For decades after it opened in 1906, the two-story Russian bathhouse on West Division Street shrouded famous locals such as Al Capone, Saul Bellow, and Nelson Algren in clouds of steam. More than 100 years later, the building underwent a full renovation. In a return chronicled by the Chicago Reader, WGN, and Time Out Chicago, the century-old retreat of the city's powerful was reborn as Red Square.
Today, as perhaps the only traditional Russian bathhouse left in Chicago, Red Square holds its heritage close with two floors of authentic wet and dry saunas (separated into male and female spaces) and a spa. In the traditional banya, cedar-plank walls and three-tiered benches surround brick and granite ovens, where clouds of steam erupt from superheated rocks. But visitors aren't just left to cook; cold-water taps beside each bench and cold-plunge pools that mimic Russian ponds reinvigorate bathers amidst the heat. Spa attendants wander the humid rooms, performing services such as the traditional platza—a rigorous massage and scrub with a bundle of oak, eucalyptus, or birch branches that mimic the relaxing sensation of falling asleep in a tree.
It might come as a surprise to find a spirit-stocked bar in Red Square's café and lounge area. After all, "Many people will tell you it’s a terrible idea to mix alcohol and dehydrating heat chambers," says Time Out's Julia Kramer, "but none of those people are Russian." And so premium vodkas and Moscow Mules flow freely as guests—many of them still in their bathrobes—savor traditional Russian herring and caviar in the mahogany-paneled space, designed to resemble a 19th-century train car. To complete the locomotive vibe, curtained televisions at each booth screen looping footage of the Eastern European countryside and a conductor checks luggage for stowaways every half-hour.
Fire, water, air, and earth inspire the services at 4 Elements Salon, but owners Agnes Krolikowski and Maggie Swierczek along with their team see these forces a bit differently. For them, fire is a general principle of transformation—the kind that might happen through a bold new haircut. Water and air symbolize purification, cleansing pores and exfoliating skin during facial and body treatments, and you can find earth quite literally in rejuvenating treatments such as organic mud and seaweed wraps. For all of these treatments, the team relies on natural and antioxidant-rich products including lotions, mineral makeup, and pints of loose blueberries.
Armed with over a combined 25 years of airbrushing experience, Celebrity Skin's staff flawlessly mists skin with a natural, organic tanning spray. The team enlists the skin-coloring power of nontoxic sugars derived from plants such as sugar beets and sugar cane to expertly darken skin with a natural-looking shade of bronze that lasts for 7?10 days. Applied by hand, the mist sheathes clients from head to toe in as little as 25 minutes, or simply enunciates the legs, upper body, or face. The salon also bequeaths clients with pre- and posttan treatments to balance the skin?s natural pH and retain moisture and newly acquired color. The techs can tote their airbrushing equipment to residences for at-home tanning or to national monuments for bronze-statue touchups. Celebrity Skin also offers spa services including lash extensions and waxing.
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Inside Ultimate Exposure Tanning Centers' Chicagoland locations, a full lineup of UV- and spray-tanning equipment infuse skin with a healthy summer glow year-round. Individual sessions in the automated spray-tanning booths?such as VersaSpa?or UV beds gild bodysuits for nights on the town, and unlimited monthly packages fashion a continuous golden hue previously only available to sunbathing satellites. The salon stocks a variety of tan-accelerating lotions from Swedish Beauty, Australian Gold, and Designer Skin, which deepen bronze hues and moisturize skin to fashion a long-lasting radiance.
The beauticians at Vanity Chicago have created a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life where their clients can relax and indulge in a range of pampering treatments. Facials cleanse and exfoliate complexions, leaving them dewier than a slip 'n' slide at dawn, and body wraps melt down fat stores and boost circulation. Spray-tan artists keep their weapons loaded with Norvell sunless solution, misting clients down in a choice of three hues—sun kissed, beautifully bronzed, or deeply dark.
In her more than 17-year career, Melinda Rodriguez has participated in fashion shows for Nicole Miller and Armani, and crafted styles for such notable personalities as actress Jane Seymour and Latin-pop singer Chayanne. To expand the reach of her red-carpet styles, she founded Roque Beauty Lounge, a spacious salon and spa where a team of energetic style experts draw on experience in Chicago, Miami, and London to craft face-flattering looks that adhere to the salon's shared creative vision. Here, three tiers of stylists perform services at prices that match their individual experience level while using products by Moroccanoil. Roque Beauty Lounge also houses The Lashe Spot, where lash technicians accentuate eyes by shaping brows and amplify lashes with synthetic extensions.