Relax and Get Pampered at Your Favorite Day Spa
In Delaware, a frigid wind - the nasty remnant of a nor’easter - buffeted pedestrians. But I wasn’t one of them. While the people in clothing cocoons battled the elements, I gazed at a blue sky that was peppered with violet-tinged clouds. I drank in the sound of gently lapping water and sighed in satisfaction.
No, I hadn’t escaped to the Caribbean. I was in the facial room at Currie Hair Skin Nails in Chadds Ford, Pa., where Georgi Price, a paramedical esthetician, was massaging my shoulders. “Picture yourself on an island,” she whispered, covering my eyes with moist cotton balls and tucking a comforter around me.
It wasn’t a hard picture to create. After the relaxing massage and a soothing facial, imagery came easy. A leave-in revitalization mask seeped into my skin making it feel dewy. “In Europe, skin comes first,” Price says. “In America, make-up comes first.”
That way of thinking is changing as more Americans are discovering the mental and physical benefits of day spas like Currie, where specialists pamper clients from head to toe. Pioneered by Elizabeth Arden in 1910, salons-cum-day spas have recently surged in popularity.
“From 1998 to 1999, the industry doubled from 860 to 1,600 day spas,” says Stephanie Matolyak, vice president of dayspa marketing for the Spa-Finder Company in Manhattan. “It’s a $850 million dollar industry.”
Credit baby boomers that want to battle aging, and twenty-somethings that want to hold onto a good thing. Regular maintenance, not make-up, is now the secret to good skin. Day spas also provide quick, convenient places to shelve stress, especially since most women don’t have the time, or money, to fly to Canyon Ranch for a week.
“So many working women and men are looking for escapes,” says Randy Currie, owner of Currie Hair Skin Nails. “This really allows you to take a break from your day and get away from the phone and fax machines".
Although Currie’s reception area was bustling, Price’s treatment room was an oasis. Outfitted with a celestial mural, a tabletop fountain with an artificial bonsai tree, and tiny Asian fisherman, while ethereal music spilled from hidden speakers. I was in another world, where I was the center of attention.
Fostering this sense of privacy is key. At Currie, spa patrons rest between services in a dimly lit area. The same is true at Nicholas Design Group, where clients, garbed in fluffy robes, relax in the recently renovated spa lounge.
Nicholas Scarfo, owner of Nicholas Design Group, expanded day spa services to meet customer demands. “It’s a necessity if you’re going to have an upscale salon,” he says.
This explains why many salons are adding day spa to their name. However, that doesn’t mean that they are one, says Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solutions, a Fairfax, Va., firm specializing in marketing for the day spa and beauty industry. “These phantom spas are a major annoyance in the industry,” he says. “Many are just adding small skin-care services – they really don’t have an esthetician. And if they do, they have one part time.”
True day spas offer services that address the entire body, including hair, face, body, hands, and feet, Matolyak says. Massage is essential, says Gini Spruance, an esthetician at Nicholas Design Group. So are haircuts, styling, and coloring, Scarfo adds.
While spa patrons can purchase individual treatments, the real treat is to buy a half- or full-day package. Full-day packages typically feature a spa lunch. At Currie, it’s prepared at the in-house coffee bar.
“Before, we were at the mercy of a restaurant,” Currie says. “We’d go to pick lunch up and it wouldn’t be ready. Now it’s one-stop shopping: You can bring a friend, have a cappuccino, and get a pedicure.”
Package prices vary, depending on the services. Michael Christopher Designs in Wilmington has a mini-day beauty package, which includes haircut and finish, manicure, and make-up application for $78. The $198 Salon Day of Beauty includes those services plus a pedicure, facial, and lunch.
Many salons get creative. Fabrizio Salon & Spa, located in Wilmington, sells a $200 slice of Seventh Heaven, complete with an individualized facial, Swedish full-body massage, manicure, pedicure, and blow-dry with a favorite stylist. The salon also offers a Mother & Daughter three-hour package for $260.
Some packages concentrate on particular body parts. Feet First, offered for $80 by Nicholas Design Group, starts with reflexology (a specialized foot massage) and ends with a spa pedicure.
Most salons allow you to exchange services. “Some people are funny about their feet,” says Monika Seefried Hibbard, an esthetician at Michael Christopher Design. “Or they have a stylist at another salon.”
Pre-purchased certificates often are treated like cash (though you don’t get change). At Currie, you can trade a service for hair products. “We try to make it as easy as possible for people to use them,” Currie says.
The packages make ideal gifts. Talk to Spruance, who received one for her 50th birthday. “I felt so good afterward,” she recalls. “It was almost like I was on a drug. You feel beautiful and you look beautiful.”
A day spa menu can be confusing to the uninitiated. Here’s a guide to common services.
“People realize facials aren’t just for fluff,” Hibbard says. “They’re beneficial for the skin.”
Suyin Karlsen, spa director for Fabrzio Salon & Spa, agrees. She recalls the Washington D.C. Du Pont Co. consultant who suffered from severe acne. Hoping to avoid a prescription drug that can cause liver and kidney damage, he came to Karlsen for an acne facial.
“He was so happy that his skin had turned around,” she says. “Even though he’s finished his Wilmington assignment, he still comes in to see me.”
There are as many different kinds of facials as there are ice cream flavors. Fabrizio Salon & Spa, for instance, offers facials for seven different skin types: normal, dry, mature, oily, acne, couperose (skin with broken, dilated, or split capillaries), or combination ($60 each).
Since I have rosacea, a chronic acne-like condition typified by flushing and breakouts, Price suggested Currie’s BioGenie facial detoxifying treatment ($65). After cleansing my skin, she gently massaged my stomach to encourage lymphatic drainage. Then she started a series of painless detoxification treatments.
Technology has spawned a host of new facials, such as micro-dermabrasion. A mini sandblaster-like apparatus pelts the skin with aluminum chloride, while a tiny vacuum sucks up the loosened dead skin. The mild sensation is about as intense as a brisk rub with an exfoliating lotion. A single 45-minute to one-hour session is $130 at Currie.
Other specialty facials include the glycolic polymer facial to exfoliate dead skin ($65 at Fabrizio) and a back facial ($65 at Michael Christopher Designs).
Most facials include some massage. “Our estheticians aren’t allowed to go have a smoke or pay bills while a mask takes affect,” Karlsen says. “They spend that time giving arm, hand, and foot massages.”
Like facials, there are many massage types. Fabrizio offers everything from a half-hour hand massage ($30) to a one-and-a-half hour body massage ($90). Currie has sports massages, featuring strokes to get athletes in peak performance, chair massages, and aromatherapy massages, ranging from $40 to $90.
Massages are more than just a luxury. “It’s a physical care and mental health treatment,” Karlsen says. “People come here because they need it – their bodies are falling apart. It’s truly a part of maintaining well-being.”
Pedicures & Manicures
Short, natural nails are in, says Debbie Sigarelli, a manicurist at Currie. “It’s a classier look.” Good thing, I thought as she expertly painted my nails. The cold weather makes mine so brittle, they snap like potato chips.
Supplemental services at Fabrizio include hot-oil manicures ($20) and paraffin wax treatments ($8). At Currie, Sigarelli delivers a mean spa manicure, which includes a paraffin wax treatment, massage, and aromatherapeutic salon manicure ($33). And for the nail-challenged, there are always sculpted nails, tips, and wraps.
When it comes to having someone handle their feet, some people initially are squeamish. “They say, ‘Oh No! You’re going to touch my feet?’” Sigarelli says. “Then they get hooked.”
If you’ve never had a pedicure, give yourself a treat. You feel like royalty,as you reclin in a throne-like chair while your feet soak in swirling suds. Currie has a glycolic pedicure that is beneficial to dry, callused feet ($58).
From exfoliating to bronzing, body treatments make skin smooth and soft. Michael Christopher offers seaweed body wraps ($85), loofah body polishes ($85), and sun glow body treatments ($95), during which you’re evenly coated with self-tanning cream.
Nicholas Design Group has body slimming contour wraps ($85) and salt glow treatments ($75) to slough off dead skin.
In addition to routine day spa services, some salons offer eyelash and eyebrow tinting, waxing, electrolysis, and ear piercing.
Searching for a day spa? Here are some tips:
- Ask spa-savvy friends which spa they recommend
- Collect spa menus, which explain services and list prices. Ask about custom packages.
- Ask about the practitioner’s licensing and training. Some estheticians are internationally licensed and have trained in Europe.
- If the practitioner is new, ask about the supervisor’s experience.
- Schedule a free consultation to discuss special needs before your treatment.
- Book packages in advance. Some involve six to seven services.