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Spa: Smooth as Silk

Samantha Brooks

With its mountain climbing, paragliding, bungee jumping, river rafting, and other extreme sports, the Swiss resort town of Interlaken has long attracted travelers looking to enliven the senses and, perhaps, recapture a bit of their youth. For those averse to risking life and limb, the city’s venerable Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa now offers a more moderate means of reclaiming youth—or at least a youthful appearance—with a new spa that specializes in silk-based antiaging treatments.

The Sensai Select Spa, which debuted last December, is located within the Victoria-Jungfrau’s wellness wing, opposite a 16-room Espa facility that opened in 2003. Whereas the original spa focuses on pampering and relaxation, the new facility is dedicated to skin-therapy treatments based on the Sensai line of skincare products from Kanebo, a Japanese beauty company that has roots in the silk business. Nearly 100 years ago, Kanebo officials noted that the hands of the company’s silk workers remained smooth and hydrated. Decades of research confirmed that the fibroin contained in silk has hydrating and antiaging effects; thus, in 2005, Kanebo launched Sensai—a line of skincare products made with the silk of the Koishimaru silkworm.

Coveted for its particularly shiny and strong-yet-thin silk, the Koishimaru was raised exclusively within the Japanese Imperial Palace’s sericulture center until the late 1990s, when the imperial family granted Kanebo permission to study the nourishing properties of the worm’s silk. The breed—the rarest of all silkworms—feeds only on young, unspoiled mulberry leaves picked before sunrise, when the leaves are moist with dew. Kanebo’s research into the Koishimaru revealed that the worm’s silk triggers the synthesis of hyaluronic acid within skin cells. The discovery was significant because hyaluronic-acid molecules bind with water to act as an internal moisturizer—staving off fine lines and wrinkles—and because production of the acid decreases as people age.

Kanebo originally launched five Sensai Premier products, including a $464-per-ounce face cream with a high concentration of Koishimaru silk. More recently the company introduced products for treating dehydrated skin, increasing collagen production, and lifting sagging and dull-looking skin. Sensai products are available at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and, now, at the Victoria-Jungfrau hotel’s first-of-its-kind facility. (Sensai goods can also be purchased online at www.bergdorfgoodman.com and www.neimanmarcus.com.)

The Sensai Select Spa—where transparent panels of cream-colored silk hang from the ceiling—is designed to transport visitors from the outdoor adventure land of Interlaken to modern Japan. Guests leave the traditional Swiss hotel behind as they enter a dimly lit corridor that opens into a circular lounge glowing with soft light (intended to convey the feeling of being in a cocoon). Six treatment rooms with private showers are decorated with blond-wood paneling and minimalist Japanese floral arrangements.

The spa’s menu offers just seven treatments, which include a men’s facial, a four-handed massage, and the signature three-hour Indulgence in Silk treatment (approximately $440), consisting of a body peel, a facial, a head massage, a body massage, and a silk bath in a round Japanese soaking tub. Exclusive to Sensai Select Spa, the bath treatment incorporates Kanebo’s Hot Springs Invigorator. "The ingredient increases body temperature, circulation, and the skin’s ability to absorb smoothing and hydrating ingredients applied during facials and massages," says Juliano Gomis, Sensai by Kanebo Cosmetics’ director of products in the United States. "This finding is based on Kanebo’s research and studies at 3,000 mineral volcanic hot springs located throughout Japan."

Where some spa products can leave skin feeling oily or slippery, Sensai products leave behind no residue. Instead, your skin feels clean and hydrated—the way it might if you took a dip in a hot spring, or fell into a river while white-water rafting.

Why Kanebo chose the outdoor destination of Interlaken for its flagship spa Gomis cannot explain, but the facility is certainly in good company. In addition to the two spas, the Victoria-Jungfrau hotel features seven restaurants and bars, an organic chef’s garden, an indoor swimming pool, two outdoor saltwater soaking pools, and an expansive fitness center with cardio machines, weights, and spinning classes.

Sensai Select Spa at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, +41.33.828.2828, www.victoria-jungfrau.ch; Sensai, 212.872.2537, www.kanebo.com

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