What: Black Diamond Recovery, Raffles Spa, Dubai
Experience: Call me old-fashioned but the last time I saw a diamond up close it was set in white gold on my wife's ring finger. It was also a traditional sparkling solitaire, not a rare black diamond, which was about to be used on my face to make me (hopefully) look better. It seemed an extravagant waste of a gem when, frankly, soap would do, but who was I to argue with the experts at Raffles Spa? A lot of men would probably have been impressed with the blurb - my skin was going to be thoroughly rejuvenated with the use of fine black diamonds and silver spheres to gently exfoliate the skin. But I'd read up on black diamonds before my visit to Raffles and was slightly skeptical. How were these black gems - which may have come from outer space and fallen to earth as meteorites, according to experts - meant to even out my complexion in a luxurious spa just off the Shaikh Zayed Road in Dubai? But seeing is believing, so I followed my therapist through the giant spa, into a private botanical garden, to the retreat where my treatment was going to take place. Surrounded by such lush greenery, I laid back and relaxed as my face was cleansed, and the precious black diamonds were used as the ultimate exfoliator. I simply closed my eyes and enjoyed the pampering, which didn't just include a facial. While every lotion and potion - as well as the powdered gems - were applied, rubbed and scrubbed into my skin, I was also given a firm acupressure body massage. The literature said it was to encourage stress relief and deep relaxation, which was obviously true as I almost fell asleep. All too soon, the treatment was over - and I was surprised by the results. I was definitely relaxed, but couldn't believe how good I felt. All the knots in my shoulders had been kneaded out, and remarkably my face looked radiant. My skin sparkled, my lines had vanished, and I had that professional ‘polished' look celebrities - or the ultra rich - have. I was neither, but I felt like a star. It was the best spa treatment I have ever had and weeks afterwards I was still being asked if I'd been on holiday as I looked so different. A diamond facial!
Book: Dh699, 90 minutes, Call 04-3149869
- Alexio Pasquali
What: The Oxygenating Facial at The Spa at The Hilton, JBR, Dubai
Experience: I have to confess I had a few reservations about setting my machismo aside and agreeing to a salon facial, the one TLC treatment I've always considered a woman's domain. In fact, I didn't quite know what to expect as I entered the tranquil spa tucked away in a corner of The Hilton's mezzanine floor. But the zen-inspired ambience and the air of calm that greeted me put me at ease instantly. My therapist began the treatment with what I thought was a surprise aspect to a facial - a back massage. But within a few minutes I understood why it was there in the first place - the massage was the spa's way of ensuring that I eased away any stress from my workday so that the therapist could get my full attention on the facial that was commencing. Clever, I thought.
To prolong the relaxation for my back, my therapist placed self-heating seaweed mud under my lower back. The gradual radiating heat and the soothing feel of the mud soon lulled me almost to sleep. Meanwhile my therapist began working on the face-cleansing ritual using Phytomer products. A relaxing serum spritz was followed by the application of a gentle cleanser and a deep-cleansing toner. He then applied an oxygenating (oxygen-supplying) exfoliant. Although I couldn't actually see it, I could definitely feel the dead skin coming off my face with the granules.
After he towelled off the scrub, my therapist applied a face mask to soothe my skin. All this facial pampering was so relaxing that I kept on dozing off every now and then. At one point I woke up to find my therapist giving my leathery, neglected man-skin a thorough massage with a Phytomer Hydra Nourishing Cream, along with an eye-cream massage. To finish, a mineralising mask was applied to help my skin regain the natural nutrients lost as a result of daily environmental exposure.
The results? My face felt and looked renewed and rejuvenated. When I looked in the mirror, what stared back at me was a face meant for TV! Highly recommended for any guy who cares about how his skin looks.
Book: Dh500, 90 minutes. Call 04-3182406
-- Aniruddh Mishra
The indulgent spa mani/pedi
What: Spa manicure and pedicure at Chocolate by Jelena, Palm Jumeirah
Experience: Two things in life make me cringe, and neither of them is nails scraping down a blackboard. The first is frozen objects being pulled out of a freezer - weird I know - and the second is those things that women use to smooth their nails… emery boards. So it was with dread and apprehension that I booked my first mani/pedi treatment.
As a fairly old-school guy, I was still under the illusion that having your ‘nails done' is an activity reserved solely for the female of the species. Spas that pipe in whale noises and burn incense aren't my cup of tea. However, Chocolate immediately put me at ease on entry when a large plasma TV in the main area was playing a Wesley Snipes action film. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad…
Chocolate Gents Grooming and Salon feels like a high-end barbers - simple yet effective, with a nice and airy open-plan room. I was greeted by my therapist and immediately seated, where my feet were first cleaned and prepared for my pedi. Moisturising creams were rubbed into my feet to soften them and my nails trimmed. All was going well until a certain tool was pulled from my therapist's extensive armory… the dreaded emery board!
My insides were screaming for me to tell him not to bother to use it and go straight to the next stage, but on a day of firsts, I thought it better to man up and give it a go. After the first few strokes, I also started to consider whether it might not be so bad to have some peas with my dinner. After the emery drama I was totally relaxed and finally started to ease into the treatment. My feet were buffed, polished and creamed again, and then wrapped up in plastic and soft towels to soak up the products.
Next came the mani. Again, after various applications of creams, clipping, cuticle removal, which I didn't know was even possible, and my new friend ‘Mr Emery' as he is now known, my hands were massaged, releasing any tension left in my body. I even started to doze off a little. My hands were then wrapped up in a pair of fluffy white gloves - not very manly stuff and I was pretty glad that nobody was around to witness my shame. After ten minutes the gloves were off and my hands were rinsed and re-creamed. I have to admit, my nails, both hands and feet, have never looked better and I may have even cured my fear of emery boards!
Book: Dh100 for Spa Manicure, Dh120 for Spa Pedicure. Call 04-4376001
-- Kevin Broad
What: Full Body Scrub with Mask at the Signature Lounge, Business Central Towers, Dubai Media City
Experience: Unlike a lot of other men I know, I am not as guilty of neglecting my skin and boast a fairly regular facial skincare regime of a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen (of course, my skin shows that). But while I have tried facial scrubs on and off (whenever I can remember), I've never gone as far as subjecting my full body to a spa scrub treatment.
The Signature Lounge is a stylish men's salon, with a very contemporary and fresh ambience. I was instantly transported from my hectic workday and was soon soaking up the soothing and relaxing environment. After a welcome drink, my therapist led me to a cosy treatment room with a zen-like interior and relaxing music. I was informed that she would be using a deliciously vanilla-scented body scrub I was easily convinced this would be the revitalising treat I was looking for. The experience started with a back scrub using an exfoliant with natural ingredients to remove dead cells and polish dull and lack-lustre skin. After sloughing the dead cells off my back, my therapist continued to scrub the exfoliant over the rest of my body, generously massaging the grains into the arms, neck, lower back, legs, thighs, and even my feet, to enhance their pore-cleansing action. A hot shower followed the elaborate scrub and once I was dry, I was led back for a body mask. The mask, my therapist explained, would polish my skin and help the body get rid of excess fluids and toxins. As she applied it in careful brushstrokes, I found myself in a spa-induced daze. At the end, my therapist warned me that the mask would begin to warm up once it started drying and that I would soon find the skin underneath feeling tighter as well. A brief head massage made the mask drying time extra pleasurable. My treatment ended with me gleefully rinsing off the mask under a final shower and immediately feeling the difference in my smooth skin. I must admit, I'm tempted to add monthly salon scrubs to my existing skincare regime!
Book: Dh370, 80 minutes, call 04-4342110.
-- Ryan Navarro
The deep-cleansing Hammam
What: The Moroccan Hammam Ritual at Balance 360 Wellness Centre, Oasis Centre, Shaikh Zayed Road
Experience: It is hard to believe that just a few paces from Dubai's busy and noisy Shaikh Zayed Road lies a spa as tranquil as the Balance 360 Wellness Centre. From the minute you enter, the soothing environs, the meditative music and the waterfall sounds all help you leave the worries of the world behind.
My three-hour Hammam treatment commenced with a surprise opening ritual - a warm neck pillow handed to me in the relaxation room! But I soon realised the therapeutic pillow filled with lavender seeds is a great addition to the treatment as it relaxes knotted shoulders in preparation for the elaborate bath. My therapist Jithesh, adept in traditional Indian healing techniques, led me to the Hammam room and began working on a warm foot soak, followed by a full-body Moroccan black soap application. The soap contains eucalyptus oil and potassium hydroxide for detox benefits, which was evident in the way it sloughed off layers of skin grime when Jithesh used the loofah. Next was an exfoliation with a grainy muddy scrub and Himalayan salts. After the exfoliant had scrubbed my skin into a squeaky-clean state, I was left embalmed in a Rhassoul clay mask for 20 minutes. This mineral-rich clay pack doesn't just help to cleanse, but firms the skin as well. A steady stream jet of hot steam helped open my skin's pores to ensure it absorbed the maximum amount of minerals. Post-steam-treatment, I had one final shower, and then hit the massage room for a relaxing 60-minute deep-tissue massage. My therapist used a blend of energising oils such as rose hip, Argan and almond oils to stimulate blood circulation and re-energise the senses. And it definitely stayed true to its promise. When I finally stepped out of the spa after this three-hour body detox, not only did my skin feel completely renewed from top to toe, but I felt a surge in my energy levels as well.
Book: Dh650, 180 mins; Call 04-3847010.
-- Ohm Metha
The ultimate cocoon body wrap
What: The Pro's Choice Sensgolf Treatment at SensAsia Spa, Emirates Golf Club
Experience: A spa treatment at a golf club location? I must admit, I didn't know what to expect, but it all became clear! when I walked through the doors of the SensAsia Spa at Emirates Golf Club. As I sipped my welcome drink waiting to be introduced to my therapist, my doubts began to dissolve noticing the fabulously calm feel of the place. A few minutes later, I was at the receiving end of a relaxing and luxurious foot soak and rub. The foot ritual over, I was moved to the bed for the main part of The Pro's Choice treatment, called so as it is a great way to repair a golfer's damaged skin after staying in the sun for hours. It started with what you could call an aromatherapy workout for my olfactory senses. A part of the Kerstin Florian range of treatments at the spa, I was made to inhale a blend of calming oils (lavender, peppermint and cajeput) to completely relax the senses. This was followed by a long, therapeutic massage of the back and lower legs using heated herbal pouches of dried ginger, galangal, fresh lemongrass, fresh turmeric, tamarind leaves and camphor. Using the healing poultices, the therapist worked light methodic strokes to help loosen the muscles before moving on to a stronger deep-tissue technique. The massage over, it was time for the gooey yet welcome mud wrap. I soon found myself covered in a warm blend of algae extract, sea salt and coconut oil and was then wrapped in a plastic sheet. While the rest of my body stayed cocooned under this tingling dark-coloured wrap, my therapist gave my face a quick rejuvenating facial using a mineralising cream. I had soon drifted away thanks to the weighted mask applied over my eyes. I have no recollection of how long I lay there and honestly I didn't care. All I wanted was to prolong this state of blissful relaxation. Thirty minutes later I was under the shower. As the dark-coloured paste washed away it revealed freshly renewed and cleansed skin underneath. The feeling of relaxation lasted the entire day making me want to visit the spa again.
Book: Dh675, 135 minutes. Call 04-4179820
-- Russ Kientsch