A Spa Staycation

Local beauty company Farmaesthetics opens The Retreat at Castle Hill


It isn’t news to anyone who survived the last six months in Rhode Island that it was a long, brutal, endless winter. While everyone is completely tired of talking about how terrible the cold season was this year, my skin quite hadn’t gotten that memo. It was still clinging to its winter texture: dry and flaky, with that particular change-ofseason shedding that’s at once gross and a promise of warmer seasons ahead. Definitely not ready for the dewy, pretty pink makeup of spring.

This long frozen stretch had also left me deprived of something else: the mental and physical renewal that comes from a day at the shore. I don’t know about you, but I start to breathe differently the second that I drive over the Jamestown Bridge. No matter what season, it reminds me of warm ocean breezes, of cocktails on decks overlooking Newport Harbor, of soaking in every minute of summer sun. (Note: this was my trick to surviving this winter. Newport in the off-season is arguably better than when it’s full of tourists, beach weather or no.) Feeling claustrophobic in Providence, and in need of a new face for a new season, I headed down to Newport for an excursion at The Retreat, Farmaesthetics’ new treatment space at Castle Hill.

I’ve long been a fan of Farmaesthetics, the natural beauty company based in Portsmouth. The idea of using locally made, high-quality spa products that are made using the minimum number of ingredients, and all natural ones at that, is incredibly appealing. The brand has been so successful that it’s now in five star hotels all over the world and all of the major beauty magazines, but it’s still made right here in Rhode Island. Their incredible smelling Fine Herbal Cleanser – made simply of geranium and lavender in a base of witch hazel and glycerin – is already a fixture in my morning routine, so I was expecting good things of the 60-minute facial I was about to receive. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

The first floor of Castle Hill is a fine dining restaurant (that opens up onto The Lawn, dotted with Adirondack chairs, which is my hands-down favorite cocktails-by-the-water spot). The new Retreat space is upstairs among the guest rooms, and has the same posh yet comfortable feel as the rest of the property. Michele Bundy greeted me, then gave me a tour of the massage and facial rooms, both of which have ocean views. I explained my skin concerns to her – that I was in need of a seasonal exfoliation but since Michele has been working for Farmaesthetics for a decade, she didn’t exactly need me to explain that. She decided on a treatment focusing on deep exfoliation and deeper moisture; I closed my eyes and indulged the rest of my senses for the next hour.

Besides being natural and local, the really nice thing about Farmaesthetics is that the products have multiple uses. That cleanser I use takes off makeup, can be used as a face or body wash, and is perfect for little bodies, too. Michele started with that same cleanser, and then used Eyebright Eye Makeup Remover & Treatment Oil, the active ingredient of which, the eyebright herb, relaxes the ocular nerve and reduces the overall eye strain of working on a computer. (What a relief to come home after a long day and have an herbal treatment to undo all of that squinting you do at a screen all day, right? That’s the best kind of wrinkle defense.) She then did a deep exfoliation with Sweet Milk & Orange Peel Facial Exfoliate, which is a powder that you activate with the herbal cleanser and then paint on the skin to promote cell turnover. It works wonders.

As that did its work, Michele massaged my arms and hands with Nourishing Lavender Milk, and then Midnight Honey Bath & Beauty Oil. After exfoliating, she refreshed my face with Pure Complexion Tonic, and applied a mask of Nourishing Herbal Cream. I was surprised, because that cream is my daily eye cream, but Michele explained that a thick coat left to do its work for a few minutes can easily function as a deeply hydrating face mask.

After I was cleaned and polished, she applied Lip Softener and a spritz of a Rose Classic Water for an aromatherapeutic final step. I felt so refreshed afterwards: not just my face, but my whole mental outlook. It was the perfect one-hour vacation.