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 Opal Center

On a rainy day in January, Opal was a warm oasis that effectively melted away every last bit of my post-holiday stress. This four-month-old massage center may not have the ostentatious waterfalls and congested rotary of clients around its check-in desk, but us recently converted Opalites like it that way.

Located on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, the center, run by two Slopers, licensed massage therapists-owners Sherry Dietchman and Sarah Falkner, offers only Swedish-based massages, leaving facials and body wraps to others. Opal, a small space colored in the semiprecious gem’s pale green and lavender, is named for the stone that "in Roman times was considered a very healing stone combining fire and water in the same substance," explained Dietchman.

A 70-minute massage is priced at $75, but where Dietchman adds value is her expert evaluation of the client. When clients come in, they take off their shoes, fill out a questionnaire while sitting on a raw silk banquette and have a one-on-one with the massage therapist.

She wants to know what’s ailing her clients and will then employ the pertinent modalities - aromatherapy, reflexology, hot-and-cold therapy, trigger point therapy and flower essences.

"We try to tailor our sessions so people come in with particular needs and we tailor everything we have at our disposal to their needs," explained Dietchman. The Opal technique truly feels like therapy - mentally and physically.

The proprietors say they have carefully selected the ambient details to transport their clients toward serenity and rejuvenation. I was taken into a dimly lit treatment room, with an Oriental carpet, small stools, a massage bed, classical music and flickering candles.
Unlike some treatment rooms, Opal’s didn’t have a sink. During the course of the treatment, a small towel in hot water was wrung out - and even the trickling sound of the water was a natural, soothing sound.

Dietchman combined aromatherapy (essential oils from a plant affecting the body through sense of smell and through absorption by the skin), some reflexology, and smooth, heated stones, to melt away the specific aches I complained of and also some tension knots I hadn’t realized existed in my shoulders and neck.

For my treatment, lavender and geranium were mixed into the massage oil with orange - to stop me from going right to sleep on my lunch hour. Dietchman also used hot towels and packs to further erase aches and pains.

Dietchman calls herself a "deep worker" but says that every therapist has his or her own method or style, so it’s important to communicate with the therapist before and during the massage about what kind of massage you prefer.

Opal offers Swedish-based massages for clients looking for general relaxation, sports massage, deep-tissue massage, medical massage (for injuries and chronic conditions), prenatal and perinatal massages (with a specially designed, adjustable cushioning system to support a tummy-down position) and lymphatic drainage.

Sessions are priced according to length, no matter how many modalities are employed. Series discounts are available.
According to Dietchman, Falkner, who mixes the oils onsite, is "a trained and talented herbalist." A shower is available for the client’s convenience, but I found the oil was easily absorbed into the skin. I was given a warm, wet cloth for my face and a mint tea, and that seemed all I needed to go back to work in a radically different mood - relaxed, clear-headed and fortified.



Pilo Arts Day Spa

Pilo Arts’ hair salon opened in 1978, and its day spa opened in 1984 making it the grandmother of Brooklyn spas. Pilo Arts Day Spa & Salon has its client traffic down to a science.

The bustling, first-floor lobby handles the tremendous number of clients who come for the extensive manicure, pedicure, makeup, hair coloring and cutting services. (This hair salon and hand and foot therapy area was recently renovated with a blend of Roman and Oriental influences, incorporating rice paper into the minimalist look.)

Spa clients are sent downstairs to the - currently being redecorated after hours - spa area. The distinct smells of a hair salon, and the noise, diminish as you descend the stairs.

The spa is installing a small waterfall into its relaxation room where lunches are served, explained John Haubrich, Pilo’s director of operations. There will be a total of nine treatment rooms, and their current ’80s-style rooms will be updated into a more current look including new, porcelain bowl sinks rather than stainless steel "kitchen sinks."

A real added benefit to the Pilo spa prices are the complimentary shower, sauna, steam, hand paraffin treatment and makeup touchup included in the service price. Jude LaBarca, Pilo’s CEO, says the spa has been doing so well, they wanted to give back to the customer.

(You might want to tell the artists to go light on the makeup after your facial, when it’s important to let the rosy cheeked you be exposed.)

I experienced a Pilo Signature facial with Master II aesthetician Maya. (A facial with a Master I aesthetician is $48, Master II is $53.) Maya, a 12-year Pilo vet dressed in nurse’s whites, was pleasant yet still quite serious about the health of my skin and very knowledgeable about the array of facial product lines she uses - Decleor, Sothys, Gigi and others.

Each Pilo Arts facial includes cleansing and toning, a warm vaporizing mist, extractions, a relaxing face, neck and shoulder massage, customized mask and moisturizer with sunscreen.

Each service also includes a moisturizing, heated hand treatment, which kept my hands in toasty mitts while Maya performed her soothing rituals.

Steaming the face during the facial massage has the added benefit of combating the effects of winter’s cold, biting wind and the dry, baking indoor heat.

Though I protested the extractions, Maya insisted this was the only way to get a really clean face as opposed to just a relaxed face. The extractions - squeezing black heads and white heads until I squeezed a tear or two - were followed by a startling, "high frequency" electronic device like a bug zapper "to eliminate any impurities," Maya explained.

But when that was out of the way, a soothing seaweed mask was applied and cooling pads set on my eyes, and it was time to meditate for a few moments.

Gigi products don’t have a lot of perfume and are good for sensitive skin, said Maya, explaining why she used them on my face. She recommends facials once a month to keep skin healthy and younger looking. And truly, upon later examination, my cheeks were pink, my face was glowing and even the bags under my eyes were diminished.

The half-hour Swedish massage ($40) with Stewart, recommended for loosening up muscles tightened by winter’s chill, took place in a large treatment room.

Though he was adept at hitting soothing pressure points on the face and head and feet, Stewart said an hour-long massage is standard and gives him time to really relax the whole body. For a 30-minute service, I’d advise instructing the therapist to focus on one area - shoulders and neck or legs. Otherwise just go for the 60-minute massage!

The spa also offers a series discount and there are a number of discount packages to choose from. Pilo also has an outdoor garden available to clients in season.

"[Pilo Arts] is the largest day spa in Brooklyn," says LaBarca. "We have 4,000 clients in Staten Island, so we’re opening a 7,000-square-foot space there. We hope to be the largest in Staten Island, too."

There’s more! Click here to view the rest of the article

See our Spa Directory.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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