Scrub, Rinse, Repeat
Eight trendy spa treatments to try in 2014.
There’s no time like the present to step out of the typical spa routine. From high-tech to Eastern medicine, here are some utterly amazing new ways to take care of yourself.
The newest way to unwind and rejuvenate.
I’m that girl who keeps up with the Kardashians, never misses an episode of The Bachelor, and is always up-to-date on the latest trends. So when I saw that Jennifer Aniston and Lafayette swimming champ Natalie Coughlin were cupping, I knew I needed to try it.
The ancient Chinese procedure uses suction cups to pull muscles and increase blood flow. It’s said to rid your body of toxins, and decrease anxiety and muscle pain. The aftermath looks scary, though: It leaves large red marks down your back—like you got in a fight with an octopus and lost.
I was coming down with a cold the day of my appointment and was stressed about looming deadlines. Turns out that was the perfect time to get cupped.
Tamara at Walnut Creek’s Majestic Massage for Wellness had an outgoing personality that put me at ease. I took a deep breath and got into the bed, which was cozy and heated. I almost felt like I could fall asleep.
It wasn’t until I saw the huge cups that my anxiety set in. They looked like hollowed out lightbulbs, with a black gun attached to create suction.
“In my country, they slam the cups on your back to create the suction,” Tamara told me in a thick Russian accent. “This is much better.”
But then Tamara cleared my energy with chimes and placed a cup on my shoulder. “You ready?”
I heard the gun start, and it sounded like someone had raised an office chair. No big deal! I felt some pressure but no pain. It was certainly more comfortable than getting a deep-tissue massage.
Tamara worked quickly, moving cups around my back every few minutes. Before I knew it, the 30-minute appointment was over.
Luckily, the circles on my back were gone within a few days. My muscles felt noticeably looser, and my cold symptoms improved faster than usual.
Cupping is my new favorite way to relax. Not bad for $50 bucks.
2123 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Bldg. K, Ste. 100, Walnut Creek, (925) 980-8189, majestic-massage.com.
B12 shot — Need a pick-me-up? You might want to do like Madonna and Justin Timberlake and try a B12 shot.
Unlike popping a vitamin pill, shots provide a larger dose of vitamins, with quicker absorption. Benefits are said to include clearer skin, thicker hair, stress reduction, weight-loss support, and—perhaps the biggest of them all— energy.
The shot, offered at spas including SkinSpirit in Walnut Creek, is no more painful than a flu shot, and costs $25. Celebs have reportedly gotten the injections in a region that might be uncomfortable for the average person (ahem—the derriere). But SkinSpirit injects it into your arm, and the appointment only takes a few minutes.
The Energizer Bunny will have nothing on you.
1647 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 952-9200, skinspirit.com.
An organic twist on classic spa exfoliation.
Microdermabrasion, the process of buffing away dead skin cells, has been a mainstay on spa menus since the ’90s. Typically, it is done with tiny crystals of aluminum oxide. But with concerns about breathing in the particles, I am interested in Lafayette Spa at the Park’s organic flower microderm facial.
My esthetician, Aurea, gets the DermaRadiance machine ready. I can see the tiny flower grains through clear tubes. She decides that rose hip is too much for my twentysomething skin, and evaluates my complexion. Between the lavender or tea tree, she decides to use tea tree, since I have sensitive skin.
As Aurea begins, I wonder if it will be any different than a regular treatment. I feel the familiar suction, but the flower blend feels softer—not as sandy, and quite pleasant. After buffing my skin, Aurea decides whether to use a diamond tip (for more intense exfoliation) or a series of masks on my skin. Since I have several stress breakouts, she chooses the masks for deep pore cleansing.
As the masks are placed on my face, there is a treat with this 80-minute service: nearly a full body massage. As the final mask is peeled off in one swoop, I am welcomed back to reality.
My skin is left glowing and feels renewed, and as smooth as a baby’s bum.
If you’re looking to go organic, or simply want an experience that is effective and relaxing, I suggest giving it a go.
$165, 3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 283-3700, lafayetteparkhotel.com.
Antigravity Face-Lift — I couldn’t stop looking in the mirror after my antigravity face-lift at the Claremont in Berkeley. My skin looked brighter, firmer—and several years younger.
The secret weapon behind this treatment is a $40,000 machine that, using two metal wands, pumps microcurrents of electricity into your skin to remind your muscles what they are supposed to do. I can’t say that I understand how it works, but I can say that it works.
The relaxing 80-minute facial for $215 includes the usual cleansing, exfoliation, and extractions, as well as shoulder massage and acupressure to stimulate blood flow and collagen production. I added a $50 LED light treatment to reduce spots and redness.
For best results, do six weekly treatments, then monthly sessions for upkeep. And for full-body rejuvenation, certainly make time to enjoy the Claremont’s steam room, plunge shower, and whirlpool that overlooks Berkeley and the Bay.
41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley, (800) 551-7266, claremontresort.com/spa.
A Chinese tradition used in an unexpected way boosts skin vitality.
I was skeptical that acupuncture could do much to improve the look of my skin. I am a believer and a practicer of this ancient Chinese treatment to balance energy, relax, and improve general health. The concept of an acupuncture facial did make sense to me: to draw blood to the face and improve circulation.
But I was not expecting a cosmetic acupuncture facial to do much to reduce 50 years’ worth of wrinkles that are part of my aging gracefully routine. In other words, my antiaging routine is a daily Clarisonic buff—and that’s it.
Dr. Teresa Shen of Eastern Medical Center in Pleasanton warned me that you need a few sessions to see results with cosmetic acupuncture. But after my first visit, my skin was noticeably smoother, clearer, plumper, and brighter. She also told me that the treatment, unlike other acupuncture sessions, is not pain free. As she put needles into the skin on my face, I felt a little sting.
Shen started with acupressure to massage lymph nodes and open energy channels on the face and neck. She also put needles on my hands and feet to energize and balance hormones. Then came needles placed on the face, and 30 minutes under heat lamps.
Going in, I didn’t really think I’d be a fan of the treatment. But a simple, natural program that sheds a few years, with only 10 sessions and the occasional tune-up after that, seems like a pretty great way to turn back the clock.
Ten sessions for $1,200, 5933 Coronado Ln., Ste. 100, Pleasanton, (925) 847-8889, easternmedicalcenter.com.
Find inner peace by floating in a warm bath.
The lobby of Oakland Floats is pretty cool—an unpretentious spa decorated with illustrations of floating hot air balloons. But the waiting room has nothing on what you’ll discover in the floatation tanks down the hall.
Although floating has only recently seen a surge as a wellness therapy, sensory deprivation tanks were invented in the mid-1950s. Dr. John Lilly, who did an experiment for the National Institute of Mental Health, wanted to see what happens to the brain when it’s isolated from external stimulation. He found that the brain remained active, even when the body experienced a state of extreme relaxation.
Floating works like this: First, you enter a tank or float room, and close the door, enveloping yourself in total blackness. (There’s a soft blue light you can turn on, if you’re claustrophobic or afraid of the dark.) Then, you lie down in a warm bath filled with 10 inches of water and 800 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt. The solution makes your body spring to the surface of the water like a cork. Salt draws out toxins; it also triggers the release of endorphins in your brain, provoking a blissful sensation.
Once you’re in the tank, there isn’t anything to do but let the antigravity experience take over. Some people fall into a deep sleep. I’ve always stayed awake, letting my mind wander away from day-to-day deadlines. By the end of the 75-minute session, I’m cruising the infinite with George Clooney’s Gravity character.
I first tried floating three years ago to ease pain and stiffness following a bad car accident. The injuries caused a nasty ripple of negativity in my overall well-being: Trouble sleeping at night leads to irritability and exhaustion during the day. I’ve added massage, physical therapy, and acupuncture to my swimming and stretching regimen—but floating has given me the most relief.
Each $75 session was followed by a phenomenal night of sleep. The relaxed sensation tends to last several days, during which time I’ve found that my creative instincts and writing output are enhanced.
Oakland Floats expanded recently, adding two float rooms to its original two tanks. The trend is spreading around the East Bay: Lafayette’s Cleanse and Wellness recently added a tank, while Oakland’s new Float: Flotation Center and Art Gallery has two tanks and an art gallery, catering to the creative boost of floating.
Cleanse and Wellness, (925) 299-1425, cleanseandwellness.com; Float: Flotation Center and Art Gallery, (510) 535-1702, thefloatcenter.com; Oakland Floats, (510) 423-8772, oaklandfloats.com.
Melt away signs of aging with heat.
Eye Treatment — As far as aging goes, a particularly tricky area to control is around the eyes. From crow’s-feet to dark circles, this sensitive region can be difficult to improve. If creams aren’t working and you can’t commit to a surgical lift, try a Thermal G–Plus eye treatment from Element Spa in Dublin.
The 45-minute service begins when a technician places antiaging serum under and around the eyes. Then, the large, robotlike G–Plus machine goes to work. The circular tool gently moves around each eye, exuding warmth that helps to activate the collagen of deep-skin tissue.
After the high-tech part is over, a cooling mask sits on the eyes for about 20 minutes. Then, voilà! Tighter, firmer eyes ready to take on the new year—and many more to come.
$48, 4288 Dublin Blvd., Ste. 203–205, Dublin, (925) 833-9338, element-spa.com.
In the cold months, my skin tends to lose its glow. Holiday treats and drinks also leave me wanting to revitalize. Changes Day Spa & Salon recommended I try the Amazon Rain Experience—a detoxifying facial for the entire body.
In the Rain Bar Room, a calming private space with a waterproof bed and a Vichy shower, my massage therapist, Katrina, placed a warm mask over my eyes and filled the air with the aroma of lavender. Then, the scrubbing began.
When the dry brush bristles touched my skin, I understood why this service is beyond the exfoliating I do at home in the shower. Katrina worked swiftly as she scrubbed my limbs and tummy.
When she was done, my skin stung, and my shins and upper arms were pink and tender. But Katrina transitioned into a gentle massage with warm oil, applying soft pressure toward my lymph nodes to clear out toxins.
Then, Katrina switched gears and again exfoliated my body, but this time with a scrub. She also applied hot stones to my back and stomach for relaxation. She applied two more coats of Changes’ customized scrub, before turning on the Vichy shower, a metal arm with several movable showerheads.
After my hot shower, she sprayed my skin with a cool, tropical-scented mist followed by an all-over moisturizer.
By the time the 75-minute treatment was done, my muscles felt loose, and I felt tranquil, even virtuous for detoxifying my body. I thought my fair skin would be bright red from all the scrubbing, but it wasn’t. It was even and smooth.
I left the spa ready to show off my beautiful skin—which, despite the season, now had the radiance of summer.
$150, 1475 N. Broadway, Walnut Creek, (925) 947-1814, changessalon.com.