INDULGE: The 6 most decadent spa treatments in Howard County

What do mud, pure oxygen, lava shells and chocolate have in common?

Each one is used by an area spa to deliver a unique relaxation and rejuvenation treatment.

While pedicures, facials and Swedish massage will always be staples at spas and salons, savvy business owners know clients occasionally want to treat themselves to an extraordinary experience.

"It's nice to have skin like butter after a body scrub," said Patti Tetro, of Glenwood, a regular at The Spa at Turf Valley, "but if you can get a body scrub with organic chocolate and leave feeling wonderful and smelling heavenly, that's an even better option."

If you've ever wanted to book a spa experience that transcends the ordinary, consider adding one (or all!) of these treatments to your beauty bucket list:

The Ultimate Massage

$125 for 75 minutes
$140 for 90 minutes

Oasis Day Spa

10840 Little Patuxent Pkwy. #201, Columbia | 410-992-6772

Want to book a massage but can't decide among hot stones, reflexology, aromatherapy and deep tissue work? At Oasis Day Spa in Columbia, you don't have to limit yourself when you book an Ultimate Massage.

What began as one massage therapist’s desire to combine all she did best into one massage quickly caught on with co-workers and customers. Swedish and deep tissue massage, along with aromatherapy and hot stones, are incorporated into each Ultimate Massage. But what takes it to the next level is each massage therapist adds his or her own specialty to the mix. Reflexology, stretching acupressure and a variety of Eastern and Western modalities are incorporated into each individualized massage.

"This massage is all about each therapist giving the client a combination of the best we have," said Dave Corbliss, a massage therapist at Oasis. "You can book 75 or 90 minutes, which is important because most clients take about half an hour to really start relaxing. With a 90-minute Ultimate Massage, you get your 30 minutes to unwind, then a full hour of beneficial bodywork."

The Blue Grotto

$80 per person for 50 minutes

The Pearl Modern Spa and Boutique

8171 Maple Lawn Blvd. #100, Fulton | 301-776-6948

Explore The Blue Grotto if you’ve always wanted to try a do-it-yourself treatment with someone special. From couples looking for romance to groups of girlfriends seeking a bonding experience, the three-room grotto rarely stands empty.

In complete privacy, clients – in whatever degree of undress they feel comfortable – enter the first chamber to find a collection of deep-sea clays specially formulated for everything from skin purifying to anti-aging to muscle relaxation.

You can spread the clays on yourself and others using brushes or hands, then it’s on to a second, steam-filled, chamber. Relax on the room's benches for up to 30 minutes while the muds penetrate into the skin, then, with one turn of a lever, a monsoon rain shower pours down from shower heads in the ceiling. An aromatherapy salt scrub is provided to rinse off the mud while exfoliating the skin. The final chamber contains two multi-head showers that spray water at various levels and intensities. Shampoo, conditioner and body wash in The Pearl's signature Icelandic Moonflower scent are provided.

"It's up to our clients to make The Blue Grotto whatever they want it to be," said Lindsay Houghton, spa manager. "It can be exciting, romantic, relaxing – whatever unique experience they are looking for, they can make it happen in The Blue Grotto."

Lava shell massage

$100 for 60 minutes

Skin Care Institute

10705 Charter Drive #430, Columbia | 410-740-0007

On a Caribbean vacation a few years ago, Skin Care Institute co-owner Jamie Bright spotted a spa service she'd never heard of before – a lava shell massage. She made an appointment for one that day, did some research, and today her clients can experience the same right in Columbia.

While many spas offer hot stone massages, Bright said the shell massages differ because each Tiger Striped clam shell used for the service fits neatly in the palms of the therapist’s hands and retains heat throughout the entire massage. No reheating is necessary.

"Each shell is polished so smoothly, and the massage therapist uses one in each hand," she explained. "It's a unique treatment we offer, and because there are no stones to keep heating, the massage is very fluid, very peaceful and there are no distractions."

Decadent chocolate scrub

$95 for 60 minutes

The Spa at Turf Valley

2700 Turf Valley Road, Ellicott City | 410-203-2755

Turf Valley spa director Denise Neubauer regularly schedules "play days" with her staff where they can experiment with spa treatments and ingredients to dream up the many specials and services they offer. In fact, it was Neubauer herself who came up with the idea to combine pure, organic dark cocoa powder, raw sugars and a few other ingredients into what has become one of their more popular spa services – the Decadent Chocolate Scrub.

The scrub exfoliates the entire body from the neck down and is followed by one of Turf Valley's famous vichy showers, where seven shower heads above the table are opened to rinse away the scrub and relax the body. Afterward, a warm blend of shea and cocoa butter is applied to soften and moisturize the skin.

"The dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, which are wonderful for the skin, the smell is irresistible and your body stays smooth for up to a week after," Neubauer said, adding that during the holidays a special Chocolate Peppermint Scrub is available.


$109 for 60 minutes


5570 Sterrett Place #105, Columbia | 410-964-1500

Listed under "Exotic Treatments From India," Shirodhara combines specialized massage with Ayurveda – a traditional alternative medicine in India.

Practitioners massage specific pressure points on the head, neck, shoulders and feet to relax the client, then a fine stream of organic sesame oil is directed onto the center of the forehead.

"The stream of warm oil promotes a deeper level of relaxation," explained Nanousa Sidhu, one of Farashé's owners. "Afterwards, our clients tell us they experience such a total relaxation, followed by a level of mental clarity they don't normally have."

Sidhu adds that in between that deep relaxation and elevated clarity is a 15-minute period when they ask their clients to sit quietly and relax in the spa’s tranquility room before leaving.

"We don't like anyone getting up and driving right away," she explained. "It's important for the body and mind to rest briefly after this treatment to get the most benefit."

Hyperbaric oxygen chamber

$55 for 30 minutes

Lynn's Day Spa

5999 Harpers Farm Road, Columbia | 410-730-1822

Looking for a treatment that requires no scrubs, no oils and no rinses? Then lie back in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber at Lynn's Day Spa, and let 30 minutes of intense oxygen exposure rejuvenate your skin and body.

The Mayo Clinic website explains how such chambers work by pointing out that oxygen is carried throughout our bodies via the blood. This oxygen plays a role in everything from increased circulation and metabolism to tissue regeneration. In a hyperbaric oxygen chamber the air pressure is elevated up to three times higher than normal, which means oxygen intake can triple as well.

"There are so many benefits associated with making sure your body is getting the proper amount of oxygen, everything from nourishing tissues to boosting the immune system," explained spa owner Lynn Shannon. "It's particularly good for the skin, because the better your circulation is the healthier your skin will be."

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