Face it, Shanghai is a dirty city. Toss in the humidity and high-quality Shanghai smog, and by the end of a long day, your skin feels so grimy you could have just had a nice little romp in the heart of a metro construction site. Understandably then, we were pretty stoked to check out Skin City 5.5, a new spa opened just last month by a young entrepreneur from New York. The name comes from the spa’s goal to return skin to its natural pH balance of 5.5.
Located on Dagu Lu and featuring a city metro theme, Skin City’s decor is urban chic. Mock subway poles and handrails accent the waiting room, and the stairs are lined with PVC tiling. Skin City’s motto, “Destination: Wellness” headlines the walls, promoting the idea that achieving healthy skin is a journey. The menu of spa services is presented in a magazine format, with different treatments labeled as “stations”.
Owner Connie Kim gave us a quick tour and explained that each room is named after a color of Chakra, a traditional Indian concept which denotes different centers of energy in the body. The centerpiece of each room is a color-coordinated original print by renowned American HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff.
It’s all to ensure a personalized and comfortable experience. Each spa patron has a choice of one of three massage oils (base, top, or heart – again, coordinating with the chakra) and music to accompany their treatments. If you don’t like any of their five pre-mixed playlists, a shelf stocked with a wide selection of CDs sits right next to the oils.
According to Kim, the philosophy of Skin City 5.5 is “to be not the best of one particular country or technique, but the best of the best.” In this vein, the tea is imported from England, the massage oils are all organic, the beds are specially hand-crafted to Western standards, and the spa is the first in Shanghai to carry Babor products from Germany.
For our visit, we nabbed the Purple Room, a VIP suite that’s more ideal for couples since it’s the largest room available and comes complete with a changing space and lounge area. After a few relaxing minutes in the large steam shower, we settled down for a Fresh O2 facial (800 RMB for 75 minutes) and Eyes Wide Open treatment (300 RMB for 30 minutes). The therapist was highly attentive, explaining each step of the process as she went, and we quickly became huge fans of the warm mitten-like hand-towels used to cleanse our face and neck. After over an hour of massaging and exfoliating, with fancy chemicals we can’t even pronounce (like “perfluorodecalin”), our faces felt fresh, taut, and most importantly, pollution-free.
If facials aren’t top on your priorities list though, a must-try is the signature All-in-One Massage (250 RMB for 30 minutes). Incorporating elements from Swedish massage, Balinese, Thai stretching, and Eastern acupressure, the All-in-One is as incredibly soothing as it is effective at relieving muscle tension. We were beside ourselves with joy to find our shoulder pains disappear after just a half hour rub.
Whether you’ve been in the city for two months or two years, it’s definitely worth treating yourself to a few hours at Skin City 5.5. It may seem pricey, but we would expect to pay the same or much more for the same quality back home. It’s an enjoyable experience, and after an afternoon of pampering, we stepped out armed with exfoliated skin, cleansed pores and relaxed muscles, ready to brave the city with our best face forward.
Where: 476 Dagu Lu near Shimen Yi Lu, 大沽路476号