SPA WATCH | Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe

I AM on edge. Winter in the Midwest is something else. Unlike any other nightmare I've ever experienced. There's no cafe culture, so my only outlet on days and times that aren't Friday or Saturday night -- the only time people in this part of the world will go out and deviate from a soul-destroying schedule of work, gym, sleep, work, gym, sleep -- is... well, no escape at all. Because it's THE GYM.

Joy.

That sounds like just the thing to make me less depressed about winter in this place. No, it really does. Swear I didn't actually get teary eyed on the flight back to Chicago from Vail in January.

As evidenced by that last statement, the trick to surviving winter here is to not spend it here. 

Might I recommend one such place that'll make you never want to come back... It's a Japanese-style onsen (bath/spa) just north of Santa Fe in the southwest called Ten Thousand Waves.

Yes, it's a bit crunchy.

Sure, there are some creepy men. (But newsflash: there are creepy men EVERYWHERE there are women wearing less than a hazmat suit.) 

It's also serenely and wonderfully woodsy, in/on the edge of Santa Fe State Park, so you can go on a hike right from your front door.

The baths (women's and mixed. They closed the men-only bath. It appears men get even creepier when left alone) are surrounded by minimal oriental, wooden decks with outdoor cold showers, plunge pools and saunas just an amble away. If you're up for it, splurge on one of the private huts with baths, showers and private decks. They're pretty sweet and run about $45 for 90-minutes per person (plus, no creepy men unless you bring them with you). You feel like a movie star renting one of the private huts, I swear.

And even during the winter it's a pleasant 55-65 during the day and 45-35 at night. Not a mind-numbing 20 below ZERO (that's zero in Farenheit, not Celsius, so a whopping 52 BELOW FREEZING, common in the Midwest). Sometimes there's snow, in which case you can do a nudie dive bomb into the powder before running back into the sauna. 

Thankfully, for now, there's no on-site bar. But we heard there's a sake bar in the works on our last trip which could make things a bit more interesting... or sloppy or both.

If you don't want to stay in Santa Fe proper (and I feel you. It can be suffocatingly touristy), there are 12 (or is it 13?) lodges on premise that are the BOMB and feel proper Japanese. We staying in one of the smallest on offer, and it was amazing. Futon-style beds, wooden screens, kimonos and slippers, hibachi grill, private patio with super cool Japanese-style gardens (rock and otherwise) and... drumroll...

Japanese toilets. The ones that can do everything, even, I suspect, your taxes. 

Early in the morning, before the main baths were open, we'd creep out in our canvas kimonos and slippers in the morning dew and scurry up the winding stone pathway to the women's pool -- open for all lodgers before the rest of the spa opened -- where we'd stew in the hot bath while reading books and drinking tea we'd snuck up from the cabin. 

We also took advantage of the spa menu, something I highly recommend doing along with bathing and sauna-ing. Not least of all because they have real therapists there. No 18 year-olds with icy hand who went to massage school because they didn't know what else to do. 

My masseur had hands like Gerard Depardieu's -- huge, in a word. And he was French to boot. Maybe he was his cousin. Or brother...

I think one paw covered the girth of my back. Mr. Magic Paws was In. To. His. Work. And I came out the other end as soft as a stick of butter sat on the counter all day. No more knots in my back. Or neck. Or anywhere. 

I'm still on the hunt for someone with similar talent (and hand girth) locally. My last massage here was given by a man who had hands the size, softness and strength of a five-year old girl's. Not exactly Magic Paws. 

The only downer (other than aforementioned creepy dudes) is the lack of on-site food. Fair enough as they only have 12 lodges and everyone comes there for the atmosphere, treatments and amenities. But they wouldn't go amiss with something, even a small sushi bar for the lodgers. Because, man oh man, were we hoooongry (so hungry we were almost hangry (hungry angry) sometimes and didn't feel like driving into town and sifting through the tourist trappy restos.

That aside, I'd happily take up permanent residence (at least to winter) here and no doubt would look, feel, smell (stress makes me stink), sleep et al better.

DETAILS:

Japanese style baths and spa above Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in/near Santa Fe State Park. Beautiful, manicured landscape done in, duh, Japanese style that weaves itself up and amid the mountain range's foothills. It's wooded, quiet and private. There are several public baths and saunas and indvidual bath houses. 12 private, minimal (but gorgeous) Japanese lodges that vary in size and amenities. Treatments available from massage to facials. The prices are pretty standard in the US, meaning everything is priced as, sadly, a luxury. 

Located just a mile north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Lodging runs from $119 to $269, treatments run $65 to $179 and hot baths runs from $18.80 to $49. However, the communal hot baths, sauna, etc. are complimentary to lodgers. 

Ten Thousand Waves

SPA WATCH | Elemis Winter Warmer Delight

The ever intrepid Julia Rebaudo submits to the hands of yet another beauty therapist all in the name of research for beautywoome.com. Find out what she thinks of Elemis's Winter Warmer Delight...

EVER SINCE my highly successful Modern Skin Facial I’ ve been a huge fan of Elemis and was impressed to see they have tailored a spa therapy treatment specifically for these grim winter months. An hour and 45 minutes of blissful pampering at this bijoux spa in central London frequented by the likes of Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Denise Van Outen and yes, even the BBC’ s Loose Women? I’ d have been a fool to say no.

As I probably mentioned before, just walking through the front door of the Elemis flagship spa is a pleasure; scented, warm and populated with pretty therapists padding around in perfectly manicured bare feet. Welcomed and offered green tea by my therapist Amy, I’ m taken upstairs for my treatment into a room with sliding doors that makes up one half of a couple’ s treatment room – couples treatments are very popular Amy tells me, although I wouldn’ t be able to drag my other half into spa in a million years.

Anyway, a quick chat about my skin and massage needs and then I’ m getting undressed and slipping into those little black paper pants, you know the ones, except, thoughtfully, Elemis offer both the g-string and brief variety depending on how modest you’ re feeling. I’ m usually not bothered, but for some reason I go for the comfy big briefs.

THE DETAILS

First up, body brushing with a special Elemis brush, while I lie melting into the heated bed, followed by Frangipani oil rubbed all over my bod and then a lime and ginger salt scrub. I’ m so cosy and warm and my winter skin is feeling fresh and invigorated. I wash it all off in the shower then lay back down for the hot stone body massage which is quite simple divine. Special attention is lavished on my laptop-tense neck and shoulder muscles. Then my face is treated to a soothing facial not too far removed from the afore-mentioned Modern Skin Facial, lots of nourishing Visible Brilliance serum – basically just all the nice cleansing, nourishing, massaging bits of a facial, none of the extraction pain. At this point, predictably, I’ m nearly asleep.

Final touch is a mini manicure with Essie products. I got for the moody Smokin’ Hot colour from the winter collection, a beautiful sultry grey-purple, and am super impressed with the result aided by the Nail Corrector Pen and Quick-e drying drops.

THE RESULT

Skin is super-soft and fresh-feeling, face is looking plumped and moisturised, neck and shoulders are relaxed and nails so beautifully manicured that everyone is commenting.

Elemis Winter Warmer Delight, 1hr 45mins for £125. Available until 31 January 2011 at Elemis Day Spa (2-3 Lancashire Ct, London W1S 1EX, 0870 410 4210). Find other locations here.

Check out Julia on her blog Stylonylon.com.

SPA WATCH | Ayurvedic Massage at Blink Brow Bar

IF GIVEN my choice of treatments from a spa menu, massage is never a top choice. Massages get a bum wrap in my book because although I can feel the good they do, I can't see it (illogical I know, but true).

But running around central London the other day, a massage sounded like an amazing idea thanks to miles walked in heels and a few long-haul flights.

Blink Brow Bar Fenwick's New Bond Street location is one of the newer outposts offering full-on body treatments. Blink (mwhahaha) and you might miss the new treatment room, tucked just behind the women braving the threading chair on their lunch breaks. Because of the room's proximity to the beauty hall, no conversation goes unheard and you'll be in the beauty hall's line of sight when that door swings open so be forewarned if you're a slow dresser.

That said, once you're under the hands of the capable Blink therapists, it's surprisingly easy to tune out the noise.

Ancient Ayurvedic principles are used to tailor your massage, making it as bespoke a treatment as you'll find in a department store beauty hall. The products and technique used are specified for your dosha type. How do they know your dosha type? From the extensive questionnaire you complete before submitting to the surprisingly strong hands of your diminutive therapist. From diet to stress levels, personality traits and sleep patterns, all is noted to decode your dosha type - vata (space and air), pitta (fire and water) or kapha (water and earth).

What are doshas? The three metabolic types/humours/physiological principles of the human constitution. Each of us has a bit of all three but we're all predominantly one type. The aim is to keep them balanced. Most of us are out of balance, thanks to a pretty stressful modern lifestyle.

I'm Vata-Pitta according to my Blink questionnaire. (Take this dosha quiz and figure out which ones you are right now.)

During the treatment, the therapist spends at least 45 of the 60 minutes on my back, neck and legs with a lightly spicy rose-scented oil. It's so relaxing -- even with the pressure (which was perfect) she uses -- that I doze off for a minute. She works in a way that feels more organic than many massages but no less effective. In fact, I would argue the opposite.

Does tailoring the treatment to your dosha type really make a difference? It's hard to tell. But my relaxed, knot-free back is a telling sign that, Ayurvedic or not, the massage is a thoroughly good one.

THE DETAILS

Blink Ayurvedic Massage is £75 for 60 minutes at Fenwick, New Bond Street, Blink Brow Bar

SPA WATCH | Verta Spa London to Paris

 

 

THE NEWLY opened Hotel Verta in London’s Battersea, right next to the Heliport, by luxury hotel chain von Essen, boasts a brand new sparkly spa (rain showers, heated loungers, atmospheric hydrotherapy pool) and is open to the public – so if you’re in that part of town, it’s worth a visit. The staff is extremely friendly and willing to help. The spa is partnered with French beauty brand Anne Sémonin, and this is where I went to experience the Verta spa’s signature and tailor-made treatment, the two-hour London To Paris with Anne Sémonin (£200).


THE TREATMENT

My therapist Wendy, a former beauty school teacher, was extremely experienced and knowledgeable in all things beauty, and I was full of questions to begin with (What to do with ingrown hairs from waxing? Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate. What can I do about the small milia below my eyes? Use a quality eye make-up remover.) But I soon wound down as she got started on the black sea salt all-over-body scrub. This involved donning the little black paper panties, lying face down and turning over for application and then showering off. My skin felt extremely soft after the scrub.

Then a hot bubbling seaweed back treatment – Wendy dolloped the seaweed mix onto a sheet of foil, which I lay back onto; the sensation was warm and the bubbles like a mild massage. In the meantime, Wendy massaged both my feet and scalp. Next up was the facial, which, after cleansing, consisted of a mineral mask and a fantastic lymphatic drainage facial massage – Wendy gently pressed points on my face, neck and scalp with her fingers.

Finally some Oligoanne Serum for my dehydrated skin and Wendy’s hero product, which she uses night and day instead of a moisturiser, the 100% Active Serum to finish off.

THE RESULT

Two hours is a fantastic length of time to really slip into a relaxed, slumberous state. I loved the bubbling seaweed back treatment, the heat was so soothing and the lymphatic drainage facial massage was a real pleasure. My skin was soft from the body scrub and my face, with the freshly applied 100% Active Serum, was deliciously dewy and stayed that way all evening. This is definitely a product I would welcome into my life!

London To Paris with Anne Sémonin (£200)

Check out Spa Verta and Anne Sémonin for more information.

Written by Julia Rebaudo for beautywoome.com. Check out Julia's blog at Planet707.

SPA WATCH | Spa Week starts TODAY

UNTIL I became a beauty writer some years ago, I was loathe to pony up my tiny reserve of cash for beauty treatments. No doubt, most of you are the same way. I have plenty of friends who, in their 30s and 40s, have still never had a manicure, pedicure, facial, massage or bikini wax. The lack of those activities in my life would be hard to imagine now, and I'm not embarrassed to admit it! They're fun and they make me look and feel better. For example, I would have been unable to walk two weeks ago after my back went out without that deep tissue massage. My complexion is always radiant after an hour and a half in Hiroko's hands at Spa Merge. My feet don't scare small children after I have a pedicure. Same with my mangled cuticles post-manicure.

Clearly I would survive without such activities in my life. But I would prefer not to as it's so much better with them. So, if you're up for finding out what all this spa stuff is about, why not try it out this week? SpaWeek gives you the chance to try myriad treatments across the US (sorry, Britain; it's not there yet!) for just $50 a pop -- a snip of the non-Spa Week price for many treatments on offer.

How to join in on the fun: 

 

  1. Go to Spaweek.com >
  2. Sign-up >
  3. Search for spas in your area by state >
  4. Find spas/treatments you want to try >
  5. Call and book it >
  6. Pay $50 (AND TIP THE THERAPIST. Discounted treatments doesn't mean you get to opt out of spa etiquette and good manners) and enjoy hours of beauty therapy bliss >

 

SpaWeek runs from September 13th to 19th and October 11th to 17th. You can also upload the SpaWeek iPhone App and get your spa fix on the go... 

Happy spa-ing!

Image credit: flickr.com/photos/wanhoff/226318202/sizes/m/in/photostream/

 

SPA WATCH | Sheswai

CONVERTIBLE? CHECK. Appointment with Sonya Dakar? Check. Visit friends on the set of TV show (oh, heavenly craft service)? Check. Lunch at Le Pan Quotidien on Melrose? Check. Natural manicure in flash color? Also, check. Whenever I visit LA, the strange mix of indie culture, mainstream, kitsch and verdant dash of nature (that simply won't be pushed out by the exacting standards of civil engineers) strikes me anew. Certainly the '72 suburbs in search of a city' that Dorothy Parker describes, LA does have a distinct local flavor and, to my joy, its own little petri dish of a west coast beauty culture that's simply blooming.

Shewai is just that -- SoCal to the core. 3-free nail range and service with groovy nature-inspired graphics and an easy-going attitude. I mean, hey, they'll come to you and manicure/pedicure you at your home/hotel with their capsule collection of varnishes. 

Plus, there are great tips and recipes on the site for DIY beauty products and how to keep your manicure looking pretty. Overall, a definite LA do. Bookmark it for your next trip to LA (you do have a travel wishlist folder in your gmail, right?).

Sheswai

SPA WATCH | occo london

 

THIS ONE is a big old head's up for some spa goodness in 2011. occo london launches its home and skincare ranges in London next month, and there's a new London boutique, which I'm well chuffed for (anything to do with moja Hrvatska and I'm all over it). Seven ranges inspired by seven different locations in Croatia (including Motovun, where you should all visit during the local film festival) with local ingredients and 95% (minimum) natural ingredients (yes, I know there's no clear definition of what is/isn't natural in beauty but just an FYI). I. Want. It.

Know what I want more? To hole up in occo spa(s) they're opening in Croatia in 2011. To think I rented an apartment in Dubrovnik for July 2008 (strictly for legal purposes while applying for that pesky work visa (and to hone my language skills)) and wiled away my days on the laptop with the online biz. Two years too early (and too busy). Damn. Just means I'll have to go set up shop in the walled city again sometime soon. 

Watch this space for more info on occo london -- the brand, the products and the spas. I might even share my pics!

occo london

SPA WATCH | The Fish Pedicure at Aqua Sheko

 

The Treatment

 

AQUA SHEKO, the first salon dedicated solely to the exfoliating Garra Rufa fish pedicure, has just opened up in London’s salubrious High Street Kensington and by the looks of it is doing a roaring trade. The therapists say clients come for weekly, bi-weekly and monthly treatments and even daily for those suffering from psoriasis – apparently the fish release an enzyme which helps in the treatment of certain skin conditions and different parts of the body can be dipped into the small pools and treated. The fish were originally found in hot springs in Kangal, Turkey and apparently love nothing more than to feast on dry skin, making one of the charms of this treatments the symbiotic nature for all parties concerned.

 


 

How Was It?

 

I TOOK my sister along as a treat, courtesy of a fabulous discount from new health and beauty site Wahanda (if you don’t know about Wahanda, check it out, daily hefty discounts on every beauty treatment you could possibly want) – I paid £12 for what is usually a £30 25-minute treatment. The sleek black salon is small with an open shop- front window that draws the occasional inquisitive look from passers by. There are not more than about ten raised leather seats each with its own little pool of about 80-odd fish of differing sizes, the largest being a couple of inches long.

 

 

WE WERE welcomed and made to feel very much at home before having our feet thoroughly rinsed to ensure they were free from any oils and creams, which can cause the occasional fish death. We sat down side by side with tea and water (there’s room in between seats to put your handbag) and then slipped our feet out of our white towel slippers into the pools – best to wear leggings or trousers you can easily roll up to beneath your knee. Be warned, the fish do immediately swarm, but as promised it isn’t at all painful. Just a heavy tickly sensation as they get to work all over your feet. I could hardly feel them on my hardened heels and was fascinated watching them attach their sucker mouths to my cuticles. The only slightly unnerving bit was when the occasional fish went for the softer skin around the ankle, but that was fine too. After 25 minutes our time was up and a therapist helped us out and dried our feet.

 

The Result

 

OVERALL, I was pretty pleased. The harder bits on my big toe and heel were definitely more sanded down and the sole of my feet near my toes was extremely soft. I was very happy to slip back into my flip flops and parade my tootsies back out on the streets of London. However, as my feet are quite dry, I could have definitely benefited from a dollop of foot cream or oil as is offered in the Deluxe treatment – £45 for 30 minutes fish-time plus 15-minute foot massage. Ten days later my feet are a little bit tougher round the edges but still presentable.

 

 

 

Aqua Sheko, 14 Holland Street, High St Kensington, London W8 4LT (07837 539 325).
Written for beautywoome.com by contributor Julia Rebaudo.

 

SPA WATCH | Elemis Modern Skin Facial

Beautywoome.com's intrepid beauty reporter Julia Rebaudo is on the London beat this week, testing out Elemis's Modern Skin Facial....

DESCRIPTION: Elemis – Modern Skin Facial The Facial

Not an anti-aging treatment, Elemis’ new Modern Skin Facial is designed for the younger lady, in her 20s and 30s, who’s skin suffers from the stresses of living in a polluted city environment, enduring the woes of public transport and of course the unavoidable post-work drinks, patchy diet, snacking on the go and detrimental sugar hits. Claims to raise mineral levels, regenerate skin cells, re-balance sebum levels, reduce rosacea and boost radiance.

 

THE TREATMENT

It takes a few minutes to adjust to the relaxed pace and comforting but hushed tones of the Elemis Day Spa just off bustling New Bond Street (bustling all the more due to a mobbed sale at the Mulberry store…). A refreshing water in a bowl-like cup in hand, I fill out a form detailing my skincare habits and lifestyle before the Sicilian Lola does a complexion analysis of my face in a futuristic-looking white machine.

The scan charts spots and small blackheads (all 14 of them I’m surprised to note, as they are really not visible to the eye, phew) wrinkles, texture, pores and UV spots. I’m slightly horrified by the UV exposure, as I’ve been panicking about burning my face a few weeks ago in LA, but unfortunately the analysis does not detail sun damage. Lola says overall I’m in good shape and takes me up to the darkened, sleek treatment room. I change into a robe – this always makes things feel so much more luxurious and relaxing – before slipping between the patterned blankets.

And what can I say, I am then subjected to one of the most glorious facial experiences ever. At first I’m a little put out there is no extraction (I always feel a little cheated without blackhead removal) but I quickly realise this facial is not about pain or feeling uncomfortable. My face is cleansed and toned before being expertly and lengthily massaged and then toned some more with one of my new favourite Elemis products -- the Papaya Enzyme Peel.

Next up another new favourite, the Visible Brilliance Radiance Serum (which I have successfully incorporated into my daily skincare by slipping on before my regular moisturiser) is applied before the Mineral-Rich Peel Off Mask and a delicious dry scalp massage. More toning, Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsule and then another mask, the Exotic Cream Moisturising Mask accompanied by a blissful neck and shoulder massage. Lola wraps things up with an eye serum and moisturiser. She also tells me I have excellent skin texture.

The procedure may sound quite straightforward but it was executed with such confident expertise and real, genuine care that I was gutted to leave. Also the products themselves must be pretty special given the excellent result (see below).

 

THE RESULT

First off I check my face out in a handheld mirror while still lying down. I’m struck by how balanced the tone of my skin looks. I’ve never seen it look like this without makeup or a tan. I leave the spa without applying any makeup whatsoever. I meet a friend an hour later in Covent Garden, she immediately says how good I look. Result. I’m thrilled. I check myself out in a pub mirror and am really pleased at how fresh and radiant my skin is looking. Then as we leave the pub, a young man comes up to me and asks if he can take me out for a coffee, “You look so pretty!” he says. Double result. Graciously I decline, but you are now looking at an Elemis Modern Skin Facial superfan. I can’t wait to have another.

This is a perfect pre-special-do facial as you will be left looking refreshed and fabulous with no risk of redness or outbreaks.

Available at the Elemis spas and salons nationwide from: £50-£90 for 60 mins www.elemis.com

TRAVEL TALES | May in New York Part II

We left you at The Summit Bar last night, did we? Well... RISE AND SHINE, beautiful! Day 2 of your 48 hours in New York and it's time for a session of energizing yoga at The Standard (a snip at $20). The hotel's just introduced their popular Miami yoga program to the Big Apple so you can practice with expert instructors overlooking the Hudson River. All comers welcome! And you'll need to limber up before the scrum that is the notorious, gilded beauty halls of New York.

The Bs (Henri Bendel, Barney's, Bergdorf Goodman) are like music to beauty-binging ears... Subterranean warrens are packed with the skincare secrets of the ladies who lunch. No beauty pilgrimage to New York would be complete with out wander and a gander at (and maybe take away) Ellis FaasTammy FenderTrish McEvoyTracie MartynEdward Bess and the limited edition Narciso Rodriguez palette.

And what would a trip to the

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TRAVEL TALES | May in New York Part I

AH... THERE are few things as lovely as Central Park on a sun-dappled spring morning. Joggers prancing by, coffee in hand (mine, not theirs)... It's on days like this that I yearn to live in New York. You too? Yeah, we all do, don't we?

Although, I'm quickly grounded by reality when I see the size of my mates' flats (tinier than London). But, every visit there is brilliant not least of all because of the beauty bounty to be had. Thus, we're giving you our quick and dirty guide to 48 hours of beauty in the Big Apple so that you too, should you be touching down in JFK soon, can experience some of the most amazing treatments and products in the world. Print this little black book of beauty and let the journey begin!

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SPA WATCH | Manhattan's Spa Merge

NEW YORK CITY is home to so many spas your head'll spin just trying to make a decision on the fly on which one to visit. They run from high end to low brow, medical, pleasure (no, we don't mean happy ending...), detoxifying, indulgent... all of them exist within the space of one little island. Recently we visited a newish hybrid green-medical Spa Merge on 57th. It's attached to hotel West 57 in an unassuming store front sandwiched between a Duane Reade and the lobby. The spa manager and most of her staff are from a well-known local spa on the Upper East Side and thus the spa has garnered a slew of loyals who have followed them to this corner just a block south of Central Park and we can see why.

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SPA WATCH | Elizabeth Arden Red Door

IT HAS been a frenzied early spring of spa visits for us here... a far cry from last spring with elbows deep in a start-up, simultaneously planning a backyard wedding and, er, hunched over the laptop all the while. How we cherish the fact that spa visits are all in a day's work for a beauty writer. Facials? Massages? Pedicures? YES, please, even though the end results mights not be long term unless you keep a standing appointment with your torturer therapist.

With sandal season just a few weeks out, I have started doing some serious foot repair as well. Not six months ago I was mountain climbing in the same socks for seven days, hiking, farming and swing from tree tops by a harness. And not a professional hand has set upon my feet in the meantime.

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JET-SET BEAUTY | Elemis Custom Flying Facial

BRITISH AIRWAYS Elemis Travel Spa at Heathrow's Terminal 3 is – if you can find it – an oasis of calm just steps away from the retail overkill that now typifies the captive experience on this side of airport security. It has an otherworldly, serene atmosphere as soon as you step through the threshold, and I am immediately handed a cucumber-infused glass of water by a soft-spoken receptionist who simultaneously and deftly helps a relaxed male passenger checkout (clearly, he'd just finished up at the spa).

The pint-sized treatment rooms here are separated by diaphanous (yet still opaque enough) curtains, each equipped with an Intelligent Massage Chair and the undulating walls and gently flowing coloured lights (in calming hues) of a real, luxury spa.

My chair is fully reclined, massage setting turned on (heaven on the calves before several hours of sitting) and the therapist spends a very relaxed 15 minutes cleansing, massaging and moisturising my skin so much so that it remains plumped all the way to JFK. A few sample tubes make their way into my carry-on too. If you plan ahead (booking in your own 15-minute treatment), you'll be able to ditch the dopp kit in your checked baggage instead of lugging it around the airport because Elemis will arm you with the requisite beauty weapons to battle cabin dryness.

All treatments are just 15 minutes so you won't accidentally miss a flight mid-massage. I suppose if you're really jet-set, you'd simply prop yourself up at your airline lounge bar having missed a flight, champers in hand, and wait for the next one. Or you could circle back to the Elemis Travel Spa for a second treatment on the very Intelligent Massage Chair.

Experience the Custom Flying Facial at Elemis's Travel Spa in Heathrow Terminal 3, Terminal 5 and JFK (Contact individual travel spas for pricing). 

SPA WATCH | JOSEPH MICHAEL'S SALON & SPA

IT WAS a bleak day for me (it's winter after all...) when I realised that, perhaps, even though a beauty journalist, I personally hadn't been seeing the wood for the proverbial trees with regards to my own appearance for some years. There's nothing overtly wrong with it but I had somehow over my lifetime adapted a live and let be attitude to my appearance, never making any serious overtures with myself about taking care of (beauty) business. But the older I get, the more I want (and feel like I need) to sign up for a regular routine that includes the likes of facials. Yes, yes, most of my compatriots (adopted and real) probably see it as a luxury, but I'll tell you what -- I would rather that be the luxury I spend my money on than a purse or shoes. Those go out of fashion and get stuffed away in the wardrobe one day. Can't do that with a face!

It was with a chipper can-do attitude, then, that I greeted the offer from Spa Week Daily to trial one of the wonderful treatments on offer for $50 during Spa Week 2010. Kick start my beauty makeover with Spa Madness and let you lot know about the deep discounts to be had at spas across North America this April? Yes, please.

Without further ado...

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Get spa treatments on a budget during Spa Week

SPA WEEK is swiftly approaching on American shores (from April 12th to the 18th if you want to mark your calendars), where you can treat yourself to myriad full-service spa treatments for just $50 a pop -- much cheaper than some usually go for. In anticipation of this beauty bonanza, check out their video here:

Participating states, districts and countries are: Arizona, California, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Canada.

Visit the Spa Week site.

TRIED & TESTED | Suqqu Gankin Massage

 

Do you get a stiff jaw from holding tension in your face? I know that’s where a lot of my stress goes but it only occurs to me on the odd occasion I have a face massage (usually as part of a facial) how springy, relaxed and plumped my face looks afterwards 9and how tense it was before). So why I never thought to isolate the massage bit and implement a bit of DIY, we’ll never know. There's no need now because luxury Japanese beauty brand Suqqu (make-up artist Mary Greenwell says their “cream foundation is still the best foundation out there.”) has done it for us and created a three-minute facial massage technique which, when used every day at home, is said to banish muscle tension, drain lymph nodes and enhance blood circulation all with the long-term goal in mind of preventing sagging and wrinkles.

The Suqqu counter, currently exclusive to Oxford Street’s Selfridges, is in the store’s Living Beauty section (just past Clarins turn right). On arrival the pretty assistant manageress Nagi Kawakata explains the Gankin facial massage was developed by ex-Suqqu beautician Yukuko Tanaka (who now runs Y Method) to animate and enliven actors’ features on camera. Integral to the massage is a thick, creamy oil-based Musculate Massage Cream (this year’s limited edition is a potent jasmine scent) to protect the skin from the intense pressure of the massage. I assume any good face massage oil will do, but Nagi assures me this is not the case. 

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Blush Beauty is Milwaukee's coolest beauty boutique

Going around the world is tough (queue world's smallest violin). Every time you happen upon a new city, it's completely foreign to you. No idea where to find services, products or even your hotel for that matter. But there's something absolutely electric about that novelty as well. It's such an experience seeing a place with new eyes. Even the most desolate towns (Dubuque, Iowa... Entrocamento, Portugal) are charming on that first visit.

Milwaukee is a small Wisconsin city. As far as I can tell, not too much happens in the union's 23rd largest state. It has cheese (by American standards, good. By any real cheese-producing nation's standards, tastes like salted wax), the Green Bay Packers, cross-country skiing, some strange laws (it was once banned to serve apple pie without cheese in public) and breweries. As kids, my sisters and I would be dragged kicking and screaming to Wisconsin on most weekends.

Hell for us then, but something I look back on fondly now, trying to recreate those halycon summer evenings roasting marshmallows and eating Goober around a campfire whenever given the chance (and lighter fluid). Until now, that was the extent of my Wisconsin state general knowledge. But a recent visit revealed that there seems to be a revival of sorts in Milwaukee's historic 3rd district, including its beauty offerings. It's chocka with great vintage (mid-century vintage heaven, for those collectors out there), beer, more beer and Santiago Calatrava's amazing art museumBlush is among all these new and shiny offerings at the corner of Water and Buffalo Streets, next to the Milwaukee Ale House and down the street from fabulous Broadway Paper (the first place I happened upon Snow & Graham).

Blush is somewhat of an agent of beauty change in the Midwest. It is the only place where Laura Mercier is sold in Wisconsin, a state about 4.5 times the size of the country of Switzerland. Shocking to the makeup junkies among us, I know. My heart goes out to the beauty-philes among us who don't happen to be within stomping distance of Barneys or Harvey Nichols (or who don't 'do' the internet).

Find cool brands that even some department stores haven't cottoned on to yet: Duchess Marden, B. Kamins, Tocca, Fast Lash, Lucy B, Japonesque, MOR, Osea... and they have a full-service spa and salon, so you can get lash extensions, brow tidying, facials (and the whole gamut of treatments), makeup artistry. It's an airy space with floor-to-ceiling windows. It's inviting and makes me want to hop on a train to Milwaukee when I'm having an uninspiring beauty day in Chicago.

BEST BEAUTY SECRET AT BLUSH

Alcone Fast Lash: I haven't seen this product anywhere else yet... that's not going to last for long. Why? It makes you look like you're wearing false lashes, but you're not! All you do is touch the wand to the tips of your lashes right after you've applied mascara. The wet mascara grabs the dry, white polyester fibers. Come through the lashes and then re-apply mascara. Voila... really really long eyelashes (eyelashes you could usually only get with falsies) using just your regular mascara.

Blush Beauty, 249 N Water St.,  Milwaukee, WI 53202 (+1 (414) 272-1718)

Bikini wax on, wax off with Strip waxing salon

In life, there are beauty duties and there is pampering. Now, in my book, hair removal, especially bikini hair removal, comes under beauty duty. I tend to manicure my bikini line at home, mainly because previous experiences in that area have been none too pretty. My one and only Brazilian waxing experience was particularly harrowing. It lasted what felt like a lifetime (in reality only 45 minutes) because the woman wielding the wax strips kept getting stuck, if you know what I mean. Horrendous.

So it is with trepidation that I enter Strip, the dedicated waxing salon, in Chelsea where I'm reviewing the newly launched i-bar, for all things brow-related, and, gulp, the Brazilian wax. What’s that phrase I'm groping for... taking one for the team?

As soon as I enter the lavishly styled boutique-cum-waiting room at Strip's three-storey boutique, I'm immediately more optimistic about the experience. Stella McCartney, Elle Macpherson Intimates and Calvin Klein lingerie greet me. Then my therapist, the lovely Carleigh Rayner, leads me to the Chocolate room – an opulent boudoir complete with chandelier, comfy bed, velvet drapes and embossed wallpaper. She tells me the treatment rooms are themed according to the ‘flavoured’ Lycon waxes used – chocolate, berry, lavender and gold (this will leave you shimmering). 

We discuss my Brazilian requirements (since you ask, I opt to leave a triangle rather than the ‘traditional’ landing strip. Carleigh says a lot of people don’t realize you can do this.) and Carleigh sets to work putting me at ease by asking me to select what I’d like to watch on the plasma TV (nice touch). I channel surf while she cleanses the area, applying the pre oil so that the wax takes hold more effectively. Then we begin with the wax. I’m told the hard Lycon wax is just the thing for dealing with pesky bikini lines because it really moulds itself around even short hairs and ensures they’re pulled out at the root. Apparently, the thing about using linen or paper strips is that they act as an extra barrier -- a middle man if you will -- between the wax and the hair making the hair more likely to break.

Carleigh speedily whizzes around, going from side to side so if I want to chicken out early I can. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt... but it didn’t hurt much. Because it happens so quickly and the wax comes off directly it doesn’t sting half as much, plus Carleigh’s technique (universal across all Strip the practitioners) of adding pressure immediately after removing wax helps. After she applies cooling Tea Tree lotion and I’m smooth as a baby’s bum. There’s no stickiness, no post-stinging and irritation. And this is still true at bedtime after I’ve been out all evening in skinny jeans.

Now onto hair removal of a gentler variety: I also trialled the new i-bar for brow and lash care, located in the white, airy basement, complete with yet another plasma TV. Tamanna Sahatu is my brow guru – she has 20 years’ threading experience, and she’s soon sized me up and whipped my brows into a flattering, more streamlined arch. And it doesn’t hurt a bit. It’s true what they say - having your eyebrows shaped really does give you an instant facelift.

And, I don’t know if I want to admit this (but I will)... While checking out my brows in the mirror, Tamanna tactfully had a word with me, saying, ‘I think you need your top lip doing’. Now, I’ve been wondering if it’s time I tended to this but was worried about upkeep. I appreciate her honesty. Who else is going to tell me I’ve got a shadow? She soon gets rid of it; this does sting a bit, but it’s worth it. My experience is topped off with an amazing Indian head massage. I leave feeling preened, pampered and like a new woman... not at all like I've just been doing obligatory beauty duty.

 

  • Brazilian wax (£45), basic bikini wax (£22)
  • The ‘Brow Rehab’ package (includes 3 threading sessions, one eyebrow tint and specialist guidance to get poorly shaped or thinning brows back to perfection, £49)
  • Eyebrow reshape with consultation and pressure point massage (£25)

 

Available at Strip, Notting Hill boutique: +44 (0)20 7727 2754  |  Chelsea boutique: +44 (0)20 7590 0050

Written by Alison Taylor for www.beautywoome.com.

Flashback to trad Brit beauty at Neal's Yard Remedies on the Kings Road

How could I have forgotten what great products Neal’s Yard Remedies do? Funny how, as you wend your way through lotions and potions, falling for the excitement of the new and unknown, the ones you formerly loved become distant memories.

Good news, then, that a facial appointment at the new Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Beauty Day Spa on the Kings Road not only introduced me to their lush spa treatments, but put me back onto the products – beautiful classic packaging, high natural ingredients content and reasonably priced to boot.

Welcomed into the shop with a cuppa, I was led downstairs to the treatment rooms to meet therapist Bernadette. As well as facials, the spa offers sugar waxing, body, and hand and foot treatments, using ingredients like orange flower, bergamot, grapefruit and jasmine. There’s also a Hot Box Detox – a 15-minute Far Infra Red rays sauna (£10) to help clean the system of bad chemicals and toxins.

Deciding on a Damask Rose Radiance-Boosting Facial to revive my perennially dehydrated skin, Bernadette wrapped my hair back to cleanse my face and eyelashes, relaxing my facial muscles with a fingertip massage before preparing for blackhead extraction (thorough and painless). The aromatic scents of damask rose oil, lavender and orange flower sent me into a blissful doze. More relaxing facial massage was followed by a Rose Formula Anti-Oxidant Facial Mask (cue more neck and shoulders rubs), which left my skin refreshed and plumped, my mind relaxed and pampered.

A recent convert to the Neal’s Yard Remedies range (after having worked with Dermalogica for many years), Bernadette shared a good beauty tip: I could get rid of the little white milia pimples under my eyes by using a light Rose Formula Hydrating Eye Cream (10ml for £21), which wouldn’t clog the fragile under-eye skin; she was horrified to hear I used my regular day cream under my eyes. While my milia entirely haven’t disappeared in two weeks, there are no new whiteheads popping up and, overall, they seem less noticeable.

My dehydrated skin has been kept at bay with the weekly clay-like Rose Formula Anti-Oxidant Facial Mask (50g for £21.60) and (another fantastic discovery-of-the-month) Shikai’s Borage Dry Skin Therapy Facial 24-hour Repair Cream, which I found at the High Street Ken Whole Foods.  After two weeks with this cream (just a dab each time), day and night, not a spot of dryness in sight. The final note of my 2009 autumn skincare opus is Neal Yard’s Remedies Beautiful Skin Tea (£6.50) with a mix of goji berries, rosehip, bilberry and hibiscus flower to up the chances of achieving a radiant autumnal glow.

Visit Neal's Yard Remedies Organic Beauty Spa  or print this voucher for a 20% discount on all first-time treatments and 15% off products bought after your treatment until October 31st, 2009.

Damask Rose Radiance-Boosting Facial, £65 for 60 minutes or £85 for 90 minutes at NYR Organic Beauty Day Spa, 124b Kings Road, London SW3 4TR (+44 (0)20 7225 2050).

Written by Julia Rebaudo for www.beautywoome.com.