Waterbed Massage: Elaj Aveda Day Spa
Treatment we had: Hydrotherm massage, $120.
What we liked: The extras make this place: the foot soak in a quiet and low-lit waiting room, caring attention to any health concerns, soothing flute-and-waterfall music, a choice of scented oils. Once on the table, you lie on warm, water-filled rubber “pillows” that swish like a waterbed. You never turn over: The therapist reaches beneath to work out knots in back and shoulders. Morgan Nerad also massaged my scalp and each arm and leg thoroughly, with appropriate draping. She turned on a heat lamp when the room cooled and later started a shower for me to wash off.
What you should know: The shower is stocked with several Aveda products, but the stall was too dark to tell what they are. (We were later told the lighting is adjustable.) And no antiperspirant?
Bottom line: Good for those who dislike turning over during a massage. A different approach not special enough to justify the higher price—a basic massage is $95—but the all-around soothing atmosphere and foot soak make any visit worthwhile.
Elaj Aveda Day Spa, King Farm Village Center, 801 Pleasant Dr., Suite 110, Rockville; 301-977-1514; elajavedadayspa.com.
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Great Pedicure: Sesen Spa
Treatment we had: Island Pedicure, $30.
What we loved: Stepping into Sesen—an Eastern-inspired spa with Zen-like decor—I knew I’d booked the right treatment: Pedicure chairs and manicure stations line the front of the salon—a sign that the spa emphasizes its nail services. I was directed to a comfortable massaging chair where I rested my feet in warm bubbling water. My nail technician did a great job of removing calluses and shaping my nails. But it was the massage that sold me—a truly thorough foot-and-calf massage with tropical-scented lotion. When I mentioned that I often have foot pain, the therapist began kneading muscles in my calf, where, she said, the nerve endings hitting my feet began. Three days later, I was still pain-free and prettily polished.
What you should know: Sesen and its owner, Lisa Tep, have been featured on the Today show for the spa’s hygienic pedicures. A pipeless drain system ensures that no dirt or bacteria is left in the foot bowls, and equipment is sanitized in a medical-grade sterilizer.
Bottom line: An Asian-inspired spa with a dedication to cleanliness. Therapists are pleasant, and the service is professional.
Sesen Spa, 111 Church St., NW, Vienna; 703-281-0822; sesenspa.com.
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New in the Neighborhood: Aura Spa
Treatment we had: “Aura”ssage, a massage combining deep-tissue, Swedish, and trigger-point therapies, $95 for 60 minutes.
What we loved: The spa, in DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood, is in the same building (the Metropole) as a hair salon (Bang) and gym (Vida Fitness). For those who live in the area, it’s a convenient one-stop spot for beauty and wellness.
What you should know: This is not a true day spa—there are no locker rooms in the spa (though you can use those at Vida), no lounge to chill in between treatments. It’s tiny—just four treatment rooms, a small waiting area, and a bathroom. And it’s not necessarily relaxing: Despite the soothing music played during my massage, I could hear thumping music from outside the spa as well as slamming doors and voices. The massage itself was fine, though not great.
Bottom line: If you live nearby or belong to Vida Fitness, Aura isn’t a bad spot for a quick service. But it’s probably not worth going out of your way.
Aura Spa, 1517 15th St., NW; 202-588-5557; vidafitness.com/auraspa.php. Aura Spa also has locations in the Renaissance Hotel on Ninth Street in DC.
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Best Waxing: Sisters3
Treatment we had: The Sphynx, a Brazilian bikini wax, $65.
What we loved: This bright Clarendon shop is owned by, you guessed it, three sisters—Arlie Morgan, Abby Hayes, and Alexandra Fisher. Two of the three do waxing; the other mans the front desk and retail area, which offers everything from barely-there negligees to cozy weekend pajamas.
I’ve become a regular of Arlie, a pleasant, friendly aesthetician who always remembers what’s going on in the lives of her clients. Her waxing is the most pain-free of any I’ve found, and the job is quite thorough. Appointments can usually be booked just a day or two in advance, sometimes on the same day. If you’re looking to really surprise your significant other, ask the sisters to craft a Crystal de Clarendon during your bikini wax—a crystal tattoo placed using nontoxic surgical glue. It lasts only a few days—but the memory may last a lifetime.
What you should know: Don’t expect a spa—there’s only one waxing room plus a small curtained area for eyebrows. The waiting area, a small bench in back, has a current selection of magazines to peruse, but I’ve never had to wait. If you become a regular, for every two new clients you refer, you’ll get a free service.
Bottom line: Best waxing I’ve found, hands down.
Sisters3, 2729 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-525-3333; shopsisters3.com.