I spent a week at a rejuvenating spa - but did it make me look any younger?

alpina gstaad
The Alpina Gstaad's relaxing outdoor pool and terrace offer stunning views of the mountains

Prejuvenation has been one of this year's biggest beauty buzzwords, and is a concept I can fully get on board with. I had previously bypassed anti-ageing formulas thinking that since I had yet to develop any wrinkles I didn’t need them. That was until I learnt that our natural youth boosting collagen begins to decline at 25, sun exposure is our biggest ager, and pollution isn’t far behind. 

Understanding that I, like everyone else, am not immune to the effects of time made me suddenly concerned with managing my ageing process. So I hotfooted it off to the anti-ageing mecca, Switzerland.

The retreat

Set in the picturesque Alps, and nestled in the center of the charming Gstaad village, The Alpina Gstaad offers breathtaking views and all the glamour you’d expect from an alpine stay. It is also home to the world renowned Six Senses Spa, whose new Anti-Ageing programme promises a holistic approach to ageing that targets both the mind and body. Offering highly personalised programmes, each combining scientific advances in nutrition, fitness and neuroscience with ancient wisdom in order to achieve balance, and of course a more youthful appearance.

The analysis

Walking into the spa for my first appointment, I was greeted with a freshly blended kale and cucumber smoothie, that instantly made me feel more virtuous. A few sips later and we began with a holistic health check that involved electrodes being attached to my forehead to analyse my serotonin, dopamine and anti-oxidant and free radical levels. I then had my vascular function tested and my fat and muscle mass measured.

The Six Senses Spa is an oasis of serenity Credit: Reto Guntli

While I had high levels of happy chemicals, I was told by head therapist, Antonis Sarris, that I could do with far more antioxidants. These are needed to counteract the premature ageing that occurs when the body is overloaded with pesky free radicals. It’s worth noting that these readings aren’t a medical diagnosis and don’t replace visiting medical professionals if you have any serious health concerns. However, they did provide the springboard Sarris needed to draw up the programme I would follow during my stay.

The workout

Prejuvenate the body with strengthening exercises Credit: Reto Guntli 

As we age we lose muscle and bone density, compromising balance, strength and posture. So my prejuvenation workout centred around strength training, namely using free weights and performing bodyweight exercises with a major focus on strengthening my weak core. Why strength over endurance? Well, the ideal way to reduce inflammation and slow down the ageing process is to adopt an exercise routine that doesn’t flood the body with cortisol like overdoing it on cardio can.

The brain training

Stress has been shown to negatively impact our health, from sleep issues, weight gain and even the risk of heart disease, making it a major ager. So adopting a strategy to keep stress levels at bay is imperative when it comes to prejuvenation. Hence why mountain bathing was made part of my anti-ageing programme.

The landscapes in Gstaad

Walking through the valley of Turbach with a Tibetian healer, I was asked to connect with the natural energies around me, and focus on my breathing, while he taught me how to empty my mind. Mountain bathing is a new take on Forest bathing - an interdisciplinary science that links the positive effects of a forest atmosphere on human health. Phytoncides (a protective substance emitted by plants and trees) and the natural landscape are thought to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. While it would be easy to pooh-pooh this alternative practice it was impossible for me to ignore the peace I felt after each session - and the strategies work just as well at your local park, or in your garden.

The treatments 

The Alpina Gstaad Six Senses Spa treatments

At the start of my stay external ageing was most certainly my main concern, which meant I was incredibly excited to find my itinerary included daily facials. It all started with an examination of my skin by my dedicated Biologique Recherche therapist. She advised me that although I had no lines or wrinkles, my skin was dull, thin and dehydrated.

Through a course of daily hour-long facials, she cocooned my skin in a host of highly concentrated natural actives, including strengthening marine elastin, soothing cucumber extract and hydrating plant-based squalane. The effects were instant, and after each session my skin looked brighter, and felt more resilient. I was then sent away with an at-home routine that has well and truly kept my dullness and dehydration at bay.

The diet

Executive Chef Martin Göschel tailors every meal  to your likes and dislikes at the hotel's Michelin-starred restaurant, Sommet. Credit: Sommet

Granted, it’s so much easier to follow a healthy eating plan when every meal has been tailored to your likes and dislikes, and cooked for you too. From salmon and pak choi to a freshly made Thai vegetable soup, my daily meals at the hotel's restaurant Sommet were healthy and wholesome but never lacked flavour. I was taken off caffeine, dairy, refined carbs and sugar, but surprisingly I didn't feel deprived or experience any cravings. 

This diet aimed to reduce glycation (where excess sugar molecules deteriorate collagen fibers) and to aid digestion. In doing so, less toxins are stored in the body and nutrient stores aren’t depleted in order to break down toxins, that would eventually lead to premature ageing.

The verdict

I feel less sluggish and more clear headed for the first time in a long time. My skin looks much brighter and feels more supple, and I’m pleased to report that the meditation has stuck thanks to apps like Headspace. So it seems a week can really improve your life, as I now have a better understanding of what my mind, body and complexion needs to slow down the ageing process internally and externally.