The Full Treatment: The Best Spas In New York

East meets West: Acqua Beauty Bar's Indonesian Beauty Ritual.Photo: Mark Arbeit

1294 Third Avenue (212-628-0044)
Best Fresh-Fruit Facial
Best Shea-Butter Treatment
Upper East Side locals, chic young mothers, and up-and-coming actresses swear by this spacious, soothing full-service spa, with its slate floors and warm wooden accents. The focus here is on delicious skin, and it’s all you can do not to eat the Facial du Jour ($175), which employs strawberry cleanser, grape-infused massage cream, kiwi-pineapple exfoliating mask, and banana-soy hydrating mask, each made fresh. A shea-butter emulsion following an oatmeal exfoliation of the body ($150 total) combats winter parching. For hard-core seekers of flawless skin, Ajune offers beta peels ($130), dermabrasion with salt ($200), laser wrinkle-reduction ($500 per area), and collagen ($550-$700) and Botox shots ($400 for initial area, $200 for each additional treatment).

Acqua Beauty Bar
7 East 14th Street (212-620-4329)
Best Indonesian Beauty Ritual
Best Orchid Pedicure
Korean calligraphy and backlit curtains decorate the massage rooms of this East Village spa, which opened last year and is already drawing legions of downtown beauty junkies in Anna Sui dresses and stiletto-heeled boots. The roomy leather manicure chairs feel like first-class airline seats. Even the bathroom is luxe, outfitted with an Italian stone floor and a glass sink embedded with flower fossils. The ethos is inspired by the healing properties of water, but the materials here get a lot more inventive than H2O. In the Winter Remedy Facial ($115), pores are opened and closed for cleansing not with steam and cold compresses but with glass wands filled with an antifreeze gel. The orchid pedicure ($45), an eight-step soak and sloughing, uses tropical extracts and a sugar scrub. If you can sit still for 100 minutes, get the Indonesian Beauty Ritual ($170), which brides-to-be traditionally receive for 40 days leading up to their weddings. Your skin is polished with ground rice, massaged with fragrant oils, pinched to bring blood to the surface, coated in a vitamin-and-turmeric mask, and covered in hot herbal compresses. It’s enough to make you want to get married.

The Avon Salon & Spa
725 Fifth Avenue, floors 1, 2, and 6 (212-755-2866)
Best Eyebrow Sculpting
Best Prenatal Massage
Best Reflexology
The image of this spa and salon has metamorphosed remarkably, from middlebrow to posh. New York’s most renowned eyebrow sculptress, Eliza Petrescu, has set up shop on the spa’s second floor; her team has its own curtained rooms with cushy beds and special lighting where they pluck and wax perfect arches. (Cost is $100 for an initial visit with Petrescu, $78 for “maintenance” visits, and cheaper if you go with her associates.) Up on the sixth floor, a nineteenth-century-feeling parlor with mahogany furniture, high ceilings, wheat-colored wallpaper, and golden carpets welcomes clients, who are ushered into the inner sanctum for divine French pedicures ($60) or ultra-softening paraffin pedicures ($70). Avon also offers cellulite-battling endermologie ($150 per session), hot-stone massage ($130), pre- and postnatal massage ($98), and reflexology with simultaneous neck and shoulder rub ($130).

bliss 57
19 East 57th Street (212-219-8970)
Best Oxygen Facial
Best Rubber Neck Massage
The SoHo flagship is famously hip; the midtown sibling in the LVMH tower is equally sleek, and full of women and men fresh from shopping at Gucci, but the atmosphere is a tad warmer than at the downtown branch. The menu of facials is extensive and impressive; we especially like the Simultanebliss, the spa’s trademark oxygen facial, in which they mist you with O2 while tending to the grooming of your hands and feet ($210). Among the massages are the Jet Out ($125), which reduces puffiness and revitalizes you with a blend of stimulating herbs, and the Rubber Neck, a kneading of the neck followed by a hot mix of paraffin and fango mud ($95). A warning: With a fresh supply of Bliss gift certificates having recently been handed out, getting an appointment can be an exercise in frustration.

Body Central
99 University Place (212-677-5633)
Best Sinus Treatment
Best Cranio-sacral Massage
Pragmatic treatments are the rule at this sparely decorated but wonderfully aromatic center, run by chiropractor JoAnn Weinrib. Personal training, nutrition counseling, and therapeutic ultrasound are on offer, as are reflexology and Swedish, Shiatsu, aromatherapy, and cranio-sacral massage ($80), in which your head is gently touched and rocked. The treatment not to be missed this time of year is the sinus drainage ($75), which takes place in a room suffused with eucalyptus. A natural anti-inflammatory is applied to your forehead and around your eyes, temples, and nose, while a vaporizer is positioned under your chin. Then your sinus drainage points are electrically stimulated, easing stuffiness. The treatment finishes with a scalp massage and cool compress. You’ll get a remarkable feeling of clarity.

Brigitte Mansfield European Day Spa
37 Union Square West (212-366-0706)
Best Edible Body Treatments
Best Edible Facial
Best Couples Treatment
During the afternoon, this glamorous loft, with its zebra rugs and dramatic view of Union Square, is packed with businesspeople opting to bring clients here instead of taking them to lunch. You’ll want to take them to lunch, anyway, after the Fresh Facial ($140), the most popular one at Brigitte Mansfield. It employs an appetite-stimulating vitamin- and mineral-packed truffle, cranberry, and almond mask. A similar mixture is used in the Truffle Luxuria body treatment ($160), but if you’re not a tuber fan, there’s always the crème fraîche wrap. The natural skin-smoother is combined with cocoa butter and spread on your body. You are then cocooned in a thermal blanket for twenty minutes, showered off, and given a light massage ($160). Treat your significant other (and yourself) to a couples massage, followed by a 30-minute reflexology or scalp massage for him and a manicure for her ($280). Oh, go ahead – while you’re at it, get a pedicure with the fragrant rose-petal scrub ($45-$60).

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

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.

Don't peel me quite yet: Wrapped in banana leaves and gently warmed during the Tan Lepa at Mezzanine.Photo: Mark Arbeit

Lia Schorr
686 Lexington Avenue, fourth floor (212-486-9670)
Best Crystal-Peel Facial
Best Hour of Beauty
As wonderful as we may look and feel after an afternoon of beauty, not all of us have the afternoons to dedicate to the process. Busy working girls and boys have discovered that the well-trained Eastern European staff at this midtown spa has perfected multitasking. Consider all that you can get done in just over an hour: One woman will tackle your feet, pumicing and polishing them, while another tends to your hands and a third gives you a facial (your choice from a full menu of options; the whole shebang costs $110). Believe it or not, some people even take a nap during the process. If you’re really ambitious, you can have your eyelashes dyed while the mask is on, or splurge and add a potent crystal-peel exfoliation ($165), Lia Schorr’s version of microdermabrasion, for an extra-smooth finish.

Maximus SoHo
15 Mercer Street (212-431-3333)
Best Massage Package Deal
Best Water Journey Hydrotherapy
As with the Acqua Beauty Bar uptown, water is the essence of this new offshoot of the Merrick spa, which is frequented by SoHo denizens and others familiar with the mother ship. The entrance is spare, except for the dramatic two-story wall of falling water (it’s actually an oil sculpture; no hydrotherapy in there). The comfier downstairs is a veritable fun house of beauty rehab. Some of the best massages in town are administered in rooms that change color every few seconds (it’s a mood-enhancing light system), from calming blue and lavender to energizing pink and red. The facial bar spews cleansing steam from three stations. Even the bidet is wacky: It’s heated and features front and back washing, a drier, and massage options. The signature treatment is the Water Journey ($85). You embark via salt scrub and Swiss shower, continuing on to a tub where an attendant directs warm jets of water and air onto your areas of tension. Finally, you sit in a steam cabinet equipped with a water cascade for your back. Then they moisturize you to within an inch of your life. Pretty heavenly on a cold winter day.

Mezzanine Spa at SoHo Integrative Health
62 Crosby Street (212-431-1600)
Best Tan Lepa Body Wrap
Best Wu Chinese Herbal Facial
At this medical spa conceived by dermatologist Laurie Polis, there’s no such thing as a simple pedicure; instead, the spa administers medical pedicures with heavy-duty Hungarian surgical tools. (Fear not: They know how to use them.) The walls here are sea-grass green; the equipment is all in neutral hues, and there’s a dramatic three-story wall of water at the entrance (take that, Maximus!). Mezzanine offers two menus: Western procedures, such as cellulite-reducing galvanic current ($1,200 for six sessions) and dermatologic-strength glycolic facial peels ($185); and Eastern treatments, such as the ancient method of removing earwax buildup called candling ($60) and the Wu Chinese Herbal facial ($100), a massage-intensive treatment. Mezzanine’s most famous procedure is the 90-minute Tan Lepa ($200), an Ayurvedic body wrap that begins with a foot soak in the meditation room while you sip hot tea. An attendant then dries and massages your feet while the two of you determine your dosha, or body type. Finally, you are scrubbed down and slathered in an herbal mixture with a base of goat’s milk, heavy cream, or yogurt (depending on your dosha, of course) and wrapped in banana leaves. If this doesn’t sound indulgent enough, consider that it takes two therapists to pull it off.

Oasis on Park
1 Park Avenue (212-254-0840)
Best Exfoliating Manicure
Best Flotation-Tank Experience
The cozy Union Square spot filled with crunch-ball granolaheads in Birkenstocks spawned a bigger, glitzier location that opened over the holidays. You’ll find nine massage rooms along a clay-colored corridor, and – brace yourself – this former hippie hollow offers the Park Avenue Manicure (still hippie-priced, however, at $25). Your hands are wrapped in warm towels following a sloughing scrub of citric-acid crystals. In a nod to its roots, Oasis’s oval, candlelit lounge is filled with platters of fruits and nuts and pots of tea. This room sets the stage for the ultimate in tranquillity: a flotation tank ($100 per hour). You don’t sink, on account of the salt in the water – seven times the level found in the Dead Sea. When these tanks first came into vogue, they were pods that felt a tad coffinlike. Now Oasis has tubs with glass fronts and eight-foot ceilings, and you can bring your own music. No more fighting claustrophobia while you decompress.

Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa
160 Columbus Avenue, in the Reebok Sports Club (212-595-0099)
Best Thai Massage
Best Oxygen Facial
It’s no surprise that Reebok – the gym where Jessica Sklar met Jerry Seinfeld and where guys are as familiar with the latest beauty treatments as they are with the Nautilus machines – has a state-of-the-art spa. The salon, which also just opened a swank new branch in the pricey Chatham co-op, offers eleven varieties of facial at this huge bi-level facility (ranging from $100 to $160), including the Anti-Depressant Facial, which uses uplifting narcissus and rose essential oils; and has fourteen types of massage ($95), as well as Rolfing, acupuncture, and the Flat Tummy Treatment ($65), which targets bloating. Sting comes for Thai massage ($110), our favorite as well. The therapist twists your body into yogalike positions as you lie on a mat, deep-breathe, and fall into supreme relaxation.

Physical Advantage
139 East 57th Street (212-460-1879)
Best Sports Massage
Best Myofascial Release
If your idea of stress relief is a great massage, follow the lead of the dancers and professional athletes who regularly go to this no-nonsense therapeutic-massage center to get the kinks out. You won’t find aromatic candles or strewn flower petals, but you will get knowledgeable therapists who can tell a rhomboid from a terres minor and are fluent in Swedish, Shiatsu, trigger point, neuromuscular, and super-deep myofascial release (which breaks down scar tissue and stubborn adhesions). For a team whose daily fare includes the torn cartilage of a hockey player and a dancer’s chronically troubled ankle, your anxiety-associated aches and computer slouch should be a piece of cake. If you’re really attached to the PC, they’ll even make office calls.

568 Broadway, Suite 403 (212-334-3142)
Best Self-Heating Mud Wrap
Best Urban Detox Facial
We knew the men’s beauty market was flourishing when dermatologist Brad Katchem opened SkinCareLab last year, a beautifully stark space of blond wood floors and stainless-steel walls. Women are welcome (Sarah Jessica Parker comes in for facials), but this is the first luxury spa geared to men and their dermatologic beauty needs. Scrubs come in a variety of flavors, including Napa Valley grapeseed ($125) followed by mint glycolic cream for extra exfoliation; and papaya-pineapple ($125) with enzymes to eat away at the tired, tough layers of a man’s skin. Men love the Urban Detox facial ($125), a hydrating, deep-cleansing facial for stressed-out skin, which uses an oxygen cream prior to extractions and finishes with a seaweed mask to reduce redness. Sports massage ($125), back buffing ($150), and chest (75) and butt waxing are available ($60).

Sam C Spa and Margolin Wellness Center
166 Fifth Avenue, second floor (212-675-9355)
Best Neuromuscular Massage
Best Salt Bath
This spa is not for the provincial. Its founders, chiropractor Steven Margolin and massage therapist Sam Cagnina, lived together with receptionist Samantha Cagnina in an unconventional “marriage.” Then the triple had two children (none of your business how), ended their domestic triangle, and opened coexisting spa and chiropractic business. Neuromuscular massage ($100) – manipulation aimed at retraining muscles and improving posture – is thorough; practitioners address nearly every muscle group in the body. Follow or precede a rubdown with a hedonistic half-hour visit to the hydrotherapy tub ($60). As you brew in the steaming lavender-scented bath filled with pain-relieving salts, an attendant will place cool compresses on your forehead and feed you organic oranges.

SoHo Sanctuary
119 Mercer Street (212-334-5550)
Best Contour Facial
Best Back Treatment
Going to this spa is like going to an all-girls school, and that’s why women love it. No men are allowed, on the theory that with them banned, women won’t feel self-conscious about their bodies, hair, and unguent-coated mid-facial faces. Speaking of which, one of the best treatments here is the Contour Facial ($165), a gravity-defier. The first step is a light massage of the lymph glands to flush toxins from the face and neck and reduce eye puffiness. Then comes a vigorous deep-tissue massage, stimulating nerve fibers in the face’s 55 muscles, which respond surprisingly quickly. If you’re feeling flush, get an enzyme peel beforehand, for extra glow ($210 with the facial). So that you look as good when you leave a room as when you enter, the Beautiful Back ($65) scrubs, steams, extracts, masks, and moisturizes your most neglected region. SoHo Sanctuary offers Pilates and yoga classes in a pretty studio. More alluring still is the round, sky-blue meditation room, where you can go and be by yourself, forgetting for an hour the kids, husband, and job and emerging refreshed and ready to reengage with all of them.

Warren Tricomi
45 Rockefeller Plaza, in Sports Club L.A. (212-218-8650)
Best Chair Massage
Best Gentleman’s Sport Pedicure
Pumped-up Sports Club L.A. members, NBC employees, and other Rock Center professionals have been spending their spare hours winding down at the fitness club’s spa, which was taken over last summer by the well-known midtown salon. Sensitive to a guy’s needs, Warren Tricomi keeps the pedicure room semi-private. It seats two in princely purple velvet chairs; silver bowls hold smooth black stones to ease tension in the feet ($50 for men’s sport pedicure, no polish; $65-$80 for women’s). A full range of massages is available in the lower-level treatment rooms, but for a quick fix, try the chair massage ($29 for ten minutes). No need to remove clothes; just sit down, and the therapist goes to work on your neck and shoulders.

Yasmine D’jerradine
30 East 60th Street (212-588-1771)
Best Remodeling Facial
Best Caviar Facial
Despite the dreamy Moroccan-inspired surroundings (terra-cotta walls, satin pillows, a flower-filled fountain), Yasmine D’jerradine, Nathalie DiNoia, and the other Frenchwomen who work here are as analytical as scientists, wielding ampules and other implements in the quest for perfect skin. The Remodeling Facial ($180), which uses electrical current to stimulate the muscles, takes ten years off your face – at least for a week or so. While we may not be eating much caviar these days, at this spa we’re wearing it. The caviar facial with retinol ($160) protects the skin from the destruction of free radicals. The immediate result is smoother skin with minimized fine lines and a remarkable glow. Some may literally may be drawn to the Aluminum Magnetic Facial ($60): A mixture of mineral oil and aluminum is applied to the face. Then a therapist runs a magnet over your visage, sucking up the metal – and the debris in your pores.

The Full Treatment: The Best Spas In New York