SCMP Saturday, January 6, 2001

Women on top

Maybe it's a sign that we live in one of the most stressed-out cities in the world, but Hong Kong is suddenly chock-a-block with spas, salons, fitness centres, massage parlours and nail bars. Plenty of local entrepreneurs have set up shop, in an effort to cash in on the craze, but more amazing still is the number of international brands and treatments that are suddenly available here. Best of all, women are at the forefront of the industry.
People like Natasha Rajewski, for example. She is the Toronto-based co-founder and president of Blu Spa (9 Queen's Road, Central. Tel: 2147 3295). Rajewski says she wanted to meet the needs of women who are leading increasingly complex and stressful lives. So she and her chemist husband set about creating products that would address both ''how you feel on the inside and how you look on the outside''.
That means there are products designed for the whole family-including husband and baby. ''We even offer workshops on aromatherapy and caring for baby's skin,'' says Rajewski, who has spent nearly 20 years in the cosmetics industry.
Blu Spa offers a wide variety of treatment products as well as a comprehensive line of essential oils. These are especially interesting because you can buy an aroma-neutral bath gel, for example, and add whichever oils you like. Want to be invigorated? Try a few drops of tangerine. Need to relax? How about jasmine? At Blue Spa, you can book an Anti-Ageing Treatment ($1,200) or a Rosemary Foot Massage ($280) or simply shop for great skin-care products. ''We offer a really simple skin-care regime,'' says Rajewski.
She adds that Blu Spa is also known as the Environmental Spa. Therefore, its products have no colour additives, no petroleum by-products , no fragrance and no animal by-products. There is, however, heavy reliance on plant essences, sea algae and technically advanced ingredients. In fact, Rajewski says that Blu Spa takes a ''botanical-holistic approach'' with a touch of the New Age.
Whatever you want to call it, Rajewski is obviously on to something. The Hong Kong shop will soon carry the Blu Spa cosmetics range, a Kuala Lumpur store has just opened and representatives from Japan and Korea have recently come here for training.
Another woman who's on to something is Pauline Ong. The Singaporean is making waves with the moneyed set by offering incredible facials. How good can they be? Well, one customer told me that she and her friends are paying $2,200 for just one of Ong's whitening treatments because no other facial results in such ''radiance''.
Ong built up her client list on frequent visits to the SAR, but couldn't meet local demand for her services. To solve the problem, she trained local beauty technicians, then opened Beau-Art Face and Body Beauty Centre (8 Wyndham Street, Central, Tel: 2869 1661). The spa is now bustling, but Ong is still in personal demand among tai tais. She now splits her time between Singapore and Hong Kong, where those with less money to burn on beauty can try a 90-minute acupressure massage for only $400.
If Ong's prices are still too steep, you should head to New World Tower, Central, the new location of Body By Deborah (Tel: 2868 2829). Owned and operated by Hong Kong's own fitness queen, Deborah Sims, the spa has something called Mud Bar, a self-service treatment area. Before entering it, you simply consult a beautician who will analyse your skin and ''prescribe'' a mud menu.
Then you go to the treatment area, present your menu card and collect your treatment package. Each one contains cleansing and toning products, mud mask and a serum. Give yourself a face, bust and/or body mud treatment in a private room, then rinse off using the spa's facilities. Prices range from $100-$200.
Email Constance Haisma-Kwok at .