Monday, May 17, 2010


During a spate of typical Chicago winter howling winds and frigid temps, I ventured to a tony area of Chicago’s Gold Coast, just off the Mag Mile, to experience one of the area’s latest luxury spas at the gorgeous Elysian Hotel (part of The Leading Hotels of the World). As I approached the hotel and walked through the spacious wrought-iron gated driveway, I immediately felt like I was entering an Italian palazzo. It was definitely Euro-design in appearance and feel. Visually stunning, it was a stark departure from the terribly congested streets and foot traffic just outside its entry gate. And, the raucous street noise immediately dissipated. I was definitely transported to a better space.

The understated opulence continued upon entering the hotel’s lobby, where enormous Greco-Roman heads grace the lobby wall, juxtaposing contemporary with antiquity. A brief inquiry on the Spa’s location would bring me to fourth floor, where the Health Club is also located. As I left the elevator, I was struck with more impressive visuals. The Spa is approximately fourteen thousand square feet. The entry area is complemented with granite, natural stone, water features, sumptuous chairs, silk drapery, and decorative lighting fixtures that have an open contemporary style accentuated with the sense of antiquity with additional Greco-Roman heads; a male denoting the men’s lounge and a female, the women’s lounge. There are twelve spacious treatment rooms, a couple’s suite (with rain shower) and an outdoor lounge and terrace.

The Health Club focuses on Pilates and Gyrotonics, while offering its guests an array of fitness equipment for self-paced routines (treadmills, cardio and strength equipment); it also offers pre and post-natal programs. Another offering is the Elysian Complete Health Program, which has a certified personal trainer (CPT) developing fitness and nutrition programs. The CPT also guides the Health Club’s Cardio Advance Trainer sessions. Guests and locals can also avail themselves to Club Memberships.

Within the Spa area, there’s a stunning saline-based lap pool for guests to enjoy; the design feature of pink inlaid rose-shaped mosaic tiles gives guests a sense of a lull and decompression of their hectic lifestyle. In each lounge area there’s also steam, sauna, whirlpool, spacious dressing and locker space, personal amenities, plus a comfortable relaxation area, complete with libations and canapés. The men’s area includes a television, fireplace and a men’s atelier for all their grooming needs, include barber services such as a traditional straight-razor shave. The reception area includes an impressive retail boutique with treatment products used throughout the Spa, in addition to other must-have items like luxury soaps from MOR Emporium and Gianna Rose Atelier (I love both of these lines!).

The Spa offers a variety of facials, massages, body treatments, nail, hair and beauty services. Luxury brands Carita (facials and body) and Leonor Greyl (hair) are exclusively used in the Spa. For my treatment, I selected the Age Defying Facial, which was based on the signature Carita Renovateur treatment at its prestigious La Maison de Beaute, in Paris. The Spa’s version is approximately sixty-five minutes, while the Paris version is nearly two-hours. The Spa’s Age Defying Facial promises to exfoliate, polish, lift and refine skin with immediate results.

While the Spa recognizes that guests have unique needs and offers customized facials and massage treatments specific to those needs, to prepare for my facial treatment, I requested a listing of the specific Carita products that would be used during the course of my treatment. My request was graciously and promptly accommodated and a list identifying the Carita products that presumably would be used, identified that all of the products to be used during the treatment would be from Carita’s Progressif array of products. I concluded that the list represented all of the products that would be used in the treatment; I then used this advance detail to research the specific products on the manufacturer’s website in order to become better familiar with each of them. In researching the product list online, I was very impressed with the formulations and represented intended results. I felt informed and well prepared.

During the course of the treatment, I enjoyed my esthetician’s brief explanations of each treatment phase, along with the products used and their intended results; I also enjoyed how the products felt on my face; warmed towels were used instead of steam; I found it ironic that minor extractions were performed, since to me extractions were more invasive than steam; I would have preferred steam, versus any extractions, although I realize the two procedures are different. I also noted that there were some discrepancies on which products were used based on the list provided to me, in addition to additional products used in the treatment, which weren’t on the list.

With regard to the previously supplied treatment product recap, the esthetician inter-mixed the Carita Progressif treatment products along with Carita Lagoon products; when queried, the only explanation provided to me by the esthetician was that the mix was sometimes done and that the products performed the same as the other products. Because I didn’t know about the additional products that were also used, I wasn’t able to research them beforehand and have an understanding of them.

Overall, I found the treatment to be relaxing, with the only exception being an intense neck and shoulder massage during the mask phase; mentioning the intensity to my esthetician, she immediately adjusted her touch to my relief; however, some delayed discomfort surfaced several hours later and I found my neck and shoulders slightly stiff. I was also advised beforehand that my feet would be slightly massaged, along with hands and forearms; when asked about the feet being massaged, my esthetician mentioned that she never massages the feet, just the hands and forearms.

Although the results of the facial were immediately noticed and impressive, these effects were short-lived; the initial firmness and lifting dissipated in less than two-days. I wasn’t sure if this result had to do with the inter-mixing of products and how they synergistically performed with each other. My understanding with product efficacy has to do with product formulations and how they synergistically work with each other, since molecular structure often varies depending on ingredient and that product arrays were formulated to complement a single grouping and work together, versus mixing them with others outside of a specific product array.

I was unsuccessful in obtaining clarification and input from the U.S. Carita expert. I was trying to gain a better understanding about the inter-mixing of their Progressif with Lagoon specific products and their impact on this specific treatment’s short-lived efficacy that I experienced. After several follow-ups on my issues, I was eventually advised that Carita U.S. “…has to take a pass on the opportunity…”.

With that said, I was grateful to the PR agency for providing me with some Carita products to review. I was interested in reviewing products used in the treatment I had received, in the context of a guest developing an at-home regimen to continue and maintain the Age Defying Facial benefits received from the treatment. The facial products I reviewed included Carita’s Progressif Cleansing Beauty Foam (with jojoba micro-grains; this wasn’t used during the treatment), Progressif Intense Smooth Out Serum (used in the facial treatment), and Ultra-Nourishing Dry Oil 14 (with gold flecks; the non-flecked version was used in the treatment); this is a multi-purpose product that can be used on the face, hair or body; I didn’t use the gold-flecked version on my face during my home review.

The Cleansing Beauty Foam’s micro jojoba beads gently exfoliated; the product rinsed well, maintained hydration levels and didn’t leave any residue. The Smooth Out Serum was absorbed quickly and also didn’t leave any residue; it also maintained hydration levels. Both products were gentle and non-irritating; however, some may find the strong perfumy aromas of both products to be off-putting. The Dry Oil’s primary ingredient is mineral oil, which I presume is this the cosmetic-grade, which is non-comedogenic; while some might shy away from using anything with this ingredient on their face, when the non-gold flecked product was used during the treatment, I didn’t experience any adverse reaction or sensitivity, including tearing.

The Elysian Hotel Spa is a beautiful spa venue where guests can go to escape the stress and discord of their daily grind. The Elysian Hotel Spa offers luxurious detail and comprehensiveness guest comfort. It’s a nice addition to the other luxury properties in this great city. For more information, go to

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the spa industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker. You can email her at


(Photo courtesy of the Elysian Hotel; gated courtyard entrance.)

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