In the 1940s and ‘50s, dermatologist Erno Laszlo kept the complexions of movie stars like Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe camera-ready from his exclusive clinic in midtown Manhattan. In the mid-1960s, he went public, so to speak, with a skin-care product line to be carried in tony department stores.

For the last few years, cosmetics companies have had one word for you: minerals. As in, mineral-based makeup—and increasingly, skin care—that's chockful of scary-sounding stuff like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, potassium, and mica (ok, mica doesn’t sound so bad). Despite these compounds usually being cooked up in labs, mineral-based cosmetics tout themselves as “natural” and “environmentally-friendly,” not so much for what they put in as what they leave out: preservatives, parabens, artificial dyes, mineral oils, and chemicals like formaldehyde.

The venerable Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, long a fixture on Fifth Avenue, has recently opened a subterranean branch in the Theater District’s Chatwal hotel—perfectly situated for some pre- or post-matinee pampering. After donning a plush terry robe in a private dressing room, visitors can swim in a saltwater pool, relax under a massage therapist’s stress-melting touch, and/or experience an epidermis-enhancing treatment.

Nothing suggests low energy like limp hair—and who needs that, this festive time of year? For those interested in seriously fixing their follicles, the Philip Kingsley Trichological Centre stands ready. “We consider scalp health fundamental to healthy hair growth,” says trichologist Elizabeth Phillips.

IOMA, a skin-care line recently arrived from France, gets in your face—to help your face. Step up to its diagnostic Sphere and the astronaut helmetlike device quickly snaps five facial photos, using microchip-embedded sensors to pinpoint problem areas, such as wrinkles, UV damage, sagging and clogged pores.

The current thing at NYC day spas? Services that sound good enough to eat or drink. Sugaring, the use of a warm, white sugar/lemon juice/water paste to remove body hair, is the signature method at Hibba Beauty Studio (448 W. Broadway, btw Prince & W. Houston sts., “Unlike wax, the sugar sticks only to the hair, not the skin,” says Owner Hibba Kapal. Result: a more ouch!-free experience and, some clients find, less hair growth over time.

We all know that stress can wreak havoc on the skin, so it stands to reason that a sense of calm can have a positive impact on the complexion. That was why beautician/massage therapist Claudia Colombo (a veteran of the famed Bliss Spa, who leftto open her own Flatiron nook) came up with the idea of combining her “two passions—skin care and yoga.”

I see and sample a lot of skin-care products in my line of work. It’s a cushy job, but someone has to do it. And it always fascinates me to pick up on the vibe the manufacturer is broadcasting, the cosmetics karma so to speak . Some go for an aura of glitz and glamour – “selling hope in a jar”, as one industry exec (Estée Lauder, I believe) put it.

Enthusiasts of Essie, rejoice: The line of cunningly named nail polishes has opened its first salon to lovingly and luxuriously administer to fingers and toes. It’s a gleaming white space, decorated with blow-up photos of polish bottles on one wall and a rainbow-hued array of the real thing on the other. Guests sit on puffy, warm-hued couches—colored to match Essie shades—to receive a leisurely manicure. Services are priced a bit higher than at the usual neighborhood nail place, admittedly, but they do come with lots of nice extra touches.


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