As the city heats up and the humidity thickens, L.A. shows more skin — more good skin — than most cities: tanned shoulders and buff biceps, toned, silky calves and smooth, bare bellies. So it’s fortunate that Los Angeles is brimming with indulgent body scrubs — from dry loofah brushings to soapy seaweed massages to shea butter, sugar and salt scrubs. Whether you’re thick- or thin-skinned, take care of it — exfoliate.
1. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Food-based body treatments are nothing new — I’ve had practically all of them, from the more common oatmeal masks to a raw-fish facial in Japan and a coconut-milk massage under a palm tree in Thailand. But I’ve never quite felt like an ingredient myself. During Ole Henriksen’s “Cucumber-Honey-Milk Total Face/Body” scrub, you’re doted on with all the focus of an Iron Chef in the final moments of competition. The prep: Your bare body is slicked with warm peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus oil. The technique: With aromatic oil dripping between your toes and over the rounds of your elbows and knees, you’re “seasoned” with generous spoonfuls of imported dead-sea salt which is then kneaded and rubbed over your skin with all the vigor of a type-A 1950s housewife preparing the turkey for Christmas dinner. Then comes the tropical rain rinse — really just tap water but the fine “aqua rush” from the overhead hubcap-sized “vishy showers” does conjure an Amazon forest-like tranquility. Your body is then basted with organic honey before being wrapped in a foil sheet, which locks in body heat, and you are left to marinate in a combination of your own sweat, the now-melting honey and remaining traces of sea salt, while a grated cucumber face mask keeps your cheeks cool. Finally, you’re “finished off” or doused with buckets of fresh whole milk and your newly silky, buffed skin is patted dry with a fluffy white towel. The sweet scent of honey will linger in your pores for hours; and you’ll feel, well, absolutely delicious. Ole Henriksen Face & Body Shop, 8622 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 854-7700.
2. The Larchmont Getaway — from Larchmont
Larchmont Village has long inspired a sort of contempt within me that borders on the psychotic. Like a little Santa Monica dropped onto the Eastside, it’s full of people with bleached white teeth who drive BMWs, fawn over yappy little dogs and frequent wellness centers. Not to mention you have to circle the place five times to find a parking space. By the time I arrived at Le Petit Retreat day spa for my “salt glow and herbal garden rhapsody,” I was near homicidal. Inside, though, it’s a different scene, one designed to take high-anxiety types like me to a happier place. And it did. I haven’t had much (okay, any) experience with scrubs, but I think I got a damn good one. Everyone says I looked great the next day, even though I felt like an allergy-riddled troll. Much credit goes to the Polish-expat scrubber, an expert in the healing arts. I know she was an expert because I signed on for a massage after the scrub, which I can say from experience — and a formerly very stiff neck — was superior. Le Petit caters to couples, who can get tandem massages in a private, patio setting and, afterward, jump into the hot tub together (which is also private). If you need to get away, and only have a few hours to do it, this is the one time I recommend the trip to Larchmont Village. Le Petit Retreat, 331 N. Larchmont Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 466-1028.
3. The Yin and Yang
Century Spaand Beverly Hot Springs represent two extremes of the Korean day-spa experience: Century is (relatively) cheap, fast, crowded, brightly lit and wholly unromantic; after one of its incredibly thorough, slightly shocking 20-minute body scrubs you will know, for certain, your skin is as soft as it will be at any point in your life, ever. The drawback: You may feel a bit like a sausage link on a conveyor belt, and you will also know how it feels to walk naked under harsh lights in front of half of K-town. (Well, it seems like that.) Beverly Hot Springs, by contrast, is sparsely populated, dimly lit, deliciously mysterious, peaceful . . . and expensive. The body scrubs can be hit-and-miss: One visit to scrubber-masseuse KJ was a blessed reprieve from reality, with seaweed soap and a facial massage to boot; on another visit, she was rough, and the soap left sting marks on our tender bellies. But, oh! The mineral baths. Switch between hot and cold pools for a minute each, for an hour; forget your name; emerge reborn. Century Sports Club & Day Spa, 4120 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 954-1020. Beverly Hot Springs, 308 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 734-7000.
4. Body Therapy
The Body Clinic’s Aromatherapy Body Polish gets it right — invigorating but not harsh, a good blend of massage and exfoliation that soothes and stimulates the body down to the extremities, all in 50 minutes. The therapist had an assured touch, and the scrub itself was superfine, like white sand, and smelled heavenly. Located down the street from LAX on Sepulveda, the Body Clinic manages to feel and sound a world away from Worldway — no small feat. That it happens to be one of very few full-service spas in town that’s black-owned increases the accomplishment. The Body Clinic, 13455 Maxella Ave., Marina del Rey. (310) 577-2211.