LAKE PLACID - "The Spa is a tranquil place where you can relax, reflect, rejuvenate," declared a sign in the Whiteface Lodge's lady's sanctuary.
Helping to create that relaxing atmosphere is the dim lighting, the soft and calming music playing in the background, and the indoor wall fountain with water trickling down it in the lobby of The Spa.
As soon as I stepped into the lobby on Saturday morning, I knew I was in for a treat, especially since I had never had a spa treatment done before. The closest thing I ever came to one was getting a manicure once at a hair salon, but I had a sneaking suspicion that my facial and four-handed massage at The Spa would blow it out of the water.
Margaret Moran gets the 'spa-cial' treatment of a facial
After filling out a brief medical form, I was whisked to the ladies' sanctuary, and while I was being led there, I noticed that the decor of spa embraced the Adirondack theme with its rustic furniture and lighting fixtures and that there was a gentleman's sanctuary, as well.
"I've been in the spa business for almost 13 years and when I first started, no men," said Jamie Costa, the Whiteface Lodge's spa director. "Today, I would say it's probably 70 percent female, 30 percent men, which is huge in this industry. I think they're getting more comfortable with themselves, and we actually have services on the spa menu geared toward men, so they're not uncomfortable looking at the menu. ... We want everybody to feel comfortable, as comfortable as possible while they're here."
And I did feel comfortable. Maybe it was the soft lighting, the background music or the friendly staff that put me at ease. Well, whatever it was, it helped to dissipate some of the nerves I had about coming to a spa.
In the ladies' sanctuary, I was shown a locker where I could store my belongings and hanging inside was a clean, cream-colored robe and a pair of sandals to change into.
Drawing the curtain of the changing area, I started to disrobe and once I was down to my undergarments I debated with myself if I should leave those on or not. I wasn't sure of the proper spa etiquette having never been to a spa before, so in the end I decided to do what I felt most comfortable with, which was keeping my undergarments on. Slipping on the robe, I noticed how soft it felt against my skin and was satisfied that it covered me well.
Before long, my facialist, Sue Homa, an esthetician for 12 years, came to collect me from the ladies' sanctuary and led me to the room where I would be getting my acne repair facial, which according to the treatment description should "diminish the appearance of any skin imperfections, normalize sebum secretions and brighten the complexion."
Once inside the room Homa showed me a body wrap towel that I was to put on and told me to slip underneath the sheets of the spa table and then left me, closing the door behind her to give me my privacy to do as she instructed.
In the dimly-lit room I removed my robe and wrapped the towel robe around me, velcroing the top to secure it into place. Once done, I realized my bra straps were showing. Should I take off my bra? I thought. I don't want my straps to be showing, but I didn't feel entirely comfortable going braless, so I came up with Option C. I took my hair out of its messy bun and let my long tresses hang, covering up my straps. I felt so clever to figure out a solution to my predicament, but I soon discovered a flaw in my plan. Once I settled myself on the spa table, my hair kept sliding off my shoulders no matter what I did, exposing my straps. In the end, I decided to go with the flow and forsake the bra.
With a light knock at the door, Homa asked if I was ready, and I said that I was, so she re-entered the room. First she told me that she would examine my skin before starting the treatment.
Placing a cover over my eyes, she turned on an overhead swivel light to examine my skin better and said that around my chin and nose was a little oily, but not too bad, and that I had some dry skin as well. Her skin analysis results came as no surprise to me.
And with that she set to work. I soon got lost in the feeling of her fingers placing creams and other skin products onto my face and spreading it around, following the contours of my face. It felt really nice, and with my eyes closed, I noticed that not only did my sense of touch kick in, but so did my other senses.
When Homa opened a jar of pumpkin enzyme to exfoliate my skin, I could smell the pumpkin right away. She told me that The Spa uses an organic skin care line, Naturopathica, and while she applied the pumpkin enzyme to my face, I noticed that she was using a brush instead of her fingers to put it on. It was like my face was her canvas.
After she painted on the exfoliate, Homa massaged my scalp, sending pleasant tingles down my back. After a few minutes, she placed a warm towel on my chest and then wrapped it around my face, leaving my noise exposed. That was my favorite part. I just loved feeling the warmth enveloping me, as if I was curling up under a comforter on a cold winter's day.
After she wiped off the exfoliate using the towel, she did the extraction portion of the facial, using her fingers to draw out the excess oil out of my skin. It felt like she was pinching my skin, but it wasn't an unpleasant feeling, and she checked on me several times, asking me if I was OK.
Then a mini massage followed, which surprised me. I didn't think a facial would include a massage of the neck, shoulders, arms and hands, but I'm glad that it did. As her hands hit on certain body points, I could feel the release built up tension.
One of the last parts of the facial was getting a mask applied to my face.
"The mask that I used was a purifying mask - it's a clay mask and what that does is it draws out the impurities in the skin, and the clay does that naturally," Homa said. "I also combined that with seaweed because your skin was also a little dehydrated."
The end result was that my skin was the softest I've ever felt it. I couldn't stop touching my face.
"Facials are great for the skin," Homa said. "It fluffs off the dead cells that build up on the surface. It rejuvenating. It stimulates the cells. It makes people feel good. A lot of times it recharges them, not only personally, but it gets them back into using their skin care routine. The skin is the largest organ, so it's great to take care of it."
Another way to take care of one's skin is through a massage.
"It increases your circulation," said Susan Murray, a licensed massage therapist. "It's good for stress reduction, sore muscles."
"It alleviates tension and inflammation," added Trish Brown, a licensed massage therapist.
Despite all its benefits and hearing how amazing massages are, I have to admit I was a little nervous before getting one myself. Just knowing that I was going to be practically naked on a table while strangers touched and rubbed me, took me out of my comfort zone.
"When we bring them (clients) in, I always tell them, you're draped at all times - we uncover arm, legs, back, whatever we're working - so it's very discrete," Murray said.
And it was, so I quickly got over nerves and soaked in the experience for what it was: relaxing. I could feel Murray and Brown work on my body, sometimes working in unison as if they were one person, while at other times working independently from each other, focusing on different areas of my body from my neck all the way to my toes.
I was getting the four-handed massage done, which is a spa treatment only offered by the Whiteface Lodge in the Tri-Lakes area, and I have to say it was pretty amazing.
With oil on their hands, I could feel them smooshing my flesh around like it was pizza dough with their strong hands, sometimes hitting different tension points in my body at the the same time.
Brown said within the first minute or two of meeting the client she can tell were people have some pent-up body tension.
"It really starts by looking at the client even when you go to meet them," she said. "You can tell by their body posture, how they walk, how they carry themselves and even visually looking at them on the table. Of course, when you're massaging them, your fingers just automatically find tension areas."
My tension areas were my neck, shoulders and quads, and my feet were just plain ticklish.
When they went to work on my feet I was able to suppress my myself from laughing out loud, but Brown and Murray still noticed that I was ticklish despite my efforts in try to conceal it.
Having someone be that attentive to me and my needs, made feel special, and then before I knew it, my treatment was over. That was 50 minutes, I wondered? Wow, it went by so fast. I was actually a little disappointed that it was over and wistfully thought if only it could have continued for a little while longer ...
Besides massages and facials, The Spa at the Whiteface Lodge also provides manicures, pedicures, body wraps, exfoliations, a hot stone ritual, waxing, and hair styling, coloring and cuts. For a more comprehensive list of services, go www.thewhitefacelodge.com/spa/ and click on the spa menu tab.
Spa director Costa quickly dispelled the thought that spa treatment is an unaffordable luxury.
"Spa treatments like massages and facials, they're not a luxury," Costa said. "It's so good for your soul. It de-stresses. It's good for circulation. ... Athletes, like the day after Ironman, we have a full house because they're not looking at it as a luxury; it's like 'I need to be worked on. I really need those muscles worked into and I need all those knots worked out for me.'"
The cost for spa treatments range anywhere from $15 to $340. The Spa offers monthly specials, a biannual girls night, with the next one occurring in June, and a rewards program for people in the Tri-Lakes area to help make treatments financially accessible to everyone, Costa said.
The Spa's hours change seasonally and will be closed starting April 6 at noon and will reopen for business on April 20 at noon, but reservations will still be taken during that time. Reservations can be by calling 523-0560 or online at www.thewhitefacelodge.com/guest_experience/concierge.php.
Other area spas
The Spa at the Mirror Lake Inn, www.mirrorlakeinn.com, 523-2544
Lake Placid Speedy Spa, www.lpspeedyspa.com, 523-5500
Adirondack Day Spa and Salon, www.adirondackdayspa.com, 523-1670