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OH D’MAI

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As the last episode of "Sex and the City" flickered across TV screens everywhere Sunday, I felt obliged to pay homage by indulging in some sort of single-girl frivolity.

My meager bank account, not to mention lack of grace, ruled out a pair of $400 Manalo Blahnik heels. A pounding headache nixed midday Cosmopolitans. As for an illicit romp with a partner whose name would quickly be reduced to a pithy one syllable sobriquet - let’s just say my mother reads this paper.

So it was off to the spa.

In some places, getting facials can be an anxiety-ridden experience, with snotty staff and alien oily treatments.

But inside Fifth Avenue’s D’Mai Urban Spa, the newest addition to Park Slope, all that anxiety is exfoliated away.

Owners Daniella Stromberg and Mark Abbonizio have converted a long-abandoned fish store into a 3,000-square-foot Zen pleasure den dotted with flowering quince tree branches and delicate orchids that offers an array of treatments ranging from body polishes ($100) to hot stone massages ($55-$125).

After traveling the spas of the world, Stromberg fell in love with the spas of Indonesia and decided to bring some of the tradition and philosophy (and furniture!) back home.

The effect is tastefully simple, with wood-slatted walkways, black rocks and delicate orchids. (Think West Elm meets yoga retreat.)

After slipping into a white cotton robe, I’m met by my aesthetician Marni in one of the spa’s three "quiet areas" interspersed between the treatment rooms where visitors are encouraged to relax and reflect on their pedicure or massage.

"Give it to me straight," I tell Marni as I climb onto the Javanese table with candlelight flickering behind me.

The last time I had a facial, a Russian aesthetician in southern Brooklyn with little patience for flattery took one look at my (overworked and underpaid, thank you very much) skin and almost plotzed.

"It is severely dehydrated and clogged," she informed me.

But this time around, after a year of compulsive moisturizing, Marni says my skin is "irritated" and congested. I considered this a major improvement.

D’mai is one of the few spas in New York City - and the only one in Brooklyn - to use products by Hollywood skin guru Sonya Dakar, who has treated the pretty little faces of Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Of course, one look at the prices of the products and you, too, might wish you had the bank account of a Hollywood starlet.

After the skin analysis, Marni begins the "Essential Facial" ($80) with a Soya Wash - a soap, detergent and fragrance-free, soy-based facial cleanser. And then she leads slowly up to the dreaded moment.

"If it doesn’t hurt, she’s just playing," Marni says about aestheticians. Marni is certainly not playing around as she extracts oil and dirt from my congested pores.

With that much-needed unpleasantry out of the way, we proceed through the blissful hour of sprays, creams, washes, masks and mists.

Marni fields my battery of questions about each product like a pro and takes time to massage my shoulders, neck and feet during the two, yes two, masks.

"You can taste it if you want," Marni says as she sprays a fine mist of Aromasol toner, made with chamomile, tangerine and Dead Sea minerals.

(While it’s salty and good, not all products are equally edible, as I learn the hard way.)

As my hour of self-indulgence nears the end, both the green tea and blue azulene masks washed away, the natural pluck returns to my skin.

Marni finishes off by massaging in a dollop of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and flaxseed oils.

And then it was off to the quiet area, where I sipped some lemon-infused water and contemplated my new, kissably soft skin.

"I just wanted to figure out a way to make people feel really special," Stromberg says as we stroll around the spa. After years of organizing holistic spa vacations, the Park Sloper says, she could not wait to open up her own.

Designed as a retreat spa, Stromberg steers away from things like anti-cellulite and anti-aging treatments. But in just two weeks, D’Mai will offer nail services with a special Indonesian spa pedicure using water infused with essential oils and floating flower petals.

Over the summer, the backyard will also be converted in to a lush garden with an outdoor treatment area.

While the spa opened just last week, the place is already booked. And thanks to a healthy dose of metrosexuals (although rarely spotted in Birkenstock-friendly Park Slope), almost a quarter of the customers are men.

Beauty may come from the inside out, or so they say, but for most of us, a little external help and pampering go a long way.

Of course, a Cosmopolitan and an affaire d’amour aren’t half-bad either.


See the Spa Directory for more information about D’mai Urban Spa.
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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