Summer is upon us, gloriously sunny and hot, and you’d sell your grandmother to be on the beach instead of a long-haul Asian business trip. But with just a couple of spare hours you can book yourself in for the next best thing – a refreshing spa scrub that calms the mind and smoothes the body.
The skin, the body’s biggest organ, protects us from the elements, releases toxins through sweat, and sheds dead skin cells on a regular basis. When the temperatures soar, hot and dry climates result in dehydrated flaky skin. Heat plus humidity accelerates healthy sweating, but more often than not it is left to dry on the skin as we dive into air conditioning.
The addictive, gentle all-over exfoliation of a body scrub helps get rid of scaly dead skin cells, resulting in an instant bodily glow thanks to the healthy, young skin revealed underneath. Scrubs also cleanse the body’s surface of sweat and toxins and, along with the massage that accompanies them, increase the circulation of blood and lymph. Depending on the ingredients used – sea salt, sugar, coffee, ground nuts and oatmeal being the most common – scrubs can also help draw toxins from the body.
If you have sensitive skin or a skin condition, tell your therapist beforehand, as some ingredients may be too harsh for you. Some scrubs claim to help with water retention, weight loss and cellulite. While these results are limited and likely temporary, they can be a great idea following a grueling trans-Pacific flight or before an event where you want to look, and feel, radiant. Scrubs are also a great pre-treatment as they maximize the absorption of healing ingredients in the treatments to follow.
The tranquility of the treatment room, where you’re essentially alone with your thoughts, is also a great way to de-stress, while the aromatherapy of essential oils added to the scrub mixture will promote relaxation and uplift your mood. Rather than obsess about work, allow preoccupations to come and go, focus on your breathing and use the time as a rare opportunity for meditative thought. Sometimes the best ideas pop into your head when the pressure is off, and it has been proven that quality downtime results in increased productivity when you are back at the desk.
Bimasena Spa, The Dharmawangsa, Jakarta
In Jakarta’s leafy Kebayoran Baru suburb, the historic Dharmawangsa is a cool club of a retreat. Alongside the upscale food and beverage and sports facilities, the Bimasena Spa is what happens when luxury meets nature. Ayus Lomi is 90 minutes of indulgence – book the private suite for its generous space, hydro facilities and garden view. This treatment is combination of Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in India for holistic well being, and Lomi Lomi Nui, a Hawaiian massage technique that harmonizes body, spirit and soul. The treatment is performed by two masseuses. Refreshing and energizing, your body will feel calmed and ready to take on the hustle and bustle again.
In the heart of downtown Taipei, The Regent is one of Taipei’s leading five-star hotels. While there’s plenty of retail therapy in the Regent Galleria, instead head up to the rooftop pool and Wellspring Spa. With wow-factor views across the city, the spa is a contemporary sanctuary of subtle lighting, sleek stone and wood, plus artful flowers and greenery – the perfect antidote to the hectic humidity going on at street level. Book yourself into one of their spa suites for the Coffee Scrub. Using a mix of rice powder and Indonesian coffee, which is believed to cleanse the skin of odors, sweat and dead skin cells, your therapist will massage the body polish into the skin, tingling your nerve endings, stimulating the circulation and nourishing the skin. An invigorating treatment, it is followed by a carrot and seaweed moisturizer, which enhances the radiance of the skin even further.
Right in the center of the Malaysian capital, in the popular Starhill Gallery mall, Donna Spa is a Balinese refuge. The calm interiors feature a hot and cold pool plus a steam room for pre-treatment cleansing and calming. To beat the city’s humid heat, the staff recommends the Scrub Package. The treatment begins with the scrub itself and there are numerous ingredients to choose from – the aloe vera scrub is a particularly gentle polish, perfect for cooling the skin while delivering plenty of moisturizing. The next step is a massage, with a choice of the more gentle, relaxing Balinese variety, or deep tissue to hit specific muscle aches and strains with pressure point techniques. Finally the treatment ends with a scalp massage and a cup of ginger tea. The spa’s products and staff are all from Indonesia to ensure an authentic experience.
If you have half a day to spare, head to Singapore’s holiday island of Sentosa, which is about 30 minutes by taxi from Orchard Road or less than an hour by public transport. Here, the city’s biggest spa, ESPA’s Asian flagship, offers a wonderful 100,000-square-foot playground of lush tropical greenery and waterscapes, residential spa villas, hot and cool alfresco vitality pools, rock sauna and crystal steam rooms, plus Singapore’s first authentic Turkish Hammam. The Ultimate Hammam Ritual is a two-hour soak, scrub, and massage experience, within their domed marble treatment room. After a dip in the pools, go for an a la carte combination of scrub and massage. The 25-minute salt scrub uses an invigorating mix of peppermint, rosemary and lime, which instantly cools the body and switches the brain to slow-motion mode. Add to it an energizing body massage for 60 minutes, you’ll feel your muscles gradually recharged and your mind starting to come back to reality. Top it off with a nap in the cool and dimly lit sleeping pods in the Sleep Zone.
Invigorating Salt Scrub, 25 minutes, Energizing Body Massage, 60 minutes, S$200 ($146). rwsentosa.com
SensAsia Dubai – The Village, Dubai
Dubai is renowned for its dry heat. While more bearable than humid heat, this emirate can easily top 100 in high summer, which is why everyone swishes to and fro in blacked out people carriers and has a membership at a local spa. One of the longest established day spas is SensAsia, centrally located in Village Mall. Summer may not be the time to try their amazing hot stone massages, so cool down with their Bee My Honey experience instead. It may sound overly romantic, but the honey-based body polish smoothes away dead skin cells and draws out grime and sweat, while a gently-warmed milk, honey, black sesame and almond oil wrap puts nourishing moisture back into the skin. Finally, a massage helps to banish muscle hotspots and restore energy levels.
Bee My Honey, 120 minutes, DH730 ($199) sensasiaspas.com
Inya Day Spa, Yangon
Two of Yangon’s best-known day spas are Thanya Day Spa and Inya Day Spa. These sister spas are firm favorites with local expats. At Inya, book the Natural Body Scrub with a choice of ingredients that include invigorating green tea or exotic tamarind. Once you’ve rinsed off the scrub, revealing your newly moisturized and softened skin, return to the treatment bed for a Natural Body Mask to infuse the skin with antioxidants and protect it from the sun. Jump back into your clothes and enhance your feeling of wellbeing with a chilled juice or smoothie while sitting at the Boost Bar. Local fruit like mango and avocado, plus imported berries, create super-nutritious drinks to enhance wellbeing from the inside.
Natural Body Scrub, 60 minutes, 37,000 kyats ($32); Natural Body Mask, 60 minutes, 40,000 kyats ($35). inyaspa.com
The Strand, Hong Kong
One of Hong Kong’s most renowned day spas, The Strand has hair, beauty, men’s grooming and spa parties covered in their four-story building in the Central District. Founder Beverley Capplemann suggests a hot Hong Kong day should be followed by the heat-busting Marine Wrap, which includes a trifecta of cooling treatments. The journey starts with a scrub of sea salt, if you prefer a strong scrub, or sugar for a gentler exfoliation. Next comes a massage, which helps the skin to continue to relax, ready for the gel wrap of detoxifying seaweed combined with wild pansy, calming lavender and skin-brightening calendula. Finally the therapist will apply a marine moisturizer to nourish the skin and seal in all the nurturing ingredients.