Good Massage: Hair Port
Treatment we had: 50-minute deep-tissue massage, $82.
What we liked: Hair Port, a Sterling salon and spa, offers more than just hair treatments. I booked a deep-tissue massage.
After an initial consultation—during which the therapist questioned my request for deep-tissue by saying that most people don’t need more than a standard massage—we settled into the treatment. The room, which the therapist admitted was cold, housed a simple massage bed, which wasn’t heated on my visit. Halfway through the massage, I asked for a blanket to get rid of my goosebumps. She turned up the space heater.
Exactly 50 minutes later, the treatment ended. I changed and looked for the therapist—during my search, I noticed a small spa waiting area that had water and what looked like freshly baked cookies, but when I finally found my massage therapist, I was ushered out (with a glass of water). The receptionists, friendly at check-in, seemed more concerned with talking to each other than getting payment for my treatment, making for a cold end to a lukewarm massage.
What you should know: This salon does spa treatments in an area separate from the hair stations, with its own door, so you have room to relax. A small changing area with shower and aromatherapy sauna provides room for those who want to relax all day.
Bottom line: The amenities are thoughtful and the treatment nice enough, but unless this is your neighborhood salon, it’s not worth a special trip.
Hair Port, 46 Pidgeon Hill Dr., Sterling, 703-430-3400; hairportltd.com.
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Good Facial: Hela Spa, Georgetown
Treatment we had: Greta Garbo facial, $120.
What we liked: Hela is a peaceful, pretty spa, with soft-green walls and a clean-lined Swedish sensibility. The staff was quick to offer me water or tea, and there was a nice selection of magazines to browse—although I didn’t wait long before Amber Meyer came to get me.
Meyer is one of the spa’s most popular aestheticians, and I soon saw one reason why—her delicate strokes, whether she was massaging facial muscles or smoothing on various lotions, were extremely relaxing. Her seeming knowledge of skin and her advice inspired more confidence. I also liked that when I asked her not to mess up my hair too much, she went looking for a different headband that did the trick.
What you should know: While I thought the facial was very good, I found the price—$120 plus tip—a bit high for 50 minutes. The facial included the standard deep cleaning, exfoliation, steaming, extractions, and mask, but nothing extra—no heated hand mitts, no extensive shoulder-and-neck massage—as some spas provide.
Another unfortunate flaw: Sound carries in this small spa. The gentle music in the treatment room could not mask voices in the hall, heavy footfalls, and what sounded like someone washing dishes.
Bottom line: This spa offers a peaceful oasis with a very competent staff. They’re particularly known for facials. But you pay for that expertise.
Hela, 3209 M St., NW; 202-333-4445; helaspa.com.
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Perfect Pedicure: SomaFit
Treatment we had: Spa Pedicure, $65.
What we loved: This sleek, white health club/spa with pops of tangerine and cobalt would be at home in Architectural Digest. Upbeat nail technician Sheryl Elliott treats feet and toes with reverence. Her touch is deliberate and ultra-gentle, even when she pumices soles and tidies up cuticles. (She’s a believer in pushing and trims very sparingly.) The pearls-and-mink price includes exfoliation with a gritty lavender-walnut scrub, a heartfelt ten-minute foot massage, a cooling foot mask, and alpha-hydroxy cream on the heels, which made mine smoother than they’ve been since I was 12.
What you should know: The snug nail area—a pedicure chair alongside a manicure table—is in a curtained alcove off the lobby rather than in the low-lit spa upstairs with its chaises, pitchers of orange-scented water, and savory and sweet snacks. Head up there pre- and post-treatment for a more relaxing experience. (The magazines are more interesting, too.) Manicures and pedicures are usually offered only Friday through Sunday. Other treatments such as massages, facials, and waxing are available.
Bottom line: If you have the time and money, this pedicure is gentler and more thorough than most—my hourlong pedicure was closer to an hour and 15 minutes—with every inch of your feet getting expert attention. Elliott has been doing nails for a couple of decades, and it shows.
SomaFit, 2121 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-965-2121; somafit.com.
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Friendly Facial: Perez Salon & Day Spa
Treatment we had: Custom Spa Facial (determined by your skin), $91.
What we loved: Facialist Toni Flora had a lovely touch, and her fluid motions practically put me to sleep. She also kept me well informed about what she was doing and why and about products she was using, all from Bioelements, a line with no artificial dyes or perfumes. Steam, extractions, and an icy mask were part of the experience. So was exfoliation with a slightly grainy scrub made from pulverized pumice, which Flora says doesn’t damage the skin the way larger particles do. My facial was geared toward addressing winter dryness; when it was all over, my skin looked brighter, clearer, and dewier.
What you should know: The original Congressional Plaza outpost in Rockville is smaller and generally busier than the newer Perez Salon & Day Spa in Chevy Chase—and not as sleek. A glass door separates spa from salon, and there’s a very small but cozy lounge area with plush chairs and an earthy brown-and-taupe palette. Rooms are a bit cramped—the treatment table filled most of the room I was in. Though they weren’t pushed, add-ons are available and will up the price.
Bottom line: This is a friendly place that’s more salon than spa, but it’s ideal if you’re after a one-stop shop for hair and a bit of pampering. Despite its size, there’s a vast menu of facials, massage, waxing, makeup, and nail options along with the usual hair services in the salon.
Perez Salon & Spa, Congressional Plaza, 1677 Rockville Pike, Rockville; 301-881-5052; perezsalonandspa.com.