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Fox Chapel spa part of soothing trend

Sunday, July 14, 2002

By LaMont Jones, Post-Gazette Fashion Editor

Spa. It rhymes with "aah. " If you've ever visited one, you understand.

Spa visits are on the rise in the United States as people seek ways to relieve stress, improve their appearance and health and pamper themselves. It's no coincidence that the number of spas across the nation has skyrocketed as the nation's 76 million baby boomers advance, kicking and screaming, into middle age.


ESSpa Kozmetika Skin Care, 1366 Old Freeport Road, is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For appointments or more information, call 412-963-0210.


ESSpa Kozmetica Skin Care is a new day spa at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club that offers skin and body treatments to help men and women age gracefully. There are nine types of massages, including hot stone, aromatherapy, Swedish and maternity varieties; manicures, pedicures and other special foot and hand treatments; hair removal; teeth whitening; makeup and tinting; seven oxygen facials; volcanic mud and three other body treatments; and five special pampering packages that range from an hour (ESSpa ESState) to a half day (ESSpa ESSprit).

Treatment rooms are soothing and intimate, and there's a private, tree-shaded patio for outdoor massages and treatments, with the yacht club pool and Allegheny River a stone's throw away.

"ESSpa is not an American spa," said Eva Sztupka, who opened it Feb. 1. "I have tried to create a sanctuary based on the Hungarian traditions of skin care that I grew up with in Budapest."

Sztupka's training included apprenticeships, chemistry and ultimately custom mixing skin creams. She came to Pittsburgh seven years ago to work for Eva Szabo, another Hungarian skin-care guru who operates three spas in the Pittsburgh area.

"She's wonderful and I learned a lot from her, but I always dreamed of having my own shop," said Sztupka, 28.

So she branched out on her own with the encouragement and support of her husband, Scott Kerschbaumer.

"My husband had the idea of having it in a yacht club," she said. "He designed it and told me, 'If you're not coming, I'm hiring other people.' "

She was uncertain and lacked confidence, but he "pushed and pushed," she said.

"Still, he's the one who's optimistic, and I'm the one giving myself an ulcer," she added, laughing.

Facials are an affordable part of routine grooming among Europeans, Sztupka said, but are viewed by Americans as rare, expensive indulgences. She hopes to help change that perception.

"Over there, it's definitely a thing every day," said Sztupka, whose complexion is like porcelain. "It's not a luxury. It's like a haircut. It's like treating your skin. You go to an aesthetician, then if you need to later, go to a dermatologist. Over here, people see two blackheads and go to a dermatologist."

ESSpa's primary emphasis is on facials and other skin treatments because Sztupka believes "beautiful skin should never be a luxury." The spa is stocked with such leading European skin-care lines as Eminence from Hungary, Le Club from France, Karin Herzog from Switzerland and Germaine de Capuccini from Spain.

Information compiled by the International SPA Association indicates that spa growth and visits are rapidly increasing nationally and globally. The Lexington, Ky.-based association's membership of 1,900 in 55 countries has more than doubled in the last two years, and executive director Lynne McNees said the same rate of growth is projected over the next two years.

According to a comprehensive study for the association in 2000 by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, there were more than 90 million visits to U.S. spas in 1999, mostly to day spas (by far the industry's largest sector). There were nearly 5,700 spas, a $5 billion industry employing about 151,000 people.

Massages are still the most popular spa service, though experienced spa-goers are more likely than others to try signature treatments. But regardless of which services customers select, the top reason they cited for visiting spas is to relax.

McNees described a "spa explosion" driven by a public that has become more educated about the benefits of spa experiences. There was a slight dip after the Sept. 11 attacks, but the industry rebounded higher than before as people sought out spas as safe, nurturing, healing environments.

"Since then, we have seen more groups and couples visiting spas," said McNees. "Instead of meeting at a bar or restaurant, they meet at a spa. It's a very interesting trend that we've seen."

Another interesting tend is the growing number of men visiting spas. About 28 percent of clients are men, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study done this year for ISPA, and they are lured by special promotions and products, services and amenities designed especially for men.

"The bottom line is, [people] are working harder than we've ever worked before, and at a crazy pace," said McNees. "People are looking for ways to slow down. Spas offer you time to relax, reflect, revitalize and rejoice so that you can be all you need to be for your family, your employer, your co-workers."

McNees recommends doing research before choosing a spa, and then making sure the person servicing you is properly licensed and meets any state and local requirements. A glossary of spa terms and frequently asked questions about spas are available at http://www.experienceispa.com.

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