The language of beauty is awash with magic. ‘Let me be spellbinding,’ yearns the teenager in all of us; the word ‘glamour’ derives from an early-18th-century term meaning ‘enchantment’. Fairy-tale transformations remain perennially thrilling, from the old-woman-turned-beauty of Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale to the ravishing sorceress Melisandre in Game of Thrones, whose pulchritude relies upon a flaming jewel. Since the solstice drew near – when the days became long and the nights rich in promise – who didn’t pondered her own occult ritual, à la Cassandra Mortmain in I Capture the Castle, to conjure beauty, charm and the love that feels attendant on both?
Well, we’re in luck because the beauty industry is becoming one big mystical love-in, the word ‘magic’ supplanting ‘natural’ as the obsession du jour.
Crystal-infused beauty is everywhere from cleanser (Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Exfoliating Crème Cleanser) to highlighter (Glossier’s Haloscope in Topaz), while big business is becoming ever more open-minded in its embrace of more arcane wares: with Estée Lauder Companies now selling chakra sprays and Selfridges stocking Psychic Sisters’ Bath Salts and Candles.
In an age in which reality feels at once too real and surreal, while technology drains our psyches, it makes sense that many of us are looking beyond the mundane.
As a dogmatic atheist, I tend to find my bewitchment in material miracles: Dr Michael Prager’s sorcery with a Botox needle, say, or Bobbi Brown’s miraculous foundations. Nevertheless, even I feel the draw of higher mysteries.
Ila Spa’s founder, Denise Leicester, describes herself as a nurse, aromatherapist, yoga teacher, sound healer, holistic bodyworker and spiritual philosopher. Her brand has been created with ‘conscious, healing intent’, and fans of her philosophy of beauty as ‘soul sustenance’ include Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman and Donna Karan.
I visit the Lanesborough Spa to experience one of Ila’s crystal-singing-bowl therapies, which offers an ‘internal massage’ through vibration with the chakras. After a mere 20 minutes, I emerge becalmed and – yes! – more fetching, my face having lost its customary tense rictus.
My beloved frequently inquires why there’s a chunk of pink rock by our bed, to which I respond: ‘It’s why we are together!’ rose quartz supposedly being a purveyor of love. In truth, I simply love the look of crystals: earthen jewels with the childish appeal of collecting pebbles on the beach. However, those who argue in favour of crystals’ spiritual properties claim that they transmit stable energy to anchor vacillating human emotions. Enthusiasts include Adele, Victoria Beckham, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne, Miranda Kerr and the Olsen twins; the Duchess of Sussex’s black onyx pendant is understood to be a conduit for peace, love and harmony.
‘Crystals and their apparent healing properties have become hugely popular,’ agrees Newby Hands, the global beauty director at Net-A-Porter. ‘Today’s women are very connected to the idea that health, happiness and a glowing skin are directly related, meaning anything that gives us an antidote to stress, lack of sleep, or always feeling we have to be ‘on’ sells incredibly well.’
‘We have Kora’s Rose Quartz Heart Facial Sculptor, and Angela Caglia’s rose quartz Face Rollers, as well as Gua Sha tools, which boost the lymphatic system’, Hands continues. ‘Hi-tech LED-light-therapy masks are a big seller, but we are seeing the same woman buying a jade or crystal roller.’
The make-up artist Laurey Simmons is the author of The Inner Beauty Bible, which offers a pick ’n’ mix of sacred options, beauty rituals included. Accordingly, I bathe my crystals in moonlight, smudge away negative energy using sacred wood, sprinkle petals in my bath and burn precious oils. I embrace the imperfections that come with my 48 years by contemplating a withered leaf, while chanting: ‘In beauty may I walk’.
Alas, sacred wood apart (it smells sublime), I feel both irritated and foolish. Still, my distaste for spiritual platitudes propels me towards my own secular strategies, in which applying my morning make-up, brushing my hair, or dousing myself in scent can become moments of heightened awareness. A soak in the bath doesn’t have to be otherworldly to anchor me in the beauty of the moment.
A version of this story first appeared in print in the July 2019 issue of Harper’s Bazaar
This article first appeared on ELLE UK.