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The Nose Knows: Are Aromatherapy Massages Worth the Cost?

  • Posted on March 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Last week, I touted the deliciousness of all things crème brulee. Today we’ll discuss the aromatherapy massage. Last year, at Mohonk Mountain House, in New Paltz, New York. I chose the 50-minute “aroma massage,” where I was given the choice of which essential oils I wanted rubbed on me. The choices were pure breathing, relaxation, or clear mind. It took up about half my massage time just trying to decide which one I wanted, but then again, I spend 20 minutes in the produce aisle picking out the perfect banana. The therapist told me that pure breathing would clear my sinuses, relaxation would calm me, and clear mind would awaken my senses and keep me alert. I chose the latter.

Ultimately, this was a visceral decision.I chose clear mind for its hearty scent, because I am nose-oriented above all else. I didn’t really believe it would do what its name promised, but I kept an open mind. Actually, I didn’t feel any more alert when I left than I did when I entered the spa. 

spa arrangement

Studies on the effectiveness of aromatherapy are mixed. We know that smell receptors are connected to the hippocampus and amygdala, the areas of the brain that store emotions and memories, so scents do affect us. But studies on whether peppermint oils can cure headaches or lavender oil can put us to sleep are varied. When I was in camp as a little girl, I was miserable, and the soap we always used was Ivory, and to this day, the smell of Ivory soap stirs sad emotions in me.

Deciding whether it’s worth it to pay the extra $5 to $15 dollars for an aromatherapy massage, for me, comes down to whether or not the scent of the oil pleases me. If it energizes me or helps me edit the next great American novel, perfect. If not, it didn’t cost much, and I might even love it.

Today’s Tip:

Before booking an aromatherapy massage, ask whether or not you will be offered a choice of oils. Ask what they are and what their effects are. Some spas use specific oils that change with each season. For example, the Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, changes its scent each season. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, escorts you to their apothecary and lets you customize your own aromatherapy oil. Others use a variety. If you’re particularly olfactory-oriented, it’s probably worth the extra few bucks just to try something new.

 Please post here and tell me what you’ve discovered.

Hooray for Creme Brulee

  • Posted on March 16, 2013 at 4:26 am

I am consumed with all things creme brulee. Whether it’s the one the Santa Fe Italian bistro Pranzo serves, with a perfectly browned paper-thin crust that conceals the warm licentious cream underneath, or whether it’s in my shampoo, body scrub, or hand lotion—doesn’t matter. Even as I write this blog, I am inhaling Laura Mercier’s Creme Brulee Souffle right out of the jar. I also have a Yankee Candle Creme Brulee votive burning two feet away from me, on top of my filing cabinet. I’d pawn a pair of Ugg boots to get my hands on anything creme brulee.

I am a sucker for the decadent food category when it comes to body products. I coat my legs with The Body Shop’s Chocomania Beautifying Oil, lather my bath sponge with Philosophy’s Cinnamon Buns Shower Gel, and drop my Caramel and Toffee Fizz Bath Bomb from Lush Cosmetics in my bath.

Creme Brulee

Is there a psychological component to my attraction to sweet food items in my body products and home scents? I did a little Internet research and found not just an article on the subject, but a term for how businesses capitalize on people like me. “Nebulization Technology” is the science behind converting fragranced oils into dry vapors. The article explains that, upon inhaling something pleasant, the limbic area of the brain wakes up and immediately associates positive emotions connected to those scents—such as baking chocolate chip cookies as a kid, or devouring warm buttered popcorn during a favorite movie.

According to Air Essentials, a company involved in “scent branding,” experiments have shown that enticing the nose can boost sales. They claim a rise of 33 percent in sales for H.H. Gregg, an appliance company, when they gently introduced the scent of apple pie and sugar cookies into their remodeled stores. Cinnabon and KFC are known for pumping artificial shnoz enticers that mimic real food, through special mechanisms, such as vents, to lure customers in.

When I first moved to Santa Fe, I dated a geologist who suffered from anosmia—the inability to detect scent. He visited me one day when I was working at Ten Thousand Waves, and on that day a fire had broken out in one of the massage rooms. We were all nearly choking from the smell. He smelled nothing. Then it hit me that without my sense of smell, not only would creme brulee fail to allure me, but my life could be endangered.

If you crave any particular food scent, let me know. And if you can recommend a product along this line, even better! Meanwhile, I’ll be spritzing Bodycology’s Vanilla Cupcake Fragrance Mist on my pillow before nodding off tonight.

Today’s Tip

One of my latest loves is Laura Mercier’s Creme Brulee Sugar Scrub. It comes with a cute little plastic scooper, but I just dig in with my fingers. After all, with what she charges to indulge CB addicts ($36 for a 12-ounce jar), I don’t even want one sugar granule lost to a scooper. This scrub is very thick and rich. It borders on gooey and requires a lot of water for easier application.