Spa Holiday Gifts: Rub Me the Right Way

 

Yes, we know that there are a lot of names on your holiday gift list. And there never do seem to be quite enough hours in the day to find just the right gift for everyone. And that, holiday shoppers, is right where we come in. Our plan this year? Spa gift certificates for everyone! Because, really, whether it’s your BFF or daughter, your mother-in-law or even tree-huggin’ cousin Mel—who doesn’t love a trip to the spa?

Of course we want to make this personal, too—but with so many options out there how do we choose? For the inside scoop, we went straight to the spas themselves. The question we asked: “If you were to purchase a gift treatment for someone you love, what would it be?” What follows are answers that should take care of most, if not everyone, on your list.  

The Green Team
So you’ve got a devoted environmentalist on your gift list . . . not a problem. We can do eco-chic. Aetheria Relaxation Spa in New Canaan is an organic day spa that delivers an earth-friendly approach to skin care.

“Nature provides us with everything that we need in order to stay healthy,” says Aetheria owner Elizabeth McCarthy. Thus, McCarthy firmly believes that using plants, fruits and vegetables for skin care is the best choice out there. Her philosophy: “If you can’t eat it, why would you put it on your skin?”

McCarthy has two favorites for your naturalist. The Blueberry Bliss Facial ($150, including gratuity) relies on those bluest of berries to increase circulation, release toxins from the skin and deliver a fresh glow to the face. Aetheria’s Tropical Body Treatment (also $150 with gratuity), meanwhile, has got it going on all over the place. Hint: there’s a coconut-sugar scrub, mango-enzyme peel, coconut body lotion and a full-body massage involved. Coconut is “incredibly nourishing,” says McCarthy, not to mention that it smells wonderfully “tropical.” Says McCarthy, it’s like gifting “a little winter ‘staycation’.” The trip to Aruba comes next year.

The Teen Queen (or King)
The Spa at Litchfield Hills has a lot of teen clients, according to owner Megan Harpin. The spa is even open seven days a week, including Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, when it keeps the doors open till 9 p.m., for busy teenagers trying to fit in school, sports, homework and a beauty routine. (’Tis a tough life, you know.)
The kids troop into this Litchfield day spa to get their nails done and their hair styled, but “I personally feel the best gift you can give a teenager, whether male or female, is a facial,” says Harpin.

“Teens are going through a time of change,” says Harpin. “Their skin is oily. They’re experiencing break-outs . . . we want to let them know that these are things that can be fixed.”
Harpin’s recommendation, the Let it Breathe! Oxygenating Purity Facial ($110), wakes up recalcitrant teenage skin with a warm, bubbling seaweed mask and ends with remineralizing clay to calm and soothe the skin. Along the way, aestheticians engage in a bit of “Skin Care 101” (wash your face twice a day, use sunscreen each and every day, change your pillowcase once a week, etc.).

“You’re never too young to start taking care of your skin,” says Harpin. Start now and teens won’t be playing “catch up” when they’re as old as, well, us.

The Hubby
Yes, real men do spa. Just like they do eat quiche, enjoy a shopping excursion now and again and occasionally get a bit teary-eyed while watching a sappy movie—oh, wait, that was during a recent Jets game. No matter. Real men do spa. But just in case, we decided to hedge our bets, so to speak, with a spa that happens to be in the midst of a little place called Mohegan Sun. Brilliant, no?

Your guy will not be alone at Elemis Spa at the Mohegan Sun Hotel. “We have plenty of male clients,” says spa concierge Stephen Tucker. “Everyone deserves a chance to relax and have some down time.” Here that includes the use of an indoor/outdoor pool, fitness center and men’s locker room with sauna, whirlpool and steam room.

As for treatments, options include the Urban Cleanse for Men Facial ($135), a Men’s Sport Manicure ($25) and the always-popular Deep-Tissue Muscle Massage ($140). If, however, your man isn’t afraid to kick it up a notch, Tucker recommends the Hawaiian Wave Four-Hand Massage ($260), which incorporates traditional Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage movements carefully choreographed by not one, but two massage therapists.  It’s “intense,” says Tucker, but at the same time “incredibly relaxing.”

The Better Half
Guys, just go ahead and relax right now. Viso Bello Day Spa & Massage Therapy Center has got your back—and then some. Massage is the thing at this Middlebury day spa, due in large part to its monthly-massage membership programs that make wives very, very happy.

The $59-per-month program includes one 60-minute Deep Tissue, Swedish or Sports Massage per month, while a $79 program includes one 75-minute Hot Stone Massage, 90-minute Detox Body Massage a month or a 90-minute Mind Body Soul Massage. This last offering is manager Tara Warner’s personal fave because it combines hot stone, deep tissue and reflexology, but members can mix and match massages (which normally range in price from $100 to $160) from month to month. The important thing, according to Warner, is that “the membership forces them to come once a month and do something for themselves.”

But, wait, there’s more: for the first year that you purchase a membership package your lovely wife will also receive bonus coupons from Viso Bello entitling her to everything from a free manicure in month four to a free service of her choosing at year’s end. Seriously, you’ve got it made in the shade.

The BFF
Where would we be without our girls—the ladies who have stood by us through the ups and downs, thick and thin, side-splitting laughter and heart-wrenching tears? The newly redesigned Sanno at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa celebrates girlfriends with Sole Sisters, a side-by-side pedicure for two ($63 per person) that includes an invigorating scrub (choose a gentle green tea and lemongrass or perhaps a seasonal salt scrub), a massage, polish (Sanno is a “green” spa and uses Sheswai and SpaRitual) and a glass of prosecco to toast your friendship. Spa Director Marie Mozzi deems the gift a genuine and refreshing commitment to spend time together.

For still more time, the last Thursday of every month, is “Girl’s Night Out” at Sanno. A $48 gift certificate for this includes the choice of an express mani, pedi, facial, body scrub or massage, a glass of wine, crudité and perhaps even a little light jazz.

The Mom on the Run
Let’s face it: For a mother with young children, 10 minutes alone in the bathroom is cause for celebration, let alone an afternoon at a day spa—and yet, according to Melissa Burke of DPZ Group in Danbury, “that’s exactly what she deserves.”

DPZ’s Serenity Package ($315) is designed to be “a day to put all your cares behind.” It includes an oh-so-lovely massage, European facial, spa lunch, mani/pedi, wash/style and makeup application, and lasts approximately five long, leisurely hours. Now that’s what we’re talking about.

Mom’s afraid to leave the kids for that long? We’ve got a back-up plan. DPZ’s Tired Leg and Foot Treatment ($35) is a quick little pick-me-up that helps energize Elmo’s World-weary legs and feet, the Stress Relieving Back Treatment ($75) works on aches and tension in the neck and shoulders, and the Remineralizing Body Wrap ($125) works wonders with dry, dehydrated skin. The best part of the latter is that while the remineralizing body pack is doing its stuff the recipient is cocooned in foil sheets, blankets and warm towels, which forces even the most reluctant mom, says Burke, “to lie still and take time for you.”

The Newbie
The Mimosa Champagne Sugar Scrub at By the Sea Inn & Spa in Branford uses champagne grapes and raw sugarcane granules combined with healing orange essential oils to help skin glow tip to toe. It’s also a fine way, according to owner Mary Ellen Julian, to immerse the spa newcomer in your midst to the “whole mind, body, soul” experience behind a spa.

“This treatment is a gift on many levels,” says Julian. “The smell of the orange alone promotes a kind of internal healing. The exfoliation itself makes skin, the largest organ in our bodies, feel alive again.” And then there’s the emotional factor, which happens when the client finally relaxes enough, says Julian, “to really just let go and allow someone else to take care of them.” We say, “Cheers to that.”

The Happy Couple
The Spa of Essex has two very popular suites where couples looking to steal a little away time can relax. Treatment choices include a Couples Aromatherapy Oil Wrap ($210) and Couples Herbology Retexturizing Body Treatment ($230), but for owner Joyce Cosenza, it’s all about the Couples Massage. “I’m a big fan of massage,” says Cosenza. “In my experience most people just want to be touched.”

You can indulge your favorite duo in a soothing Swedish or more intense Deep-Tissue Massage and get to choose from 60-, 70- and 90-minute options. (To give you an idea of price, the Swedish is $180 per couple for 60 minutes and $240 for 90.) As for the more, er, adventurous couple on your list, the spa recently debuted the Scentuals Couples Experience ($265), said to combine “ancient therapeutic massage techniques and exotic Kama Sutra aromas to indulge your five senses and encourage romance.” There is an, ahem, “Kama Sutra weekender kit” to bring home.

The Mother-in-Law
Trust owner Elaine LeClair when she tells you that the gift of a Signature Facial ($85) from Skin Care at the Waverly is going to be a “homerun” with your mother-in-law—it’s been a specialty at her Cheshire day spa for more than 20 years.

When trying your best to impress, “you might as well start with a winner,” says LeClair.  “Everyone adores this facial.” The general order of things: skin is bathed in a heady essential-oil mist (rosemary, lavender, geranium . . .), steamed to extract impurities, nourished with a hydrating and oxygenating masque, and then massaged to pump up circulation and soothe the skin—“soothe” being the operative word here.   

“We most certainly don’t want to suggest anything too ‘aggressive’ for your mother-in-law,” says LeClair. “Talk of anti-aging treatments can be insulting; we want this to be all about pampering instead.” In other words: gift certificate for chemical peel equals family faux pas. Now, back to a relaxing hand-and-arm massage to top things off. Ah, you’re good.

The Trendsetter
The name of the treatment may not sound all that glamorous: Hand & Arm Massage with Vacuum Cupping, but believe us when we tell you that this new treatment at The Spa at Norwich Inn is both highly effective and sure to impress gift recipients who like to be on the cutting edge.

What exactly is vacuum cupping? First and foremost: deeply penetrating. Vacuum-like suction is created by a specially trained therapist with a hand-held cupping tool, and “your skin is actually drawn up into different-sized cups,” explains spa director Danielle Knerr. When combined with site-specific massage, the cupping releases adhesions and gets that blood pumping. The results, says Knerr, are “almost instantaneous.”  

Plans for the future include extending the treatment to the back, but for now the hands and arms have it—particularly good news for those with carpal tunnel and/or tendonitis. Although, “between texting and emailing, this treatment is quite beneficial to most all of us,” says Knerr—and reports are that the Spa at Norwich Inn is the only spa in the state to have it done. Told you: cutting edge.

The Lady in White
They love their brides-to-be at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas. Sitting Pretty ($318), one of an array of packages designed for those getting ready to make a trip down the aisle, includes a Signature Facial or Massage, Detoxifying Seaweed Wrap, Warm Cream Manicure and Pedicure, make-up refresher and a spa lunch.

Individual bridal treatments are also available at both the Darien and Groton locations, where Red Door experts will help brides plan what works best for what Darien general manager Elle Donahue calls “the countdown to ‘I do’.” Donahue herself is a fan of the new Hydra-Quench Remineralizing Body Wrap ($135) that debuted Oct. 1. The highly therapeutic wrap relies on a blend of essential oils and minerals found in seawater to replenish and restore elasticity and vitality to the skin—always a good thing when you have shoulders to bare.

“It feels good, and you look good,” says Donahue, who’s had recipients report skin that’s “never felt this smooth before.” Just what we like to hear.

The Chronically Overscheduled
Okay, we’re going to make this last one quick, because, well, we don’t have always have much time to spare. Shear Artistry Day Spa & Salon in Avon has a suggestion that’s just about perfect for all of us (and our friends, neighbors, co-workers and cousins) in this busy, busy, busy season: A package aptly titled “I Don’t Have Time for All That.” For $75, the efficient folks here will deliver an express facial and 30-minute massage and still have you in and out in an hour—perhaps even a lunch hour. “It’s more relaxing than you know,” says assistant manager Ann Chagnon. “It takes the edge off, and afterward you can breathe again.” Always a good thing.
 

Spa Holiday Gifts: Rub Me the Right Way

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