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IT'S A Wrap : Any Body Gets Star Treatment at O.C. Spas and Salons

August 04, 1994|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Body wraps have been around since ancient times, and now, like the hedonistic Romans before them, modern pleasure-seekers are getting all wrapped up in this head-to-toe treatment.

Think of a body wrap as a kind of marinade for the body. First you are covered all over in mud, seaweed, aloe, mineral oil, herbs or some other therapeutic concoction. Then you are wrapped in plastic, towels, blankets or foil and left to, well, stew in your own juices.

What happens next varies according to who's doing the wrapping.

Body wraps have been promoted for their ability to detoxify impurities from the body, to tone and temporarily reduce the appearance of cellulite and to rejuvenate the skin. Whether they actually do any of these has been debated, but they are therapeutic for the mind. The best wraps offer a couple hours of pampering complete with massages, soft music and dim lights designed to help the subject unwind.

"Three years ago (body wrapping) was so new," says Brenda DeSan, owner of Bellezza Salon/Day Spa in Laguna Niguel. "Now it's happening all across the country. It's becoming the '90s thing to go to a day spa and get the treatments."

Like other local spas and resorts, the Spa at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, which opened doors Monday to charter members and Sept. 1 to the public, offers assorted body wraps. It does so in a setting that easily recalls the ancient Romans with its molded ceilings, columns and classical furnishings.

"There's a growing interest in wraps," says Kimberley Matheson, executive director of the Spa. "I attribute it to this fast lifestyle. Everyone needs a time-out. It's not often that you're awake and still and quiet, and you're doing something good for your body."

Men as well as women are getting wrapped.

"We're seeing more and more men becoming experimental. They're taking care of their bodies, too," Matheson says.

When you arrive for a wrap at the Spa, you are immediately issued a fluffy white robe and sent to a plush locker room to change. In a dimly lit waiting room you meet aesthetician Bonnie Fitzgerald. She ushers you into a small room equipped with a shower and table, where you lie on your back for the wrap.

For shy types, Fitzgerald is sensitive about what she calls "the towel issue," maneuvering the towel around the body as she works so patrons never feel completely exposed. She begins by rubbing on the black Moor mud--a nutrient-rich soot from a spa lake in Hungary--over your face and body. Ordinarily wraps begin with brushing off the dead skin cells with a loofah sponge or brush, but mud wraps have exfoliating properties that make this step unnecessary. By the time Fitzgerald is finished you look like a tar baby.

She wraps you in a sheet of plastic that's slightly heavier than Saran Wrap, then tucks you into a heavy blanket. Thus mummified, you lie still while she gives you a relaxing mini-facial with the mud, then covers your eyes with cool pads scented with neroli oil (an extract from orange blossoms, she explains).

She leaves you to relax, occasionally venturing in to spritz your face with neroli water to make sure the mud on your face doesn't harden into a mask.

*

After the wrap, which lasts about half an hour while the body soaks up the nutrients in the mud, it's time for a shower. You emerge from the plastic feeling a little like the Swamp Thing and step quickly into the already-warm shower, where a loofah sponge and bath gel have been left for you to rub off the mud. Then you're off to soak for 20 minutes in a jet bath treated with mineral-rich crystals, while sipping a champagne flute filled with lemon water.

The $95 treatment finishes with Fitzgerald rubbing your body all over with a moisturizer. You leave feeling as if you'd shed a second skin; your hands and face haven't been this smooth and soft since you were a baby.

There are other types of wraps depending on one's tastes and skin care needs.

At various spas around the county, you can take your pick of body treatments, including an herbal wrap in which linens steeped in a natural herb mixture are wrapped snugly around the body; an aloe gel wrap designed for dry skin, and a Spirulina (algae) wrap for toning and nourishing the skin. Services last from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the type of treatment and range from $30 to $95.

Other spas and resorts have their versions of the body wrap.

The Dana Point Resort offers two kinds of body wraps, a white clay wrap scented with rose oil touted for its moisturizing and calming effects and a Dead Sea mud wrap for absorbing toxins and restoring skin's softness ($75).

"The treatments involve all of the senses," says Margaret Duran, spa coordinator of the resort. Clients are lulled with relaxing music and a 15-minute moisturizing massage after the wrap.

At Bellezza, clients can have their pick of wraps and whole body treatments, including a seaweed body treatment and a European body wrap (each 1 1/2-hour treatment is $85). The European wrap is done by wrapping the body with cloths that have been steeped in herbs and is promoted for its hydrating and toning effect on the skin.

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