Spa in the City - New York

Posted: Tue 10th November 2015
By: Dena Roché

In the city that never sleeps, relaxation can be tough to come by as you fight the crowds to see the Statue of Liberty, try to hail a cab in rush hour or simply walk through the bustling streets of Midtown. If there was ever a place you need a spa break it’s in New York, and thankfully the Big Apple has plenty of spas that provide an oasis of calm.

Madonna, Alexander Wang, Barbara Streisand and New Yorkers in the know love Ling. With two day spas tucked away in the city, the skincare maker combines its irritant-free products with facial treatments focused on the Asian principles of exfoliation and hydration through Energy Lift Infusion Therapies.    I opt for the mother of all facials: the Energy Lift Advanced Facial with Body Wellness. At two hours, it’s the longest facial service I’ve ever had. The treatment starts with a 20-minute energy infusion on my back provided through a far-infrared ray device. The idea is to provide the healing rays of the sun without harmful radiation. A nice by product is that it helps my tense muscles relax into the treatment.    The focal point of the facial is a triple peel using glycolic sugar cane, papaya enzymes and an acid-rescue skin peel. Normally, when a peel or mask is working its magic, the therapist does a foot or hand rub, so I must say I was surprised when mine left the room.     Thankfully, she came back and the facial continued with extractions, a mask and a facial massage using the same far-infrared ray machine on specific acupressure points. My skin was glowing after the service but the day after I had two pimples, a sign that the treatment really went deep and brought things to the surface.

OXYGEN OOMPH. Normally, doing two facial treatments in two days is something I shy away from, but the Oxy-Peel Treatment at the L.RAPHAEL spa at the Four Seasons is actually a service that works even better if you’ve already had a traditional facial, so I’m in luck.    This is one high-tech approach to skincare, but priced at $890 for 50 minutes it had better stand out. The treatment is centred around a few proprietary elements, including a LEC 40 complex and an Oxy-Tech II machine. The LEC 40 is an anti-aging product made from a highly potent mix of purified lecithin, vitamin C, retinol, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. The compound can’t be infused into the skin topically which is where the special machine comes into play.    The LEC 40 is combined with physiological water in the oxygen machine. Before we start, the therapist tests the pressure (75 psi!) on my arm so I know what to expect before she goes to town on my face. If my face was a house in need of a pressure wash (and apparently it is) this is what I imagine it would feel like. Not unpleasant, just different. The pressure actually creates a controlled peeling of the upper layers of the epidermis while driving the ingredients deep into the skin.     After two passes with the pressure wand and a special facial massage with a boosting serum, my skin is downright sparkling. The service kick starts the rejuvenation of cells so hopefully the sparkle will last throughout my stay in the city.

PRETTY IN PENINSULA. The spa at the Peninsula in New York has always been one of my favourites in the city. The customer service and treatments notwithstanding, it has one of the best relaxation rooms of any spa anywhere. The 4-bed tranquillity lounge has adjustable beds topped with the most billowy duvets I’ve ever had the pleasure to slip beneath. Between the linens and the custom music, I’m in bliss.    I’m fortunate to try out the new Sattva Vedic Aromatherapy Massage. The Sattva treatments were created exclusively for Peninsula hotels and combine lymphatic massage with classic Ayurvedic techniques, including Marma point therapy.    My therapist, Jody, starts by having me smell certain oils to choose what to use for the service while he gives my feet a bath and massage. When I mention I have tight shoulders and neck he decides to use the Kunzea Intensive blend oil in that spot. For the rest of the body, my nose chose the Tulsi Detox blend, designed -- obviously -- to eliminate toxins, but also to aid in stimulating circulation and improving digestion.    While many massages incorporate trigger point therapy, the Marma points seem more specific. There are 107 Marma points on the body that can be thought of as switches to turn on and off energy, or prana. When Jody presses on points in my low back and neck I can feel the prana screaming.    At 35,000 square feet, the spa is one of the largest in the city and has saunas, steam rooms and an indoor glass-enclosed pool with great views of the city. Enjoy lunch on the wrap-around sun terrace during the summer or grab some tea or coconut water in the Asian Tea lounge.

CELEBRITY STYLE. The Loews Regency just finished a $100 million renovation, as befits its Park Avenue location. Part of the revamp was the opening of the Julien Farel Restore Spa. Farel is a celebrity hairstylist and a haircut with him will set you back $1,000. I hope a no-bad-hair-day guarantee comes with it! I decide to focus on my nails instead with a pedicure and manicure.    As I’m waiting, I’m offered a dizzying array of beverage choices. While I’m not normally one to pass up wine, 10 am is a bit early for me to sip vino, especially when I need the caffeine jolt that coffee can serve up.    I decide on a summery green Deborah Lippmann polish for my toes and lean back in the pedicure chair and relax while Patricia fixes up my tootsies and gives my legs a much needed massage after two weeks of walking in the city.    Each autumn, the team at Farel takes its show on the road with a pop-up salon for players at the US Open tennis tournament, offering the players hairstyles and mani-pedis for the court.

TRUMP THIS. With his controversial bid for the US presidency, Donald Trump, and by extension his hotels, are front and centre right now. The flagship Trump International spa is only open to hotel guests, but anyone can check out the Trump SoHo spa. While I had my massage at the Trump International, the SoHo spa, offering the only spa-based Hammam in the city, offers more amenities to choose from, including indoor and outdoor relaxation areas.    The International location has a wide selection of massages to choose from. I decide to end my spa tour of the Big Apple with my favourite, albeit simple, type of massage: the deep tissue. With muscles suitably dekinked, I may be the most relaxed person strolling the streets.      I love the energy and non-stop action in New York, but being able to step away from it and decompress in one of these top sanctuaries is imperative so that I can pack as much of the New York experience into my trip as possible.

Good to know

Getting There:

A multitude of airlines fly non-stop from London to any of New York’s three airports.

Stay and Spa: 

Peninsula Hotel

Trump International Hotel

Loews Regency

Four Seasons

Day Spa:


Getting Around:

Don’t fear the subway. In the chronically snarled NYC traffic it’s often the quickest way to crisscross the city, and a weekly unlimited pass is only $32. Uber and other private car services like Dial 7 are also good options.  To plan your routes, nothing beats the hopstop app[SRM1] . 

Seeing the City:

Since you’re bound to do things other than visit spas, the CityPass is a great way to go for admission into the new 9/11 museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Statue of Liberty cruise and more. While the pass saves you money, it more importantly saves you time since you bypass the lines at often packed attractions.

 [SRM1]Apart from Citymapper -- especially if you don't have an iPhone. Just saying :)

Image of Camilla Kaas-Stock
By Dena Roché


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