From Russia with Love ...

Privyet! That would be greetings—from Moscow, where I've been invited to spend four days with the folks from Christian Dior. In addition to attending the opening of a Christian Dior boutique on Red Square, in the famed Gum department store, I'm here for the international press launch of a new nighttime beauty regimen, Capture Totale Rituel Nuit, which consists of a peel and lotion enhanced with an ingredient called Centuline said to prolong cellular life. Trust me, as a beauty editor, I've heard a lot of blah-blah about wonder ingredients, but this one sounds promising. Plus, did I mention that Sharon Stone, who was signed at 47 to be the “face” of Capture Totale is also on this trip? She's been using the products religiously for months and, let me tell you, she could easily pass for fifteen years younger. Speaking of 15 years, I was an exchange student in St. Petersburg a decade and a half ago and, my, have things changed. First of all, there's food! Back in '91—it was right after the fall of communism, or rather the beginning of the democratic revolution, as they prefer to call it here—the government was issuing food ration tickets for staples like bread, sugar, and tea. After class, we would stand in line for up to three hours to cash in our coupons. This time around, I ate caviar, blinis, lamb, you name it. Another marked difference? The shopping! Christian Dior, Gucci, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Louis Vuitton—Muscovites can't get enough of ‘em. Fifteen years ago, all there was to buy were Matryoska (Russian dolls) and, on a good day, some cigarettes. That said, everything is extremely expensive ($300 for Uggs!). But I'm told that some of the people, at least, can afford it; there are now more billionaires in Russia than anywhere else in Europe. As for real estate prices? Forget about it, they make New York City apartments seem like a steal. But my favorite result of modernization by far has been the explosion of the beauty industry here. Last time around, I had the distinct honor of visiting a Russian Banya (bath house). In these ancient institutions, one was led (generally by an old Russian woman) through a series of soaks in hot, then ice-cold water, before being beaten by birch branches (to stimulate the circulation). Think: Gulag. Though Banyas continue to thrive—I'm told groups of Russian businessmen flock to them, often with beer and cigarettes in tow—a burgeoning, more Western, spa business has also cropped up. So on the last day of the trip, I swing by the Spa Club (Petrovka Str. 19, Bld 1, Moscow) for the “Banya Ritual.” My therapist, Aleksander, guides me through soaks in hot and cool water (as before), and he too pounds my flesh with birch branches, but he also allows me to take ten-minute breathers between each part of the treatment for deep tissue massage and a steam. He also brings me chocolates and tea at the half-way point—and although I devour them I still manage to sweat off a kilo! A girl could get used to this. From Russia (with love), Didi. TRY AN ISSUE OF MARIE CLAIRE FOR FREE! ** [...] [...]**

Please rate this article
(click a star to vote)