Synaesthesia, stemming from the ancient Greek word for “together,” is a neurological phenomenon wherein stimulation of one sense can result in the involuntary stimulation of another. For example, those who experience the color version of it may, when looking at a set of numbers, see not just the digits themselves but each one associated with a specific hue. Besides being an insanely awesome Scrabble word to have in your back pocket, synaesthesia is also the name of the signature treatment at New York’s first-ever Lush Spa. Tucked away on the second floor of the Lush store on Lexington Avenue, the space itself has a transporting vibe. Outfitted to look like an old-timey English cottage, there are reclaimed-wood cabinets, vintage teapots, and stacks of flea-marketed books—certainly not your standard spa decor. The spa and signature treatments were conceived of by Lush cofounder Mark Constantine (he has scent-shape synaesthesia, so he perceives everything he smells as having a shape) and behavioral therapist Lady Helen Kennedy. U.K. folk musician Simon Emmerson was commissioned to dream up the accompanying music. (He also has synaesthesia, the sound-color variety—he perceives certain sounds as having a color.) The first order of business when you arrive is selecting a “mood” for your experience from a wall of words describing emotional states; this will drive the focus of your treatment. I went for “mind cleanser,” which, along with “relax,” are, rather unsurprisingly, the most popular requests at the New York location. (At Lush’s sister spa in Philadelphia, the top picks are “confidence” and “energized.”) Because of my mind-focused pick, I had extra special attention paid to my head and face (score!) during what would be an impressively choreographed massage set perfectly in time to one of Emmerson’s tracks. This particular composition, complete with birdsongs, was conceived of to take you—sonically, at least—through a full day from sunrise to nightfall. And amazingly, when in tandem with the therapist’s precise movements, it does—in the so-called evening hours, I was drooling and drowsy, and come “morning,” I started to feel energized. A neat trick. I emerged eighty minutes later, loose, relaxed, and, I’m happy to report, with my mind entirely at ease. For the free-thinking spa-goer who doesn’t mind a dose of chakras with their massage, the Lush Spa is a necessary addition to your beauty black book.
Synaesthesia massage, $230 for eighty minutes. Lush Spa, 783 Lexington Avenue, New York, (212) 207-8151.
With fashion month coming to a close, there’s no better way to celebrate (and unwind) than with a treatment before takeoff. A former colleague of mine closed out the menswear shows with a massage and said he didn’t even mind that his flight was delayed a few hours when he arrived at the airport—all of the stress and tension had completely disappeared before he even whipped out his passport at check-in. Here, two spots worth hitting up before you say bon voyage:
Where: Spa My Blend by Clarins, Le Royal Monceau, 37, avenue Hoche, 01.42.99.88.99
What to get: Ask for the Anti-Jet Lag Stopover Massage for Face & Body because, let’s face it, you’re probably still jet-lagged. This rubdown refreshes and moisturizes dehydrated skin after weeks of vacillating between espresso and champagne. It also claims to relieve tiredness, insomnia, upset stomach, headache, and irritability. (If you’re anything like me, you’ve ticked off all five boxes and already made an appointment.)
Where: Biologique Recherche Ambassade de la Beauté, 32, avenue des Champs-Élysées, 01.41.18.96.84
What to get: Sign yourself up for the Soin Minceur, stat! This “modeling massage” helps drain toxins (of which you’ve probably stockpiled) and leaves you feeling toned and rejuvenated. A textured rubber mitt is used to work essential oils into the skin, leaving you soft, glowing, and ready for the long haul ahead.
Book the Energy Lift Facial, the latest addition to the menu at Ling, and you know immediately upon entering the treatment room that you’re in for an entirely different kind of experience. Clue number one: my aesthetician, Michiko (whom I highly recommend), instructs me to position myself on the treatment bed, facing down (a strange request for a facial), with my back left bare. She says that she is going to work on releasing all the tension in my back before focusing on my face. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. But this is no run-of-the-mill massage; instead, Michiko uses the treatment’s titular Energy Lift contraption, a heated machine embedded with tourmaline, a potent energy-producing crystal with proven detoxifying abilities. It feels like a warm, polished stone being run up and down my spine and around my neck and shoulders. Michiko explains that the heated tourmaline therapy is designed to aid in lymphatic drainage and to help open up your meridian points to allow for proper movement of chi (energy). Terrific, I think momentarily, before returning to my state of drooling bliss.
Once it’s time for me to face forward, I’m basically putty in her very capable hands. She cleanses my extremely dehydrated skin and then layers on a trio of peels—glycolic, then papaya enzyme, then an acid-free rescue variety—to suck up any dirt and impurities. Then—groan, grumble—it’s extraction time; considering the fact that I’d subjected my complexion to a few different climates, a lot of plane travel, and zero exfoliation in the weeks prior, Michiko has her work cut out for her. After a meticulous excavation, she paints on a soothing clay mask, then a ginseng herbal moisturizing mask to placate any inflammation. (A side note: Michiko suggests, wisely, that in the following week I sleep for a few nights with their Replenishing Serum and Ginseng mask layered on to get my skin back into shape. I oblige and am feeling—well, my skin at least—much more balanced.) Next, the same heated-tourmaline therapy used on my back is now applied to my face, to energize and lift my skin, before Michiko launches into a nimble-fingered facial massage. The facial is dubbed Energy Lift, and although your complexion will definitely leave Ling looking glow-y and invigorated, you will likely be in a state of deep relax.
$195 for a 60-minute Energy Lift Facial, available at Ling Skin Care in Union Square, 12 East 16th Street, or Ling Skin Care on the Upper West Side, 105 West 77th Street; lingskincare.com.
Microdermabrasion may be old hat for the hardened facial junkie hell-bent on a skin-perfecting fix every four weeks or so. But even the most jaded of skin-sloughers might just perk up at the promises backing the HydraFacial, a relatively new kid on the block in terms of treatments. HydraFacial’s technology uses a series of plastic “blades” (not nearly as frightening as it sounds) in place of the diamond-tipped tools traditionally used in dermabrasion. When the tool is placed against skin, a vacuum clears pores, scrapes away dead cells, and delivers a cocktail of complexion-reviving ingredients simultaneously.
The first step to exponentially more fabulous skin is a cleansing/exfoliation hybrid, featuring the brand’s proprietary Activ-4 serum. Lactic acid banishes dead skin cells and brightens, while glucosamine helps to soften lines and whisk away hyperpigmentation. Next up is a glycolic-salicylic peel, aggressive enough to visibly brighten, but gentle enough that I wasn’t too red in the face to head straight back to the office post-treatment. Extractions are handled not by squeezing but by using suction, and the Beta-HD serum with salicylic acid and honey extract softens pore-clogging impurities and combats any resulting dryness. The pièce de résistance is Vortex-Fusion—not, in fact, related in any way to the Star Wars franchise, but a potent, antioxidant-packed serum that hydrates, plumps, and serves as a buffer against environmental foes. Optional add-ons include lymphatic drainage or LED light therapy, but after thirty minutes of standard HydraFacial magic, you may not even need them—or your foundation.
See hydrafacial.com for more information.
There are some women who would love nothing more than to luxuriate in a spa for hours on end. I, despite my job description, am not one of them. I’d rather paint my own nails, blow out my own hair, and replicate the effects of a facial at home than spend hours sipping cucumber water during a marathon pampering session. (Cue the hashtag: #firstworldproblems.) It’s not because I dislike these types of activities, it’s because they take forever…and ain’t nobody got time for that, as Sweet Brown would say. Leave it to storied beauty brand Elizabeth Arden, whose first Red Door salon opened in 1910 on Fifth Avenue, to keep up with the modern woman by offering speed services at its new Union Square location. In under fifteen minutes, you can treat tired eyes to hyaluronic serum and soothing pads via the Westside Eyeway, or get a quick dose of skin-plumping oxygen with the SOHO2. If you have an extra ten minutes, you can opt for the Queens Expressway, an extraction-free facial. Or try the Urban Renewal, a microdermabrasion treatment that’s finished in twenty-five minutes flat. Before I even had a chance to dose off during this diamond-tipped buffing session, I was done. The resulting glow, however, made it appear as if I’d gotten a solid eight hours of sleep. I like to think Ms. Arden herself would have been fond of these expedited services—after all, you don’t build a global empire lazing about. She famously stated, “To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman,” but if this tireless entrepreneur were alive today, her motto might go something like this: “To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman—even a busy one.”
200 Park Avenue South, New York, NY, (212) 388-0222; thereddoorny.com