We step into this dark room with four chairs that smells roughly of the herbs my Chinese grandmother might keep in her medicine cabinet. In my head, I felt sort of like Steve-O before a “Jackass” stunt — I turned to face a non-existent camera and said in my head, “My name’s Waylae and I’m about to get my asshole steamed.”
But first, let’s rewind to the part when my boss suggested that we (me and our editor-in-chief Alan) go to this spa to let herbal steam relax our stressed-out sphincters. It all started out as a joke.
Late last month, Gwyneth Paltrow mentioned in her GOOP newsletter that anyone who is ever in L.A. should definitely get a “V Steam
” from Tikkun Holistic Spa because it “cleanses your uterus.” Curious, Fast Company journalist Laura Hooper Beck
went to get the “Signature V Steam” and humorously documented her experience.
During the course of our own research, we discovered — to our deviant senses of amusement and delight — that they also offered an “A Steam” service for men, the good news being that it wasn’t an “invasive” procedure as we first imagined. Naturally, we believed it would be awesome if we went to get our asses steamed together (file it as a “team-building” expense), so one thing led to another and I booked an appointment.
I’ll be honest — I was pretty excited about it. I’ve never been to a spa before, and I was popping my spa-cherry by getting my butthole steamed, which, at least in the beginning, sounded pretty baller. In the most visual sense, I basically imagined a rimjob of hot, painful-in-a-good-way steam. That’s normal, right?
Tikkun is right in the heart of Santa Monica by the Third Street Promenade. We arrived at the spa half an hour before our appointment and the receptionist greeted us at the counter. They were very friendly, but they also knew we were journalists, so if you want the best treatment possible at a spa, always say you are a journalist. With her soft voice and slow words, our attendant was sure to tell us the vague yet confidently-stated benefits each of their amenities provide during our tour of the spa, before directing us to change in the locker rooms.
The locker room itself is pretty cozy with about 20 lockers in one corner, three private showers, two sinks for shaving and one private bathroom. It was actually so cozy that a tall, half-naked man who I assumed just got a massage of some type was clearly uncomfortable going to his locker as long as I was standing there.
There’s also a steam room that can fit about four people and a 160-degree sauna of the same size. They even have a spray bottle filled with a eucalyptus oil mixture and complimentary drinking water accented with orange and lime wedges.
We change into extra large-sized T-shirts and shorts they provide that are ragged from being overwashed, and then slip on a pair of black, rubbery slippers. It looks like shit, but this attire is required throughout the spa. Once you change, you can enjoy any of the spa’s amenities while waiting for your appointment.
The bricks in the salt room are also made of salt.
There’s the heated Himalayan salt room — a warm, dark and quiet room supposedly filled with negative ions, where you breathe in micro particles of salt that are just “super good” for you, the lady told us. I may have licked a salt rock out of curiosity. Then there’s the Korean Hwangto Room, which is basically a glorified low-level sauna. In between, you can sit in a small “cold room,” which is set at 62 degrees and helps constrict your capillaries between sessions in the warmer rooms, which sounded more fantastic than it actually was.
The receptionist came to get us when it was time for our steam, so we had to change from our T-shirt/shorts combo into gowns that wrapped around under our arms and were so oversized that they dragged on the floor. She also recommended that we use the bathroom beforehand, because people can apparently get too relaxed — and accidents can happen.
The A Steam
So the private steam room itself is a small room that fits four “steam thrones” imported from Korea. The walls are made of jade, the lady tells us. The air is thick with the scent of mugwort and fennel seed from past steams, among which, we can only presume, included Gwyneth Paltrow’s.
The chai yok, the traditional Korean name for the steam, is a tradition hundreds of years old, but there are lots of cultures that use similar steam techniques. It’s supposed to be unbelievably (literally) cleansing and includes benefits for men that include the lessening of kidney stones’ effects and the killing of intestinal worms (seriously though, if you have worms you should go see a doctor, not steam your ass). It also has anti-aging properties, their pamphlets claim. For women, the V Steam is supposed to protect the uterus from ulcers and tumors, help the production of milk in new mothers, and the receptionist tells us it can even reverse the effects of infertility, you know, like magic. Of course, none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA.
The attendant helps us get situated on each chair, noting that she wasn’t peeking when she lifts our gown-skirts and helps us get situated. It’s kind of like a toilet you lean back in, with a small hole that you position yourself on top of. Inside the hole, there is a glowing red infrared light pointed right at your bum. Your feet go on top of a wooden step that has carved holes where steam arises from, and the gown-skirt keeps all of it trapped around your lower body.
There is an electronic control where you can choose how hot you want the steam rising to your butt, based on a scale of 1 -10. They also give you hot green tea while you sit there. We give it around five minutes for everything to settle and heat up and …
“Oh my god, Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina was right!!”
… Alan said sarcastically. I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. Imagine yourself naked in a steam room and you’ve already got the A Steam beat. There was no steam licking my butt! People pay for this; you’d expect a little more action, you know? It turns out, through the course of writing this article, that I learned my steam throne had malfunctioned — the hot steam that seemed to ravage Alan’s bottom with raw, hot pain was barely a tickle for me. I had my settings on near-maximum, a 9 — he must have thought I was insane.
We sit there for the whole 30-minute session, the steam and sweat dripping down our legs as we read magazines — all Hollywood gossip magazines; Alan notes they sure know their clientele. At the end of the steam, the attendant came in to help us out with a “Did that please you?” chirpiness. I really wished I could have gone, “Oh yeah!” in the deep Kool-Aid man voice, but sadly, it was not to be.
Is it relaxing to sit in a dark, quiet room while warm steam caresses most of your body? After sitting in Santa Monica traffic for an hour and then trying to find a spot in a parking garage, yes, definitely. My butt felt shower-clean, possibly clean enough to eat out of, but it’s definitely not the best thing I’ve ever had done to it.
It’s recommended you shower afterwards, so if you do decide to go, remember to bring your shower essentials if you don’t want to use theirs. You can also go back and use the hot rooms once you are all done, so that’s kind of a plus.
Was this $50 dollars well spent? Kind of. It depends on what you go there for. You might want to go there for a relaxing day, or even a day-cleanse date, but the steam might be the most “meh” thing on your agenda — it just happens to be the cheapest service they offer aside from getting waxed.
If it helps you relax and you had fun, then it was money well spent, but don’t count it as $50 dollars having gone directly to your health and wellness — doctors seriously don’t recommend doing this, especially if you have a vagina. Having used the company card, it was obviously and totally worth $50 to get my butt steamed in the same room, and possibly on the same chair, that Gwyneth Paltrow, cleanse goddess and supporting star of “Iron Man,” did.