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Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

A SOHO signature mani and pedi combo costs R490.

Johannesburg - Express beauty treatments are taking Joburg by storm. Helen Grange experienced three...

Who says a massage should be a hushed affair that takes a chunk out of your day, what with driving to some far-flung spa, de-robing, getting oiled and kneaded for an hour, showering, then dressing again? A fast-tracked massage does the job just as well, and you can still make that afternoon meeting.

I know, because I tried it at ENMASSE, a no-booking-required, Eastern-style spa that opened recently in Illovo. You might arrive stressed, but the dimmed lights and midnight-blue walls that envelop you as you enter immediately relax your senses. The spa has the feel of an airport lounge, as does the to-the-point service.

At reception, you're provided with a suit bag on a hanger, and a set of loose-fitting, cotton clothes (a top and pants), then directed to the changeroom. As soon as you're ready, you head to one of the 16 screened-off units, where you lie face down on a firm, expansive mattress, ready for your 60 minute, fully dressed and oil-free massage. That you're not entirely private, that others are in adjoining units, isn't a bother. You're in your own cocoon, within a box of cocoons.

ENMASSE specialises in an authentic Thai massage, also called Thai yoga massage, because the therapist uses his or her hands, knees, legs, and feet to move you into a series of yoga-like stretches. Alternatively you can also opt for a Shiatsu massage, Thai foot massage, reflexology session or pregnancy massage.

And during this lazy, passive dance with your muscle whisperer, you're listening to a music playlist that's been specially curated by owner Murray von Hirschberg. Far from pan pipes or the call of the southern right whale, it's quite a cool run of familiar, sometimes upbeat songs spanning more than 50 years. Despite my initial reservations, it works, because relaxation, not sleep, is the objective here. An hour later, you're in your car and off to your next appointment, feeling refreshed and ready for business.

“A massage should fit around your day, as opposed to fitting your day around your massage. So most of our bookings are made on the day, and we also cater for walk-in customers. Sometimes they come in groups, or say, husband and wife pairs who want a massage before going out for dinner,” says Von Hirschberg. For this reason, ENMASSE is open until 9pm, sometimes 10pm.

A thoughtful value-add at ENMASSE is the opportunity to lie back in the tea lounge and sample one of 40 exotic tea blends. If that meeting got cancelled, you don't have to rush out. It's a modern concept, adapted to people's real lives, and it makes for an excellent fit in busy Joburg.

* The ENMASSE special is three 60-minute massages at R360 each, or you can buy one of two membership options, the primary one being R670 a month over six months (two treatments a month). A non-member pays R395 a massage. To book, call 011 880 3020 (after hours 082 907 6267), or e-mail: Illovo@enmasse.co.za

* Two weeks later and the glitter polish on my toenails looks like it's just been applied. That's what I call a good pedicure. I got it at the hip SOHO Nails & Beauty, a New York style unisex beauty salon in Sandton City shopping centre, inspired by the slick, walk-in nail and beauty bars of New York and Los Angeles.

The best part is slumping into a state-of-the-art recliner that you prompt into a back massage with the touch of a remote button. Then you let the beautician loose on your toes while you tap away on your laptop if you like, using the free wireless fidelity (wi-fi). SOHO has the look and feel of the vibey New York suburb after which it's named, the kind of place you'd find Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in the City.

The salon also has a range of New York-centric branded products that they use and sell, including nail polish, vitamin E cream, flip-flops, thongs, jewellery and candles. It stays open late, and offers a mobile service, so you can book your treatments at home or in the office.

SOHO is the brainchild of Ethiopian-born entrepreneur Getty Gizaw, who began her career 10 years ago in New York with her marketing, PR and evening company, G2 Media. A globetrotter, she's up to speed on the latest trends, and says she felt the SA market was ready for a new kind of grooming experience. Observing the healthy custom the salon enjoyed during my hour there, she was clearly right on the button.

The menu includes manicures, pedicures, waxing, massage and threading treatments, and for those in a rush, there are dryers that you can push your toes under while flipping through a magazine. The soundtrack is chill-lounge music, good to get you in the mood for the weekend, if you have a bit to splash that is. A SOHO signature mani and pedi combo costs R490.

* To book, phone: 011 784 0370 or 011 784 0371.

* In more deference to precious time, Sorbet beauty and nail salon has pioneered an express hair salon called Sorbet Drybar, which launched on August 22 at the Dunkeld Shopping Centre. On the menu is convenient, affordable blow-drys in an upbeat, walk-in environment. “So, we don't offer cuts or colours, just quick-in and quick-out blow-drys,” explains Jade Kirkel, Sorbet Drybar brand manager.

And it operates from 7am to 7pm every day of the week, Sundays included.

The prices are what hooked me, especially given the stratospheric quotes I'm accustomed to. It's a flat rate of R140 a blow, no matter the length or texture of the hair. A wash is always included, using the in-house L'Oreal products, and you can order a 10-minute scalp massage for R50, a hair treatment for R185, and throw in a nail service as well. There's also free wi-fi if you need to work.

A testimony to inspired marketing, you're presented with a ''menu'' full of pictures of hair styles, including ''Vanilla'' (standard blowout with a little bit of volume), ''Espresso'' (sleek and chic), ''Rocky Road'' (lots of curls), ''Amaretto'' (the beach look), ''Honey Comb'' (big and bouncy), ''Rum and Raisin'' (short and punchy), ''Lemon Twist'' (up style) and ''Tutti Frutti'' (for kids aged 10 and younger).

The drybar concept is popular in the US but new to SA.

“The general idea is that women from all walks of life are able to enjoy a convenient hair service that's affordable,” Kirkel says.

Once it rolls out to the other Sorbet salons, the drybars will have the capacity to host groups of women as part teen parties and bachelorette parties. Complimentary champagne is on the house.

* Sorbet Drybar: 011 325 2921. - The Star

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