Best spas in Boston
If you seek the ne plus ultra of spa experiences, you need venture no further than the Mandarin Oriental Boston. Deep inside the resplendent hotel sits a luxurious oasis that truly transports you away from the city grind. The glamour quotient in the 16,000-square-foot lair begins with the green stone entryway and continues into the treatment rooms, which feel more like hotel suites (i.e. the treatment beds are more comfortable than anything you currently sleep on). Each treatment starts with a welcoming foot bath, a nod to the spa’s Asian influences; you’ll then choose an aromatherapy scent to be incorporated into your treatment. Guests will be hard-pressed to choose between the decadent facials and massage treatments like the Oriental Harmony, in which two therapists work on your kinks simultaneously. An afternoon here is an investment worth making.
Another classic of the genre. G2O began life as Giuliano Spa for Beauty & Wellness way back in 1994, then went through several iterations before landing at its current, incomparable space. Housed inside two conjoined historic brownstones renovated to the highest “green” standards, G2O is the place for a daylong spa experience. For starters, there’s the penthouse lounge and fireplace lounge, as well as a skylighted hot tub. But the cutting-edge treatments are G20’s signature, from the LED light therapy to the hyperpigmentation facials to the detoxifying herbal wrap. There’s even a separate hair salon to tend to your highlighting and Keratin needs.
Of course we all want our spa experiences to be as clean and organic as possible. But as the city’s only 100 percent organic spa, Balans takes the guesswork out of purifying your beauty routine. All of the treatments employ Maria Åkerberg products, a 100 percent organic line sourced from Sweden (in fact, Balans was the first spa to import the line to the U.S.). And then there’s the flotation therapy, said to cure everything from anxiety to migraines. Clients retreat to their own private float suite; after 60 minutes soaking in the therapeutic epsom salted water (music or guided meditation option), urban angst is but a distant memory. The spa’s dedication to clean living extends to the pure-as-snow-interior, which will push you to finally embrace Marie Kondo’s minimalism.
If you grew up in Boston and are relaxation-inclined, it’s likely your first spa experience took place at Bella Sante. For starters, it’s one of the oldest day spas in the city (and currently a mini-empire, with two more locations in Lexington and Wellesley). It’s also far and away Boston’s most lauded sanctuary, regularly winning accolades for its massages, mani/pedis, tanning treatments and overall experience. But rest assured that Bella Sante never rests on its laurels—on the contrary, its enduring appeal lies in its commitment to treatments that are both top-shelf and cutting-edge, from hydrafacials to the Cloud Nine full body refurbishment.
Hotel spas can be hit or miss affairs—guests might feel compelled to sample the in-house treatments regardless of quality—but The Langham has invested untold resources into giving visitors a singular experience. The Chuan spa menu borrows heavily from traditional Chinese healing techniques, especially in treatments like the Chuan Yu facial, which incorporates the healing power of jade. Then there are the express treatments: two facials and two massages that last just 45 minutes but still provide major bang for the busy commuter’s buck.
Med spas can be a bit unnerving—after all, you’re venturing outside of a doctor’s office in order to get medical-grade skin treatments. But Dream Spa Medical is overseen by Dr. Joseph Russo, a renowned Harvard-trained plastic surgeon, so breathe easy. Every advanced skin treatment is represented, from Vi peels to laser hair removal to collagen treatments to old standbys like Botox. But don’t expect “Real Housewives” results—on the contrary, Dream Spa is only interested in “you but better” results. For those looking to ease into the med spa experience, try the Hydrafacial, a noninvasive yet totally skin-rejuvenating treatment.
Spas can sometimes be chilly environs, but Etant sits on the opposite extreme. The neighborhood gem has made customer service its highest priority, which means a staff that is gracious, friendly and down to earth. (How inestimable is Etant’s customer service? They’ll send you a card on your birthday.) And the treatments are universally divine, from the totally manageable waxing (seriously) to the revitalizing skin peels to the customized massages that target your particular tensions (no cookie-cutter rubdowns here). And if you’re feeling a little down and out, there’s no better pick-me-up—literally—than Etant’s facial rejuvenation acupuncture, which truly does give you a surgery-free facelift.
It’s a glamorous spa experience tucked inside a famed boutique fitness studio. Ease in with a luxe spa manicure before exploring the more high-tech offerings: a cool beam facial, perhaps (one of the bestsellers), or the illuminate facial that incorporates a copper mist. The flow massage, one of the spa’s signature treatments, blends lymphatic drainage and deep tissue techniques to unblock long-tangled muscles. And while there, why not book a cupping session for pain relief, just like the A-list celebs? (FWIW: Both the Battery Wharf and Back Bay locales offer the same treatments, but we like Battery Wharf for its proxitmity to Boston Harbor.)
It’s not a beauty spa—it’s a beauty lab. Co-owner Julie Michaud first made her name as one of the city’s preeminent eyebrow shapers and makeup artists before opening her own spa. Prettyology, a white-on-white upstairs oasis, reflects her expertise in all the latest technologies, from permanent makeup tattooing to mink eyelash extensions to anti-aging microcurrent facials. And then, of course, the makeup lessons are divine, the sort you’ll easily be able to replicate even as you lament the years spent wearing the wrong foundation.
This is where every in-the-know Boston professional goes for her skin care. Brad Duncan is a Los Angeles transplant and longtime devotee to the Epicuren skincare line; one look at his flawless visage and you’ll understand why. All facial treatments, whether with Duncan or his staff, are customized to a client’s particular needs (peels are often suggested) and come complete with a soothing foot rub. Back treatments and eyebrow shaping are also on the menu for those seeking a more integrated experience.
When a spa focuses only on massages, expectations run high. Viyada doesn’t disappoint. The city’s first authentic Thai massage sanctuary, Viyada (which means “aroma from floral paradise”) introduces clients to the South Asian body technique. There’s no oil and no nudity; instead, customers wear loose-fitting clothing as they’re stretched, pushed, prodded and otherwise manipulated so as to rebalance the body’s energy. Those feeling apprehensive can ease in with a classic Swedish rubdown or hydrating coconut oil massage.
Harvard Square isn’t exactly a bastion of high-end beauty experiences (academics pooh-pooh such things), which is why Corbu’s debut inside the Charles Hotel was so welcome. Named after the architect Le Corbusier and inspired by French spa experiences, Corbu believes the customer is always right—which is to say, every experience is personalized. Facials and massages involve both Parisian products (Decleor is the star here) and organic ingredients sourced from the hotel garden; for those who prefer new-fangled techniques, the ultrasound or microdermabrasion facials might fit the bill. We also love a spa that offers a foot massage as a standalone service.
Gretta Monahan might be our city’s first lifestyle guru, a woman able to speak comprehensively about style and diet as well as beauty and travel. Located inside the Westin just a stone’s throw from the chichi Copley Place mall, Grettacole is a full-service operation, from waxing to hair extensions to reflexology. But its calling card is the Darphin 3D facial menu: customized treatments incorporating the luxe Parisian line for your most glowing visage.
Owner Violet Mkhitaryan, a former biochemist, is a regional pioneer in natural skin care—and her lineless skin is proof that a perfect complexion needn’t come from harsh additives. Royal jelly eye cream? A lifting face mask made with egg yolks? All of her treatment products are a revelation, and thankfully available to take home. Mkhitaryan is also an aromatherapy connoisseur, which only adds to your facial relaxation (all that shoulder and neck massage helps, too). The salon also offers body wraps and massages, as well as nearly painless hair removal thanks to a French butter wax made especially for sensitive skin.
You’d expect a spa with “New York” in the name to be super pricy, but one of the many refreshing features of this year-old spa is that it offers top-shelf treatments at reasonable prices—prices made even more accessible when you buy services in bulk. The facials are front and center here, with many anti-aging options (peels, Photolight, Titan skin tightening) and add-ons like microdermabrasion. But those seeking a full body reprieve should spring for one of the new body wraps, which include a shoulder-to-toes exfoliation and blissful scalp massage once you’ve been cocooned.