Exfoliate Me, Please

Lying face-down on a massage table, I listen to flute music and inhale the scent of fragrant oils permeating the air. I feel detached from my body, as if I'm floating. When Joe Gajnos, a licensed massage therapist, enters the room, he does nothing to break the spell. As he kneads every muscle and quietly explains his technique, I continue to float -- right on up to the ceiling.

I imagine that, at Secret Images, a new day spa in Fort Lauderdale, Gajnos is more accustomed to massaging women than men. But real men, these days, are discovering what women have known for some time: that being pampered at a spa does wonders for mind and body. Machismo be damned.

With that in mind, I visited Secret Images, a spa owned by 34-year-old Erin Moschella, and requested the Full Day of Beauty. Included in the package is a European facial, a manicure and pedicure, lunch, an exfoliating salt glow, a massage, and a shampoo and haircut -- a six-hour overhaul for which my 55-year-old body was long overdue.

During the "deep-pore" facial, aesthetician Toni Harrison cleansed, steamed, toned, exfoliated, massaged, and moisturized my face until it tingled and glowed. Next stop: the manicure/pedicure station. There, 20-year specialist Loree Berg trimmed and buffed my fingernails until they were as smooth as glass. Next she immersed my feet in a hydrojet bubble bath for a ten-minute soak, then dried, pumiced, and shaved the rough spots off my feet. The session ended with the application of a mud mask, which was washed off and replaced by moisturizer prior to a foot massage. Later, hairstylist Val Leitao administered the coup de gráce, a relaxing shampoo followed by a world-class haircut.

Haircuts are where Moschella got her start. Growing up in Georgia, she first styled her dog's hair, then moved on to siblings and friends. After moving to Fort Lauderdale in 1980, she enrolled in Raymer Beauty College in Sunrise, from which she graduated in 1982. She worked at several salons, but the hours were long, the pay marginal. So five years ago, she bought her own salon in Fort Lauderdale and named it Secret Images.

Recently she moved into the current space, which is twice the size of the original and offers the spa services. "I wanted to create a place that would make people feel like they were in their own home," Moschella says.

Well, I don't normally get facials and deep-muscle massages in my own house, but who am I to quibble over details?

-- Kurt J. Volker

Secret Images is located in Sunshine Square, 1201 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. For information call 954-564-3997.