Black Soap and Rassoul Hammam Ritual review: What I learnt from St. Regis Singapore’s Remède Spa treatment
As the greats tell it, writing about your trauma is supposed to be cathartic. So, here it goes: at 16, I watched in mute horror as my hairdresser cropped my tresses — all butt-grazing, 25 inches of it — in one fell swoop. I'm told that was done in an attempt to eradicate split-ends; a "fact" I was only informed of after the great chop. My mother retaliated swiftly on my behalf, adding the salon to her teeming list of blacklisted establishments frequently circulated amongst her peers. Years later, she still brings it up, scathing in her testimonial of said technician's skills. I, however, knew the truth: that I, too, wasn't entirely blameless.
Funnily enough, I'm mulling over it again ten years later — this time face down, as warm water beat down my back at the Remède Spa. I'd been invited to try out the hotel's award-winning Black Soap and Rassoul Hammam Ritual; an exfoliating body treatment recognised for its clarifying and moisturising benefits. It's impossible to pinpoint the exact moment where this line of thinking began. It certainly wasn't on my mind as I changed into my plush, ridiculously soft bathrobe. Nor did it crop up as I stretched languidly in their Eucalyptus-scented Steam Chamber, a necessary step to "awaken" my pores pre-procedure.
Maybe it had to do with the nervousness that first descended upon spotting my therapy "bed": a sprawling, marble-surfaced counter with what looked like a rain shower featurette installed above. I took a minute to appreciate the aesthetical appeal of it all before thoughts of falling to my demise took over. I clambered up gingerly, anxiety mounting with each drag of sweat-slicked skin against its sleek surface. Thankfully, I made it atop without incident.
My unease ebbed away as my aesthetician detailed the rest of the process. I'd be bathed in their Olive and Eucalyptus Black Soap to prep the skin for exfoliation. This will be followed by a traditional Kassa glove exfoliation to rid my body of all manner of dead skin cells and impurities. Then comes the body rinse with a Vichy shower, followed by a massage with argan oil along the facial and scalp region. There was an option to go to the steam room after, too, to warm up. I humoured myself by likening myself to a Thanksgiving turkey: being pampered, basted, and sent to the oven after.
I was enjoying my experience as it was — until my therapist got the gloves out. It wasn't that she was exerting an inordinate amount of pressure, or that I was feeling any form of discomfort. Rather, it was an understanding of my own complexion and knowing that my pitifully thin, sensitised skin would react poorly to what was happening. Awareness seeped through the fog of sleep, and yet I still found myself paralysed with indecision. Should I say something, or suck it up? Was there any merit to staying stoic, a quality so valued within Asian culture?
I think there's something to be said about the education we've received, where we've been told — time and time again! — that endurance is prized. To speak up is to be "difficult"; to insist service-providers meet our wants is "demanding." I'd never presume to speak for everyone, but I know, now, that my reluctance to say something has largely to do with my upbringing. It's the mentality observed from our immigrant parents, or the folks who lived through years of colonisation, and war, and hardship. Nothing is gained from complaining. Everything is earned from putting your head down and working through it.
It has taken a while for me to break free from that mindset, where I've finally gleaned the importance of voicing your needs to your aesthetician. No one wants to give you a hard time — and your experience is what you make of it. I like to fantasise, sometimes, that 16-year-old me said something as she watched her hair being hacked into non-existence. Hey, maybe I wouldn't have such a complex about pixie cuts if I did.
In present-day, I cleared my throat and told my therapist to use a lighter hand, a request that she quickly acted upon. The few minutes of hesitation earned me a small, reddened patch on my right arm; a minute skin-reaction that healed within days. It's comforting to know, though, that it didn't cost me anything beyond a slight rash. I promise I'll be quicker about it, next time — and I hope you all will be, too.