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When we heard that the delicious fall tradition Pumpkin Spice Latte was being offered in a facial form, we were dying to know more. So we sent intrepid reporter Megan Carpentier to Washington, DC, where she tested it out personally. Here's how it went.
Like many women, I've been know to enjoy pumpkin in a variety of ways: pumpkin cookies, pumpkin gnocchi, pumpkin scones, pumpkin beer, pumpkin bread, pumpkin latte. What I've never really enjoyed? The plopping noise pumpkin makes coming out of the can into a mixing bowl or the tinny smell of it. So when The Spa at The Sports Club/LA at Washington, D.C.'s Ritz-Carlton began advertising its new —and seasonal—pumpkin facial, part of me wondered how the goopy fibrous stuff was really going to feel on my face.
But in the end, it turns out that the Pumpkin Facial is just a variation on a regular facial —albeit a hunger-inducing, tingly one that makes you smell of baked goods. And if Taco Bell convinced you that men are irresistibly attracted to the smell of bacon, just wait until you smell like autumn baking.
The Spa is situated inside The SportsClub/LA, which itself is co-located with the Ritz Carlton north of Foggy Bottom. (Other outlets in the family are co-located at the Ritz Carlton in Boston and the Four Seasons in San Francisco and Miami, but its two New York City locations stand alone) -- but finding it isn't quite as easy at it sounds. The front desk to the club doesn't double as the reception to the spa, which, in fact, is nestled in what looks like the fitness club's athletic-wear and locally-made-jewelry shop. When one of the staff takes you back into the spa, it's pleasantly dark, filled with a variety of soothing scents and spa-music -- and the "relaxation room" where you wait for your aesthetician in your robe is stocked with infused water, mini-cupcakes and comfy seating.
But to get into that robe, you have to exit the spa area via a back door and head back into the brightly-lit club to get to the main, enormous, brightly-lit and very clothing-optional ladies locker room. (I haven't seen so many people casually naked just doing their thing since I went to see the Washington Shakespeare Company's naked production of Macbeth.) And because the locker room reception area, where you are given your key and can sign up for a massage, is directly across from the lockers, you might, as I did, find your eyes readjusting to the bright lights only to realize you're inadvertently looking at a fully nude woman fluff her hair by the reception desk. Then, of course, you have to go back out to the club in your robe to walk get back to the spa, which is thankfully only about 15 steps.
My aesthetician, Donna, greeted me at the door to the relaxation room, where she'd already popped in to find me before I'd returned, and led me to the room in which I'd be getting my facial. She instructed me to get out of the robe and under the sheet -- but to leave it below my shoulders to allow her to massage my neck and shoulders later in the treatment. Upon returning, she made a little small talk and then pleasantly invited me to lie back and relax (or even fall asleep) as she worked. The first few steps were standard-issue facial: a little steam, a little eye make-up remover (Side note: she told me after we were through that my Clinque Lash Doubling Mascara heartily resisted her "industrial strength make-up remover"), a thorough cleansing and a little exfoliation -- which involved one of those buzzing microderm abrasion devices that I've seen on TV but never had used on my face (it was fun!).
Then, it was time for the pumpkin portion of the afternoon: an enzyme mask which Donna told me contained apple and pumpkin in addition to clove, cardamom and cinnamon. If I hadn't just come from a brunch, my stomach would've been growling, and Donna said that it always made her hungry as well. Once on, it began to tingle pleasantly, and Donna explained that it was the enzymes from the apples and the pumpkin: unlike simple exfoliants, which just help your body shed skin faster, or acid peels, which strip them away, enzyme treatments eat away dead skin without touching live skin cells. She said they offered the treatment in November because, in addition to helping your skin adjust to changing temperatures and dry, heated homes and offices, the enzyme peel can help strip away the last of a summer tan -- not that I need that, since I'm paler than Bella from Twilight, but it's probably helpful for other people.
Once the enzymes had done their work, it was onto the dreaded blackhead removal stage: though Donna, unlike my last aesthetician, was gentle and didn't leave red marks that stayed on my face for days after, it's never pleasant to have someone explore the depths of your face's dirty secrets with a powerful magnifying glass: the nights you passed out in your make-up, the fact that you still sweat in 65 degree weather if it's humid enough, and that time your significant other... well, you know. Anyway, she poked, extracted and, like a priest, quietly expunged my sins without judging me or, one hopes, repeating them to others. Then she hydrated my face, wrapped me up and got out the lotion for the aforementioned neck-and-shoulder massage.
And it's at that point that I realized that two eggs, toast and coffee was no match for the olfactory allure of the Pumpkin Facial... because the lotion smelled exactly like homemade spice cake. A potent combination of vanilla, cloves, cinnamon and a touch (she said) of sandalwood, it smelled like my mom's kitchen before Thanksgiving and all wrapped up, massaged and relaxed, I could still hear my stomach rumble. Donna laughed, and said it was as hard on her as it was on me: though each aesthetician is given guidelines for what scents to use in the mask and the massage lotion, each is allowed to create her own variation. So your mileage may vary (unless you ask for Donna, which I can recommend).
Post hydration mask, since I mentioned I had plans to go for an autumn walk, Donna slathered my face with a combination moisturizer and SPF 20 all-natural sunblock -- she didn't clean those pores just to mess them up again with excess chemicals -- and let me collect my relaxed self before donning my robe. She met me in the hall with an apple-spice minicupcake and an orange water, seated me in the relaxation room and encouraged me to enjoy. But the cupcake didn't smell as good as I did, and I had a guy to meet for that walk.
When I did, I explained that I'd had a facial and asked what he thought I smelled like. Sniffing my neck, he said, dreamily, "Spice cake." And he grabbed my hand.—Megan Carpentier