I Tried It: Energizing Salt Therapy Bed at New Rittenhouse Spa

Can lying on Himalayan salts in the dark really give you a second wind?


The lobby of La Rêve Spa in Rittenhouse.

When I was invited to preview the services at just-opened Le Rêve Spa in Rittenhouse, I jumped. Sure, they had massages and facials and all the regular run-of-the-mill spa stuff, but they also had a salt therapy bed. And chromotherapy. This is the stuff my spa dreams are made of: cracked-out treatments that promise to do things like ‘detoxify’ and ‘realign your chakras’ and ‘provide healing energy.’ I’m obsessed with detoxing (meaning: I buy lots of books and read about it while drinking wine).

I went after work last week, prickling with anticipation. Not only was I getting a peek at the brand-spanking-new spa, I was also guinea-pigging the Pure Himalayan Salt Therapy treatment. And I had just started a detox diet that pretty much consists of eating only lettuce and pea-rice protein shakes for three weeks. My body would soon be a temple of holistic nontoxic health. I could practically feel myself turning into Gwyneth Paltrow.

You might recognize Le Rêve’s owner, Sophia Brodsky, a glitzy, friendly woman with a thick Russian accent. She owned The Body Klinic at 20th and Walnut for years. Now she’s set her sights on a full-service med-spa, teaming up with Dr. Robert Skalicky, who offers Botox, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and more. The spa is in the former Lithe Method space, on the fourth floor of 255 South 17th Street. It’s a huge space, with seven treatment rooms and a lobby dominated by a giant onyx welcome desk (based off of a desk Brodsky saw at The Ritz-Carlton in Dubai.)

There’s a bit of culture mash-up going on here (even Brodsky admits, “I am not a designer. I am a spa girl”). My robe had Chinese characters and temples on it, the rhinestone-bedecked velvet chairs were pure Russian opulence (they were in fact made in Italy), the tasseled pillows looked like they were from India, the crystals raining down from the ceiling (she strung these herself) recalled Versailles pomp. There were gems glued to the ceiling in the pedi room, gilded bamboo on the walls in a massage room, hanging crystals in the facial room, huge bursts of faux flowers (seriously, the size of my head) in the bathroom.

But it’s not a design showroom, it’s a pampering, chakra-realigning heaven, so I took off my clothes and sat on a table on top of what looked like tinfoil. (This was to keep in the body heat so that the moisturizers, oil and exfoliants could work their magic.) Note: This wasn’t the salt bed yet. First, I was to try the full-body exfoliation.

The exfoliation (45 minutes, $85) was lovely. Sophia brushes on a (rather cold) layer of fancy Carita exfoliant, followed by an even fancier Carita “youth cleansing foaming oil.” They added on a reflexology service (30 minutes, $65)—and you should, too. Diane, the massage therapist, was amazing, with firm pressure. “All the girls I hire are tough, really get in there,” Brodsky told me afterwards. (Note to self: Head back for full back massage stat.) The skin treatment was followed by an “aromatherapy steam shower.” This was also lovely, and I want to get one of them at home.


The salt therapy room, with the salt bed to the left.

Here’s the interesting part: While you’re lying on the table, on the tinfoil layer, you’re looking up at a one thousand twinkling LED lights, which hang from the ceiling like tiny lightbulb-topped threads. They change color and fade in and out, and the whole thing is mesmerizing. It’s called “chromotherapy,” and it reminds me of a fancier version of those glow-in-the-dark stars kids stick to their bedroom ceilings.

Still, the salt bed—right next to my massage table—beckoned to me. LED lights line the box, and you need a step-stool to get in. After my steam shower, Sophia helped me into the bed. I expected to sink in, but I didn’t. It was very much like lying on hard-packed sand on a beach. Sophia then left the room, and told me that it was easy to pretend that I was actually on a beach. But it really wasn’t so easy: The chromotherapy lights in the in-room steam shower never fully turned off, so I still saw ceiling tiles, which diminished the cool LED lights. But that was fine! I’d read the presser they’d sent over, and this Himalayan Salt Therapy was going to be life-changing.

Here is the description the press rep sent over:

“This unique treatment is a holistic therapy which is incredibly beneficial for all ages. Lie on our made-by-hand and custom-designed salt bed while micro-particles of crystalline salt are filtered all around you. The experience replicates the feel and benefits of natural sea salt. Healing mists contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help to boost the immune system and distress and relieve sore muscle tension. While you lay upon the heated white salt, we will gently massage warm aromatherapy oils into your skin followed by a warm blanket wrap. While immersed, the fine Himalayan salt works to stimulate cell production and increase energy, detox the body of harmful liquids and chemicals and assist with weight control, just to name a few.”

Let’s break that down: There are healing mists. (Healing mists!) These mists are anti-inflammatory! They will boost my immune system! The salt will detox my body! Somehow this will assist with weight control! I will have more cells! And more energy!


The Salt Therapy bed!

I climbed up onto the bed in my Chinese robe. (I was very concerned about this: How would the salt energy penetrate the robe and get into my cells?!?!  Brodsky assured me that it would.) She told me that she custom-made the salt bed (do you know it costs over $20,000 to ship these suckers from Italy?), and imported the pink Himalayan salt from California.

I only lay there for 15 minutes ($20 for 15 minutes) before Brodsky popped back in and told me that you can lie on the bed for as little or as long as you like. I didn’t want to take up too much of their time (I’d been there forever), so I left. I didn’t ask about the aromatherapy oils; I think they took care of that with the exfoliation treatment, and I didn’t want to be greedy. But I didn’t feel anything on the bed, no buzz of energy or release of tension. Who knows? Maybe it was because I didn’t lie there long enough. Maybe my chakras and cells are too far gone?

I left, slightly disappointed that I wasn’t buzzing with detoxed energy, ready to run a marathon. But my skin felt soft, and face was glow-y from the steam shower. And my feet—always sore from high heels—felt like two little clouds.

My advice? As much as it pains me to say it, skip the salt. Go here for a massage (the therapists are super-talented), facial, or couple’s treatment (they have a special couples massage room, complete with a sauna—and they give you drinks!)

The Details: Le Rêve Rittenhouse, 255 South 17th Street, 4th floor, 215-563-8888.