Steamy Spa Solution

Baby it’s cold outside. Heat up with four super steamy spa treatments. Six destination spas worth the drive.


Spa Solutions

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Oh baby, it’s cold outside. But these  sizzling hot spa treatments — found right here in the Valley — will help melt your winter blues away    

By Anitra Brown

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It’s that time of year again: the thermometer veers cruelly towards zero as icy blasts of wind sweep down from the north. Step outside, and no matter how many layers you’ve bundled on, it’s not enough. Meanwhile, the very things that comfort us indoors — cozy fires and modern heating systems — can leave our skin so dry that flurries of dead cells fly off with our long johns. Is there no relief?

Sure there is. We searched the Valley for antidotes to the bitter hardships of the season and found four fabulous spa treatments with one thing in common:warmth. Recommended by master therapists, these treatments will relax your muscles, hydrate your skin, detoxify your partied-out system, boost your immunity, and soothe your spirit.  All you have to do is lie back, relax, and take a little heat.



Paraffin Masque Facial

Marlene Weber Day Spa

Poughkeepsie, 845-454-5852

Marlene Weber salonspa

Millbrook, 845-677-1772

$80 for 60 minutes


Aficionados of the spa manicure and pedicure know the delicious pleasure of having your hands and feet dipped in an almost-too-warm paraffin bath, wrapped in plastic, and encased in mitts and booties for a 20-minute trip to paradise. But relatively few have enjoyed the comforting warmth of a paraffin mask facial, a classic European treatment used to plump and soften the skin. Senior Aesthetician Tammy Pacenza loves this facial in winter. “It’s very hydrating, with a lot of steam and exfoliation,” she says.

Like all the facials at Marlene Weber, the Paraffin Masque starts with the client lying under the covers on a treatment bed, warmed by an electric pad. The aesthetician slathers a thick layer of moisturizer on your hands and slips them into plastic bags, then into warm mitts. She gives your skin a quick cleaning, then gently massages a grainy exfoliant onto your face while a stream of steam gently softens impurities like blackheads. Warm towels (which have been dipped into hot water and essential oils) are gently layered over your face, then used to remove the scrub. Next up: extraction of blackheads. (To be honest, this isn’t the most enjoyable part of your spa visit, it but shouldn’t hurt too much either. It’s the one thing a professional aesthetician can do for you that you shouldn’t do yourself.) 

Now you’re ready for the fun stuff: a facial massage with aromatic oil blends, some moisturizer, and the gentle application of the warm paraffin mask. A thick liquid when painted onto your face, the paraffin quickly takes a solid shape. With lingering, wonderful warmth, the mask helps the moisturizer penetrate deeper into the skin. “It’s nice and warm and cozy, and as it cools, it gets heavier,” says Pacenza. Enjoy a hand massage while the paraffin is doing its work, then marvel as it peels off. A touch of tepid towel on the face, a cool mist of rosewater, moisturizer and sunblock, and you’re ready to go.







Hot Stone Therapy

One Body Spa, Accord


$85 for 65 minutes


Hot stone massage, one of the most popular new spa therapies, has roots in ancient traditions, says Diane Ryan, co-owner (with her husband Michael) of One Body Spa, which is tucked away in the backwoods of Accord, Ulster County. The stone treatment “was created by Native Americans who used hot stones in the sweat lodge,” she says. “As the stones cooled, they used them to massage their bodies.” The natives instinctively knew what science has since proven. “If  you heat the muscle up, you make the tissue more flexible and you can release tension more efficiently,” according to Diane. To hell with all that: it feels pretty darned good. 

Hot stone therapy uses a variety of smooth polished stones made of basalt, a volcanic rock that retains heat well. The stones range in size from tiny pebbles that fit between your toes to flat pieces larger than the palm of a man’s hand. Diane puts the stones outside on a clear night, beneath a full moon. “They absorb the energy of the moon’s ray, and you can feel it in your hand,” she says. “They pulse a little bit. It’s a subtle thing, but nice, and you’ll feel a little more energized.”

Diane starts the massage with some traditional Swedish strokes over your back to apply the oil and warm the major muscles. She soon picks up two large warm stones and uses them as an extension of her hands. As the stones gradually cool, they are replaced with other hot stones. The therapy also involves positioning smaller stones on acupuncture points on the back in order to stimulate energy flow (or “chi”) while the lower body is massaged. After you flip over, Diane places a large, flat stone on your abdomen while she massages your arms, legs and shoulders. “It’s very smooth and comforting,” she says. 

One Body’s Winter Solstice Rejuvenating Treatment adds aromatherapy, reflexology, and a moisturizing eye treatment to the hot stone massage ($95 for 75 minutes). A certified aromatherapist, Diane uses essential oils of rosemary and lemon to help open the nasal passages and boost the immune system. Pressure is then applied to the reflex points on the feet which correspond to the body’s internal organs. Finally, Dr. Hauschka Eye Solace — two cool compresses that refresh and soothe tired eyes — is applied. “This treatment is a combination of all my favorite therapies for the winter,” says Diane. “It’s a major tune-up for the body.”








Mohonk Red Massage

Spa at Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz


$165 for 80 minutes


The signature treatment at Mohonk’s lavish new spa is especially pleasant in winter. It begins when the therapist invites you to sniff three different aromatherapy oil blends to see which one is right for that day, says Michael Ryan, head massage therapist (and co-owner of One Body Spa with wife Diane). Known for its anti-inflammatory and softening properties, a touch of Mohonk Red witch hazel (which is made from plants found only at Mohonk) is added to the oil blend of your choice. Then hot steaming towels infused with aromatherapy are applied to the back and feet.

The hot towels warm up your muscles, so the therapist can relieve any knots in your back or shoulders. The relaxing heat also prepares you for the global tour of massage techniques in the Mohonk Red. The combination of Swedish (long, flowing strokes), acupressure (pressure on the body’s acupuncture points), Hawaiian Lomi Lomi (gliding the forearm over the body) and Thai stretches (to release tight joints) will leave you looser than a wet noodle. When you’ve turned over on your back, a hot towel is draped over your face while your arms and legs are massaged. The treatment winds down with a guided meditation (also known as a power nap). “Every therapist does it a little differently,” says Michael Ryan. “I usually take clients to our naturally formed mineral pool, and remind them that they deserve this time for themselves.” All Mohonk Red signature treatments end with a drink of herbal elixir and a small flacon of your chosen oil to take home.

Michael also recommends the heat treatments at Mohonk, especially the his-and- hers eucalyptus steam rooms. “A beautiful form of aromatherapy, and there’s nothing better for the lungs,” he says.

One of the most popular places to warm up is in the outdoor mineral pool on the stone patio (with heated walkway) off the solarium. Infused with Dead Sea salts from Israel, the pool’s water has high levels of magnesium to help remedy arthritis and sore muscles. “There could be a blizzard, and people are sitting outside in that pool,” says Michael. “They love it.”  

And so, undoubtedly, will you. 



Hot Shea Butter Salt Scrub
& Sedona Mud Wrap

C’est La Vie Spa & Salon, Middletown


$150 for 90 minutes


Most people looking at spa menus instinctively understand what a massage and facial are, but get a little fuzzy on body treatments. Think of them as facials for the rest of you, says Mary Reynolds, lead massage therapist at C’est La Vie Spa and Salon, the Valley’s flashy new day spa in Middletown. “The hot shea butter salt scrub is an exfoliating treatment that rids the body of dead skin cells, but it’s also incredibly moisturizing,” says Reynolds. And pairing the scrub with a mud wrap actually helps rid the body of toxins, which is convenient after all the excesses of the holiday season.

The procedures take place in the spa’s wet room. Perched on a plastic-covered treatment table, you luxuriate in a steam shower for 15 minutes before the spa technician arrives. Your skin is then lightly dry-brushed by the loofah-glove-wearing technician. Next, a combination of hot shea butter (a natural fat obtained from the seed of the African karite tree) and sea salt are applied in both small circular motions and the long, flowing strokes of Swedish massage. The friction from the sea salt gently loosens the outermost layer of dead skin cells, while the shea butter softens and hydrates the newly revealed layer.

After wrapping hot towels around your hands and feet and letting the warmth penetrate for a few moments, the technician wipes off  the slippery salt so you’ll have an easier trip to the Swiss shower. There, nine glorious shower heads shoot warm water at your body from every conceivable direction, chest to toe. Then you’re ready to soak up the rich nutrition of the Red Sedona mud wrap. “It’s very warm and comforting after the shea butter scrub,” says Reynolds. “It’s dark,  thick, earthy — and it smells wonderful.”  

The mud is thickly spread with a brush, first on your back and then on the entire body. Plastic wrap is applied to keep the mud moist. Then you’re wrapped in a Mylar sheet (to keep body heat in) and covered with a  heavy blanket, so you feel safely cocooned (unless, of course, you’re claustrophobic, in which case this might not be the treatment for you). While soothing woodwinds or Native Indian-inspired music plays and candlelight flickers, you’re treated to a face and scalp massage while cool compresses are applied to your forehead. “It’s like being back in the womb,” says Reynolds, who remains with clients while the body is wrapped. More hot towels encase your feet and hands for a few moments before the mud is removed, then it’s back to the shower. “Don’t use the soap,” Reynolds advises. “You’ve just had a major cleansing.” The final touch is a light mist of warm seaweed spray and a quick application of red algae body lotion — unless you want to add on a 20-minute massage, which Reynolds highly recommends. “It’s hard to get too much massage,” she says. N


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