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 its 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 youre thick- or thin-skinned, take care of it exfoliate.
1. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Food-based body treatments are nothing new Ive 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 Ive never quite felt like an ingredient myself. During Ole Henriksens Cucumber-Honey-Milk Total Face/Body scrub, youre 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, youre 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, youre 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 youll 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, its 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, its a different scene, one designed to take high-anxiety types like me to a happier place. And it did. I havent 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 Spa and 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 Clinics 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 thats black-owned increases the accomplishment. The Body Clinic, 13455 Maxella Ave., Marina del Rey. (310) 577-2211.
Erin Aubry Kaplan
5. Some Like It Hot
After 20 frustrating minutes navigating the hellish Grove parking structure, I was very much in need of something therapeutic. The Amadeus Spa and Salon, with its laundry list of indulgences, was just the ticket for a bitter wiseacre like myself. I chose the highly touted Aqua Polish, a full-body salt scrub accompanied by a moisturizing massage, which turned out to be given by a very hunky masseuse. The massage room itself was warm and steamy; the music soothing. Patrons are given a two-piece get-up to wear. Unfortunately, the three sizes I was offered varied widely: The small might fit Barbie; the medium, Kate Moss. The large looked as if it would fit Jumbo the Elephant. Having no choice, I chose Jumbo. At the start of my scrub, I was doused repeatedly with warm, soothing jets of water before the masseuse rubbed a salt-purée concoction over every nook and cranny of my body, excluding my face and private parts. I was doused again with warm water before being flipped over whereupon the procedure began all over again. The rubdown lasted about 30 minutes, followed by a 10-minute moisturizing massage. The rub itself (and possibly the massage) is the real reason to visit Amadeus. The changing rooms are small, the waiting room has all the flair of a dentists office and the sauna is lukewarm. Perks schmerks. The rub alone is worth the trip and the hunky masseuse is a bonus. Amadeus Spa and Salon, 189 The Grove Drive, Suite S-10, Los Angeles. (323) 297-0310. Other locations in Pasadena and Newport Beach.
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6. Hunting and Gathering
After a long week of bear- and elk-hunting west of the Fairfax District, after cleaning the rifle and then, in the blazing midday sun, picking up the shell casings Id strewn across West Hollywood, I was overdue for my Hunters Retreat, a body scrub and hose-down offered at the tony Burke Williams Spa, in the Virgin Megastore complex on Sunset. This wet massage is given on a table surrounded by several nozzles. The plastic foliage wrapped around the pipes reminds you that youre never too far from the wilds. My masseuse said she was certified but got special training by the Spa for the wet room. I felt a bit like a slab of meat myself after being hosed and rubbed with scrub and slopped with a wheat sponge that resembles an octopus hosed again, massaged, flipped over and then the whole process began all over again. The effect is a languorous entry into an entirely new zone of relaxation. The spa offers post-massage dips in hot pools and cold pools, steam rooms or simply a soft chair in which to stew with a cup of cold water. Enough. Back to the jungle, sleepwalking. Burke Williams Spa, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (866) 239-6635. Other locations in Santa Monica, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Mission Viejo and Orange.
Steven Leigh Morris