WEB EXCLUSIVE: Cult Facials

courtesy Shizuka New York Day Spa

Shizuka New York Day Spa's Geisha Facial

Growing up in Japan, Shizuka Bernstein often overheard her mother talking about the beauty routines of geishas, highly cultured courtesans who were known for their porcelain complexions. That fine visage came with a price, however—the lead and zinc in their face powder caused severe skin problems. But the geishas eventually discovered that nightingale droppings contained natural enzymes that safely brightened and hydrated their skin. New York's Shizuka Day Spa has incorporated the nightingale droppings into a facial treatment by sanitizing it with ultraviolet light, milling it into a fine powder, and mixing it with a delicate Japanese rice bran to enhance its exfoliating and lightening properties. The "bird poop" masque, as it's now widely known, is only one component of this unusual treatment. The Geisha Facial (60 min./$180) is topped off with a hydrating camelia oil facial massage and a refreshing antioxidant green tea collagen mask. To round out the "Japanese beauty tourism" aspects of this treatment, the Geisha Facial concludes with service of gourmet Japanese tea and snacks in Shizuka's Tranquility Lounge.

"While this treatment involves ingredient rarity, above all it highlights the most important aspect of any spa menu description—the romance factor," consultant Braden says. "It reads like a movie trailer, incorporating a little bit of history and tragedy with a shocking yet intriguing, knight-in-shining-armor solution that makes 'bird poop' sound like rose petals."

When developing menus or writing descriptions, consultant Braden says the first goal should be to unearth the romance behind every treatment, product or ingredient, and then expand upon it. "You can easily incorporate these benefits, along with what I call 'Ladies Who Lunch' research—ask yourself what your clients are going to talk about when they tell their girlfriends about your spa over lunch. Will they discuss the fact that the pomegranate used in their facial mask is known to have three times as many antioxidants as red wine and green tea and contains three types of polyphenols, or will they describe how fresh banana leaves were wrapped around their feet during a tropical pedicure?"

Ask yourself what is special about your spa, area, products, treatment and space. Then, create a treatment that highlights it, creating a memorable story.