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 canap├ęs. 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.)

Friday, May 7, 2010


Jane Iredale’s eponymous brand has led the way in innovation and technology through research and development and has become the standard in mineral care treatment products. Long before mineral makeup became a trend in spa-dom, these products were the preferred and most requested product line by plastic surgeons and dermatologists; in turn, they were recommended to their patients for their gentle and effective care of post-treatment compromised facial skin. Now a mainstay in these medical practices, this mineral makeup line is also part of the landscape in spas of all types, as well as available online and in brick and mortar retail. The products exemplify practicality and treatment functionality, while have beautiful color palettes to complement all skin tones.

Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation ~
A recent accomplishment for the brand was when the esteemed Skin Cancer Foundation gave its imprimatur on five of the brand’s stellar products for meeting their strict testing and criteria for products that safeguard in the protection of skin from harmful and cancer causing UVA and UVB rays. These five must-have products are mainstays of the product line and have SPF factors ranging from SPF15 to SPF 30. Products include Dream Tint Moisture Tint (SPF15), LipDrink Lip Balm (SPF15), Powder-Me All Over Face and Body Powder (SPF30), PurePressed Base (SPF18) and Amazing Base Loose Mineral Foundation (SPF 20). I enjoyed using all of the products.

The Dream Tint (Light) is a dual-purpose product; it helped to balance and maintain moisture levels, even under the sun’s heat, while the subtle hint of color blended well with my fair skin; the product had a nice glide to it, didn’t feel heavy on my skin, blended well, and left no tacky residue; some of the ingredients include algae, elder flower, jojoba, sunflower seed oil, shea butter, white tea, grapefruit, vanilla fruit, and sweet almond; no wonder it hydrates and protects! The LipDrink was divine; left my lips soft and hydrated; the citrus aromas were delicious; exceptional glide, very hydrating, too; it had the best glide of any other similar lip product I’ve tried. Powder-Me (Translucent) has a sponge top dispenser delivery system; product was easy to use, didn’t streak and is water resistant; comes with a mirrored top to make application on the face flawless. Amazing Base (Light Beige) is just that; it’s amazing and leaves subtle believable color. PurePressed Base (Bisque) was a great take-with powder for touch-ups, although I didn’t have to do any, since the product has incredible staying power. It’s great finding dual-products like these that perform and protect.

Spring 2010 Collection ~
Spring has always been the season of renewal; it is subdued, soft and gentle. The Jane Iredale Spring 2010 Collection palette is aptly named Perfectly Nude and is perfect for the season. The colors are neutral and warm, but can be heated up just in time for summer’s heat by adding depth to the application with more of one color, or combined with others to customize one’s own signature pop of color. All colors in the new seasonal palette will compliment and enhance any skin tone.

This all-new collection of seasonal treats includes Perfectly Nude Lip Fixation, a dual lip treat with a lip stain on one end and a complementary gloss on the other end; each has its own applicator. This lip treat comes in three coordinated color choices, Desire, Fascination and Craving; wear the stain alone or top it off with the gloss, or mix all choices together to express your personality. All three color choices were lovely, but Fascination, which added a fresh pop of Spring rose color to my lips, complimented my fair skin the best. My lips were fortified with ginger root extract, which helped plump, and avocado oil, which left the skin drenched and super hydrated; mix and match or wear alone; the glossy finish gives a pop of season-fresh color to the lips, while balancing the muted subtlety of the remainder of this new color palette. Then there’s Perfectly Nude Eye Shadow Kit with five gorgeous colors to accentuate the eyes and make them the focal part of the face; colors include Cream, Foxy, Cappuccino, Antique Gold and Copper; the Antique Gold and Copper have a smidge of glimmer to them. The collection comes in a handy take-with mirrored kit, which includes a wonderful applicator brush. These gorgeous colors can be worn alone, or combined to customize a signature look; the colors can go from subtle to glam, depending on application intensity. I loved the subtlety of combining the Cream and Cappuccino, with a light rimming of Foxy. This color combination was a great daytime look. Rounding out the new seasonal color palette is Perfectly Nude So-Bronze 3; the dual color mineral bronzer that can be swirled together for a sun-kissed look that goes from blush to wow, or just use the lighter color of the two for a hint of glimmer and a first blush of sun on the cheekbones or an all-over wash of color; the kiss of sun gave my pale skin a nice pick-me-up.

All of the colors complemented my fair skin well and subtly brightened my winter-drabness. What I’ve always loved about any of the colors is that they are perfect all year long, no matter the season; they’re season-less. Go light, go dark, go glam! I also love the website with its many how-to guides, get-the-look primers, video demos and detailed product information; site content is very comprehensive and informative. (

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