One of the top three things I am asked by friends visiting New York is where to pop in for a massage. Often in town on business and finding themselves with a few free hours, they usually want a same-day appointment, which, even in a town with dozens of spas, can be a challenge. So when the other week a friend asked about not just a massage, but a facial as well, I had a few ideas up my sleeve. Since she’s partial to natural beauty products and so-called “clean cosmeceuticals”, I suggested Naturopathica, a spa that opened its first Manhattan location three years ago, after setting up in the Hamptons in the 1990s. Founder Barbara Close was really ahead of the curve in holistic beauty, focusing on herbal remedies rooted in naturopathic medicine with a product line that has developed a cult following over the years.
I met my friend for dinner after she’d spent the better part of the afternoon at the spa, having booked a same-day facial and massage (both from $135 for 60 minutes). She runs her own company and probably spends more time travelling than at her actual home. Truth be told, she often looks a bit run-down. But that night she was glowing and couldn’t stop raving about her therapist, Gillian. “She’s the only masseuse I’ve had who really listened to my needs,” she said. “The rest ask you if you have any issues, then give you the same massage, forgetting everything you’ve said.” Then she handed me a card containing a late birthday present in the form of a Naturopathica gift certificate for two treatments.
And so off I went to see Gillian two weeks later. Unlike my friend, I did book in advance, using the very thorough online-booking system that allowed me to choose a specific therapist. The spa itself is on a very random block near the Fashion Institute of Technology, and as I arrived the sound of jackhammers echoed along the street. There was nothing zen about it. Until I walked into the bright Naturopathica space. On one side is a tea bar that serves vegan treats; on the other, a full selection of the brand’s products. I was whisked into the very small locker room, which, to my dismay, was unisex, but had both a changing room and two restrooms.
Once in the treatment room, however, this quibble didn’t matter any more; I felt completely insulated from whatever was going on in the reception area and the city beyond. And the Herbal Massage ($135), “with rejuvenating botanicals to balance and heal the body”, was great. Gillian was definitely not over-sold. She listened to my issues and tended to whatever she could, applying arnica to areas that were aching post-workout. Feeling thoroughly reinvigorated and relaxed, I was led to the projection-filled Sensory Room. Meditation is encouraged but instead I browsed the shelves filled with testers of Naturopathica’s tempting products – including the Alpine Arnica Bath & Body Oil ($34) that Gillian had used – but decided to use the rest of my gift certificate for, yes, another massage.