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COVER STORY

Now this is steamy

Has holiday stress and excess given you pains and regrets? Let a spa bathe, baste, rub and rinse the trouble out of you.

January 03, 2008|Jessica Gelt, David Ng, Enid Portuguez, Mary Kaye Schilling, Elina Shatkin and Margaret Wappler

THE frantic holiday season has come to a close. You've drunk yourself blind, eaten yourself silly and worked yourself into a shopping stupor. Fortunately for you, The Guide has shouldered the onerous burden of numerous treatments to steer you toward the finest day-spa pampering the city has to offer. All spas offer a wide menu of treatments for men and women in addition to those we tried.

Go ahead, fulfill that New Year's resolution to relax.

BEVERLY HOT SPRINGS

An unassuming urban retreat that rests above a natural artesian well flush with mineral-rich spring waters, the hot H2O is coaxed to the surface in an underground grotto equipped with large tiled pools, burbling fountains and a soothing meditation garden (separate facilities for men and women, so go ahead and strip). Dally among the ice bath, the hot springs, a steam room and a sauna. Add a vigorous body scrub or massage to your package, and you'll be as limp as a noodle when you crawl back to your car. 308 N. Oxford Ave., L.A. Pool $40; massage $90 for 60 minutes. (323) 734-7000.

BODY LOUNGE

If overindulgence has left your skin blotchy and red, the 1 1/2 -hour, seven-step SeaC Facial -- including mild extraction and a terrific facial, neck and arm massage -- will do you right up. The highlight: an application of five translucent, seaweed-based patches that dissolve into your skin thanks to a concentrated Vitamin C gel. Sounds weird, feels great. 13952 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $130 for 90 minutes. (818) 783-8037.

CENTURY SPORTS CLUB & DAY SPA

Here the sexes are separated, clothes are shed, and bodies move in a daze among ice-cold and hot spa baths, marble and clay saunas and a silken tub of rich green Chinese herbs. Once you're boiled red, you shower and lie on a stone slab where a Korean woman in a black bra and panties crusts you with salt like a side of beef and rubs you down with vigorous abandon. After sloughing off several layers of dead skin you didn't think you could spare, she rinses you with warm buckets of water, shampoos your hair and bastes you in creamy lotion. 4120 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. $65 for 60 minutes. (323) 954-1020.

DERMALOGICA

The place -- super white, pod-like treatment rooms and soothingly trippy lighting -- makes you feel like you're in "2001: A Space Odyssey," which is a nice change from the new-agey joints that dominate the spa landscape. Being big fans of the Dermalogica skin care line, we were cautiously excited about our visit -- cautiously since facials are always a crap shoot and a bad one can wreak havoc. Our therapist, Michelle, looked too young to know a good facial from a hole in the wall, but her hands proved otherwise: a thorough yet relatively pain-free extraction, an oddly pleasant bacteria-killing electromagnetic gadget, and a blissful arm and hand massage. The result? Glowing skin, clean as a whistle. 1022 Montana Ave., Santa Monica. $85 for 60 minutes. (310) 260-8682.

DTOX DAY SPA

Someone once told us one massage equals two hours of sleep. If you fall asleep, does that make it four? In the hands of therapist Julian at the award-winning and chic dtox day spa in Atwater Village, not only did we drift into a delicious slumber, we also got rid of a torturous, stress-related crick in our neck that had been plaguing us for weeks. The delicate balancing act required to make a massage therapeutic and relaxing -- well, that's an art. A hot stone rub (our definition of heaven), an oiled scalp massage, and the washing of feet with a lemony scrub, are just three of the bonus points of the spa's Signature Experience, which, even at 80 minutes, ends much too quickly. 3206 Los Feliz Blvd., L.A. The Signature: $160 for 80 minutes. (323) 665-3869.

LE PETITE RETREAT

When strains of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" accidentally slipped through the treatment-room speakers, creating sonic dissonance with the meditation music we had been listening to during our Sea Tonic Scrub, we realized the irony of our situation: oh, to be comfortably numb after paying more than $100 to be rubbed raw with a salt-and-oil scrub. Comfort did come, in the form of a copper aromatherapy tub laced with lavender essential oils. Agony eased, our skin was soon celestially soft. 331 N. Larchmont Blvd., Larchmont. $130 for 75 minutes. (323) 466-1028.

ONA SPA

Getting a deep-tissue massage at Ona is like placing your body underneath a steamroller wrapped in cushions. That is to say, it hurts so good. Slip between downy sheets on an adjustable table that's perfectly calibrated to relieve pressure on your knees and lessen congestion. Ona's masseuses take time to talk about your problem spots before rubbing your pillow with a personalized scent (ours was relaxing lavender and orange) and digging into your most tortured muscles with an almost-psychic acumen. Finish decompressing in a large, tiled shower with dreamy soaps. 7373 Beverly Blvd., WeHo. $160 for 80 minutes. (323) 931-4442.

PURE AESTHETICS PURE WELLNESS

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