Keeping the jet set moisturized isn't an easy business. On the circuit of decadent destinations in which to show off scantily clad, perfect skin, St. Barts is the ultimate arena. And the spa at Hotel Carl Gustaf is the perfect prep station.
With the soaring popularity of destination spas, a hotel stay, for many, doesn't really start until you've checked into the spa. Here you'll want the Carita Lagoon Hydration Facial, which tackles dehydrated and tired skin. My aesthetician welcomes me with chilled herbal tea and a cold towel, then leads me to a spacious treatment suite where she settles my mind with aromatic inhalations of lavender from her palm.
To revitalize the skin, she works in a heady blend of crushed sunflower seeds, thyme, lemon-oil extract and cloves that's been fermenting for about two years, much like a fine Riesling. (This Renovateur product isn't available to the public: One must make a pilgrimage to a Carita spa.) The formula is rustic and ambiguous, woodsy and delicious. More important, the crushed seeds slough away debris. Thyme purifies, while lemon oil brightens, and clove decongests. She rubs it in until it's transformed from a wet paste to a dry dust. Then her expert hands perform a sculpting massage to activate a gel serum, and yet another massage helps the mask's active ingredients penetrate and restore the skin's elasticity.
This hydrating facial increases the skin's ability to maintain moisture, thanks to skin-barrier-strengthening samphire extract. The divine melting cream mask is speckled with energizing micro-beads that make your skin more radiant.
Perched in a premium enclave above the St. Barts capital of Gustavia, Hotel Carl Gustaf enjoys stunning views of the Lilliputian harbour below. Like clockwork, at the end of each day, a parade of Chanel-clad patrons swans into the lounge bar: This is the most popular venue on the island for sunset champagne, cognac or calvados.
The hotel is named after the current King of Sweden, and in keeping with these imperial roots, facilities here are top-notch. The restaurant serves up refined French-Caribbean fare, and the wine cellar holds more than 300 vintages. The spa offers a comprehensive menu of Carita treatments (Paloma Picasso and Catherine Deneuve are fans) and boasts a hydro-zone area complete with essential oil showers and an outdoor pool with resistance-current jets for strength-building swims.
With only 14 suites, the hotel has an intimate, residential feel. All suites offer magnificent harbour views, private plunge pools, multijet showers, flat-screen televisions, separate living room areas and sleek kitchenettes.
Rue Des Normands, Les Hauts De Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies; 590-590-29-7900; hotelcarlgustaf.com; $163 for 90 minutes.
Special to The Globe and Mail