction
Zero downtime... Just a smooth vibrant glow!
Isn't this what all facial experiences should be?
Effective, relaxing and makes me feel good after the facial.
With use of multiple machines (radiofrequency, ultrasound and microcurrent depending on your skin condition) as well as the customized cocktail of vitamins and nutrients for the skin, I expected the price to be sky high - perhaps in the range of $200-$300.
I was pleasantly surprised to find SONA's facials to be comparatively affordable at $90-$150 depending on skin condition!
Definitely one of the most value-for-money facials you can find in Singapore!
After trying out SONA, it is difficult for me to go back to the regular facial salons in Singapore.
The facial is effective, the service is good and the price is affordable at SONA... and there are no packages to tie me down!
Why would I go back to suffer the bad service and hardselling by other salons?
All I hope is for Shiori of SONA to remain the hidden gem that she is...
Now, when should I book that next appointment?