The Spa Treatment has moved to SpaFinder Lifestyle!


SpaFinder Lifestyle, a new online magazine at—that I’m heading up—just launched this week!

So The Spa Treatment has a new home there, alongside the savvy articles on spa escapes, beauty, and well-being, and very cool interactive tools like the Massage Matrix, which tells you which type of massage is right for you. Here’s a peek:

Use the Massage Matrix to learn about a dozen types of massage—and discover the one right for you

Use the Massage Matrix to learn about a dozen types of massage—and discover the one right for you

To keep reading my blog on the latest spa beauty products, spa treatments, deals, and news, please visit me at SpaFinder Lifestyle and The Spa Treatment.


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The best spa deal ever!

I took this photo the treehouse spa treatment/private dining room on St. Lucia, when I visited Discovery at Marigot Bay last year.

I snapped this photo of the tree-house spa treatment room and a spa therapist on my trip to the Lapli Spa at Discovery at Marigot Bay last year.

One small curse of writing for a luxury spa magazine over the past four-plus years is that I can name a zillion fabulous spas that cost a bundle to visit and about four that don’t. So, it makes me incredibly happy to share with you what is truly the best deal EVER — but you must act now. Well, WEDNESDAY morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp.

That’s when the Leading Hotels of the World—which has some super solid spas that I’ve personally vetted, such as Discovery at Marigot Bay on St. Lucia and The Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, California—offers a “limited number of the world’s most-coveted hotel rooms” for just $19.28 per night, in U.S. dollars. (This means a stay of three nights is cheaper than cab fare to JFK.) The super-deal is thanks to the Leading Hotels 80th’s anniversary.

The window of opportunity is just 80 minutes long, so I advise doing your homework tonight. I know I will be. Banyan Tree Bangkok, here I come! For details, visit

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Bringing the massage to Mohammed

Globetrotting spa therapists

A new era of globe-trotting spa therapists

It’s plausible that experts in far-flung treatments from all corners of the planet will be visiting a spa near you, thanks to a new trend of spa therapists spending “a semester abroad.”

Given all the fabulous spas that are a $1,000 plane ticket away—and that I can’t get an authentic lomi lomi massage on the East Coast (I’ll pass on the knock-offs, thank you very much)—it’s a development I really appreciate, since it potentially brings the skilled practitioners to me.

Some examples: In mid September, Chiva Som, Thailand’s top destination spa, dispatches three therapists experienced in meditation and meridian tapping for Gwinganna, a new destination spa on Australia’s Gold Coast that’s getting great reviews for its progressive programming. This spring, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon brought its unique geothermal seawater treatments to Cornelia Day Resort in New York City, and in October, the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong will host two therapists steeped in traditional Thai therapies from the resort spas at the Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai and Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui.

Expertise and authenticity are two big benefits for spa-goers—and I appreciate the host spas that aren’t willing to fake it. (I mean, I know Gordon Ramsey can cook but I wouldn’t have him make my sushi.) And since it’s so-often specialists that draw me to a spa, I can’t wait to see more spas sending their therapists packing for places where their craft is hard to come by. Can I recommend a spa close to me?

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The scent of a candidate

A fragrance traditionalist

A selection of Presidential soaps by Caswell-Massey slipped into to my office yesterday. (Just in time to scour myself spotless for a season of mudslinging?) The soapmaker, which dates back to the first days of American politics, venerates George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy with three triple-milled bars—and not the current candidates (which, by the way, is a brilliant idea that would likely lead to profuse bath-time wisecracking). So I kind of expected the soaps to look like commemorative coins. That would be perfect for the Spa of Colonial Williamsburg!

But instead the soaps represent the fragrances “known to be worn by the three Presidents.” Who knew our forefathers were such dandies?

“George Washington” is scented with Number Six, Caswell-Massey’s original fragrance, which was “first purchased by Washington in 1780 long before the Continental Congress convention when he was unanimously elected President.” It smells faintly of oranges. President Eisenhower was supposed to have favored the Almond Cold Cream bath soap (apparently it’s still used today at Blair House, the Official Guest House of the White House), and Kennedy, the preppy president, wore Jockey Club, with musky hints of leather and amber. No surprise there.

Caswell-Massey Presidential Soap Collection

Caswell-Massey Presidential Soap Collection

If these fragrances fit our former politicians, just what are the signature scents of today’s candidates? Until Chandler Burr, the NY Times perfume critic, tells us, I’ve asked some SpaFinder colleagues to name a scent they’d associate with the current candidates. So what scents do our November candidates mostly conjure up in my petite poll?

Barack Obama: mint and citrus (and one patchouli)
John McCain: rose, lavender, and a few “oatmeal” (even thought it’s not technically a scent)

I’ll leave the interpretations to you.


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Can this outfit be turned into a spa?*

From runway to Missoni lifestyle hotels

From runway to Missoni lifestyle hotels

Yes, says Rosita Missoni. The Italian fashion house has partnered with a Belgium-based hotel group to launch Missoni “lifestyle hotels” with spas, aimed at a design-conscious traveler. According to a company rep, the first two (in Edinburgh and Kuwait City, destinations that are way, way ahead of the curve?) will launch in 2009, followed by 30 more in the next 10 years. I don’t have to tell you that’s a staggering number.

I used to flinch when a fragrance company, a cosmetics brand, or a fashion house migrated into spas. But I’m revising my stance:

Bulgari did it successfully in Milan and Bali, probably by aligning itself with solid spa management (ESPA, in the case of Milan). Miuccia Prada created some surprisingly good skin-care products a few years back, and hired a talented North American to create Prada facials for a handful of Ritz-Carlton spas. And Guerlain’s new luxe spas, run by Spa Chakra’s team of perfectionists, are opening one after another. (Next up: Waldorf-Astoria.)

So now I’m far more curious about them: And here’s why: Too many spas tout the same design, share the same treatment menu, and offer life-enrichment programming that’s now decades old. This is instead of evaluating what’s been working, scrapping what doesn’t, and adding something completely innovative by drawing on the world beyond the spa gates. (Ian Schrager made this point at the 2008 Global Spa Summit, when he encouraged spas to look outside their industry for new ideas. See Susie Ellis’s blog entry for more on his keynote address.)

A guest room at Missoni Kuwait

What I’m seeing now, with outside industries coming into the spa world, is that they bring with them intense creativity, new spa-going terms, and a new tone—instead of a checklist of familiar must-haves. Who will up the ante and take us into a 21st-century-style of spa-going? Maybe the Missonis. Maybe not. But I am willing to be surprised.

(*A nod to Domino Magazine.)

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Famed facialist Cornelia Zicu resurfaces at Red Door. But will she “resurface” it?

Fifth Avenue's newly renovated Red Door

Fifth Avenue

There it was in WWD—facialist Cornelia Zicu has returned to the spa scene in a new senior management role at Red Door. That’s some big news, which looks to be part of the part of the brand’s modern makeover (Fifth Avenue flagship, included).

It must be fate. Just yesterday I was investigating the new Lumina Facial at her former stopping grounds, the luxurious Cornelia Day Resort. It uses the spa’s new Jewelry for Skin line that contains crushed crystals and gems. (Favorite products: Emerald Eye Crème and Citrine Lip Plumper). Giving my radiance-boosting treatment was Alicia Villanova, whose youth belies her skill—though her absolutely gorgeous skin should have been a tip off. Turns out Villanova is a protégée of Zicu, the Romanian refugee turned New York City skin-care icon, who parted ways with the spa in January 2007, and had previously made a name for herself at the Peninsula Spa in New York.

Cornelia may have left the building, but her legacy lives on at the Day Resort in facialists like Villanova. Continue reading


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A discourse on depilation, or my hair-growing, hair-removal conundrum

Here begins my somewhat feminist tract on body hair, a pair of words as unseemly to the polite lady spa-goer as third helping.

I invoke the historic form of the tract, because I find myself in the middle of a long-standing American beauty contradiction, one that should have probably gone out of fashion with the corset (not the Vivienne Westwood one):

At the same time I am test-driving a new eyelash renewal serum called RapidLash to fill out my spotty lashes and brows, I’ve been slathering on Bliss’s Get Out of Hair!, a body lotion meant to minimize hair re-growth, as well as exfoliate and moisturize. See what I mean, dear reader?

Bliss says its main fuzz-fighter is Narcissus Tazetta bulb extract, which must be a two-faced ingredient, because it’s also an anti-ager in the Elizabeth Arden’s Intervene range. (Face-waxers, I’d definitely reach for this foundation.) And at $49.95, RapidLash happens to be a fraction of the price of similar products and contains a load of promising peptides—I’ll let you know in four weeks if it works.

But back to my didactic tract: the prevailing beauty mandate—be bare from the neck down, but have lush, cow-like lashes and a shiny full mane—doesn’t correspond a bit to biology, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. And so, with lasers, tweezers, and women named Eliza, we’ve created our own highly idealized female pattern baldness. And while it’s definitely easier to attain with 21st-century skin-care products and technologies, a modern lady can’t help but feel a bit caught in Penelope’s predicament, weaving a robe only to unravel it each night.


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