Upon entering a high-end spa, more often than not one is met with dim lighting, neutral colours, the comforting sound “of nature” tweeting and trickling in the background, and, of course, the odd orchid placed alongside a pitcher of iced cucumber water and basket of fresh fruit. To be met with something other than this stale formula for tranquility — such as the murals and original art works by Curtis Jinkins and David LaChapelle, custom barber chairs designed by motorcycle architect Paul Cox, andBeck blasting, which one discovers upon visiting Spa 1851 — is nothing short of a refreshing surprise to the jaded spa-goer.

Then again, Kiehl’s has built its reputation on having a knack for doing things differently, and the brand’s long-awaited NYC sanctuary, Spa 1851, recently opened at 64th and Lexington, perfectly embodies its historic alternative ethos. A second storey, full-treatment spa, this temple of beauty is straight out of a rock and roller’s dream — precisely the sort of place, high fashion yet low maintenance types like us feel completely at home in. All it takes is shaking out your long unruly waves, peeling off those leather leggings, and laying down to a 60-minute Ultra Facial (because there’s nothing glam rock about bad skin) and you’re there: beautiful relaxation.

One of the four signature facials available at the spa, the Ultra Facial is a basic treatment that runs the shortest in duration of the four menu items. Promising to regenerate tired skin, it helps maintain the skin’s balance. The facial builds the base for optimal skin health and hydration levels, the perfect fix after long days followed by long nights during the holiday season. Admittedly, we ourselves recently needed just such a pick-me-up, and the Ultra’s promise to regenerate, balance, hydrate and essentially restore the skin to an overall healthy state was just what we were looking for.

To begin, our aesthetician got up-close and personal, taking a long hard look at our skin and then passing along an in-depth analysis of its health. “Overall, very good,” she shares, “but your skin is very sensitive and you should be using a product as basic and gentle as Cetaphil to cleanse — no more perfumed potions!” Now, we love Kiehl’s products more than anything in our beauty drawer, but we must give props for having a professional on staff that is cool enough to tell us what we really need comes from the mid-shelf of any drug store. And she’s intuitive; sensing our panic that we may never be able to use luxurious, high-end products again, she re-assures that Kiehl’s has a full range of skin care for the ultra sensitive set. Code red beauty panic attack averted.

The full treatment is rounded out with a thorough cleansing, manual exfoliation, extractions and a hydrating infusion therapy – each step highlighting another signature Kiehl’s product. However, when it comes to the mask portion of the treatment, the aesthetician uses the information from her earlier skin analysis to custom-blend a mask.

On the whole, our visit was relaxing and rejuvenating for both our skin and our mind, leaving us with a genuine sense of calm; impossible to have stimulated with any variety of recorded sounds of nature. Most of the time after a treatment at a dark, “zen” spa, we stumble back into reality feeling like a blessed-out lost puppy, but not here. Notably, at Spa 1851, our post treatment relaxation is characterized by feelings of excitement and empowerment — a sense of wanting to conquer the rest of the day as opposed to the usual urge to take a nap. It’s amazing what a bit of sunlight and some cool décor can do for you, especially this time of year when the sky darkens long before your office lights turn off. All the more reason to go again … and again. After all, lunch hour facials are the new mid-day workout.

Spa 1851
157 East 64th Street at Lexington Avenue, NYC
T: (888) SPA-1851

(post as seen in FILLER Magazine)