The Sanctuary Spa – a review

The Sanctuary Spa – A Review  by Shirani



We have a very special offer for you! If you are suffering from the Winter Blues, need a perk-or-pick-me-up, a good clean after frolicking on the beach, or are just feeling mummy-harassed (er, all the time?!), then it’s time for a treat! Readers who quote ‘Shanghai Mamas’ when making a booking at The Sanctuary before April 30th 2018 will get 300RMB off a facial! Before you get a-calling, here is a mama-review of what you can expect of their stellar services and relaxed environment.


The Environment and Service


For my facial, I went to the branch at Metrotown, Zhongshan Park which opened in mid-June 2017. Located above the metro station, this branch replaced the Hongmei Lu branch and is larger, newer and more prominent. Entering the spa immediately inculcates a feeling of ‘zen’ with quiet music, calming scents, soft lighting, and cosy cushioned corners in fresh colours set against a neutral palette. I am led to a booth and given a cup of tea whilst waiting for my private pre-facial consultation. The standout feature here is this – highly tailored, personalised attention. There is no feeling of ‘cutting corners’, being rushed or being ‘just another number’. Your consultant listens to why you have come, goes through your current skincare regime, then makes thoughtful suggestions as to what treatment(s) to have based on your needs, budget and time. The recommendations are subject to examining your skin again up close in the treatment room.



My consult was with Su Lim, co-owner of The Sanctuary who arrived cheerfully fresh-faced and make up free, a walking testament to clean and healthy skin. Her passion for skincare is obvious, and she tells me the purpose of the pre-facial consultation is to understand the customer’s needs and highlight any skin problems so they can help to resolve them. The Sanctuary focuses on skin health and fitness as a philosophy, “think of it as a fitness center for skin, a lifestyle” she says. Not a big beauty person, I immediately warm to this concept. Su asks about my ‘regime’ and listens without judgement (or laughing) as I talk about Nivea face wipes and ‘sometimes Body Shop stuff’. Having previous bad experiences with facials, I confess that I only had them once a year or so and came back to The Sanctuary given the last one I had was a good experience. She is pleased to hear this but hints I should spend more time on skin given it is the body’s largest organ. With over 25 years in the spa business, Su assures we can find something low maintenance and ‘no frills’ to maintain healthy(ier) skin going forward saying “we care about what you do between facials as it is important that your skin gets better and better”. A month or so on from the facial I believe her, because I’m doing what she advised and my face feels great!


The Treatments and Products


The Sanctuary specialises in facials, but there are also massages including pre-natal, perfect for pregnant mamas. Therapists are trained specifically for positioning, pressure and points to avoid, strokes to use, how to relieve the aches and pains of an expecting mother and to manage swelling as everyone carries the baby differently. Therapists have to undergo at least 600 hours of training. They also offer a variety of add on specialised treatments to suit specific needs such as neck, eye, or back treatments.


Another thing that sets their facials apart (aside from their in-depth consultation) is their professional extraction methods which aren’t common in western salons and not well practiced in others. “Extraction is a lost art “ Su tells me, “and this takes a lot of training and skill or it can cause infections or red and blotchy skin”. All their facials come with signature extraction which cleans the pores. There are three types of basic facials (‘Aircon Alarm’, ‘New in Shanghai’ and ‘Peace of Mind’) which range from 680 to 880 RMB. The intermediate range (such as ‘I Need a Drink’) start at 1180RMB, going up to the extremely luxurious ‘Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams’ at 2280RMB. Common add ons such as ‘I Huff and Puff’ for puffy eyes or the ‘Papaya Enzyme Peel’ that ‘eats up’ dead skin without harming any live skin are both 380RMB. Eyebrow tidying up is complimentary with facials.


Given my needs and time limitations (2 hours), Su recommends the ‘New in Shanghai’ facial taking 85 minutes. I want a good cleanse and this is described as ‘wipe the street off your face’. I add on the puffy eye treatment (20 minutes) wondering why its suggested but the answer is obvious. I am then led to the quiet and peaceful treatment room. “Stop taking notes” Su says after I have undressed and laid down. “If you relax, so will your skin, then you’ll really feel the benefits.” I obey. My therapist washes my face with a thorough 3-step process and Su comes in to check my skin saying it is combination type and not sensitive as I thought. She then selects the products needed for the type and condition. I relax as steam emanates from a machine nearby and the extraction process begins. It is thorough and not at all painful and I feel clean and pampered. In fact, I end up relaxing so much I wake myself up snoring to the therapist’s amusement. This was just in time to observe that the eye treatment felt more like a luxurious massage and was pure bliss. Time to nap again?


After the facial, I groggily get it together to ask Su about their products, intrigued that my face feels healthy and cleansed, but not dry. Su’s partner and co-founder Lisa Young holds a research degree in biochemistry from the University of California (Berkeley) and a Masters in Medicine from the Yale School of Medicine. She works with premium research labs to develop and manufacture The Sanctuary’s own organic line of skin care products. They are available for purchase but not ‘pushed’ onto a customer. I liked that Su only showed me because I asked. It is also their policy not to push packages onto customers but merely ask if a customer is interested. All in all, it was a therapeutic and relaxing experience ending pleasantly without an awkward hard-sell!


For the Shanghai Mamas offer, ring 33562257, specify the branch you’d like and if you need an English speaking consultant:


The Sanctuary (Zhongshan Park)                        The Sanctuary (Jianguo Lu)

B1/F 890 Changning Lu                                          Room 402, 171 Jianguo Zhong Lu

Operating Hours: 9am-9pm                                 Operating Hours: 10am-10pm