In the ever-expanding universe of spa services, the facial is probably the least luxurious treatment out there. Unlike purely indulgent aromatherapy massages, salt glow scrubs, and hot milk pedicures, facials serve undeniably practical purposes: they rehydrate thirsty skin, slough off flaky dead cells, and dig accumulated grime out of pores.
But a number of spas are incorporating local ingredients—and local folklore—to create sensual facials that are utterly indigenous to the places where they're performed. The Claremont Spa in California wine country uses a mask made from crushed grapes, and another spa in Aspen cleanses skin with a hot towel infused in pine-needle oil. In congested Manhattan, you can have your pores blasted with oxygen. And that's just the beginning. The following 12 facials, offered in spas from Hawaii to North Carolina, are more than a bimonthly chore for the dull-complexioned. They're mini-vacations for all five senses—and for your lackluster skin.
Hawaiian Pohaku Facial Spa Grande, Grand Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii; 808/875-1234; $200. The only indigenous element missing from this tropical facial is a hula dancer. The 80-minute treatment starts with cleansing and extractions, followed by a ti-leaf and mud mask, and a hot stone neck-and-shoulder massage. Essential oils made from native flowers—plumeria, tuberose, and gardenia—are smoothed onto the face and neck. In a word: Cowabunga!
Wine Country Journey Claremont Resort & Spa, Berkeley, Calif.; 510/843-3000; body polish and facial, $250. "Our face mask contains crushed seeds from forty-two wine varietals," says spa director Nancy Cauthorn, who teamed up with a manufacturer of body products made from local grapes. "The seeds have natural oils and contain vitamins A and E, which balance all skin types." Skin is first exfoliated and then further refined with a grapeseed paste. Warm towels are applied to different areas of the body and face, followed by either an oil or lotion massage. Alas, the spa doesn't serve wine to drink with the treatment, but "there's a constant red wine aroma," says Cauthorn. "It's very relaxing."
Champagne and Caviar Facial Verabella Skin Therapy, Los Angeles, Calif.; 310/278-4733; $150. Leave it to a Beverly Hills spa to concoct a facial loaded with luxe ingredients. Flat champagne mixed with wheat germ and yeast enzymes is used to exfoliate the skin; then a 30-minute essential-oil massage relieves stress. A threefold caviar treatment (ampoule, creamy mask, and collagen fleece sheet) is applied next, which leaves skin luminous (and doesn't smell the least bit fishy). "Caviar extract is rich in vitamins A, D, B1, and B6," says spa owner Vera Kantor, whose clients include Lisa Kudrow, Candice Bergen, and Michael J. Fox. "It makes your skin look smooth and fresh." The perfect pre-Oscar splurge.
Facial Hydration Plus Paris Spa by Mandara, Las Vegas, Nev.; 702/ 946-3322; $100. "Most visitors here aren't used to the heat and dryness, or the heavy water," says spa director Charlotte Bowdle. "The first thing they want is a facial." The Hydration Plus replenishes moisture-starved travelers with a multi-vitamin pack made from cereal grains. The skin's water level is then boosted a second time by one of four Phyto Skin Care hydrating masks: Oxygenating for combination/oily skin, Nutrivital for dry skin, Harmony for sensitive types, and Revitalizing for mature clients. "It gives you plump skin, replete with moisture. Any fine fatigue lines are alleviated and softened. And it smells divine."
Cleansing Clay Facial Green Valley Spa & Tennis Resort, St. George, Utah; 800/237-1068; $85. "Twenty-eight million years ago, the desert here was under a salty sea," says co-owner Carol Coombs. "When the sea receded, it left huge mineral clay deposits, which were pushed up into these great red cliffs." The clay in the Cleansing Clay Facial is mined from those same cliffs, along with preserved salt crystals. "Native Americans used the clay as soap. It also cools and reduces inflammation," explains Coombs. The brittle clay is painted on over a solvent made from Indian sage, juniper berries, and creosote bush, all harvested nearby. "People come in with ruddy, inflamed cheeks or grayish, coarse skin and walk out with a totally different skin tone," says Coombs. And, we'd imagine, a new appreciation for mud.