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To Melt Away Holiday Tension, Treat Yourself to a Spa Treatment

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The Thanksgiving leftovers may finally be finished, but the anticipation of the holiday season is just getting started. Traditionally a time of comfort and joy, all the stress associated with party hopping and pleasing family and friends can take a toll. If worrying about finding the perfect gift or the perfect outfit to bid 2011 adieu has you feeling more Grinchy than cheery, local spas and salons have just the pick-me-up you need to re-energize this holiday season.

Sole-Soothing

What: Absolute Pearl Pedicure ($75 for 70 minutes)

Where: Nectar Skin Bar, 1633 Wisconsin Ave., NW
www.nectarskinbar.com

Why: Nectar owners Amy and Brian Thomas know all about putting your best face forward. Their jobs — she's director of protocol for Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba of the United Arab Emirates and he's the chief of staff for Texas Republican Rep. Kenny Marchant — require them to look good under pressure. Which is how they came to have their second side career as salon and spa owners.

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Photo: Nectar Skin Bar
Nectar Skin Bar in Georgetown, above, offers products not typically available in D.C., such as LashDip, a semi-permanent treatment for eyelashes.

The longtime Washingtonians bought Ipsa for Hair (1629 Wisconsin Ave., NW; www.ipsaforhair.com) in Georgetown two and a half years ago and added Nectar this summer.

"Originally the idea came about in my travels," Amy Thomas said. "I traveled quite a bit with President [George W.] Bush and Mrs. Bush, and as I traveled the world, I really had an opportunity to see remote places as well as high-fashion centers of the world. I realized we really don't have many opportunities in the United States to get to some of the products that are abroad."

To that end, Nectar offers products available nowhere else in D.C., such as LashDip, a semi-permanent treatment for eyelashes that leaves them looking like they have a fresh coat of mascara for up to six weeks.

Thomas draws on what she's learned in diplomacy and protocol to run the beauty-centric spa. "It is a similar form of business because basically what we're doing is spreading the trends, talking a lot about what's in the industry as far as beauty is concerned, what the trends of the season are, how women can feel confident with themselves and have ease getting themselves ready in the morning."

The two-level 20th-century rowhouse is part shop, part manicure-makeup salon on the first floor, and all spa on the second, with two treatment rooms for facials, microdermabrasion and LED light treatments, as well as three pedicure stations.

For feet dry from the wintry air and tired from pounding the Georgetown cobblestones in search of that perfect holiday gift, your best bet is the organic Absolute Pearl Pedicure, which combines soothing scents such as rose, vanilla and orange, with a hot-water soak and foot massage.

Choose a polish color from the OPI and organic SpaRitual lines (dark earth and jewel tones are popular this season), and then sit back like royalty on plush purple mini sofas, listen to the pop music, and plop your pooped piggies into a silver bowl of warm water. No standard black massage chairs and plastic jets in sight at this posh spot.

Noemi Luna, who took care of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's nail needs for eight years, starts the pedicure with the requisite toenail trimming and filing. Then she applies a hydrating oil and exfoliates up to the knee, sloughing away dead cells to reveal brightened, fresh skin. Next, she massages in a mask and wraps your foot and lower leg in plastic to promote hydration. The mask sits for 10 minutes before she removes it with hot towels. The best part? Even after the relaxation ends, you have perfectly polished, party-ready nails for several weeks to last you until the New Year.

Blow Worries Away

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Photo: One80 Salon
A therapeutic shampoo and blow-dry using organic Davines products is available for $50 at One80 salon off K Street.

What: Therapeutic shampoo and blow-dry ($50)

Where: One80salon, 1275 K St., NW
one80salon.com

Why: Holiday stress got you pulling your hair out? Take a deep breath and head to One80, a bustling salon just off K Street. It hums with hairdryers and gossip, making it the ideal place to tune into someone else's problems or unload yours onto the unofficial psychotherapists of the world: hairdressers.

Whether you're trying to look good for a party or are sick of fighting winter static, putting your head in someone else's hands lightens the weight on your shoulders, said Amy Putens, a stylist at One80.

"Instead of sitting at home and worrying about which direction you're pulling the hair and getting hot and bothered by blow drying — we can never do our hair as good as a hairdresser can — it gives you that moment of serenity," Putens said.

The treatment starts with shampooist Lalla Ismaeli, who greets you at the hair-washing station. Shortly after you tilt your head back, you realize this is not just an exercise in cleanliness. She checks that the water temperature is to your liking before slathering on an organic Davines product suitable for your hair type. Then the bliss begins as she methodically massages your scalp, lingering on pressure points, such as the temples, and draining tension. She rinses and repeats with a conditioner before escorting you to the stylist's chair.

Next, Putens grabs a hair dryer and combs and brushes your mane into submission. By the time she's done, you have silky, styled locks where your frazzled strands once were without ever having to lift a finger.

"You walk in one mood and you pretty much walk out in another. You're ready to go," Putens said.

Gorge or Gorgeous

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Photo: Powers & Crewe
Aura Spa at VIDA Fitness, left, offers a Detox Body Cocktail that uses essential oils to calm the senses and sweat out toxins.

What: Detox Body Cocktail ($120 for 75 minutes or $170 for 90 minutes with a massage)

Where: Aura Spa at VIDA Fitness, 1517 15th St., NW, and the Renaissance Washington Hotel, 999 9th St., NW
www.auraspa.net

Why: Eat, drink and be merry are the three tenets of the holiday season. The first two can wreak havoc, though, on your body. The Detox Body Cocktail uses Biotone products infused with essential oils, including rosemary, burdock, echinacea, lemon, figwort, eucalyptus, orange, watercress and geranium, to calm the senses in a warm room that sweats out the toxins.

"We use an aromatherapy that has different herbs such as geranium, eucalyptus, a variety of essential oils that have detoxifying properties," said Elaine Perhach, Aura Spa director. "It will be very aromatic and really get deep inside of the pores. The smells get you back in balance."

This three-step treatment is not for the modest. Because of the scrubs and creams involved, Perhach asks you to don nothing but a paper bikini bottom and a towel. She starts by scrubbing your arms, legs, feet and back with a cream-based scrub featuring ground apricot before using a brush to paint on a mask made of black mud from the Baltic Sea. Once every exposed crevice is filled, she wraps you in a cocoon of plastic on the heated table to sweat out the impurities and let in the oils.

It sits for 15 minutes before Perhach removes it with warm towels and begins the customized massage using shea body butter to maximize hydration, which she said lasts about a week.

"It definitely will help with the removal of the food and alcoholic toxins," Perhach said. "It's a good treatment for the wintertime to come in and warm up with."

Holiday Specials: Aura Spa is offering a seasonal Peppermint-Pedi Scrub ($65 for 30 minutes) that involves a scrub followed by European Rose Mud to moisturize and hydrate the feet, all infused with relaxing — for the skin and nose — peppermint essential oils.

Gentlemen Prefer Massage

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Photo: The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner
At the Ritz-Carlton Day Spa in Tysons Corner, men can treat themselves to some holiday indulgence with the Just for Gentlemen Therapeutic Massage.

What: Just for Gentlemen Therapeutic Massage ($125 for 50 minutes, $185 for 80 minutes, and $250 for 110 minutes)

Where: The Day Spa at the Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, Va.
www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/TysonsCorner/Spa/Default.htm

Why: Men aren't known for pampering themselves at spas as much as women, but they deserve extra care, too. The best part about the Ritz Carlton's Day Spa is that it's located inside the Tysons Galleria mall, so when holiday shopping starts to take its toll, you can dip into the Ritz for some instant rest and relaxation.

"The male population is trying things they didn't try before," said Aidan Kachemov, spa director, such as body scrubs and pedicures. "It's not being seen as a woman's retreat. It's for overall wellness."

Fundamentally, the massage techniques for men are the same as they are for women. "The main big difference between traditional spa services and male services is really the description," Kachemov said. "Men are more operation-based when they think about things. For example, if a gentleman is going to go in for a massage, they'll go, 'Oh, therapeutic. I need therapy for my muscles.' They want to hear terms that are going to address their issue."

The experience begins in the warm, cozy relaxation room, appointed with a comfortable sitting area, reading materials and a tea bar with an assortment of choices. Dim lights and drumbeat-free music set the soothing mood.

To help you feel even more aligned, ask for therapist Joanne Mirabella, who has a chiropractic background. She asks what areas bother you and what causes the pain — specifics about how you stand and move. On a recent visit, she started with static compression, in which she digs her leg into the hamstrings, turning them into jelly. Then, she worked out the kinks in our back, legs, shoulders, neck and arms with deep, rolling and kneading strokes and a combination of oil and lotion.

The relaxation doesn't have to end at the spa. Spa-goers also have access to the Ritz's fitness center, steam rooms and indoor pool.

Holiday Specials: The Day Spa offers "Spalidays" featuring winter-inspired treatments such as a cinnamon vanilla brown sugar scrub with tension relief massage ($125 for 50 minutes), which helps to soften skin while releasing tight muscles; the hot stone and chocolate facial ($99 for 50 minutes), which involves organic chocolate and collagen-boosting vitamin C combined with a hot stone facial massage; and a self-heating herbal cinnamon pedicure ($65 for 50 minutes), which uses Hungarian thermal mud, cinnamon and sage to relieve feet weary from high-heeled party shoes.


About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.

Last Edited on June 17, 2014

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