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Unlike their American counterparts, French women tend to favor noninvasive body treatments and anything naturel. They stay loyal to tried-and-true regimens and small local instituts, their version of spas. Among the better-known, historically rich French brands like Lancôme and Clarins are independent specialists with their own cult followings.
Mell A sleek shoe store on the tony Rue Royale, Mell offers brands like Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin, and Bruno Frisoni in a space that’s evocative of an airy furniture gallery, with elegant sofas and midcentury lamps. But ahh, its little secret is an imposingly tall white cube in the back, at the bottom of a few steps, that houses the “beauty foot capsule” for one of the best pedicures in the city. Mell’s one-and-a-half-hour regimen ($145) goes beyond the requisite scrub to slough off dead skin cells, using a pumice “drill” to eliminate corns and calluses. The shiatsu-inspired massage is invigorating and the entire ritual is enjoyed on a plush white mattress. 8 Rue Royale; 33-1/40-20-01-33.
Institut Françoise Morice Don’t be put off by the corridor-like waiting area or the retro flower-print comforters offered to keep you warm during the facial. Françoise Morice’s old-school institut, on chic Rue François 1er, not far from the Christian Dior and Nina Ricci boutiques, is patronized by the likes of screen sirens Catherine Deneuve and Emmanuelle Béart. Morice’s approach is noninvasive—no blackhead extractions, no Botox shots—and the high point of her one-hour facial ($200 with staff, $230 with Morice) is the two-step kinéplastie massage. After a thorough cleansing with milk and lotion, a small vibrating apparatus softens and prepares facial tissues for the second step: a massage by hand, performed without cream, that consists of light pinching and mini strokes focusing on the mouth, eyes, and cheekbones. The warm face mask that follows and the quick repowdering at the end are just icing on the cake. 58 Rue François 1er; 33-1/42-56-14-08; francoise-morice.fr.
The Body Treatments
Self-Tanning at Lancome Set in a patrician building on Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré that once housed the brand’s first boutique, Lancôme’s institut offers a one-hour Flash Bronzer ($175) treatment that’s a far cry from a fake bake. Thibaut Marlin, the spa’s star massage therapist for the past 11 years, says the thorough, Ayurveda-inspired regimen is designed to make the product penetrate well and leave no unsightly brown blotches. For optimal results, Marlin recommends a body scrub beforehand and not showering for seven hours afterward. 29 Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré; 33-1/42-65-30-74; lancome.com.
Thinning at Remodelage Martine de Richeville As the old French saying goes, one has to suffer to be beautiful. Of course, the French never had a three-hour gym session in mind but rather something more akin to the 50-minute Remodelage ($160), performed at Martine de Richeville’s six-year-old physical therapy spot near the Place de la Madeleine. The intense bodywide tissue-pinching method, inspired by Chinese medicine, follows the bladder, liver, and gallbladder meridians. It’s so intense that the first three sessions are actually painful, causing some to scream out loud and feel battered and bruised the following day. But the astounding results keep the fashion set coming to de Richeville’s five nondescript treatment rooms. (10 Corso Como founder Carla Sozzani is such a fan that de Richeville opened a space in Milan.) Even though de Richeville recommends 10 to 20 sessions to show improvement, the effect feels immediate. $ 13 Bd. Malesherbes; 33-1/44-94-09-38; martinedericheville.com.
Russian-Inspired at Spa Joiya On a quiet side street near Avenue Montaigne, Joïya’s two-level, five-treatment-room spa is a haven of discretion for celebrities, including French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld, who’s a regular. The star treatment is the one-and-a-half-hour Russie Blanche massage ($195), a tonic mix of Russian technique, lymphatic drainage, and reflexology that is not exactly restful but is extremely energizing. It starts with vigorous pressure applied with open palms on the entire body, followed by pulling and stretching of the limbs using ginger essential oil, then foot reflexology to hit all the pressure points. An ice-cold face mask—guaranteed to give rosy cheeks like those after a sleigh ride in the Russian steppes—rounds off the treatment. 6 Rue de la Renaissance; 33-1/40-70-16-49; joiya.fr.
Pregnancy at Clarins Institute Clarins is known for its effective bust-care treatments, so it makes sense that its oils and creams are the first thing expecting French mothers reach for. Reliable skincare classics like Huile Tonic, Huile Relax, and Stretch Mark Control are prominently featured in the hour-long Soin Future et Jeune Maman massage ($135) at the company’s headquarters and spa, in the posh Neuilly outskirts of Paris. Quick, energetic strokes on puffy lower limbs and thighs activate blood circulation. Soft, round strokes on the belly prevent unsightly stretch marks. The thorough back massage alleviates upper and lower back pain. Clarins’s pregnancy beauty advice booklet offered at the end is filled with the kind of tips one’s mother might pass on, like low-intensity exercises for the bust and perineum, as well as a hospital beauty routine. 4 Rue Berteaux-Dumas, Neuilly-sur-Seine; 33-146-41-94-14; clarins.com.
The Hair Treatment
Leonor Greyl Institut Greyl’s 1980 classic Huile de Palme dry hair oil is championed worldwide by everyone from star studio hairdresser Odile Gilbert to actress Penélope Cruz. But for a real hair-saving treatment, the 42-year-old brand’s newest salon, on busy Rue Tronchet, off Place de la Madeleine, is where elderly chic Parisiennes, young starlets, aging businessmen, and French Vogue fashion editor Emmanuelle Alt all go. Tailored to individual needs, the 90-minute soin ($130–$150) starts with a close examination of one’s scalp with a magnifying camera to help assess the extent of damage from hair loss, a dry or oily scalp, or brittle ends. The hair is then thoroughly cleansed with a mixture of base products and fresh herbs, like Huile de Germe de Blé with ginseng powder and yeast for oily scalps, or Crème aux Fleurs and propolis for dandruff. While the potions absorb, an upper back and neck massage is administered. A quick stint under a steam helmet helps products penetrate better, Greyl says, and also helps to get rid of dead skin cells. Following the regimen is a thorough water rinse without shampooing, so that the active ingredients can keep working. 15 Rue Tronchet; 33-142-65-32-26; leonorgreyl.com.
Instead of designing luncheon menus or strolling in the garden, Countess Isabelle d’Ornano, who cofounded Sisley Cosmetics with her husband, Hubert, in 1976, speaks daily to her chief chemist, attends weekly R&D meetings, and acts as steward of the brand’s new antiaging serum, Supremÿa. Applied at night, the serum capitalizes on the restorative processes the body undergoes during sleep, helping to heal damaged skin cells. The $750 price tag may be steep, but according to d’Ornano, “If one takes into account that Supremÿa lasts four months, its cost of about $187 per month is quite reasonable. It’s what a customer easily spends for a pair of shoes, clothes, on restaurants.” Or a shot of Botox. “Better still, we can prove Supremÿa works.” sisley-cosmetics.com —Melisse Gelula
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.