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Review: Fire & ice facial

If it's good enough for Gwyneth, it's good enough for me! Muddy road-tests the easy-peeler treatment that's loved by the red carpet ladies.

Full disclosure. I road-tested this facial because it’s Gwyeth Paltrow approved. Not because I’m a Goop-geek but because my husband once saw Gwyn in the flesh at the Chelsea Flower Show and after much pummelling for info from me, described her as looking so glowy it was like she’d been beamed down from another planet.

“Why should goddam Gwynnie get all the glow”, I wailed. And that, dear reader, is what brings me to Exeter’s leafy Southernhay and more specifically, to Skin South West, to try a peel treatment that might even be a bit painful.

The iS Clinical Fire & Ice Facial is a resurfacing treatment designed to relieve your face of pesky sallow skin and reveal your inner-Gwyneth, Halle Berry and Jessica Alba too. It ap-peels (ha!) because unlike advanced peels, you won’t spend a week hiding from the postman. There’s no scary shedding and it’s zero downtime.


Skin South West is not your usual beauty salon, it’s a facial aesthetics clinic which specialises in anti-aging tweakments and uses pharmaceutical grade products.

I adore the owner Dr Pradnya Apte, who is always friendly and passionate about what she does. She’s incredibly knowledgable and doesn’t do BS, she’s a straight-talking Northerner who will be totally upfront with you about what she thinks your skin needs. The wall in her treatment room is reassuringly covered in her certificates and awards, including as Finalist two years running (and Highly Commended) in the Oscars of the aesthetics world, the Aesthetic Dentistry Awards.

While Pradnya gets her patients to look good, it’s her two trained aestheticians, Kayla and Charlotte, who keep her patients looking good with a range of non-invasive contemporary treatments including Endymed (great for reducing jowls and amazingly, bingo wings), problems with uneven pigmentation or acne scars, as well as more familiar electrolysis, thread vein removal and loads of others to check out here.


The clinic is on the first floor of an impressive Georgian building in leafy Southernhay, home to the city’s top solicitors, estate agents and wealth management companies. It fits in well with the upmarket quality vibe.

It’s bijou with a reception area, two treatments rooms and a small consultation room. It feels fresh and airy, with views of Southernhay’s tree canopy through the high glass windows, and shiny glass cabinets displaying exciting beauty products. The playlist is relaxed, Spotify and Radio 2, and there’s always friendly chat from the staff.


Facials are done by Kayla or Charlotte in one of two treatment rooms. I was with Charlotte, a lovely lass who didn’t mind me taking pics and tapping away on my phone while she was working. What a trooper.

First off, she tells me this facial isn’t ‘fluffy’. Like all the treatments at Skin South West, it’s results-driven and delivered using pharmacy grade products, iS Clinical.

Covid precautions means she’s wearing a mask and gloves which I guess might interfere with the enjoyment of the massage element of some facials, but it doesn’t matter here as most of the creams are applied with a spatula.

First, she starts with a smothering of warm honey-scented cleanser which gets swept away and followed by another creamier version, so your face is really super-clean.

‘If I just keep my eyes shut, maybe no-one will see me…’

Next, she applies a thick spicy-smelling cream which, Charlotte tells me, “smells like Christmas’. This is the ‘fire’, a blend including glycolic acid (AHA) sugar cane extract, Retinol (Vitamin A) & niacinimide (Vitamin B3). It feels hot and a bit prickly on my skin but phew, not painfully so. Charlotte asks you to rate the discomfort from 1-10. I gave it a three-four. Though it would have been more fun to scream ‘It burns’, like the witch in The Wizard of Oz. Maybe next time.

After three minutes, off it comes to be replaced by the ‘ice’, a cool, hydrating masque filled with anti-oxidants including hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, green tea, grape seed and rosemary extract. It feels refreshingly cool after the heat but quickly warms up as it’s gently massaged and rolled in with rose-quartz roller. This helps with lymphatic drainage, apparently. Puffy eyes, let’s be ‘aving you.

Once this is smoothed away my skin is so clean I can literally hear it squeak. Then it’s on with a super serum to tighten and freshen, followed by a hydro cool serum to hydrate and revitalise, as well as gentle pat around the eyes with the iS Clinical Youth Eye Complex. (Hot tip – this is their best-selling eye product because it does everything – reduces wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness, all in one little bottle.

The final flourish is a SPF 50 moisturiser and a warning to avoid hot things, including baths, sauna, and oh joy, exercise for 48 hours. If you can, try to avoid make-up for 24 hours so as not to clog the temporarily very open pores.


Here I am back home post-treatment feeling all cougary. It didn’t make my hair grow or make me any less blind-as-a-bat without my glasses but my skin looks pretty plumped, no? The next day my make-up slid on like butter on freshly warmed crumpet and even after a few days, my cheeks looked more peachy and pores less visible.

Good for: feeling like you’re taking serious skin action when you haven’t bothered to exfoliate for months; immediate results; a quickie (naughty). At just half an hour long you can squeeze it into a work lunchtime or while even the most impatient other half is waiting. You need only the one, rather than committing to a course of treatments, saving on the pennies and giving fast results.

Not for: people who are after a relaxing pampering session. This is about the destination, not the getting there. People with a ridiculously low pain threshold or, if you have very sensitive skin, you should talk to your aesthetician about whether you might be better with something else.

The damage: £80 for the half hour treatment or you can upgrade to the 45 minute treatment, Fire and Ice Peel followed by Deesse PRO Led Mask for £100.

Skin South West, 30 Southerhay East, Exeter EX1 1NS Tel: 01392 426 285 or email

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