Healthy Living: Spa Centric


Go ahead. Take a deep breath, hold it . . . and release. It’s a simple enough exercise, one that takes mere seconds to perform. Yet how many times in your busy, busy day do you allow yourself that moment, let alone two, to breathe deeply and relax—especially this time of year? Not too often is our bet. There’s only one thing to do: We need to get you to a spa—and fast.

There’s no need to feel guilty. “People in New England are finally beginning to understand that spa treatments are not just for special occasions,” says Charisse Duroure of G Spa at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods—and you should join them. Think of it as “preventive care,” suggests Samantha Moore of Elemis Spa at Mohegan Sun. A lifestyle as opposed to a luxury—one that teaches you how to be healthy and in control of your body (not to mention your stress level) now, rather than when you’ve landed in the doctor’s office. And, hey, if you’re being pampered in the process and look smashing, so much the better.

But where to go? What to do? No time to investigate? No worries. We visited spas and salons from one corner of the state to the next to talk trends and find out just what’s new, what’s hot and which treatments are most likely to make the biggest difference in your day. Take a look, book that appointment and don’t forget to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. 

What a lovely shade of green 

According to the International Spa Association’s 2010 U.S. Spa Industry Study, 85 percent of the 20,600 spas in the United States apply environmentally sustainable practices, whether via the use of organic products or treatments, recycled packaging, low-flow fixtures or LEED certification. Indeed, there’s a whole lot of green going on, agrees Elizabeth McCarthy of Aetheria Relaxation Spa in New Canaan. “It’s one more aspect of our everyday efforts to live in a more eco-friendly way,” she says.

The philosophy at Aetheria, which uses only organic products such as Éminence and Neal’s Yard Remedies, is “if you can’t eat it, why would you put it on your skin?” says McCarthy. Consider, for example, the “Intensive Moisture Facial,” which uses antioxidants such as lime, carrot, gingko biloba and calendula to combat pesky free radicals and drench your skin in some serious moisture. Dare we call it “yummy”?

In July 2009, The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook became one of the first hotels in the state to be officially certified a “Connecticut Green Lodging.” Its spa, says director Marie Baumuller, is an equally committed part of that green team. Organic product lines here also include Éminence as well as SkinCeuticals. For a treatment, you might consider the “Seascape Ritual,” which uses heated basalt stones and organic, sustainably cultivated seaweed (which, when steamed, produces some amazing oils) to relax and re-energize.

You of course know all about the fabulous antioxidants in that glass of red wine you had with dinner (that’s why you drank it, right?). Well, G Spa at MGM Grand just launched what it calls “Vino Therapy,” which applies the natural benefits of grape-seed extract to treatments like manicures, pedicures, masks and body scrubs (and you know your “winter” skin desperately needs one of those by now or “all that moisturizer you’re applying,” says Duroure, “will simply float on the surface”). Cheers.

New at The Spa at Norwich Inn in Norwich is the “Baborganic Facial,” which brings the outside in with naturally derived ingredients like mineral-rich Swiss glacial water and edelweiss, meadowfoam seed and white-lentil extracts. Charym in Litchfield offers an “Organic Skin Food Facial,” a holistic treatment that uses only “living raw, wild-crafted organic herbs and virgin cold-pressed oils.” As for what’s behind the red door, Cornelia Zicu of Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas in Darien and Groton lauds the avant-garde technology of a new “Microdermabrasion Facial” that contains an organic blast of flower petals and essential oils. Mother Earth approves.

It’s always about you, isn’t it?

And that’s exactly how it should be. “Now more than ever, clients expect a high degree of personalization and customization when they come to a spa,” says Helen Brown of the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington. After all, “It has to be about what the guest wants,” she says, “not what we think the guest needs.”

Take the “Mayflower Massage,” for example. The menu lists it as “a combination of rhythmic massage techniques and blended oils”—but no two Mayflower Massages need be the same. “Most people don’t want strictly Swedish or deep-tissue,” says Brown. “We can add in some reflexology as well, lymphatic or, if you’ve always wondered about stone massage, we can go get a few hot stones.” And, no, it will not affect the pricing.

“We give the therapists all the tools they need to customize each [treatment],” says G Spa’s Duroure. “You don’t need the ‘fancy-dancy’ names [and certainly not the endless lists of treatments]—you want what works best for you.”     

Aetheria takes things one step further with “Wellness Packages” that allow guests to purchase blocks of time and then use their sessions for whatever they feel will help them best achieve their own health/wellness goals: massages, facials, body treatments, nutritional counseling, private yoga, wellness workshops or any combination thereof.

Personalization is even extending to certain age groups and client bases: Both the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa and Elemis offer treatments especially designed for teens, and last winter, in partnership with the Echo Cancer Foundation, The Spa at Norwich Inn launched “The Fragile Client,” a series of treatments designed to serve those faced with medical challenges such as cancer and diabetes.

Obviously, gentlemen are always welcome at the spa, too—in most cases they even have their own menu. Witness Tranquility Mind and Body Wellness Spa in Milford, where tough guys who still enjoy the occasional mani or pedi will likely feel better about the fact that it’s called “The Sportsman,” and includes a hearty hand or foot massage.


You can never have too many friends

When The Spa at Norwich Inn became a Facebook member in February 2009, it was told that scoring 250 fans in its first year would be an admirable goal. Its “likes” currently number 1,316—and counting.

What’s all the fuss? “We have a kindhearted and compassionate community of fans and we spend a huge amount of time keeping them informed,” says the spa’s Peggie Cosgrove. Make nice with the spa and you’ll be among the first to know about new treatments, promotions, giveaways. . . .

“You just never know what you’ll find out about,” adds Juliet Cavanaugh of the Spa of Essex’s Facebook presence. “Social media is how we do all our direct marketing now.” There may be free samples to give away or “it could be a slow Sunday and we post a special for 15 percent off massages if guests c’mon in and get it while it’s hot.’”

Red Door Spas likewise use both Facebook and Twitter to connect with guests. “Our fans will see the latest tips and trends from our experts, be able to participate in exclusive giveaways and contests, and learn about last-minute openings and specials,” says Cornelia Zicu. Soon there will even be an app for that. “A Red Door application is on the horizon,” she promises.

An afterthought no more

“Healthy hair used to be an afterthought,” says Alison Risley of Warren-Tricomi Salon in Greenwich. It was all about cut and color—not what was going on at the root of it all, so to speak. “Now you have choices,” she says. “Now you have options.” You absolutely will find whatever you need to protect the health of your hair, whether it’s thick or fine, straight, color-treated or curly.

Consider The “Tahitian Hair & Scalp Treatment” at Rituals Spa in Guilford, which uses monoi oil (a blend of coconut oil and Tahitian gardenias), Mayflower Inn & Spa’s “Scalp Facial,” which uses organic botanical oils to cleanse the scalp and then restore, hydrate and condition your hair while massaging you into oblivion, or, if you’re really having a bad hair day, the “Barex Shock Treatment” at the salon at Contours Spa & Wellness in Bloomfield—a pull-out-all-the-stops, deep-down conditioning treatment for dry, dull or chemically processed hair. Speaking of which . . .

Are you due for some color? The name to ask for is L’Oréal Professional’s new INOA hair color, which debuted in May. “It stands for ‘innovation, no ammonia,’” explains Risley, and uses an oil delivery system that “delivers incredible shine without any burning or itching of the scalp.” And “because the lipid levels in your hair remain the same, you can now play with color and not worry about the damage,” she adds.

So you’re feeling the pinch

You’re far from alone. The good news is: The spas hear ya, sister, and in response have revamped their offerings to offer shorter, less-expensive treatment options—or, in many cases, a sampling thereof.

Adam Broderick Salon & Spa in Ridgefield and Southbury allows you to zoom in for “express” services like a 15-minute “De-stress Scalp Massage,”  30-minute “De-stress Reflexology,” 30-minute “Express Facial” or revved-up “Ocean Mineral Rejuvenating Body Polish.”  Meanwhile,  Red Door’s “Time Saver” series includes a quickie pedicure, “Olive Oil Body Glow” and even microdermabrasion.

Elemis Spa is offering a “BFF Package” through December that includes 25 minutes each of attention devoted to back (massage), face (refresher facial) and feet (foot massage). At Shear Artistry Day Spa & Salon in Avon, you can try a little bit of this and a little bit of that via an “Express Package” that includes a half-hour massage, express facial, express pedicure and paraffin hand dip.

Finally, a staple at Parisian Salon & Day Spa in Cromwell is “A Taste of Parisian”—a mini deluxe facial, 30-minute massage, express pedicure and traditional manicure.
See you in two weeks

There’s just one word you need to know when it comes to the latest and greatest thing in nails: Shellac. Launched by Creative Nail Design (CND) in June, Shellac “goes on like a nail polish but is actually a gel [the company calls it a ‘UV color coat’] that you set under ultraviolet light,” explains Samantha Moore of Elemis. The result? No chipping, no peeling, no drying time, no need for touch-ups between manicures and—best of all—it lasts for 14 days. Oh, yeah: “Our clients love it,” says Alison Risley—and who can blame them?

Opt for a mani or go for the pedi, but do keep in mind that since this is such a new product, your color choices will be limited to a dozen shades. With French-manicure neutrals covered and a red-hot Wildfire on the palette, not to mention that glossy “mirrorlike” shine, we have a feeling you will happily make do.


’Tis the season

Of course, the classic treatments never go out of style (the nice firm Swedish massage, a hardworking, deep-cleaning European facial), and “our clients truly do love them,” says The Spa at Norwich Inn’s Peggie Cosgrove. But the spa has also recently started offering seasonal treatments to change things up a bit four times a year. “They’re a chance to experiment and have a little fun,” says Cosgrove. Better yet, the spa uses exclusive fresh-as-it-gets all-natural products made by Lisa Ann Skincare in Madison for each seasonal service. In December, watch for a gingerbread body wrap and scrub.

Speaking of flavors of the season, The Spa at Water’s Edge in Westbrook invites you to “soothe your holiday stress away.” It offers a “Chocolate-Peppermint Twist” manicure or pedicure while you sip a cozy cup of hot cocoa—garnished, of course, with a peppermint stick.

The specials at the Spa of Essex change once a month and they, too, are most often seasonally themed. “We find that our clients love that and will move mountains to take advantage of them,” says Cavanaugh. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re priced at a 20 percent discount.) The specials for December are a peppermint spa pedicure, peppermint-mocha body wrap and “Apple Stem Cell Facial,” a new, cutting-edge anti-aging facial purportedly derived from stem cells extracted from a rare Swiss apple.

Finally, Rituals offers a “Sugar Plum Hydrating Treatment” that includes a rich sugar-plum masque, almond mineral treatment, herbal mud and massage with a sugar-plum soufflé cream. Santa, baby: Did we mention that they offer gift certificates (hint, hint)?

Sundae Spa

Kids can have their own spa treatment—and eat it, too

Believe us when we tell you that the Sundae Spa in Waterbury is unlike any spa you’ve been to before. Here is a world where giant-sized lollipops line the walls of the salon, super-duper ice cream sundaes back the pedicure stations, and cherries the size of basketballs hang jauntily from the ceiling. There’s glitter over the makeup stations, bright green hair extensions prominently displayed, and the lotions and lip balms, bath fizz and body spray (all of which you can custom design yourself) come in sweet scents like cotton candy, watermelon, blueberry and cupcake.

Are you catching on to the concept here? Sundae Spa, which had its official opening just a month ago, is the state’s first spa designed entirely for children!

Wolcott’s Kimberly Swan is the owner/designer/chief sundae maker behind Sundae Spa and once you learn that Swan has seven—yes, seven—daughters, it’s not hard to guess where she got her inspiration. However, she is also a former science teacher and while “pouffing” and pampering each diminutive diva is definitely part of the plan, she also designed the spa to be an “interactive learning experience.” All those make-your-own lotions and potions the kids love to stir up involve science.

Among the “professional dessert services” is the “Ultimate Dessert Pedi,” which includes “a sundae scoop soak, whipped sugar scrub and lotion massage with polish and design”—kids get to create their own “toppings.” For hair, there’s “Shaved Ice” (a buzz cut and scent) for boys, and cuts and wraps, updos and braids for the girls. Then there are the dessert facials, body glitter tattoos and handmade (and kid-safe) soaps designed to mimic thick slices of fudge, sweet-smelling cupcakes and freshly made pies. Finally, at the end of each service kids get to make their own sundaes with real ice cream from yumalicious Big Dipper in Prospect. Think there’s any chance that’ll catch on at the grown-up spas? Here’s hoping.

Healthy Living: Spa Centric

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