By Jeff Dufour - 09/29/05 12:00 AM EDT
My experience with facials was, shall we say, limited.
As in never.
So it was with some trepidation that I ventured into the Willard spa for what I was sure would be someone burning the top layer of skin off of my face.
Would people really willingly subject themselves — and part with their good money in the process — for something so painful? (Then again, women do pay good money for bikini waxes, I told myself.)
First, I was led into the “relaxation room,” where I was presented with the “water of the day” — a glass of lemongrass infused spring water.
Then it was into the treatment room, complete with low light, candles and expensive-looking apothecary cabinets. Think of a doctor’s office designed by the staff of Architectural Digest. This must be where they keep the blowtorch.
But no. Katie, my aesthetician, managed immediately to slow my pulse, although I’m not sure whether it was the natural scents permeating the room, the atmospheric, New Agey music or her enchanting Greek accent.
My $100 service was one of four offered under the Willard’s “Barber Spa” menu for men — besides the facial, the spa offers a manicure, pedicure and scalp massage.
For a man’s face, she explained, the spa uses products by Art of Shaving, an ultra-high-end brand created by a Manhattan couple in 1996. Each is loaded with essential oils such as peppermint, clove and lavender, considerably more expensive than the stuff they pull off Middle Eastern deserts.
Apart from the lack of a blade, there are similarities between the men’s facial and a barbershop shave. The hot towel that greets the end of each step, for instance.
These steps include a cleansing, a steam bath, extractions (a somewhat vigorous squeezing of the pores that is less painful than it sounds), a particularly enjoyable neck and shoulder massage and a moisturizer.
The final step was the clay mask, designed to draw out impurities. I’m not sure what color it was, but I’d have to assume it was green. Containing grape-seed oil and rosewater, it smelled as if I were wearing a salad on my face.
No matter. When Katie left the room for a few minutes to let the mask do its thing I was out like a light.
And when she finally jarred me from my slumber, I walked out into the late-summer heat feeling like a new man.