A White Pond Paradise Salon & Day Spa
566 White Pond Drive, Suite D, Akron
(330) 865-7800, www.awhitepondparadise.com
White Pond Paradise's cozy decor -- from the wicker love seat and velvet, burgundy drapes to the armoire and chest of drawers in the changing room -- made us so comfortable that we felt right at home. Owners Rick and Patty Lucas were already accustomed to accommodating a nurturing atmosphere, as well as the necessities of a spa and salon, when they started White Pond in 2001: They grew up with their mother running a beauty shop out of her basement in Portage County.
What We Tried: zlycolic Manicure ($38), Facial Design Lesson ($65), Hydrotherapy Treatment ($45) and the Lip Conditioning Treatment ($10)
Most Surprising: The Lip Conditioning Treatment may have an inferiority complex: At only $10 and taking a mere 10 minutes, it's considered a "micro treatment," which clients normally only request in conjunction with a facial. But lying on our back while products were applied to our lips with a soft brush was just as relaxing as any facial, and our lips felt so pillow soft afterward that we would gladly pay twice as much for the treatment. Our mouth has never been so pampered. A Bio-Elements conditioning exfoliant, enzyme therapy softening gel and cream therapy mask were all applied, followed by a moisturizer that would put any chapstick to shame.
Best Pick: The Glycolic Manicure, which left our hands smelling of the warm, comforting scents of the holiday season. While the treatment's main feature is the alpha- and beta-hydroxy and emollient creams that even hands' skin tone and diminish fine lines, we were most taken by the delicious aroma of nutmeg left emanating from our hands, thanks to the Bio-Elements extra-strength enzyme therapy mask.
Spa Stress: The Hydrotherapy Treatment certainly looks impressive: The enormous, high-tech tub with a cover had us recalling those tabloid pictures of Michael Jackson in a hyperbaric chamber. And we were excited by its description, which promised "the ultimate in muscle relief." But while the warm water, powerful jets and aromatherapy ingredients were soothing, we couldn't help but think that a nice soak in a Jacuzzi would've had the same effect.
Antoine's Le Jour Spa & Salon
500 E. Royalton Road, Suite 120, Broadview Heights
(440) 526-6600, www.antoinessalon.com
Whoever first cautioned us against misjudging modest people, warning "it's those quiet ones you have to watch out for," should have told us not to underestimate quiet day spas, either. The quaint atmosphere at Antoine's Le Jour Spa & Salon belies a highly attentive, courteous staff and exotic spa menu that allowed us some of the best body treatments we encountered. A focus on excellent service is exactly what Antoine's director and consultant, Doris Chalala, had in mind when she opened the facility in 1996. Employees benefit from her 27 years' worth of spa experience in weekly training sessions where they learn the latest techniques and top-notch treatments.
What We Tried: DermaGlow Micro dermabrasion ($85), Moroccan Cocoon Body Wrap ($75) and Red Seaweed Relief Pedicure ($48)
Biggest Surprise: We didn't want to get microdermabrasion. We were sure this would turn our already problematic skin into a landscape of raw, red blotches. But Chalala calmed our worries by performing the procedure immediately after we received our body wrap, so we were already supine and relaxed, and by mentioning that side effects are so minimal that many clients come in for the popular exfoliation treatment while on their lunch break from work. A special wand "sands" the face, using fine crystals to remove dead skin cells and treat imperfections, such as acne and hyperpigmentation. A vacuum pulls collagen to the surface for plump, healthy cells, helping eliminate fine lines and wrinkles. Just our single session -- Chalala recommends at least four for best results -- left our skin looking and feeling rejuvenated.
Best Pick: Our friends were concerned: They found the Moroccan Cocoon Body Wrap's name so mysterious, they warned that there might be voodoo involved. We think they were right: After this body treatment -- one of the best we've ever had -- we felt like a new person. The skin is sloughed with a body scrub before a dark brown mask of nutrient-rich mud from Morocco is applied to detoxify and help ease tired muscles. The body is then wrapped (as in a cocoon) with thermal and solar blankets, and the treatment is later followed with a contouring massage and a device called "the thumper," which attempted to beat our cellulite into submission. Sadly, cellulite won the fight. But this body wrap ranks as one of the most soothing of spa experiences.
Nice Touch: The 20 minutes of steamy relaxation we spent sitting in an "aromatherapy capsule" -- think sauna-for-one -- to relax our muscles before the body wrap
Chardonnay's Day Spa & Salon
7537 Fredle Drive, Concord
(440) 357-6766, www.chardonnaysspa.com
Lots of spas start out as hair salons, then slowly add massages, facials and body treatments to their menus. At Chardonnay's, which opened in April, owner Heather Janesz wanted to be known as a full-service, upscale spa right from the start. She succeeded. From the $8,000 Vichy shower (the only one in Lake County) to the spacious pedicure room, this 5,600-square-foot facility offers everything you could want in a spa. What's more, Chardonnay's staff is among the friendliest we encountered.
What We Tried: Chardonnay's Body Glow ($60), the Fitness Facial ($75) and Spa Pedicure ($50)
Great Products: After a vigorous screening process, Chardonnay's was selected as the first spa in Ohio to carry the Sonya Dakar skin-care line, including its infamous Drying Potion ($25), which, according to reports, is used by the likes of Drew Barrymore and Britney Spears to clear up blemishes overnight.
Best Pick: The deep-cleansing facial, given by aesthetician Colleen O'Connor, achieved a wonderful balance between being both gentle and thorough. Using all Sonya Dakar products, O'Connor applied a wash, a scrub, a blue mask to help open pores along with the steam before doing extractions, an enzyme peel, another mask and then a series of lotions to hydrate, nourish and protect the skin.
Nice Touches: Ice water is served in a real glass with an orange wedge. Chenille blankets add cozy warmth in the treatment rooms.
To Try for Lunch: The Oriental chicken salad ($6.95) served in a private area overlooking Quail Hollow Resort.
Even Better: This fall, Chardonnay's hired a staff cosmetic surgeon, which allows it to use medical-grade facial peels, botox injections and laser spider-vein removal. It also allows Chardonnay's to sell prescription skin-care products such as the Obagi line it now carries.
Check the Web Site: We've found some great specials posted online, including "A Day at the Spa," which features a neck and shoulder massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and haircut -- all for $130.
Charles Scott Salons & Spa
19025 Old Lake Road, Rocky River
(440) 333-7994, www.charlesscott.com
We can't wait to get back to the decadence and special attention we found at Charles Scott. The first and largest of three locations, the 22-year-old Rocky River retreat is a beautiful, beige-and-gold world of trompe l'oeil murals, ornate chairs, and French-garden themed features, including the enormous black fountain in the middle of the spa's lobby. However, manager Kelli Hosso says Charles Scott's spa menu -- updated six months ago to focus on wellness as well as beauty treatments -- ensures plenty of pampering with the posh surroundings.
What We Tried: The Japanese Hot Stone Facial ($80), Hawaiian Manicure ($28), LaStone Therapy Massage (one hour: $80) and Eye Treatment ($25)
Biggest Surprise: While the Japanese Hot Stone Facial's warm and cool stones were meant to reduce stress and stimulate circulation, we couldn't help but snicker that, essentially, our face was just being rubbed with rocks. But aesthetician Charmayne Jeresko's combination of deep-cleansing facial -- which includes all-natural products and a customized mask -- smooth stones on acupressure points and thoughtful advice on skin care, left us feeling radiant and praising the power of the stones.
Best Pick: If the facial reduced our skepticism of New Age-ish treatments, the LaStone Therapy Massage made us believers. Stones are massaged on the body and placed on chakra (energy points) to provide nerve and muscle therapy and balance spiritual energy. The ones placed on our neck and lower back induced an almost immediate deep relaxation (apparently, our spiritual energy was quite unbalanced). Be forewarned: The stones, heated to 120 to 140 degrees in a "roaster," can feel mighty warm. But our body felt so loose and rejuvenated afterward, we think it's worth beating the heat.
Hold On: We find that a phone call to Charles Scott, at least half the time, results in being put on hold.
Nice TouchThe gorgeous reminder of the building's past life as a bank: a massive vault door of polished steel and brass that serves as the entrance to the spa's changing room.
Don't Miss This: Hosso says the spa's renewed focus on wellness has been a hit with customers searching for alternative ways to treat their problems, including the popular Siddha Body Detoxification Treatment -- based on ancient Indian rituals and involving herb-filled pouches massaged on the body -- that reportedly helps cure insomnia ($70).
Dawn Nicole Salon & Spa
17800 Chillicothe Road, Bainbridge
(440) 543-9854, email@example.com
Dawn Nicole is remarkably well designed and well run for a business that's only been around for three years. That's a testament to a core of enthusiastic employees who take a lot of pride in their work, including owner Dawn DeVincentis, who opened the spa at age 23.
What We Tried: The DN Signature European Facial ($100), the Trim & Tan ($120) and a manicure ($20)
Don't Miss: The Trim & Tan is a treatment we'd like to have done right before our next big event. First, our body was exfoliated with an herbal scrub. The next step was a peppermint seaweed wrap to break down cellulite. Finally, a medium-darkness body bronzer was massaged onto our entire body, with careful attention paid to such rough areas as elbows and ankles. Over the next few days, several people asked if we'd just returned from vacation due to our authentic-looking tan.
Dynamite Dion: Nail technician Dion Simboli went above and beyond when tackling our neglected nails. Though we'd worked diligently to grow our talons to an attractive length, we'd broken a nail that morning. Simboli simply fit a tip to that finger and filed it to match the other nine. Meticulous in her work, she even touched up a few dings on our toenails (which we'd had done at a different spa). Our manicure lasted for more than a week without chipping or peeling.
Hair Guru: DeVincentis knows how to match the hairstyle and color to the person. She'll ask where you shop for clothes, what car you drive and get you to describe the look you want -- in just one word. Then she'll go to work. And though we are among the pickiest when it comes to our hair, we must confess that we love our new 'do.
Nice Touches: Clients lie on comfortable, S-shaped loungers when getting their hair washed. Throw blankets in the body-treatment rooms match the purples, reds and golds throughout the spa.
Extra Points: When we asked to pay for our spa lunch, we were told our grilled portobello sandwich was complimentary. Plus, we were given a small cosmetics bag, a miniature Redken True Calm candle and product samples, including various Redken items and a small container of the moisturizer recommended for our face by aesthetician Milana Tabachnik.
Europa International Salon & Spa
27970 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 206, Woodmere
A lively cast of employees is center stage at this East Side salon and spa. Nail technician Marina Orekhov tells jokes, asks what music you'd like to hear and posts photos of clients' children and pets on her bulletin board. Lead aesthetician and owner Tanya Sigal swaps shopping tips and gossip with clients. On the day we visited, the staff stayed late to accept a last-minute appointment. It's of little surprise, then, that loyal customers come here again and again.
What We Tried: the Deep Cleansing Facial ($65 and up), French manicure ($20) and pedicure ($35)
For Your Face: Tanya Sigal views facials as a skin-care necessity, not a luxury. Devoid of candles, soothing music and darkened rooms, her approach is much more clinical. With the results she achieves, we can't complain. Treatments range from $65 for extractions only to $150 for an Organic Eminence Facial with extractions, skin masks and massage. Our facial consisted of cleansing, an organic fruit-purÃ©e mask, a slightly burning paprika formula topping to correct pigmentation, plus extractions. Because it was our first visit, Sigal charged us only $100. She even waxed our eyebrows for free.
International Flair: Don't be surprised if you don't understand a thing anyone's talking about. Technicians have come here from various countries, including the Ukraine, Turkey, Latvia and Hungary.
Great Deals: Europa offers packages that combine a selection of spa services at a reasonable price. We'd like to try the "Amaretto" -- a manicure, pedicure, special-occasion hairstyle and makeup application for only $100 -- before our next big night out.
Call the Movers: After nearly eight years in its current location, Europa has clearly outgrown its digs. It's a good thing they're planning a relocation sometime after the first of the year to a space four times larger in the Eton Collection, also in Woodmere.
Glenmoor European Spa & Salon
4191 Glenmoor Road, Canton
(330) 966-3524, www.glenmoorcc.com
As you drive through the rolling green hills leading up to the Glenmoor Country Club, you get the feeling you're in for a very relaxing, very pampering spa experience. To call it just a country club, however, is a little misleading. Glenmoor features a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and offers overnight accommodations in its 1930 Gothic-style clubhouse. Happily, the spa opened to the general public about a year ago.
What We Tried: Microdermabrasion with Spa Facial ($95) and the Herbology Body Treatment ($65)
Recently Redone: Glenmoor Spa just finished a $750,000 renovation, which included hardwood floors, a motif of autumnal colors and new equipment.
Like Being Licked by Kittens: We've heard microdermabrasion described this way before and, while we're more of a dog person, we're pretty sure the two experiences are not all that similar. Technically, microdermabrasion "sands" off the top layer of your epidermis. That sounds bad, but we found the procedure to be surprisingly gentle. It did leave our skin a bit irritated, but there was no redness and the irritation was gone within an hour or two. The results of just one session are not supposed to be dramatic, but we were nonetheless impressed that it did even out some stubborn hyperpigmentation.
No Hard Sell: Aesthetician Debbie Lee did not try to sell a block of four or five microdermabrasion sessions, as some spas encourage. Instead, she says she recommends starting with three and then re-evaluating the skin from there.
Two in One: The Herbology Body Treatment combined a body scrub and massage in what we felt to be one of the more relaxing treatments around. The gritty Chinese herbs first do the exfoliating, then dissolve as they are massaged into the skin with lotion.
Are We Nitpicking? We think this elegant country club could do better than to serve water in Styrofoam cups.
Head Quarters Salon and Spa
6071 Middle Ridge Road, Lorain
(440) 233-8508, www.headquarterssalonandspa.com
Most of the spas on our list are clustered in upper-class suburbs where folks can afford to drop $100 to be wrapped in peppermint or massaged with hot stones -- which makes this spa, located in the aging manufacturing city of Lorain, a bit of an anomaly. Owners Tamara and Ron Bennett, however, say their business has increased continuously since they converted from an 800-square-foot salon to a 6,500-square-foot spa in 1996. "What we've tried to do is educate people about the validity of the services and what they can do for their well being," Tamara says.
What We Tried: the Honey Body Polish ($75), deep-cleansing facial ($64) and an updo ($50)
Delicious: The Honey Body Polish uses natural products -- honey, almonds and fresh buttermilk -- to slough off dead skin, followed by application of a seaweed cream, which left our skin slippery-smooth.
Switcheroo: We had arranged to have a Repechage facial, but, just days before our arrival, the spa switched to Aveda products exclusively. We didn't figure this out till halfway through our facial when we asked the aesthetician to explain the steps in the facial. While the Aveda European facial was thorough and relaxing, it did not include the deep-pore cleansing typical of a European facial.
Ocean Ambiance: The spa is decorated in shades of blue, with lots of glass block, skylights and stone. "We wanted to have an ambiance of being on vacation at a resort," Tamara says. "It gives it a fresh look."
Extra Points: For a friendly, accommodating staff and an upscale, but not pretentious atmosphere
Ichiban Salon and Day Spa
Turning Point, 23550 Center Ridge Road, Suite 108, Westlake
(440) 356-9988, www.ichibansalon.com
Sure, sprinkling your salon and day spa with Joan MirÃ³ abstracts, multicolored walls and leopard-print chairs is pretty fashionable. Naming yourself after the Japanese phrase for "the one" -- now that's downright chic. But Ichiban's not being pretentious: The trendy spot started as a salon in 1989, longing to eventually become "the one" day spa on Cleveland's West Side. Although other day spas popped up before Ichiban started offering spa services in 1997, co-owner Harry Caito says the stylish, 7,000-square-foot facility still reigns as the largest and most unique.
What We Tried: The "Afternoon at the Spa" package ($179), which included the Marine Lift Facial, Swedish massage, French manicure, pedicure and lunch from Max's Deli
Biggest Surprise: We had never received a Swedish massage, but had heard about the vigorous rubbing involved, so we were ready to be pummeled by a portly woman named Olga. Adding to our nervousness was Ichiban's pre-massage questionnaire, which asked if we were "currentÃ½y seeing a psychotherapist or attending regular support-group meetings." Fortunately, 73-year-old masseuse Jane Stevens put us at ease. Her decades of experience offered gentle kneading and a slow, tension-releasing rubdown that had us struggling to stay awake -- and gave us the best massage we've ever had.
Best PickÃ½ The Marine Lift Facial, which left our skin radiant and emanating the fresh, tropical scents of a beach in the Caribbean. Aesthetician Reese Ryba covered our face in oceanic products, including a liquid sea serum and skin-firming seaweed mask. An enzyme exfoliating gel combined with heat helped add a healthy glow.
Don't Miss ThisÃ½ Nearly two years ago, one of Ichiban's five masseuses took a trip to Thailand and discovered the art of "The Lazy Man's Yoga," a unique blend of yoga and pressure-point massage done in a rocking, rhythmic pattern. The popularity of Thai massage prompted Ichiban to create a special room to capture the essence of the Orient -- from the red and saffron-colored decor and Buddha decorations to the traditional Thai music playing in the background (one hour: $70).
John Robert's Hair Studio & Spa
6727 Eastgate Drive, Eastgate Shopping Center, Mayfield Heights
(440) 446-1316, www.johnrobertsspa.com
We can see why John Roberts was named a "Top 20 Salon in America" by Salon Today magazine this July. An Aveda lifestyle salon, it has something for everyone. The check-in and hair-care areas are trendy enough to make you feel as though you're getting big-city treatment. The spa area is private and luxurious enough to make you forget your big-city problems. The men even have their own salon area -- complete with a pool table and sports on TV -- so they can get away from the women for a while.
What We Tried: Euphoric Stone Therapy ($75 for 60 minutes, $100 for 90 minutes), the Ultimate Facial ($100) and an eyebrow shaping ($15)
Don't Miss: The Euphoric Stone Therapy given by Amy Hill soothed our body without the pain that comes with some therapeutic massages. Heated, smooth, basalt river stones were used to apply deep penetration to our muscles, while others were placed on our lower back and between our toes and fingers. We left sleepily relaxed.
More Than Meets the Eye: Aesthetician Lisa Adams specializes in the art of the eyebrow. "There's a lot of misconceptions about eyebrows," she says somewhat mysteriously. A glamour brow, for example, is perhaps not the best look for a gal who prefers khakis. "You have to find out a little bit about the person," Adams notes -- after which, the plucking begins.
It's All About Comfort: A spa waiting room is fit with deep lounging chairs and matching footrests, while sheer drapes make it more private. A center table holds long-stemmed glasses and a pitcher of water topped with orange peels. Spa guests are provided with a soft robe and slippers with massaging-sole cushions, as well as a locker to store belongings.
In the Community: This spa prides itself on giving back to the community and it shows. We're particularly impressed by its involvement with the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in University Heights. Each month, staff members visit sick children and brighten their days by doing the little things that make them feel special -- from braiding their hair to painting their nails to reading a few good books.
All Over Town: John Roberts also has locations in Solon (440-349-0097) and Chagrin Falls (440-247-4646).
Check the Web Site: Go online to make an appointment, learn about style trends and even register for the spa's extensive newsletter.
Mario's International Spa and Hotel
35 E. Garfield Road, Aurora
(330) 562-9171, www.marios-spa.com
Mario's has been scrubbing, styling and soothing clients since 1977, and the popularity of its five nationally recognized locations puts the luxurious services in high demand. With a staff of 60 and currently remodeling for space (which we didn't even notice), Mario's is more than well-equipped for the job. Entering the facility, we were greeted by elegant white surroundings, with more than a few hints at Roman architecture, and a welcoming staff ready with water, coffee and mimosas.
What We Tried: A custom package that included the Spa Gold Facial ($125), Spa Pedicure ($60) and La Stone Therapy Massage ($150), plus overnight accommodations in the Spa Hotel and dinner and breakfast in The Cabin Restaurant and Lounge
First and Best: The aesthetician delivered a facial that was not only effective and gentle, but oh so relaxing. The real secret of the Gold Facial is the 23-karat gold heated vibrating spoons that stimulate circulation, collagen production and also sinuses -- great for allergy sufferers. After steaming, extractions and a mask specially chosen for our skin type from the Murad line, cold spoons were used for toning and tightening.
Off the Gently Massaged Path: Fully robed and pedicured, we were driven across the street to the Spa Sanctuary, which was originally a barn. Any animal, mineral or vegetable would have felt right at home in this cozy, three-floor facility that seems the epitome of feng shui. After sweating it out in the steam shanties, our La Stone massages took place side-by-side in the meditation loft surrounded by plants, pillows, mirrors and rugs. The 60-minute massage with aromatherapy oils and hot stones relaxed our muscles better than a round of painful kneading.
Not Always Perfect: On a previous visit to Mario's, we'd tried the popular "Tub, Rub & Pub" package ($99.95 per person, including choice of sauna, steam bath or whirlpool; mini massage or facial; and dinner) and found the experience to be a bit rushed. Plus, we had to wait in line 20 minutes for our 15-minute dip in the whirpool, which was not in a private area.
A Pleasant Surprise: We found an extensive menu including such favorite dishes as lobster-stuffed ravioli and center-cut tenderloin. We chose sirloin with a flavorful marinade and a tasty swordfish -- both beautifully presented. For dessert, we tried a decadent crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e and a raspberry chocolate cake.
Peaceful Slumber: Our room had a European look with dark wood furniture and -- the best part of any bathroom -- a tiled, open-sided shower flowing into a deep Jacuzzi tub.
Martha's La Look Medi-Spa
8535 Tanglewood Square, Chagrin Falls
Martha's La Look is a peaceful and relaxing spot where you can enjoy traditional spa treatments and much more. Under the care of Dr. Greg Classen, the staff cosmetic surgeon, clients may also opt for chemical peels, collagen treatments, laser hair removal or Botox. With no hairstyling services available, owner Martha Vucsko aims to give clients a true spa experience in which her friendly, courteous and skilled staff concentrates all its expertise on skin care.
What We Tried: Spa Facial with Aromatherapy ($70), 60-minute Deep Tissue Massage ($70), Herbal Body Wrap with Vichy shower ($95) and Spa Manicure ($20)
Don't Miss: Ã½e don't know what to rave about more -- that the spa's signature facial with aromatherapy was so effective or that it was so relaxing. Before she began, Vucsko thoroughly reviewed the skin-care questionnaire we filled out when we arrived and she explained to us why we had the problems we did with our skin, offering advice and solutions to treat ourselves at home. We were put even more at ease because she never once tried to make us feel guilty about not using expensive spa-quality products and didn't even mention that she had them for sale (although we knew she did).
Proof the Facial Was Relaxing: We fell asleep. Luckily, the sound of our own snoring woke us up before Vucsko returned to the room.
Proof the Facial Was Effective: Vucsko helped us get rid of some really stubborn blackheads and our skin felt softer for days afterward.
Body of Evidence: The herbal body wrap promises to take off inches and tighten skin in just two hours; in our case, it certainly did. Even our jeans felt looser as we left the spa. But the readily apparent results and the wonderfully warm and cozy feeling the wrap itself brought weren't even the best part. The treatment was topped off by a Vichy shower and a mini-massage, both of which felt heavenly on our newly toned body.
Home Away from Home: Vucsko developed the Southwestern dÃ©cor for the 5,000-square-foot space to transport her clients to a new place, to "take them out of Cleveland," she says. The spa gave us the comfortable feeling of being warm and safe inside on a cold, rainy day.
Maxelle's (The Old Arcade, Hyatt Regency Hotel location)
401 Euclid Ave., Suite 135, Cleveland
(216) 621-4600, www.maxelles.com
It's appropriate that two of Maxelle's four locations are only a few blocks from the stage shows of Playhouse Square: The salon and day spa has been in the spotlight drawing rave reviews since it opened last March, says Margaret Hatala, executive director. The Hyatt Regency location lures a diverse clientele of theatergoers, downtown residents and hotel guests. Hatala says Maxelle's commitment to natural, environmentally sound products as an Aveda Concepts spa makes for a loyal crowd of repeat customers -- the equivalent of a theater's standing ovation.
What We Tried:zThe Peppermint Body Wrap (half body: $55), Hot Stone Pedicure ($60), Eye Zone Treatment ($20) and Hair Conditioning ($15)
Biggest Surprise: We routinely forget to paint our toenails, and a Hot Stone Pedicure can't change the size of our feet, which are large enough to be mistaken for skis. Yet cosmetologist Cece Mackey made even our feet look and feel feminine, thanks to a massage with warm lava stones (to stimulate blood flow), eucalyptus and a beautifying composition oil, a tub of Aveda Calming Sea Soak, an exfoliating/hydrating mask and a crimson polish that drew a number of compliments.
Best Pick: The Peppermint Body Wrap, which not only made our skin baby soft, but also did a darn good job of clearing our sinuses. The strong mint aroma came from the Ace bandages -- soaked in seaweed to detoxify and soften skin, and peppermint oil to keep the body cool -- wrapped tightly around our thighs and midsection. We were covered with a Mylar sheet for 20 minutes to retain moisture, then had our "trouble spots" brushed with Aveda firming fluid contouring gel. We used a lot of gel.
Nice Touch: The seaweed and magnesium supplement and the large glass of water we received to help flush toxins out of our system
Don't Miss This: The Pumpkin Paraffin Facial and Pedicure, which combines paraffin wax for velvety-smooth skin and real pumpkin for the comforting scents of the holiday season
Moda Day Spa
4503 Fulton Drive, NW, Canton
(330) 492-3444, www.modaspa.com
On the Friday afternoon we visited, this 5,000-square-foot spa was bustling with brides-to-be and ladies getting manicures to look their weekend best. Done in pale greens, soft yellows and beiges with lots of stone, treatment rooms are soothing and simple. The staff is friendly and efficient.
What We Tried: The Olive Oil Body Polish ($45), vitamin C skin-brightening facial ($80), French manicure ($21) and eyelash tint ($15)
Best Pick: The Olive Oil Body Polish was, by far, the most intense of all the body scrubs we tried at area spas. Our massage therapist, Jen McKinney, vigorously exfoliated our skin with salt grains in a rosemary- and peppermint-infused olive-oil base. So vigorously that it actually hurt a little. The result, however, was skin that felt smooth for days. At $45, this was about half the price of body treatments at most other spas.
Skip It: The Vitamin C Skin Brightening Facial included a lengthy face massage that some might find pleasant, but which began to drive us batty after about 15 minutes. To us, this facial was more about relaxing than looking good. If that's what you're after, it's for you.
Best $15 You'll Spend: An eyelash tint makes it look as if you're wearing the nicest, non-clumpiest mascara -- and lasts for about three weeks to a month.
Dings: They charge $1 for coffee and bottled water.
The Oaks Massotherapy & Botanical Spa
21220 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River
Upon entering The Oaks, a sign reminds you to leave your shoes and your worries at the door. We happily complied. It wasn't hard with a staff as calm and accommodating as this one. Though we'd arrived late for our appointment, they seamlessly adjusted to fit a new schedule. While it began as simply a massotherapy clinic, The Oaks has grown to include holistic body care as well.
What We Tried: The Thai Massage ($125), the Milk 'n Honey Bliss ($150) and the Organic Facial ($70)
The Royal Treatment Receiving the Milk 'n Honey Bliss body treatment given by Cheryl Koebler, reiki master, might just be the closest we'll ever get to being pampered like a princess. Koebler used a Japanese dry brush to increase circulation and get rid of dry skin. She followed by vigorously applying a personally blended herbal exfoliant. We were then coated with plain yogurt, warm honey and topped with lavender, dried marigold and rose petals and rose and sandalwood oils. After letting the wrap set in, Koebler used a Vichy showerPto rinse us off. The result: all over baby-soft skin and a clear mental state.
Something Different: The Thai massage, given by massage therapist Jeanne Massingill, is not your everyday service. We were asked to change into exercise clothes and lie on what resembled a wide air mattress. For 90 minutes, Rivers then manipulated our body through a series of yoga-like rhythmic stretches designed to release blocked energy, restore balance, open meridian lines and create an overall sense of well being. Though we were initially skeptical, it was by the far the easiest workout we'd ever completed.
Don't Expect Polish: Nail treatments at The Oaks don't culminate in brightly painted nails. The Pedicure with Reflexology is a cleansing treatment designed to rejuvenate tired feet.
Ohio Clinic Skin Care and Day Spa
30400 Detroit Road, Westlake
(440) 808-9321, www.ohioclinic.com
Located discreetly in the back of an office building in Westlake, the clinic is both a spa and a cosmetic-surgery office (they have separate waiting and treatment rooms). Quarters are a bit cramped, taking away from the luxurious feel some seek from their spa experience. The staff, however, is efficient and skilled, making this a good choice for those looking for pleasant, if not luxurious, environs where the services are top-notch.
What We Tried: Rejuvenating Facial ($72.50), Spa Pedicure ($50) and a haircut ($85)
No Gimmicks: Lots of spas these days have turned their pedicures into sensory journeys with the help of tea baths, rose petals or pumpkin lotion. You won't get that here, though you will leave with lovely toes and polish that stays on (at least in our case) two full months before starting to chip.
Above and Beyond: Our aesthetician not only gave us a thorough, deep-cleansing facial, but followed up with a letter answering some specific skin-care concerns we had.
Celebrity Stylist: Edwin Fontanez, who has styled the locks of Cindy Crawford, Cameron Diaz and others (see sidebar on page 150), is now on staff. His cuts will cost you ($85), but -- if you're anything like some of his other clients, who drive from all over Northeast Ohio and beyond to see him -- you'll be happy to pay it.
Extra Strength: Because it's affiliated with the adjacent cosmetic-surgery office, the Ohio Clinic offers "more aggressive" skin-care treatments, such as special peels and products.
Options Salon & Spa
21080 Lorain Road, Fairview Park
(440) 331-0084, www.optionssalonspa.com
When you step in, Options feels more like a neighborhood hair salon than a spa, with chatty women talking across the small room as a flurry of manicures, highlights and haircuts are given. In the back spa area, however, treatment rooms are soothing and quiet and it quickly becomes evident that Options, which has been functioning as a full-service spa since it opened six years ago, has found its niche as a friendly, affordable beauty refuge.
What We Tried: The Nancy K. Brown European Facial ($50), a French manicure ($20) and partial highlights ($61, including shampoo and style)
Spa Goal: To keep it real. "We can hit upon every age group, every family," says owner Cathy Wilson. "I don't want to outprice myself. I want to be an affordable spa."
What We Liked Best: Aesthetician Connie Clementson and her 60-minute European facial. Not a true European facial in that Clementson only does extractions upon request (see sidebar on page 152), this still ranked as one of the better -- and most enjoyable -- deep-cleansing facials we found. Plus, at $50, it's also one of the most affordable.
Money-saving Advice: Where most spas try to pimp their $50 potions, the aesthetician here actually gave us a cheap alternative to expensive exfoliators: Simply add a little baking soda to your usual face cleanser a few times a week and scrub gently.
Ãœber-friendly: The staff and atmosphere were so warm and welcoming that we overheard a young nail technician tell her client that she never wanted to work anywhere else.
Wear What You Want: This is not the sort of place where you need a designer bag to feel comfortable. As Wilson says, "You shouldn't have to dress up to go to the spa."
Best Package: For $135, the "Experience" includes a one-hour facial, an hour's massage, a pedicure, the steam room and sauna.
29209 Center Ridge Road, Westlake
(440) 899-SPAW (7729), www.spawest.com
Nothing jumped out at us when we walked into Spa West -- but then again, nothing had to. This place lets the spa experience speak for itself. The staff is pleasantly calm and cordial. We were even bid farewell by name by a technician we hadn't encountered that evening.
What We Tried: Para Fango Wrap ($85), the Deep Cleansing Facial ($70) and the Rose Petal Pedicure ($50)
A Great Combination: Toni Swallow combined the deep-cleansing facial and para fango wrap to create one delightful experience. She began the para fango treatment by painting on a hot mixture of volcanic ash and paraffin, then wrapped us up in cellophane. While the mixture set in for its anti-cellulite effect, we lay snugly wrapped for the European-style facial -- in which our face was analyzed, steamed, extracted, massaged and treated with a mask suited for our skin type. Our favorite part was the heated Lean Pocket-sleevelike warmers placed on our moisturizer-laden hands and lower arms. Two hours later, we were left with a silky smooth face and toned thighs. The only downfall: To really break down cellulite it's recommended that you continue para fango wraps as needed. Because that could get expensive, it's best to combine treatments with a good diet and exercise.
Extra Points: Swallow provided us with pages of dietary recommendations to fight cellulite on our own.
Call the Movers: We can't wait to check out Spa West's new building, set to open Nov. 15. The new site, located just next door to the current space, will add outdoor cabanas for facials and massages in the summer, a walkway to the woods out back, a five-person Jacuzzi, a custom-made marble lobby, a couple's massage room and a full bar area with cooking capabilities.
Paint the Town Red: We especially like the Scarlet Red polish, a shimmery candy-apple shade that drew lots of compliments.
Arrive in Style: Talk about luxury: For $150, you can add limo service to any treatment.
Studio Taylor on Fairmount
3463 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights
Hip and modern with its beechwood floors, red and purple decor, softly industrial feel and silver accents, Studio Taylor is the spa of choice for many residents of the Heights and beyond. The 2,080-square-foot facility, which opened seven years ago, was full-service from the start, offering a nice array from massages to facials to hair services. The spa's success, says owner Nancee Taylor, is due to her staff. "I love them," she raves. "We do not have a revolving door."
What We Tried: The Deep Cleansing Facial ($60) and Manicure With Paraffin ($28)
More Than We Expected: Our facial, given by aesthetician Joyce Fennell, was as much about relaxation as it was skin care. To that end, Fennell used hot stones, reiki, soothing music and lots of massage. If you're looking for a facial that's more of an experience, this is it. "She's phenomenal," Taylor says of Fennell. "And she is very spiritual -- in an appropriate way. She does an assortment of extremely relaxing treatments."
The Only Thing Fennell Didn't Do: Extractions. This is not a European-style facial.
What Else to Try: Taylor touts her spa's Raindrop Therapy ($70) as a unique, refreshing treatment. Therapeutic essential oils are dropped along the spinal column, inner foot and inner lower leg, and gently worked into the skin.
Top Treatments: Pedicures, cuts and coloring. "Our hair services are excellent," Taylor says. "We spend a lot of money training our staff."
Trillium Creek Derma-Spa
5783 Wooster Pike, Medina
(330) 722-5477, www.trillliumcreekohio.com
Dozens of little touches make this new 3,400-square-foot retreat one of the most serene spas we visited. It's nestled in 30 acres of woods. The receptionist never puts you on hold. You walk in to quiet, not the roar of hair dryers and the smell of hair processing. Ice water is served in long-stemmed glasses.
What We Tried: the Signature Derma-Spa Anti-Aging Copper Treatment ($65), the Signature Body Treatment one-hour massage ($125) and the Smooth and Clear Nose Treatment ($25)
We'll Take the Alfredo Please: Never did an hour go so fast as the one we spent with massage therapist Alfredo DuenÃ¡s. There is not much this man can't do. He specializes in pregnancy massage, sports massage and a 20-minute chair massage, where the patient is fully clothed and the back, shoulders and arm muscles are the areas upon which he concentrates. The signature massage, however, is called (what else?) The Alfredo. In his namesake treatment, Alfredo applies light to deep pressure as he works the muscles of the entire body, using Spa 26, a special massage cream with exotic Dead Sea oils.
So Not Relaxing: If you're having a facial, Trillium staffers take an ultraviolet photo of your face as soon as you walk in. You then see the results during your facial. Despite our long-term daily use of sunscreen, we were told we had "heavy sun damage" by an aesthetician who was not able to fully answer our questions about the photo.
Stay for Lunch: Catered by Miss Molly's Tea Room in Medina, the lunch menu features a choice of nine entrees ($12 each, including beverage and dessert). We chose the daily quiche, which on our visit was asparagus, pimento and cheddar. We also sampled the homemade soup of the day -- chicken paprikash -- and the strawberry-pretzel salad. The finishing touch was the pink-and-green china on which lunch was served. Everything was so good, in fact, that it's with reluctance that we have to point out that our table was awkwardly low, especially for eating soup.
Extra Punch: Because Trillium also functions as a dermatology office, the spa is licensed to use medical-grade products, which means that the glycolic acid used in your facial is likely to be a lot stronger than that used at a traditional spa.
Extra Touch: With its lunches, the spa serves chocolates specially made by a local sweets shop in the form of a trillium, which is Ohio's state wildflower.