Testing the Treatment – Murad at the Urban Retreat

The beauty of having a beauty blog is that you are often offered the opportunity to test new products and treatments before they hit the market.

The Urban retreat at Harrods got in touch and offered me the chance to try either their new Yumi lashes treatment or the Caudalie spa. Despite being a fervent fan of Caudalie I opted for the Yumi lashes as I’d never had any type of eyelash treatment before. All that was asked of me was that I come in for a patch test a few days before my treatment-I was a happy camper and immediately told anyone who’d listen about this fortunate turn of events.

My friend accompanied me to the patch test- which was really a sample of the dye on the back of my neck. We took the lift up to the fifth floor and entered the Urban Retreat- it wasn’t just a retreat, it was heavenly. Home to 45 hair and beauty stations and 32 treatment rooms, as well as all the salon products you could dream of, I was in for a treat, and couldn’t wait to get started. 

We walked to the ‘Check-in’ station, which much like the check-in at Heathrow, is a line-up of perfectly groomed and presented women, all wearing matching neck scarves. I informed them that I had arrived for my patch test, and she looked me up in the system. To my dismay I was informed that I had not been booked in for the Yumi treatment but instead the Bliss package-a combination of facials, and massages, I most definitely wasn’t going to complain, but was concerned that I would have to re-configure my piece. The Check-in assistant was very accommodating and went off to see if I could have the Yumi lashes as well, and returned with the happy news that I could-result! I had scored.

My friend and I were escorted to the waiting room. Circular velvet couches and gilded mirrors added to the bourgeois boudoir feel, and there was even a cloakroom- I felt I had arrived. My beautician quickly came out, with a strange dye in hand, and put a few drops on the back of my neck, and said if I hadn’t had a reaction within 48 hours we were good to go. Fortunately I didn’t, so the following week I returned to be pampered and primed.

Upon my return to the Urban Retreat, I felt like a seasoned guest and walked straight to the check-in. Unfortunately there seemed to have been some confusion and nobody knew what I was getting or who I was getting it with. I was asked to wait in the resplendent waiting room once more, as everything was figured out. 
I perched next to a uber-glamorous Arabic lady and got stuck into the Rihanna issue of Esquire. As I waited, my neighbours were offered tea and snacks, but I was not-perhaps I looked like a scruffy pup who had lost their way, but I didn’t let it phase me, I was about to have the greatest treat of all.

A while later, a smiley beautician came out, introduced herself and ushered me into the treatment room. It was, as always, immaculately presented, smelt beautiful and a CD-player played strange woodland sounds. I was asked to fill out a form so she could give me the best and most appropriate treatment. Questions included- my skin needs, my emotional needs and essentials such as whether I wore contacts. Prior to filling it out I asked whether I would receive the Yumi lashes before or after my massage and facial, but my beautician didn’t seem to know anything about Yumi or a facial, so promised to investigate as I prepared.

Upon her return she informed me that she had taken me by mistake and I was supposed to be with a lady named Molly, it was the first of many mistakes.

Molly was given my form and glanced over it before asking me to chose between a facial and Yumi, as apparently she didn’t have time to do both. Despite being confused as to why they had booked so many treatments with someone who couldn’t physically fulfil them all, I asked her what she’d recommend. As I have short, curly and dark lashes she said that Yumi would be an unnecessary pain, as well as a waste of time, so I opted for the facial.

By this point I was pretty peeved and was definitely not relaxed. I felt as if everything was massively disorganised, and much like the statue of Venus, the cracks had begun to show, and the glossy exterior of the Retreat, was in fact just a facade.

Molly promised I would get my £100s worth and it would be a facial to remember, it really was, but perhaps not for the reasons she’d hoped. 
Molly started by steaming my face and massaging in a peppermint gel, which was soothing and felt incredible. Next came an exfoliator, which she brushed in with the Clarisonic exfoliator brush, which sounds and feels like an electric toothbrush on your face- it was the definite highlight-perhaps for novelty value.
After the Clarisonic, came electrocution. It wasn’t actually an electrocution but felt like it, tiny shocks were dotted across my face, it was uncomfortable but I thought perhaps a necessary evil. As she went over my upper lip and forehead repeatedly I grew increasingly uncomfortable. She then rubbed a liquid lotion over my eyes and massaged it in, with no regard for my contact lenses, or eyeballs!
After squeezing any blemishes or pimples by hand she massaged my face and décolletage, which was the most relaxing part of the experience. At the end of the treatment Molly doused my face with a minty oil, offered me some water and said she’d wait for me outside. 

As I had relaxed by the end I was desperate for the loo, so went in search of it with only one eye, as one contact lens was covered in cream. By the time I had found my way back to the ‘Check-in’, Molly was nowhere to be found so I couldn’t thank her or ask her what aftercare I should use and what treatment I had actually had, so I could write about it. The ladies at the check-in informed me  I had had the Murad facial, and pointed me in the direction of the Murad ambassador. I asked her if it would be possible to get some information about what products Molly had used and what facial I had actually had. To which she responded a Vitamin C booster, and handed me a leaflet. 

At a loss as to what to do, I left in search of a mirror. My skin was glowing! I was over the moon, it had all been worth it after all. I was literally exuding light, and departed Harrods with a spring in my step.

The following day my glow had disappeared and my skin started to feel irritated. Three days after my skin is in absolute agony. It is dry, sore, tight and wrinkly. I feel as if I have aged about 25 years and it hurts to smile. Instead of suffering in silence, I thought I’d contact the press rep, who was lovely enough to set everything up. She was mortified and said she’d get to the bottom of the situation. Later this afternoon, she responded by saying that they had never had a problem with Murad before-as if this wasn’t!- and that when one has an intense acne-fighting facial, it is natural for the skin to dry out. Considering I detailed that I am prone to eczema, have combination skin and have never had an acne problem I was as disappointed as angry, that I was given this treatment without being consulted or told. The only advice I was given was that I should use fragrance free creams-but surely that is a given? Luckily brands such as Evian have moisturising mist sprays, so I have stocked up until my skin hopefully returns to its previous supple state- and I’m praying that it does.

Perhaps I was over-optimistic as to what the results would be, but dry, sore and painful skin, was not what I had bargained for.
I’d hoped and assumed that this would be a rave review, but due to the disorganisation, lack of information or real help, it would be dishonest of me to say otherwise.

If you do fancy looking like a haggard old woman or entering Harrods’ Urban Retreat of pandemonium, then the Murad facial is available for the bargain of £100 and the Yumi lash treatment £80, just beware that you may just end up with a dyed neck and a dodgy face.

Jamila xx


Fashion Journalist and Beauty Blogger from London

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