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The Full Treatment: The Best Spas In New York

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Between rocks and a not-so-hard place: Equinox's hot-stone massage.  

Carapan
5 West 16th Street (212-633-6220)
Best Medical Massage
Best Aromatherapy
As soon as you walk through the door of Carapan, the dusky lighting, the aroma of piñon incense, the Native American artifacts and the Gregorian chants in the background transport you from New York City to New Mexico. In fact, Carapan feels like an outpost of Ten Thousand Waves, the famous Santa Fe spa. You are greeted with options of hot cider and tea; an antique wooden cabinet serves as your locker. The idea here is great massage in a sensual atmosphere. Not surprisingly, aromatherapy ($100), redolent of cedar and sage, is a specialty. If you have chronic pain or an injury, you might prefer to opt for one of the excellent medical massages ($95).

Completely Bare
764 Madison Avenue (212-717-9300)
Best Epi-Polish Facial
Best Pulsed-Light Hair Removal
Completely Bare is like a friend's well-appointed yet comfortable Upper East Side brownstone: Owner Cindy Barshap has filled the spa with such feminine touches as creamy curtains and an elegant sofa. As the name indicates, permanent hair reduction is the calling card here ($150 for upper lip, $200 for bikini area, a whopping $700 per hour per leg). The epilite intense-pulsed-light machine used to banish hair doubles as a facial apparatus capable of shrinking large pores and removing dark spots, sun damage, and broken capillaries. The epi polish ($175), which takes less than half an hour, uses the light to create a dewy, even complexion by quickly removing the skin's surface layers and increasing collagen production.

Dorit Baxter
47 West 57th Street, third floor (212-371-4542)
Best Salt Scrub
Best Pre-Exercise Massage
"It will look like the lobby of the W," Dorit Baxter said when she began her monumental renovation. Like the W? We're not so sure, but in either incarnation, Dorit Baxter does well with its classic European treatments, such as the super-exfoliating Dead Sea Salt Scrub ($58), performed on a heated blanket so that you don't catch the usual chill. A new offering is the pre-exercise massage ($75), the stretching of your muscles before you work out. And the spa has also kept up with high-tech advances in beauty treatments. We like the electronically charged acupuncture glove made from fine silver threads ($95), which is precise and gentle enough to tone the delicate eye area.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door & Spa
691 Fifth Avenue (212-546-0200)
Best Olive-Oil Pedicure
Best Pomegranate Facial
No New Age vibes or goofy treatments at Elizabeth Arden's Red Door. Rose petals and marbles fill the pedicure bowls, and warm mittens and hot towels for the hands are de rigueur during facials for the Fairfield County and Upper East Side regulars. Many are the pedicure choices, but the olive-oil procedure ($70), which includes a sugar scrub for the feet, is so softening it can undo the memory of miles tripped in this season's most punishing pumps. New is the pomegranate facial ($120), which uses the fruit's acid for exfoliation and includes a sensual hot-stone massage for the face, neck, and shoulders.

Equinox Wellness Spa
140 East 63rd Street, ground floor (212-750-4671)
Best Sports Massage
Best Vitamin C Facial
Best Salad Facial
You can have a true spa day at this mecca for the seriously fit, where those who sign up for treatments have free access to the club's facilities. Swim a few laps in the pool, kick-box, or warm up in a yoga class before you switch gears and enter the peaceful zone of the spa area. As you might expect, the sports massage ($90) is not wimpy. The four-handed massage ($180) allows you to choose your modalities (one set of hands doing Swedish, the other doing reflexology, for instance), and for pure pleasure, there's the hot-stone massage. Try the vitamin C facial, which improves the look of fine lines around the eyes and lips, or the Salad facial ($125), which first cleanses with a vitamin-, anti-oxidant-, and alpha-hydroxy-rich wash of tomato juice, clay, and avocado oil; then exfoliates with oats, cucumber, sunflower seeds, and honey; and finishes with a green-tea, honey, and avocado mask. Along the way, your face, neck, shoulders, and scalp get massaged and your feet are scrubbed and treated with warm stones. Equinox offers dermatologic services as well; two doctors keep office hours at the spa and are certified in laser treatment, Botox injections, and the like.

Helena Rubinstein Beauty Gallery & Spa
135 Spring Street (212-343-9963)
Best Date Express Facial
Best Combination Massage
Tucked below the cosmetics store like a hidden city, the stark-white, modern beauty emporium offers a plethora of treatments devoted to the art of beautification. Women gather in the lounge, sipping tea and nibbling fruit while waiting for their appointments; despite the humming store upstairs, the spa feels intimate and personal. A clever offering here is the Date Express ($100), a quick facial that cleanses and increases rosiness and tone, followed by a brow cleanup, a manicure, makeup application, and a free lipstick. Thirty-, sixty-, and ninety-minute facials are available ($50-$140); add a new collagen-based plumping serum ($30) to fill out lines and give you a more youthful countenance by nightfall. The massage, a one-hour combination of Swedish, reflexology, and Shiatsu, is a bargain at $110.


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