Great Day Spas 2013: Our 14 Favorite Facials

From fancy day spas to home studios, these places left our skin glowing—and left us smiling.

Body & Skin by Karen Fisher

1428 Foxhall Rd., NW; 202-338-3841.

Former Elizabeth Arden aesthetician Karen Fisher has dedicated the wood-paneled walk-in basement of her house—a cheerful yellow cottage bedecked with flower bushes—to a cozy mini-spa, where she offers personal training, massages, and skin treatments. Basic facials ($115 for 60 minutes) include a gentle cleansing and multiple levels of moisture. We've had more rigorous treatments, but the overall experience is more relaxing than what you'll find at most spas. Fisher books a buffer half hour for every client, so you'll never feel rushed, and dog lovers will delight in the company of her friendly cocker spaniel, Sparky, who—if you wish—sits in your lap through the treatment.

Of note: Paying with a credit card? Fisher accepts only American Express.

Online booking? No.

Calvert Rejuvenations

485-A Carlisle Dr., Herndon; 571-323-1088.

As you drive down the wooded lane leading to Calvert Rejuvenations, you may forget you're in an office park—the feel is more of countryside. In the spa, that peaceful feeling continues. In a hushed tone, the receptionist offered our tester water or tea and led her to a purple-walled waiting room made cozy by a gas fireplace.

The friendly spa is known for facials, with everything from a Classic ($97) to ones with LED light ($158) and microdermabrasion ($158). Barbara Mead has a loyal following for facials and waxing. Gudleif Ellerts is popular for massage.

Of note: The small spa—there are no lockers—can be rented for bridal get-togethers, birthday parties, and other events of up to 15 people.

Dolce Vita Salon & Spa

6829 Elm St., McLean; 703-821-8600.

While Dolce Vita specializes in hair care, an impressive facial awaits at the back of the salon. We received a Signature Facial ($120) from a kind aesthetician, Betty Habtemariam, who hails from five-star hotel spas such as the St. Regis and the Fairmont. She had a soft, healing touch, perfect for the lengthy facial massage she gave halfway through the service. A scalp, arm, and neck massage was also part of the treatment.

One downside: The beds were tiny and the treatment rooms cluttered.

Of note: New guests receive a coupon book with such discounts as 15 percent off skin care and products on a future visit.

Online booking? No.

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa

1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-942-2700.

On the second floor of the Willard InterContinental hotel, this Red Door Spa feels airy and serene after the grandeur of the lobby. The changing rooms are luxuriously appointed, although the layout is a little awkward—you have to cross the hall and walk past the gym in your robe to get to the treatment rooms.

Once inside, you'll find a relaxation room with cucumber- and lemon-scented water, coffee, and biscotti. The aesthetician to see for facials is Donna Recckio, whose skill administering a Signature Facial ($125) left our tester with smoother, glowing skin weeks later.

Of note: The spa offers a free makeup refresher after a treatment, but it includes only eye shadow, lip gloss, and blush.

Online booking? Yes.

Facials by Pam

23547 Evergreen Mills Rd., Aldie, Va.; 703-929-0052.

Aesthetician Pam Gaddy opens up her home to clients who often travel out of their way for her skin-care acumen. Gaddy is known for patiently listening to every skin woe, customizing a treatment, explaining products thoroughly (she recommends Image Skincare), and following up with clients.

Try the Image Signature Facial ($75), just the thing to replenish and plump dry, dull winter skin. Or her Microdermabrasion Facial—a 60-minute deep cleanse, tone, and peel for only $85.

Of note: Gaddy offers advanced peels for severe acne and skin discoloration, as well as body waxing.

Online booking? No.

The Grooming Lounge

1745 L St., NW, 202-466-8900; Tysons Galleria, McLean, 703-288-0355.

This upscale barber shop and men's spa caters to all types. It's ideal for the guy who knows next to nothing about proper skin care and has never used a moisturizer. But it's also fit for the well-pampered man who wants an expert opinion on how to vary his exfoliation routine. The mid-priced Cleansing Face Treatment ($80) gets you a deep, thorough cleaning and a shoulder, chest, and face massage. And the specialist will assesses your skin type—oily, dry, acne-prone—and devise a cleaning regimen. Expect to spend some more money on products before you leave. Shorter facials without massage start at $50. High-end, longer sessions with anti-aging serum go for $150.

Of note: The spa offers an acne facial with targeted extractions—a polite way of saying they'll pop your zits and clear up oily spots.

Online booking? Yes.

JoElle SkinCare

6931-D Arlington Rd., Bethesda; 301-656-8220.

JoElle Lee is modest about her abilities. Facialist to Michelle Obama, she demurs when asked if she's the reason for the First Lady's exquisite skin.

We went for Lee's basic facial ($90), which isn't all that basic—it includes, among other things, a thorough head, neck, shoulder, and hand massage as well as exfoliation, extractions, and assorted masks, all using Lee's own natural product line.

Lee works her magic in a quiet, low-lit room in the back of Citrine Salon & Spa. The former Chicagoan is a big believer in lots of steam as well as addressing the neck and chest, which she says clients often overlook. Besides facials, waxing, and eyelash extensions, Lee does chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

When asked when she'd be seeing the First Lady next, she said, "Tomorrow. I have a room like this at the White House."

Of note: The Red Carpet Ready Facial ($115) is a great prep for a big night out.

Online booking: No.

Karma Beauty Lounge

1104 24th St., NW; 202-293-3333.

Karma Beauty Lounge by Erwin Gomez is the sort of spot that's perfect for a lunchtime facial escape. We stopped in recently for just that and opted for the 50-minute Total Hydration Facial ($120), a moisture-boosting treatment tailored for winter's harsh weather.

After checking in, we were whisked to a plush room cloaked in chocolate brown fabrics, with soft light and classical music playing quietly. Our aesthetician, Hania Issa, asked questions about our skin, then explained the steps of the facial and got to work, gently yet thoroughly administering cleansers, toners, serums, and masks from the Sanitas Skincare line. Her extractions were practically painless, and our reviewer's face was dewy for days.

Of note: As the name suggests, Karma is the new home of the "celebrity" makeup artist and eyebrow guru Erwin Gomez.

Online booking? No.

Lavender Gypsy

4833 West La., Bethesda; 301-789-5525.

Facialist Shannon Schar loves her job. Which is why her basic facials last more than an hour ($115), why she includes an aromatherapy foot soak or paraffin hand wrap, and why she's been known to upgrade services without an upcharge. Most of all, she has an incredible touch—gently working pressure points around the eyes, massaging the head and neck, and manipulating the face with quick, smooth upward strokes. It almost feels as if you're getting a facelift via massage. And after exfoliation, extractions, misting, a clay mask, and moisturizing vitamin C balm (Schar uses all-natural Jurlique products), your visage looks brighter and tauter, ready to go out on the town.

Of note: Schar's lavender-walled studio is part of a wellness center in what looks like a residence. Though parking spaces are labeled "for massage matters," Lavender Gypsy clients can park there as well. A front porch with twig furniture is a nice spot to linger in warm weather, though there's also a snug but homey reception area. Check and cash only.

Online booking? Yes.

LifeSpa

1151 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville; 240-599-2924.

This spa, inside the mammoth Life Time Athletic complex in a nondescript office building, is easy to miss. But head downstairs from the gym and you find a serene, caramel-colored sanctuary with herbal tea and soft music.

Aesthetician Afi Heiatsalmani is known for her expert facials. We chose an Alchimie ($75), which began with a Clarisonic cleansing. An add-on brightening peel ($45) used fruit acids to slough away dead skin. After that, Heiatsalmani applied a mask, and while it worked she massaged hands, feet, neck, scalp, and shoulders. The treatment ended with mosturizer and an admonition to "drink two glasses of water before breakfast" every day to keep the skin hydrated. Our tester's skin was pink, plump, and glowing.

Of note: Ask about special deals. For example, after five facials you'll get a sixth free.

Online booking? No.

Medi-Aesthetique Spa

7601 Lewinsville Rd., Suite 400, McLean; 703-287-8277.

When we called this med-spa to schedule an appointment, the phone was answered as the National Center for Plastic Surgery. After being assured that it was the same place, we scheduled a Gentleman's Facial ($90) with Sandra Oulmas.

The place, perhaps not surprisingly, is more like a doctor's office than a spa. After a few minutes, Oulmas came out to escort our tester to a private room. She spent time asking questions about his skin-care habits and seemed very knowledgeable. She made some observations—very politely—about his skin and suggested additional treatments to consider in the future. Then the facial started.

Oulmas used products that smelled nice but not perfumey. And they felt great. Every step of the way, she explained what she was doing and described what to expect. She gave such a great facial, not to mention a scalp and neck massage, that our reviewer almost fell asleep—Oulmas's touch was firm yet delicate.

After the facial, she provided samples of some of the products used. There was no hard sell of any products or future services, and a slight confusion about the facial's price was quickly resolved. Our tester's skin looked smoother and healthier, with smaller pores and less discoloration. He left very relaxed—and vowing to go back.

Of note: The spa also offers chemical peels, laser treatments, and laser hair removal.

Online booking? Yes.

Pilar DiVittorio

112 Pleasant St., SW, Vienna; 703-255-2555.

Open and airy, Bellini Salon Spa Medical Esthetics & Boutique feels just like what you'd hope for in a day spa. But when our tester arrived for a facial at 3:30 on a Friday, she was told that the spa closed early on Fridays—at 4. She was asked to pay—and tip—upfront, as the spa would be closed when she left. The client hadn't been informed of this policy at the time of booking—six weeks in advance—which seemed strange.

Promptly, she was escorted to a treatment room at the rear. She had booked an Organic Facial ($160) with experienced aesthetician Pilar DiVittorio, former owner of the cult favorite spa Studio Organics. Once our tester was ensconced in her cozy private room, her annoyance began to melt away. She climbed up—yes, there were steps—to a plush treatment bed with warmed sheets and began to relax to soothing music.

DiVittorio conducted a thorough skin analysis, and, midway through the treatment, asked if she'd seen the client before—she said she recalled her skin. She had, several years before. DiVittorio's arm massage and foot reflexology were delightful, and the facial was very pampering, except for the necessary extractions.

Nearly two hours later, our tester floated out of the treatment room—to find a dark spa. She let herself out the door. Her face had some disconcerting red marks that evening but had cleared by the next morning to reveal fresh, smooth, glowing skin.

Of note: We'd come back anytime for DiVittorio's decadent facials, but the spa's strange service left a little to be desired.

Online booking? Yes.

Pureskin

4609 Willow La., Chevy Chase; 301-907-6662.

Aesthetician Amy Boyce's "micro-spa" is a white-on-white oasis. It's just a single room—to enter, you walk through the lobby of a yoga studio—where Boyce offers everything from LED facials ($85 and up) to Endermologie, a lifting and tightening treatment.

Boyce is friendly and chatty, but she knows how to make a client feel relaxed, interspersing medical-grade treatments with pampering massage and soft music. Our reviewer left feeling renewed and, several days later, still had glowing skin.

Of note: Boyce's is the only Washington-area spa to carry Slim Dome, an infrared sauna that claims to take off pounds and inches in 45 minutes.

Online booking? No.

Skin Care by Sonali

5039 Reno Rd., NW; 202-689-9940; or book at sonali_sahni@hotmail.com.

Sonali Sahni starts off every Basic Facial ($115) with a massage. Face, head, neck, and shoulders are involved, and her strong fingers work out kinks with the finesse of a massage therapist. It's only after this that the facial begins.

Using Guinot products, she exfoliated, hydrated, and went after our tester's blackheads—facials are customized to the client. The last salvo in the hourlong treatment was a brightening mask . Sahni's home spa studio—with its own entrance, an oversize striped lounge chair, glossy wood floors, and filmy white curtains—was so serene that our tester had a hard time leaving.

Of note: Sahni has an ardent following for facials, body treatments, and waxing, so book well in advance if you're after a specific day and time.

Online booking? No.

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