Spa treatments for $30 or less
Treat yourself to one of a dozen indulgences that won't force you to break the bank.
Tue Jan 24 2012
Photograph: Clotilde Testa
RECOMMENDED: See this year's New York spas guide
Relax Foot Spa: Foot reflexology massage
193 Centre St between Canal and Hester Sts, second floor (212-226-5635) • 202 Hester St between Baxter and Centre Sts, ground floor (212-226-8288) • relax-footspa.com. 60-minute massage $30.
A mere 30 bucks buys you an hour-long reflexology session at this minispa. My masseuse, Xiao, began working on my head, neck and back, while my feet soaked in a warm herbal tonic. After 10 to 15 minutes, I eased into a recliner, and he got to work on my feet.
Best part: Having your feet and calves rubbed with moisturizer after the massage remedies any throbbing from the preceding compressions.
Why it's worth it: Xiao's commitment to getting the job done (versus chatting) means you can bask in some much-needed quiet time.—Sophie Harris
Jade Beauty and Day Spa: Reflexology foot massage
143 E 34th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-679-0811) • 2573 Broadway between 96th and 97th Sts (212-362-5763) • jadebeautyspanyc.com. 10 minutes $15, 20 minutes $25.
I was immediately offered tea or water and then escorted back to the pedicure station, which is where the quickie reflexology foot massages take place. (For a private room, spring for the Jade Signature Foot Massage; $88--$118.) My massage therapist filled the footbath and cleansed my feet, then mixed a concoction of aloe vera with massage oil and started with my knees, working her way down my legs with long, sweeping moves, followed by firmer circular ones. She checked to make sure the pressure was okay with me, but her hands were just right the entire time. The oil-and-lotion cocktail also left my skin silky smooth.
Best part: The practitioner tended to my toes individually, and when the timer went off after 20 minutes, she kept going for another few minutes. Even though the massage worked just a fraction of my body, I felt relaxed all over, thanks to the ancient reflexology techniques that help improve circulation and bust stress.
Why it's worth it: Once a year, a reflexology expert travels from China to train Jade's staff, so every person is well-versed in the centuries-old remedy. There's also a resident reflexologist, who has mastered the method and is available for the Jade Signature Foot Massage.—Chris Schonberger
Hair Plus Design: Blowout
32 Pell St at Mott St (212-406-1909). $15.
Don't even bother making an appointment at this spacious salon: With eight styling stations lined along the front wall and another three tucked in the back, the shop hardly ever has a wait. Walk-ins are more than welcome (in fact, if the management's laissez-faire phone manner is any indication, they are encouraged). After being draped front-to-back with towels, you'll recline in what may be the most comfortable washing chair in the city. A stylist will then wordlessly provide you with a stack of People and Elle magazines as she ushers you to one of the unadorned stations, comprised of an oval mirror and a steel shelf drilled into the wall. Ask for some body to your blowout, and you'll be rewarded with soft, bouncy locks that swoop into curled ends—a style achieved using nothing more than a round brush and some finishing serum.
Best part: The washing chair is permanently stationed on a horizontal plane, eliminating neck cramping and allowing you to enjoy the thorough, vigorous scalp massage.
Why it's worth it: For less than $20, you can get stick-straight or voluminous tresses that make you feel like a celebrity.—Cristina Velocci
Mousey Brown Salon: Scalp Rx
732 Lorimer St at Bayard St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-7971, mouseybrownsalon.com). $20. TONY deal: Mention TONY for 15 percent off any I.C.O.N. products through Feb 29.
The homey vibe and pleasantly chatty staff here will immediately put you at ease. The owner, Meredith Chesney, kicked off this service by applying an invigorating mix of peppermint and eucalyptus oils, followed by a thorough head massage. The blend contains a natural form of salicylic acid, which removes any buildup or dry skin on the scalp. She rinsed the first batch of oils from my head with a double dose of shampoo and conditioner—the latter was light enough to work from root to tip without worrying about any greasy residue. The final touch was a handmade blend of rosemary and argan oils, which penetrated the hair follicle and left me with a mane that I couldn't stop running my hands through.
Best part: The peppermint oils had my head pleasantly tingly for hours after leaving the salon, and my newly sleek hair smelled refreshingly like rosemary until its next wash.
Why it's worth it: While this treatment is recommended to deal with the harsh, winter weather, its oils and herbs can also help undo a summer's worth of chlorine damage or stimulate hair growth.—Sarah Rammos
Advanced Skin Care Day Spa: Omega Peel
140 W 57th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, suite 3C (212-758-8867, advancedspa.com). $25.
A light organic gel was rubbed onto my face and neck and let to sit for a few minutes. My body heat warmed up the gel, and afterward, the technician gently buffed the dried stuff off. The procedure lasted just 20 minutes, but before starting, the spa's co-owner gave me detailed instructions on what I should be doing to keep my skin healthy.
Best part: This experience was fast, easy and gentle, minus the itching and burning that's typical of peel treatments.
Why it's worth it: You aren't just getting a peel—you're getting an in-depth skin analysis and recommendations for all your future treatments.—Annemarie Dooling
Barbiere NYC: Classic shave
246 E 5th St between Second Ave and Cooper Sq (646-649-2640, barbierenyc.com) $30.
Once I reclined in my chair (one of only two at this tiny Italian throwback), my barber laid an invigorating, drenched-in-eucalyptus hot towel on my face. This was followed by lavender-scented preshave oil and warm shaving cream; both are hand-mixed by the owner. My stubble was eliminated after two gentle go-rounds with the razor, and the shave ended with another towel—this one cold and soaked in lavender oil.
Best part: A free shot of Jameson (or a beer) coupled with an early-blues-leaning playlist only enhances Barbiere's old-timey, when-men-were-men vibe.
Why it's worth it: During the next two days, my mug felt as smooth as Justin Bieber's, yet emitted a distinctly manly scent my girlfriend dubbed "Don Draper--ish."—Tim Lowery
Christine Valmy International School: Facial
261 Fifth Ave at 29th St, third floor (212-779-7800, christinevalmy.com). $27 (Mon--Fri 9:30am--5:30pm).
Though it's obvious the space is a school—18 beds are in one large, communal room, and the treatments are all performed by students with a supervising teacher—this facial feels like it's done by a pro. It begins with a pre-analysis, during which a technician examines pores and breakouts and evaluates your skin type. After analyzing my face, my technician homed in on my trouble spots and personalized everything. For me, the next step was a thorough cleansing to remove makeup and toxins, followed by a deeper breakdown that determines which products will be used.
Best part: After the application of a special lotion come the extractions and a stimulating face massage. I opted for a red-wine-pomegranate collagen mask for an extra $10; as it set, I was treated to a neck, shoulder, arm and dcolletage massage.
Why it's worth it: It's definitely worth springing for the $10 mask: The red-wine-pomegranate is good for all skin types; it's packed with antioxidants and collagen, which instantly firmed my skin.—Celia Shatzman
Hands and feet
Eve Salon: Hot-cocoa manicure
55 W 8th St between Sixth Ave and MacDougal St (212-807-8054, evesalonnyc.com). Manicure $20.
My esthetician started by giving me a neat, clean manicure and pedicure, then gently massaged my shins and my hands in circular motions using cocoa-scented scrub, chocolate bath salts and cooling cocoa butter. During the service, you'll also be served complimentary hot chocolate.
Best part: My hands were incredibly soft after the manicure—and the scrub smelled pretty damn good too.
Why it's worth it: Clients are also given their own nail file kit to take home. If you recycle it at the spa on your next visit, you'll receive a discount on your nail service ($1 off a manicure, $2 off a pedicure).—Rachel Sokol
Ace Nails: Manicure
145 E 27th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-679-4352). $10.
This snug space feels as warm as its pink-hued walls, thanks to an accommodating staff and the open arrangement of the furniture (four pedicure and five manicure stations line the walls, with drying posts positioned at the center).
Best part: Nails are always filed in a clean shape of your choice, and you won't find excess polish drips outside the lines.
Why it's worth it: Manicures using of-the-moment OPI and Essie lacquers last a solid week.—Lauren Levinson
Relax on Cloud 9: Peppermint foot scrub
694 Clove Rd at Martling Ave, Staten Island (718-448-3412, relaxoncloud9.com). $30.
As soon as I sank into the massage table, the fragrance of peppermint coaxed me into relaxation mode. The therapist massaged the minty scrub into my well-worn soles and heels, and after she switched to a cool peppermint cream, her strong fingers explored every part of my feet and toes, which she then wrapped in warm towels. Scents change with the season—look for chocolate or champagne and roses in February.
Best part: All throughout, I was snuggled under soft covers with a warm eye pillow.
Why it's worth it: I strode out of the spa feeling ready to conquer the world.—Amy Padnani
Beauty and Youth Spa: Ear candling
17 W 8th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-463-0246, beautyandyouth.com). $25.
Don't panic when the small side of a long, thin fabric-and-wax candle is inserted into your ear canal and promptly lit. Your technician will be watching diligently as it burns, cutting snippets off the top as necessary. The purpose: to use the enclosed smoke to suck out toxins, wax and any other gunk that's been building up, in the process helping to clear sinus pressure. My ears, which often itch and ring after I swim, haven't been acting up since the treatment.
Best part: I had a cold the day of the procedure, and my upper neck and the area below my ears below my ears felt better afterward.
Why it's worth it: Once my practitioner showed me the amount of dirt that was extracted, I realized that cotton swabs can do only so much.—RS
Benefit Boutique Soho: Eyebrow waxing and tinting
454 West Broadway between W Houston and Prince Sts (212-769-1111, benefitcosmetics.com). Wax $23, tint $20.
As a naturally bushy-faced gal, I've tried my fair share of waxes. This modern and feminine take on the old-school barbershop was a refreshing change. Instead of being sequestered in a side room to bear the treatment in private, I was seated at the communal Brow Bar. The vanities—along with bright lights, glam-girl decor and upbeat music—created a clubby vibe, while the ultrasensitive wax meant no wincing or tears. For the tinting, my aesthetician, Nicky Cayot, mixed a custom color that perfectly highlighted and glossed my dark hair.
Best part: It took only seven minutes for my Sasquatch-like brows to be waxed, shaped and tweezed, and I was in and out of the boutique in well under half an hour.
Why it's worth it: Every eyebrow treatment ends with a makeup application that incorporates Benefit's popular face and lip tint. I didn't have to hide any postwaxing puffiness, and my entire face looked twice as good as when I'd arrived.—Meg Rushton