New Years Eve Guide
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SF Spas

Oh, the hard life

In a city teeming with glamour and the trappings of the image-oriented, havens for the beautiful are around every corner. Customized for every need imaginable from those of the no-nonsense executive with little time for extended periods of luxury to those of the penniless college student scrimmaging for the perfect facial, there's certainly a beauty spa for everyone. Ranging from lavish hangouts for debutantes and movie stars to hip and practical stopovers for those on the go, San Francisco is full of unique options for exfoliating and beyond.

One example of this exceptional array is the International Orange Spa Yoga Lounge on Fillmore Street, a trendy combination of fitness and beauty. Established by three Bay Area women-Kary Chendo, Amy Darland, and Melissa Ferst-International Orange offers inventive and flexible versions of spa classics with an additional twist: sessions of yoga before or after the treatment. Favorites include: deep tissue massage with a ginger, lemongrass and tangerine blend; revitalizing zen shiatsu, a rhythmic sequence of acupressure and stretching; the unbelievably refreshing holistic face lift, with its exclusive cranberry tightening mask and antioxidant vitamin C serum; and the salt rub, after which you slather your pores in sweet honey and take a steam bath. With their melt-worthy treatments and serene ambience, International Orange's approach is both therapeutic and innovative.

While the traditional spa is designed around the idea of extreme pampering and all-day treatments once or twice a year, Tru Spa on Kearny Street is a "New York" style establishment with modern customers in mind, who want specific services and don't usually have more than an hour or two to spare. Tru's treatments surpass the ambience, but the place is still "aesthetically interesting without the weight of the normal spa pretensions or attitude." Modern and plush, Tru's treatment rooms come in an assortment of relaxing monochromatic shades. Bamboo flooring is everywhere, and Tru donates a portion of its proceeds to environmental organizations. Some of the spa's treats include its superior deep cleansing facials, particularly the Crystal Blast, which uses tiny crystals and an enzyme mask to break up dead skin cells and diminish wrinkles. The hydrotherapy treatments in Tru's lush Tropical Rainforest Room include steam baths with fresh fruit pulp, shea butter, and grapefruit oil--preceding a rinse under-get this-a cool waterfall.

Finally, BellaPelle Skin Studio ("where Sex and the City meets San Francisco") on Union Square is the ultimate in supermodel treatment. Italian for "beautiful skin," BellaPelle is legendary for their Brazilian bikini wax, and also offers a variety of waxing, facials, peels, massage, and tinting. BellaPelle's founder, Shelley Costantini, insists that her team is obsessed with the poetry of perfect skin: "The right eyebrow arch, the smoothness of a Brazilian bikini wax and soft and silky legs can keep you feeling fabulous for weeks." Unlike spas that utilize time-honored beauty treatments, BellaPelle uses the DNA CryoStem Skin Therapy System, in which the application of frozen stem cells to your face results in free-radical damage protection. While new technologies, such as this one, to replenish aging skin cells might raise more than one well-manicured eyebrow, more traditional perks at BellaPelle include their "Boy-zillian" male bikini wax, offsite services, and their onsite wireless internet connection.

The ubiquitous philosophy of the body beautiful, unfortunately, is that proper pampering customarily takes some serious cash. Facials and massages are the priciest services offered by the three spas, ranging from $100 up. For most of us, "New York"-style notwithstanding, the spa experience will typically be an infrequent affair. Still, that shouldn't mean we can't live a little and kick up our feet every once in a while, sipping a mojito with the savvy set as we watch Sex and the City and get our nails done.