May/June 2006  



“The overall effect was one of deep easy relaxation, but not the lethargy that makes it impossible to get off of the table afterward.”

One block from Soho, among the hip boutiques and bohemian-patroned cafes, there is a day spa that offers its clients not only a huge range of services, but manages to give them both an energy-charged environment and a place of quiet relaxation; and delivers it with the friendliness and exuberance of Brazilian hospitality. The Maria Bonita’s clientele is a mixture of locals (from in and outside of their neighborhood) and commuters, regulars and visitors, business people and tourists: in other words, everyone. Their friendly staff makes the visitors feel like locals and the locals feel like family.

Spa owner and manager Fernanda Lacerda has loved the business of beauty since she was six when she watched her grandmother, who emigrated from Italy to Brazil, work on clients in her beauty salon. “My grandmother thrived by preserving the traditional methods of European beauty...,” explained Lacerda. “Our goal was to marry her style of old world hospitality with cutting edge techniques and treatments.”

bonita-3When I entered the building, assistant manager Evaline Oliveire greeted me as if seeing an old friend, and I was immediately offered a beverage. The front desk and salon is themed in a sort of Brazilian Modern with clean lines, bright colors and excellent lighting. The pedicure area looks more like a lounge with its relaxing seating and cushions. The music and some of the artwork on the walls is also Brazilian.

“Since it’s a Brazilian place we try to keep it as ‘original’ as possible,” said Oliveire. “We’re a laidback place. We want to make everyone feel (at) home.”

At this point in our interview two clients came in the door and Oliveire greeted them warmly. When they asked if there was an opening for them, it became obvious that they were out-of-towners and had never visited before. They too received the large serving of Brazilian hospitality that was nonetheless genuine. Every one of the staff really enjoys their work and interacting with the clients.

“Many of our (local) clients become friends,” explains Oliveire. “They pass by (just to) say hi.” When I smiled back at one of the stylists who scurried by, Oliveire pointed out that all of the salon’s stylists have at least ten to twenty-two years of experience doing hair.

The spa sells a selection of Italian and Brazilian products. Product lines include Alfaparf, Skala and Bellsoft. They plan to expand their product section in the near future.

My treatment package was the Bossa Nova Deluxe; a 2-in-1 consisting of a 30-minute full-body massage and a 30-minute facial ($95.00 US). I was escorted to the back of the salon and down some stairs. The moment I entered the downstairs area the ambiance changed completely. The vibrant energy of the salon gave way to a quiet softly-illuminated set of rooms for massage and the spa specialty – waxing.

I was greeted warmly by Lillyane Figueira, who is a state-certified massage therapist, an esthetician, and an expert at the Brazilian bikini wax treatment. (Apparently entertainers coming to New York City aren’t the only ones facing a triple threat.) According to Figueira many massage therapists in Brazil are also estheticians.

Figueira began the session by examining my face to see if any extraction from my skin was necessary. This meant that I was under the brightly lit magnifying glass before my eyes adjusted to the soft lighting of the massage room. Nice touch! When she left so I could undress, she turned on some classic relaxation music but with a definite drumbeat that carried the listener away. Figueira asked how much pressure I preferred. She worked on my back, neck and shoulders first, and then proceeded to massage my arms, legs and feet. The product she used was not greasy, had a fresh mint scent, and contained ingredients especially to facilitate muscle relaxation. The overall effect was one of deep easy relaxation, but not the lethargy that makes it impossible to get off of the table afterward.

bonita-2But by the time my facial was half over, staying awake was a real challenge! Figueira was my esthetician as well, which means she didn’t miss a beat and I didn’t miss a minute of the 60-minute package due to transition. The facial begins with a thorough cleansing, then toner, exfoliation, face and neck massage, masque, and then moisturizer. If pores are clogged, extraction can be included.

I learned early in the treatment that Lacerda herself mixes the wonderful products used, and that she is very tightlipped about the ingredients: No wonder! These products are superb and contain soothing chamomile, which means even my super-sensitive skin never felt raw or ‘burnt’. When I inquired if the spa ever sold these secret beauty potions, Figueira replied, “Sometimes.” She explained that they had had a lot of the spa’s products for sale earlier (around Christmas), but that they were out right now. I can only remember one or two facials during which the esthetician didn’t try to sell me products. Figueira never mentioned any, and frankly she didn’t have to: These speak for themselves! My next trip to the Maria Bonita will include a search for the elusive Lacerda magic.

I kept drifting off into a pleasant doze while, under Figueira’s expert hands, my skin turned fresh, plump and radiant. My face was smooth and the skin soft, but there was no greasiness or heavy feeling from too much product. My pores were closed when the treatment was completed, so I felt no oversensitivity. I did need extractions throughout my T-zone, but the usual ‘pinching’ that accompanies the removal of clogging left no after effects on my face except clear clean skin – no soreness or redness.

While I did not experience the spa’s specialty – the Brazilian Bikini wax ($45.00) – Figueira and I chatted about it. She told me she thinks the Brazilian is more popular in New York than it is in Brazil! They must do it VERY well. I plan an appointment next time I’m in town.

The spa and salon menu offers a variety of massages include a basic 60-minute Swedish Massage for $90.00, the Therapeutic Body Massage for $90.00, a 60-minute Shiatsu Massage for $90.00, a Foot Reflexology Massage (30-minute for $40.00, 45-minutes for $60.00), a Cellulite Massage for $90.00, a Lymphatic Drainage for $85.00, and a Pregnancy Massage for $85.00.

bonita-1Facials and skin treatments include the full Maria Bonita for $105.00, their basic 60-minute facial for $95.00, the Amazonia Deep Cleansing with three masques (75 minutes) for $110.00, the Maria Bonita Honeymoon Body Scrub for $150.00, a Glycolic Facial for $95.00, their Club Men's Relaxing Facial for $80.00, the Acne Treatment for $115.00, the fast (30 minutes) Concorde Facial for $45.00, Endermologie for $80.00, and a Body Wrap for $75.00.

The menu also includes a complete assortment of body waxing treatments including a standard Bikini Line Wax for $30.00, for men the Chest-Wax for $50.00, a Back-Wax for $50.00, a Full Arm Wax for $40.00, a full leg with bikini for $80.00, and a Chin and/Lip Wax for $12.00. They also offer a large variety of beauty treatments including most hair care treatments and styling, and a variety of manicures and pedicures including the Brazilian Manicure for $22.00, a 50-minute Brazilian manicure including paraffin infusion and exfoliation, and the Brazilian Pedicure for $31.00. The salon also offers services to wedding parties.

Packages include a Full Body Rejuvenation ($230.00) that includes a 1-hour massage and the Maria Bonita Facial, manicure and pedicure. The Carnival Exuberance ($360.00) includes a detoxifying breakfast, a 1-hour lymphatic drainage, the Amazonian Deep Cleansing Facial, eyebrow tweezing/shaping, Alfa Parf deep conditioning, blow-dry, manicure and pedicure, and make-up application. They also offer monthly specials.

Keep in mind that the spa’s hours run on standard Soho business time: Mon.-Wed. 10 am-7 pm, Thurs. 10 am-10 pm, Fri.-Sat. 10 am-9 pm, and Sun. 10 am-6 pm.

To contact Maria Bonita Salon and Spa, visit: ,
email: ,
call (212) 431-1520 or fax (212) 431-9790,
or write to:
Maria Bonita Spa and Salon
12 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012




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