The hypnotic massage
Did I want to try out the ‘Batter Chewed Spa’ in Grosvenor House Hotel? It sounded as appealing as being pummelled by a cricket-bat-wielding sumo wrestler. Except that (a) nothing about Grosvenor House has ever disappointed me, and (b) I must have needed my ears syringed, for I quickly realized that it was the B’Attitude Spa to which I was being invited – a place that I had been meaning to check out ever since a friend told me it was a blissful zen-den of tranquillity in the claustrophobic, car-clogged quagmire that is Dubai Marina. A place where a man could forget his daily woes for
a while and zone out like a meditating monk, mentally projecting himself on to some other astral plane (look at me! One hour in one of these places and I’m yabbering on like a poor man’s Dalai Lama).
With the various treatments promising, more or less, to rub away all my aches and pains and ease tension (which is what most massages do anyway), I closed my eyes, stuck a pin in the brochure and found I had opted for the Deep-Tissue Sports Massage.
This sounded good to me and after an elegantly presented cup of green tea and honey, served in a waiting area that was like a cross between an opulent boudoir and the ornate lounge of an Emperor’s palace, I was invited to spend half an hour in the steam room and sauna. At first it was lovely. I had the place all to myself and I was enjoying pretending that I had hired out the whole hotel the way Michael Jackson used to shut down toy stores for extravagant private shopping.
But then the pristine sea of tranquillity on which I was blissfully afloat was rudely polluted by a brash American man talking business on his phone in the nearby changing room.
Time for the treatment, then… Aside from the disturbingly tiny shorts I had to wear (apparently made out of the same stretchy material as women’s tights) the massage was a thoroughly pleasurable experience. One that was so deeply – dare I say hypnotically – relaxing that I actually fell asleep at one point and found myself slightly dribbling, face down on the massage bench, as the therapist vigorously applied various unguents and oils that smelled good enough to add to a cooking pot. After a blissfully relaxing hour of this, I was definitely considering a lifetime membership.
Pair the expert massage with minimal amber-hued lighting and mellifluous oriental music, and it really is the kind of experience that can calm the most stressed out city-dweller, badly in need of a brief respite from the rat race. I can’t wait to go back. But next time I’m taking my own shorts.
Details: Deep-Tissue Sports Massage, Grosvenor House B’Attitude Spa, 04 3998888. Dh390.
-- Craig Hawes
The traditional barber cut
Having known about my appointment at Posh Salon for a while, I took the decision to let my hair grow and not to shave so as to get my full money’s worth out of the experience. So I entered the regal setting of the Address Downtown Hotel looking a lot more like Tom Hanks in Castaway than I usually do.
With two Dubai locations, one in the iconic Burj Al Arab and the other positioned on the 14th floor of the luxurious Address Downtown Hotel (that’s the Address next to the Dubai Fountain and not the one attached to the Dubai Mall), Posh Salon more than lives up to its name.
It has an impressive list of services for men, ranging from a simple hair cut/trim, to shaving, straightening, colouring and highlights, I was not short of options.
But I decided to dodge the more elaborate treatments (I wanted rid of my Castaway-style looks but I didn’t want to go all the way to looking like a character from Legally Blonde) in favour of a good old-fashioned hair cut (from Dh150) and shave (Dh100).
My treatment began with the hair cut. The barber started with clippers, trimming my locks short around the back and sides of my head. He then took out his scissors and skillfully trimmed the hair on the top of my head, using lightning-quick snips to thin out the hair and blend the style in with the short back and sides.
Then it was time for the shave. My barber asked me if I had any preference – an all over rough stubble, goatee or handlebar moustache perhaps? But I am a simple man of simple tastes and I opted for the classic cut-throat shave.
By its very nature, the cut-throat razor is extremely sharp. And having recently watched Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, it was with some trepidation that I tilted my head back and exposed my vulnerable neck to the blade.
But my concerns were soon put to rest with the first stroke, the precision and skill of the barber was in no doubt, and before I had chance to fret about the precarious position my neck was in, the barber was finished, and my chin was incredibly smooth.
And with a dab of aftershave balm, I was done. I was left feeling fresh, smooth and ready to meet my wife for a meal in a nearby restaurant - she approved of the hair cut, so they must have done a good job!
Details: Cut and shave, Posh Salon, Address Downtown Hotel, 04 4368728. Dh350.-- -- Peter Iantorno
The sportsman’s massage
Being sporty can have its disadvantages. Most days I run for an hour, followed by an intensive workout in the gym. But far from having a six-pack and bulging biceps, I’m rewarded with tight, sore calves and delicate knees. Two cartilage operations and a misspent youth playing national-level football, have left my legs more reminiscent of a pensioner than Lionel Messi.
So it was with high expectations that I walked into The Spa at The Address in Dubai Marina, and if first impressions were anything to go by I wasn’t going to be disappointed.
Chic and understated, the spa was the epitome of elegance and I couldn’t wait to try the Muscle Release massage.
First, my male therapist escorted me through to the luxurious changing and relaxation rooms, complete with sauna, so I could change. Then he led me to the treatment room – with an amazing view of the Dubai skyline – where he explained how he’d use a combination of Swedish massage and cross-fibre muscle techniques to soothe and relax my overworked body. I asked him to pay particular attention to my calves and damaged knees, before lying on the treatment bed. The soothing smell of eucalyptus hit me as soon as I breathed in, and with every breath I felt more and more relaxed.
My therapist explained oils can have a beneficial effect on circulation, so he used essentials oils on his hands during the massage. I’d expected a rough chopping-style motion, traditionally used in sports massages, but this was smooth, sweeping and extremely relaxing. Hot towels were placed on strategic points on my back and calves to relax them, then my tired muscles were kneaded. I’d asked for a firm pressure, but he alternated it with gentle, deep-tissue strokes so my knots didn’t stand a chance.
The use of heat, oil, pressure, and stretching melted away any tightness and I almost fell asleep. The 50 minutes vanished as my exhausted knees and sore calves were rejuvenated, but the ‘chilling’ continued in the relaxation room, where I drank soothing lemongrass tea and dozed.
I went for a steam, had a shower and tried all the luxurious products. After all that pampering I was energised and felt well enough to run a marathon!
It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and I’ll definitely build this into my training schedule from now on.
The spa, voted the Best Luxury Hotel Spa at the World Luxury Spa Awards 2012, really has the ‘wow factor’. Don’t go to the gym without booking one of these first!
Details: Sports Massage, The Spa at The Address, Dubai Marina, 04 4367424. Dh450.-- Alexio Pasquali
The intensive facial
Facials and skincare in general are usually not in the vocabulary of a regular guy like me. With work deadlines, social life and monthly bills to worry about, I tend to find this more of a privilege rather than a necessity. For that reason, I rarely use special products nor find time to bother with caring for my skin. Instead, I rely on generic moisturising creams to take care of that department, naively believing in their promises. And boy oh boy was I wrong.
The Dr Dennis Gross Custom Booster Facial is a perfect treatment for a newbie like me. The therapist guided me in choosing the most appropriate treatment. After my skin evaluation, she led me to the treatment room and the facial magic commenced.
She recommended that we do a deep cleanse before applying special herbal products to help with my very dry skin and open pores. She began by cleaning my face with special cream to remove blemishes. With her gentle touch, a soothing facial massage followed for a good five or so minutes.
Next came the slightly uncomfortable part, as my face was exposed to steam and extractions. Now I’d be lying if I told you that this didn’t hurt a tiny bit, because it did. Those blackheads are evil and they need to go. A signature mask was then applied and left on my face for several minutes to do its thing.
What followed later is my personal favourite part of the experience, the relaxing head massage. With ambient Asian music, mood lighting and the therapist’s soothing touch, it made it very difficult for me to resist the temptation to snooze. Ultimately I failed and gave in. When my angelic snoring woke me up, the therapist was starting to gently wipe the mask from my face. Moisturiser was then applied for the finishing touch.
My skin looked clear and clean. I was glowing and feeling good about it as I sipped my complimentary green tea before leaving the spa. But wait, there’s more. SensAsia is kind enough to give its customers a free Alpha Beta Express facial when they return within the next seven days. Top tip!
Details: Dr Dennis Gross Custom Booster Facial, SensAsia Mall of the Emirates, 04 3549228. Dh450.
-- Gerald Du
The holistic facial
At just the moment I opened the email from the Balance Wellness Club in Oasis Centre, my wife happened to walk past and sneaked a peek over my shoulder. And not surprisingly, the word ‘spa’ caught her eye. “Planning to give me a surprise?’’ she wondered aloud. “Actually no,’’ I said. “I’m reviewing a treatment.”
“Maybe you should get the detoxifying scrub,” she said. But I replied, offering a subtle hint, “Maybe what I need is the Inner Peace Bath & Express Massage.’’ It worked. She walked away.
I looked at the list of treatments and seriously considered the Inner Peace Massage, “Particularly suitable for those in need of serenity at times of stress,’’ said the info on the flyer. But I scrolled down to see what else was on offer.
Rose Bliss Bath & Express Massage, Kundalini Himalayan Bath Salts & Express Massage, Warm Herbal Poultice Massage… It was getting increasingly difficult to choose one. Or perhaps an Abhyangam that would, “strengthen and revitalise the body and calm the nervous system,’’ would be the best choice?
The thought of choosing one was stressing me out, so I went to sleep. The next morning a girl from the spa called to ask what treatment I wanted. I had to choose one, so I went “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” on the menu.. and bingo, my finger landed on Vishuddha Facial. I told her my choice, “I’ve always wanted to ‘purify and harmonise the energy of the face through a combination of ancient vital points’” I said. She giggled, guessing I was reading out from the flyer.
So I finally arrived at the salon and the masseur and facial expert Aneesh told me to relax then began to gently massage my face with some herbal creams infused with natural products. I wasn’t sure if it was the products or the massage, but the effect was truly relaxing. More creams, more gentle massaging and I was soon in ‘la-la land’. Forty minutes later, I heard Aneesh asking me “How do you feel, sir?’’
“Lovely,’’ I said, realising I smelt like a citrus orchard in bloom. Back at my desk, I went through the flyer to find out what I’d had done. “The 16 points of the face which correspond to the petals of the Throat Chakra are gently worked on, the energy in the body is aroused, bringing us in touch with our creative expression of ourselves and restoring beautiful skin.’’ Whatever that means.
My mug in the mirror didn’t look very different from what it was like the previous day, but I felt a lot more relaxed and refreshed. That perhaps reflected on my skin, because it appeared a lot softer. I think.
Whatever the case, I certainly felt a lot closer to ‘inner peace’. I am planning to go there more often.
Details: Vishuddha Facial, The Balance Wellness Club at Oasis Centre, 04 3847010. Dh200.
-- Anand Raj
The soothing scalp treatment
As I prepared for my anti-dandruff and exfoliation treatment at Spaces Salon, Oasis Centre, I wondered, would it be painful? Although I didn’t ask Vasanth, the Sri Lankan hairdresser at the salon, who tended to my tortured scalp.
I’ve suffered from dandruff on and off for a long time. Apparently, it was not too bad, because Vasanth inspected my scalp closely and announced, “It doesn’t look like you have a bad case of dandruff.” My shampoo had worked its magic.
But we decided to go ahead with the exfoliation to get rid of whatever was still there. Vasanth probably sensed my apprehension, for he explained the treatment process to me before getting started.
“First, we’ll apply L’Oreal Soft Peel directly on the dry hair,” he said. “I’ll start on the roots and massage the scalp, then we’ll wash it off with Loreal Instant Clear Anti-dandruff shampoo.” That’s it? “Yes,” smiled Vasanth.
He was as good as his word. He worked the soft peel into my scalp, then gave me a massage that almost caused me to dose off. He gave me some advice to keep me awake, “Many times dandruff is the result of dry scalp,” he told me. “Massage with oil at least twice a week, leave it on for about half an hour before washing off with shampoo.”
Massage over, he rolled in a contraption that looked like torture equipment from a B-grade thriller. “Just to steam your hair,” Vasanth assured me. I leant back and covered my hair with the helmet-sized steamer. A pleasant blast of hot air permeated my hair.
Then it was shampoo time. Vasanth’s fingers worked their magic on my scalp again. After towelling off, my scalp certainly felt clean, but for how long? “If you continue shampooing with L’Oreal Instant Clear Anti-dandruff shampoo at home your problem will be solved soon,” says Vasanth.
For very severe and persistent cases of dandruff, Vasanth recommends repeating the treatment twice a month until it is brought under control. But Sallyann Simmons, operations manager at Spaces, has a word of caution, “Once the dandruff is gone, it is recommended to go back to your previous shampoo. Overuse of anti-dandruff shampoos can cause the scalp to become oily.”
Vasanth had the last word, “The treatment will purify and replenish the scalp, eliminating dandruff and soothing itching sensations,” he said. “The hair will be left clean and healthy.”
I ran my hand through my hair, something I don’t usually do. He’s right, it does feel clean and healthy.
Details: Anti-dandruff and exfoliation treatment, Spaces Salon, 04 5154393. Dh150.-- --- Shiva Kumar Thekkepat