After 2020’s barrage of assaults we’re all looking for a little balm for the soul, a moment of escape. It was with this in mind that I worked with Minenssey on a collaboration with Bangalay Luxury Villas on the South Coast of New South Wales.

To help launch the new Clay Mask Exploration Set (it features each of the four mask varieties and is perfect for travel) we wanted to partner with a remarkable property and gift the sets in the rooms. Not only is it a way to treat guests, it also shines a light on our amazing local travel industry. It highlights the importance of taking breaks (even short ones) to recharge and create those little moments of self care.

And so the search began for a retreat that is immersed in nature, somewhere that would mirror the products’ botanic-rich ingredients. We also wanted to partner with a property that shares Minenssey’s values: somewhere with soul, that has a kinship with the land and treads lightly. We also wanted to find a place that celebrates and supports their local community.

Sigourney wears Elka Collective knit, St Agni trousers, Mia Fratino cardigan, and Proenza Schouler x Birkenstock sandals

We found all those elements and more in the beautiful Bangalay Luxury Villas. I visited when they first opened two years ago, and was blown away. It’s a hidden gem in the sleepy hamlet of Shoalhaven Heads. The location is achingly beautiful, the villas and food are top shelf, but it was my meeting with owner Michelle Bishop that really stood out. A born hostess with a clever and considered design eye, Michelle is also endlessly warm and welcoming. Michelle and her husband Tom, who built the property, have created a stunning sanctuary that also has soul. We knew that we’d found the perfect place – and people – to collaborate with.

Sigourney wears Elka Collective dress, sunglasses by Chloe, bag by Loewe, bag by Louis Vuitton.

In my role as consultant with the brand, I had the lucky job of taking the trip to gather content for our collaboration. I invited my good friends photographer Alice Mahran and her videographer husband Patrick along with Beauticate Features Editor Tess and makeup artist Jess Diez. In the days leading up to the trip we are all excited, agreeing that it feels like eons since we’ve had a trip away.

That holiday feeling sweeps over us from the moment we arrive. Connected by a neat boardwalk, the 16-villa property sprawls lazily over beautifully landscaped grounds. We’re only metres from Seven Mile beach and nestled up alongside the emerald green Shoalhaven Heads Golf Course. There’s a sparkling azure pool shaded by a stately Blackbutt tree. Australian natives grow in tamed abundance everywhere you look.

Sigourney wears Matteau swimsuit, Hermès Oran sandals, and basket from Bangalay Luxury Villas

The sense of the outdoors follows you once you step inside the villas. There’s blonde wood and rattan furniture, sisal rugs, and billowing linen curtains all in calming beige tones. Gas fireplaces and expansive balconies look out to the endless green. In her bid to support the local community, Michelle commissioned artists from the region to create artworks and wreaths of native grasses and seedpods that adorn the walls.

Sigourney wears Penney and Bennett robe

It is, quite literally, a dream location to showcase the Clay Mask Exploration Set. The “clay to play” nature of the set makes it perfect for multi-masking – a technique where you apply different masks to various zones of the face to target specific concerns. Alice and I change into crisp linen robes to try the product out.

We apply the Deep Cleansing Mask to our T-Zone as the green clay, parsley seed and pepperberry draw out impurities, preventing breakouts. Keen to address pigmentation, Alice paints the Rejuvenating Mask onto the rest of her face: the blend of pink clay, Kakadu plum and pomegranate helps to even out the complexion.

Sigourney wears Jasmine and Will robe, Alice wears By Isabeau robe

As I’m suffering from dehydrated skin, I add a few drops of quenching Flannel Flower Absolute to the Hydrating Mask before applying it onto my cheeks. This supercharges the mask with a double dose of moisturising Flannel Flower and helps my skin retain hydration for hours to come. We retire to the balcony with wine and cheese and wait for the masks to do their thing. After 20 minutes we remove the creamy clay masks with warm, damp face washers and admire our springy, hydrated skin.

As dusk arrives we set out for a picnic on Seven Mile Beach. The foamy ocean and flaxen sand dunes are empty except for a lone walker with his dog in the distance. It’s a welcome change to Sydney’s heaving shores. We lay out a selection of local cheese, olives and salumi and pop the champagne toasting the golden glow that descends over everything.

That evening we head to the restaurant for a drink with the Bangalay team. Over Salt Bush Margaritas and Lemon Myrtle Pina Coladas, Michelle and Tim tell us about their rollercoaster ride of a year. After the terrifying bushfires nearby, then COVID, forced them to close, things were looking pretty dire. As soon as local travel opened up, however, they’ve been solidly booked with Sydney-siders desperate to escape the grind.

In addition to welcoming visitors, Bangalay play a big part in their local South Coast community. They have a devoted contingent who flock to the restaurant throughout the day: for coffees and bacon and egg rolls in the morning, and drinks in the afternoon, fresh from swimming at the beach. They also host frequent food and wine events such as the Native Ingredient Talk and the Oyster Dining Experience.

We’re booked in for the degustation to sample some of executive chef Brent Strong’s creations. It’s hard to choose a favourite from Kangaroo with Saltbush to Blue Eye Cod with Jerusalem artichoke, but it’s the green ants (yes, really) with mango that get our attention. They taste a little bit like lime seasoning and are strangely moreish.

Sigourney wears Inika Choo dress

My eyes are drawn again to the epic garden outside as the sunlight slips away. If nothing else, this year has given us pause to ponder the innate beauty of Australia. And, with a roster of potent botanical ingredients drawn from this environment, Minenssey is the perfect partner to experience it with.

The Clay Mask Exploration Set is available from Minenssey.com. The set will be gifted to Bangalay Luxury Villa guests during October (while stocks last). To book your escape, head to https://www.bangalayvillas.com.au/

Story by Sigourney Cantelo. Photography by Alice Mahran, hair and makeup by Jess Diez. In collaboration with Minenssey.

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