On a trip to the Maldives, sensitive skin columnist Judy Johnson tested a new edible spa menu that gives a whole new meaning to feeding your skin
It’s not often you find yourself over 5,000 miles away from home, laying in an open air spa under a silk sheet while a therapist gently brushes a cold, yoghurt-based substance all over your face (much welcome in the 31-degree heat), but that’s exactly where I was during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Maldives in early 2019.
It’s a long way to go for a spa break, granted, but the ten-hour Emirates flight (and subsequent seaplane transfer from Malé) to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu was worth every second. As one of the many lush green resorts in the Baa Atoll, Coco Collection’s most authentic Maldivian location has it all. Beautiful crystal clear waters, soft white sand that stretches for miles, world-class chefs, traditional thatched villas, an eco-friendly ethos together with a marine turtle sanctuary and, last but not least, an on-site spa, with the most attentive therapists I’ve ever come across. In fact, attentive is the overarching vibe from every member of staff on the island, from the porters to the waiting staff, the chefs to the spa manager; if you need looking after, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is the place to be.
Which is why when it came to visiting the luxury Coco Spa, I knew I was putting my sensitive skin in the safest of hands - and was delighted to try their new Edible Spa menu. Concocted with UK-based events company Edible Stories, the specially-created treatments use only edible ingredients to create skin-boosting masks, scrubs and wraps. A unique spa experience that is offered alongside their main treatment menu (which is equally impressive - try the signature Balinese full body massage with their local coconut oil for the ultimate hour of relaxation), the homemade blends sound good enough to eat.
Whatever your taste, choose from face, body or hair treatments; there’s something for everyone, and they all have that exotic Maldivian flavour. There’s the Coco Lassi Mask, which combines fresh mangoes with kiwi, honey and coconut milk for an antioxidant-rich face mask for dry, mature skin, while the Neem Tea Mask uses the leaves of the local medicinal plant ground with Thai basil and aloe vera to calm and soothe dry and dehydrated complexions. Or perhaps you have a craving for something sweet? The Chocolate Cake Scrub mixes cocoa powder, coconut oil and sugar to create a divine scrub that will leave any chocoholic’s beauty needs satiated - as you rinse away the blend post-treatment, every sense is bathed in the the scent of rich chocolate while the vitamin E-rich coconut oil leaves skin softer than ever.
For those who have been soaking up the sun on the beaches, the Golden Milk Hair Mask is a must; combining superfood turmeric with milk and honey, the anti-inflammatory mask gently treats sensitive scalps while conditioning your hair to leave it smooth and shiny - ready for cocktail hour at the sunset bar. The cleverly created menu offers all of those delectable treats we savour on holidays in a beauty format; ice creams and sundaes, tropical fruits and luxurious puddings, as well as the R&R we crave that only a professional facial and laying back on a massage bed can truly deliver.
I started my treatment as I would any other - the diligent and knowledgable staff indulged me in my compulsory patch test to confirm my super sensitive skin was going to be happy. The therapist applied two spoonfuls onto my forearm half an hour before treatment (usually, I’d test three consecutive days, but the recipes are whipped up on the day to ensure complete freshness), and with all being well and reaction-free, I chose the Papaya Panna Cotta Mask - a skin-brightening paste made of fresh papayas and yoghurt that felt instantly cooling on my sun-drenched skin.
After a sip of the spa’s signature iced tea, it was off to the open-air treatment room to get under the thin silk sheet, keeping me lightly covered as fans spun high above us. Then began the treatment; my therapist swiftly cleansed my face (which was mostly bare save for my SPF) with organic coconut oil and a warm cloth, before gently brushing on the Papaya Panna Cotta Mask. The strong scent of the papaya was refreshing in the humidity, while the cool effect of the yoghurt left me - and my sensitive skin - feeling calm and soothed.
Once a thick layer was applied all over, a warm flannel was applied as an eye mask so I could lay back, relax and let the fruity goodness get to work; the papayas contain brightening enzymes while the proteins and lactic acid in the yoghurt are said to help firm and refine the skin. As the mask did its thing, my therapist used the coconut oil for a relaxing hand and arm massage - which I never knew I needed until I felt the tensions of the previous day’s travelling slowly melt away.
Fast forward a snooze and a massage later, and the mask was carefully swiped away, leaving my skin feeling fresh, and, on inspection in the spa’s bathroom mirror, looking visibly brighter. Whether it was the effect of the papaya’s papain enzyme, the soothing yoghurt or simply my therapist’s expert hands, I can’t be sure - but if you’re lucky enough to experience the calming ‘no news, no shoes’ ethos of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, a trip to the spa is the icing on the wellbeing cake.