Showering Mom With Affection

Giving the gift of relaxation: a nice day of pampering at the spa.

May 02, 1999|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Don't even think about giving Mom that set of matching cereal bowls for Mother's Day. Today's moms are likely to have high-stress jobs outside the home -- or for that matter, high-stress jobs at home. What your mom really needs is a few hours of pampering, and there's a day spa near you ready to indulge her.

So many spas have opened in the area you can find just the right one to fit her style. While you could spend hundreds of dollars, there are some relatively inexpensive services available as well. A paraffin treatment to soften hands costs around $10; a mini-massage $30. And Dads, husbands can give Mother's Day gifts too.

To illustrate the range of choices available, we've listed a few of the area's many day spas with gift suggestions. Don't know which services would be right for Mom? Not to worry. I went to several spas in the area, where I tried some of the treatments (it's a tough job), just so you'll have some idea of what's involved.

Let the pampering begin

I'm concerned. Will I emerge younger and better after two days of testing spa treatments or will I look like a boiled lobster -- over-exfoliated, over-detoxified and hydrated to the max? There's only one way to find out.

I start with a facial at Diana's European Skin Care, Inc., a five-year-old salon in Mount Washington so exclusive it doesn't advertise and wasn't in the phone book until last fall. Luckily Betty, my aesthetician (doesn't that sound better than beautician?), is so pleasant she makes me feel like I belong here among the hundred-dollar face creams.

I'm about to have the Deluxe European Facial Treatment ($85), which involves not one but three masks, deep cleaning and lots of hydrating (moisturizing to you and me). It also involves extraction of any blackheads, the nasty part.

Betty asks me about my skin care regimen. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't have one, so I name the first pricey product line that pops into my head. She's too nice to sneer, but I might as well have said I use Crisco on my face. An hour and a half later I will walk out of Diana's with enough samples of products to take care of my skin for a month. A wiser woman than I will throw these out without trying them -- they could be a more expensive addiction than heroin.

Betty brushes on the first mask, an enzymic cleanser. And even though that sounds like something you'd wash your kitchen counters with, I can feel my skin tighten and tingle as the dead cells slough away. Or maybe I'm drifting a little as the warm steam blows gently on my face (part of the hydrating process). The pampering doesn't stop with the face or even the neck. She massages my hands with a wonderfully greasy -- not a word used at day spas -- cream, then places them in plastic bags and then in heated mitts.

Not all is heaven; there is the extraction process. (Luckily I'm not a teen-ager. You wouldn't want too much of this.) Afterward, blemishes are disinfected and soothed by the ionizing machine, which supposedly produces positive and negative charges. At least there's an interesting tingle and ozone smell as Betty passes the wand gently over my skin. Then the reward: a fabulously relaxing face, neck and shoulder massage. Ah, bliss.

The only downside to a facial at Diana's? The long waits for three masks to do their work. By the time the cassette of soothing guitar music and bird calls has clicked over to the other side for the third time, I'm ready for a little James Brown.

East meets West, and it feels good

If I tell you that my next set of treatments -- at Paul's Salon and Day Spa in Pikesville -- ends with 16 ounces of heated sesame oil being drizzled over my third eye (an inner eye located in the forehead), I'm afraid it won't convey the pure pleasure of having a sea glow and Vichy shower followed by an Ayurvedic massage ($110). Is a third eye any harder to believe in than an ionizing machine? At least Ayurvedic treatments have five thousand years of Indian tradition behind them.

My aesthetician, Robin, leads me into the softly lighted Vichy shower room and lays me on a padded table covered in towels. I'm dressed in paper spa panties, and a large towel covers most of the rest of me. Robin is sensitive to her clients' comfort level and uncovers only those areas of flesh she's working on.

First she dry-brushes me gently but firmly with a boar bristle brush. This, she tells me, begins the exfoliation process (and feels good). The sea glow follows. She scrubs and massages my skin, using a combination of sea salt, cream and botanical oils. When every dead skin cell is gone, she rinses me off with the Vichy shower, a warm, gentle cascade of water from overhead showerheads.

My skin is so silky (a temporary condition, alas -- it lasts about a week, she says) I practically slide off the table as I get up. Then on to a candlelit massage room for the Ayurvedic treatment.

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