Saturday, June 27, 2009

BTO: Spa treats

Business Times - 27 Jun 2009

Spa treats

BT Weekend takes a look at spas that go the extra mile when it comes to treatments and service.

Auriga Spa 
Capella Singapore 
1 The Knolls, Sentosa Island 
Tel 6591-5023

THERE'S a belief that the moon has an effect on human behaviour, which is where you get the word lunatic. Horror novels and movies of course have humans turning into werewolves at full moon, while on more pedestrian terms, researchers have tried to prove that people do sillier, crazier things during full moon.

Well, the moon holds sway over the ocean's tides, so it's quite plausible that it would have some impact on our bodies - which comprises two thirds water - as well. That's the basis of the treatments at Capella Singapore's Auriga spa, the newest swanky spa to open in town.

It's this philosophy that sets it apart from other spas because the signature treatments are based on the phases of the moon. So there are specific treatments when it's a new moon, waxing moon, full moon or waning moon.

It's natural science, although new age as well. To the spa's credit though, it doesn't make it seem too airy-fairy. To bring you up to speed with the definitions of the different moons, the new moon is when the sun and moon are in conjunction. During this time, the moon doesn't reflect the light of the sun, and so cannot be seen. Holistic practitioners believe the new moon signals new beginnings, and a time of growing energy, rejuvenation, growth, renewal and hope. Meanwhile, the period of a waning moon leading up to a new moon is the best time for detoxifying the body - release all your toxins and refresh.

The full moon occurs on the 15th day after the new moon, and is a time of abundance and fullness. The waxing moon before the full moon is a time to replenish your skin with moisturisers and essential oil massages.

When I made my way to Auriga Spa last week, it was the period of the waning moon. So would you like a detoxifying treatment? Asked the spa manager. She notes that it's a perfect time for cleansing during this phase as it would be more effective and act on deeper levels, as what you do externally is aided by nature.

For the Waning Moon treatment, the 180 minute treatment involves a scrub, wrap, a massage and a mini facial. Of course, you won't be forced to pick a treatment based on the moon cycle, and the menu includes some lovely treatments designed by spa specialist A W Lake which incorporate ingredients like pomelo, rose, sandalwood oil etc.

Your journey begins by walking along the gently curved hallway - the building is shaped like a crescent - to your treatment room. Each room has glass doors which lead to a small garden space as well, so if you lie down with your head turned to face outwards, you'll see swaying Chinese bamboo against the sky.

A brief soak of the feet and massage with detoxifying oils prepares you for the treatment, after which you lie on the bed and the therapist makes gentle but brisk strokes up your body with her gloved Garshanas. The gloves are like raw silk, so this is a form of dry brushing, but because of the silk, is also quite warming. She then exfoliates with a seaweed-based scrub, after which you're wiped off with warm towels.

All this while, you're lying on the heated towel, and a warm purifying seaweed mud is then applied, and you're wrapped up for about 20 minutes - which is your cue to doze off, especially as the temperature of the heated blanket isn't so hot that you feel suffocated after 10 minutes.

A shower later, a lymphatic massage follows. The therapist uses strokes meant to detoxify so it's not long, smooth strokes that you find in Swedish or Indonesian massage styles. Instead, it'll feel as if the therapist is tuning your body - with firm finger strokes, then using her fingers or knuckles in either a sawing or chopping motion across your skin as if you were a (stringless) instrument.

All that agitated activity on your body and skin is meant to stimulate the elimination of toxins, and encourage blood flow as well, explains the therapist.

You do get a moment of relaxation however towards the end, when the therapist gives a facial cleanse then a facial massage, then another massage of the shoulders and the working in of hair serum.

Auriga Spa uses British brand The Organic Pharmacy's products, and this is yet another label that also comes with oral supplements which you can opt to take at the beginning of the treatment.

As you walk out of the spa, you'll be following the flow of the silver fish mounted along the sandstone wall on your right, with a shallow moat of clear water on your left, and while you're feeling harmoniously in sync with the universe, don't forget to make a mental note to self: Time to drag out the Chinese calender and look out for the next full moon!

The waning moon treatment at Auriga spa, is 180 minutes, for $420.

Palais Renaissance, #B1-07 
Tel 6836-1863

AT Rest, no two treatments are ever the same. 'Different customers that walk in will have different problems, but even the returning customers will not have the requirements each time they come back,' says Jessica Loo, the principal consultant at the one month old day spa located at the basement of Palais Renaissance. 'The question is: how do we make sure that our treatments can address this issue?'

The solution that they came up with is a simple but effective one - customisation - which they achieved in two ways.

Firstly, a remarkably extensive treatment menu was developed for the spa. From a treatment as specific as a golf massage, to dedicated post-laser facials to face and body treatments created especially for teenagers, there will be pretty much something for everyone even though this means more work and education for the therapist.

Secondly, each treatment, be it for face or body, can and will be tweaked to suit each patron after an assessment which Ms Loo believes is Rest's biggest selling point.

'For example, a customer that walks in may request our Star Light Star Bright facial ($168) to brighten up their dull skin,' she explains. 'However, we might also notice that this patient has exceptionally bad dark circles so we might tweak the treatment by throwing in an extra eye serum into the mix or focus a bit more time massaging the eye area, all without additional charge.'

She insists that this is an important mantra for Rest because the place aims to be known as a problem solver: 'I'd like our customers to be able to walk in and say, 'This is my problem, how can you help me?' I don't think we'd be able to do that if we simply adhere to a cookie cutter model with regard to our treatments.

'Yes, there will people we won't be able to help in-house - such as those with chronic back problems who are better off seeing a chiropractor - but at the very least, we will do our job and guide them in the right direction. If you want to learn how to massage, we can organise lessons for you as well.'

While the proof is always in the pudding, it seems that the people at Rest do stick to this mantra even when it comes to the therapists themselves.

Although the Aromatherapy Botanical Body Massage ($138) was recommended as a base treatment for my sleep and stress related problems, the ingredients that went into the massage oil were handpicked and blended to target these issues. Furthermore, I was impressed when, upon noticing that I had a big bruise on my left shin, the therapist immediately suggested she do a lymphatic draining massage on my left leg to expedite its healing.

'All our therapists are trained to look out for these little details,' points out Ms Loo with pride.

As for the facial, I tried the Medi-Detox Facial ($238) that is said to help detoxify and promote elastic and healthy skin but an extra boost of Vit-C Serum (Vitamin C) was also added into the mix to plump up my skin. An eye cream designed to reduce the puffiness around the eye area was also applied which went a long way toward helping me look much fresher.

To up the ante on other spas in Singapore, Ms Loo reveals that all facials at Rest utilise a massage technique created by a physiologist that is not only relaxing but designed to help one's skin remain taut and firm.

Taking the idea of customisation one step further, Ms Loo adds that as far as possible, Rest will try to provide the best therapist for each job. This means that those who specialise in face therapy will usually only do facials and likewise for body therapists.

She concludes: 'I don't believe that anybody is perfect. Any therapist that goes for a course will be able to do basic facials and some types of body massage but some will be better with the former and others the latter but they are seldom if ever very good at both.

'Which is why, if possible, we will try to switch between therapists even when a client comes in to do both face and body treatments. Though this is more hassle for us, it will definitely mean better results for the customers, which is what Rest is all about.

Spa Furama 
Furama RiverFront, 405 Havelock Road 
Tel 6738-7733

THOSE familiar with Furama RiverFront would hardly think of it as a lifestyle destination. But although it was previously better known as a business hotel offering a simple bed and breakfast, the management behind the hotel - Furama Hotels International - is hoping to change that perception.

'Tourists in Singapore, business or otherwise are no longer content with just a place to rest,' muses its general manager Vincent Kerk. 'They also want the option of being able to come back to the hotel and relax with a massage as well.'

To cater to to these new demands, they have invested in a new spa that was officially launched at the end of last month. A hotel spa is nothing new, you might say, but Mr Kerk insists its presence will go some way in rebranding the Furama brand with a greater lifestyle cache.

Called Furama Spa, it is jointly managed by the hotel and Aramsa Tropical Spas but fully owned by the hotel.

'The reason why we didn't want to lease out the space to an external spa operator is so that we can have full control over the spa's operations and the flexibility in the way we market it,' says Mr Kerk.

'We can offer, for example, our spa customers free reign of the hotel's recreation facilities which differentiates us from other spas in Singapore. Owning the spa also allows us to offer special deals that include packaged rates for spa getaways two places for Singapore and say, Bali, where we own a resort, at one price.'

Mr Kerk adds that the launch of Furama Spa gives the hotel the ability to tap a growing group of Singaporean patrons looking for weekend getaways within the city itself.

The spa itself looks nothing like any other spa in Singapore. Instead of your typical Zen or Balinese concepts, its decor was inspired by the ideals of 'purity' and 'completeness', boasting a bright, white interior and round indoor treatment rooms although three three outdoor garden cabanas overlooking the pool are likewise available.

'We knew that we wanted a design that was unique to Spa Furama as a brand. Customers who come in tend to be shocked that the spa looks so unconventional but that is good because it helps them to remember us,' Mr Kerk says with a grin.

The treatment rooms have the added advantage of being designed such that they can be opened up or closed to create different sized treatment spaces that can be used for events like hen nights or even wedding solemnisations.

As for the treatments, the offerings are arguably typical Asian inspired options although little touches such as special exclusive oil blends and an in-house signature massage - the Furama Touch - a fusion concoction of Eastern meridian and Western techniques that was created just for them, make for charming touches.

The standout choices are the all-in-one Lavender Drizzle ($238 per person or $428 for two) that includes an oil prep, an exfoliation, the Furama Touch massage and facial which is a hit with time-strapped patrons and the Spa Furama Signature ($228 per person or $398 for two).

The latter includes a red wine and rice exfoliation, a Balinese Boreh body wrap, a relaxing scalp massage and the Furama Touch. The therapist says that it is a favourite of the customers because the traditional Boreh wrap with its mix of hot spices helps with detoxification, weight loss and sleep problems.

All in, the Spa Furama Signature is nothing fancy but it does the trick nonetheless. The hot wrap, which induces drowsiness is indeed an ideal prelude to a good night's sleep. But be warned to drink lots of water as it can be rather dehydrating and if possible, try to stay away from the office after. By the next day, you'll be fresh and rejuvenated for a good day's work.

By Melissa Lwee

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