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Great Day Spas 2009
Comments () | Published May 1, 2009

Good Facial for Sensitive Skin: Qi Spa

Treatment we had: Parisian facial, $95 for 50 minutes.

What we loved: Because of my fair skin, I usually leave facials flushed and blotchy. But my aesthetician, Beysith Lagos, spent a long time examining my face, then tailored the treatment for my easily irritated skin. She talked me through each step, from cleansing and exfoliating to extractions and a creamy fruit-and-oat-based mask at the end. The 50-minute treatment lasted an hour and left my skin soft and smooth.

What you should know: This tiny Georgetown spa is more New Agey than chic. On the second and third floor of an M Street storefront, the spa has a boutique that sells skin-care products and jewelry. Its long menu of services includes waxing, massage, and nail care. You won’t get a plush robe or slippers to put on as you wait, and there’s not much space to linger before or after your treatment.

Bottom line: A small Georgetown spa where the emphasis is on the treatments rather than the amenities.

Qi Spa, 3106 M St., NW, Second Floor; 202-333-6344;

—Mary Clare Fleury

• • • • • • •

Relâche Spa at Gaylord National

Treatment we had: Relâche Signature Massage, $145 for 50 minutes.

What we loved: Decorated in black and white, Relâche is minimalist and modern—think Chanel with a serene Asian sensibility. The locker room is huge, with a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and a changing “cabana” off the main locker room where the modest can undress in private. Shelves and cubbies are stocked with everything from plush towels to canisters of hair ties. The coed relaxation lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Potomac River.

What you should know: Since its grand opening in April 2008, Gaylord National, the largest combined non-casino hotel and conference center on the East Coast, has been plagued with problems. My Gaylord experience was no exception. When I called to book my massage, I was put on hold for more than 20 minutes.

On the day of my treatment, I arrived early so I would have time to work out in the fitness center, which is an elevator ride and a five-minute walk away in the basement. After a run on the treadmill, I reached for a cup of water but found an empty water cooler; the front desk was vacant, so there was no one there to ask for help.

Bottom line: A chic—but very pricey—day spa that’s still working through some kinks.

Relâche Spa at Gaylord National, 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor; 301-965-4400;

—Mary Clare Fleury

• • • • • • •

Modest but Worthy: Comfort & Joy Wellness Spa

When I pulled into the parking lot in front of Comfort & Joy in Fairfax, I had a moment of apprehension. Two of the stores in the Turnpike Plaza shopping center were closed; large “for lease” signs hung in their windows. The strip mall looked deserted.

Luckily, Comfort & Joy quickly distinguished itself. The front of the larger-than-it-looks-from-the-outside shop was colorful and filled with fragrant soy candles and herbal incense and all manner of nontoxic lotions, massage oils, aromatherapy salves, and organic workout clothing. The mood was warm and welcoming, and I was immediately escorted down the (too) dimly lit hallway into a quiet waiting area.

I was ten minutes early for my manicure-and-pedicure appointment (starting at $65), so I got a cup of chamomile tea and prepared to tuck into the salon’s copy of a recent Vogue. Before I began reading, another waiting customer asked which aesthetician I was waiting for. “If you have Thao, you’ll be so happy,” replied my helpful new pal, who had been enjoying twice-monthly nail visits for almost five years. “She brings my hands and feet back from the dead all the time.”

My pleasant manicurist, Thao Le, quickly appeared and brought me to a small, slightly cluttered room with two pedicure chairs and one manicure station. She explained that all of the salon’s nail polishes, creams, oils, and scrubs were free of the chemicals DBP (dibutyl phthalate), formaldahyde, and toluene—as are all the products used and sold in the salon. That’s a nice, eco-conscious perk, but it rules out the salon out for women who want acrylic nails. The color selection of the SpaRitual and Zoya nail polishes was generous, and I settled into a back-massaging pedicure chair for a very thorough cuticle removal and pumice scrubbing session.

One of the best parts was Thao’s keen sense of how much or little I wanted to chat. She made polite inquiries about my family—how my kids were, where I lived—but was quickly able to tell I was more interested in a bit of quiet time than in gossiping about the latest reality-TV contestant. The manicure went just as smoothly, and I indulged in the chair’s three massage speeds. Thao’s foot, leg, hand, and arm massages left me relaxed and my skin baby-bottom smooth.

Two small quibbles: The nontoxic polish didn’t last quite as long as typical polish—my toes showed signs of wear after only eight days, and my pale-pink fingertips were toast after only four. For such a large spa, the manicure/pedicure room felt too tiny and seemed crammed with products and treatment brochures.

Bottom line: Don’t let the outside deter you. Comfort & Joy is well worth the trip, and its staff will make you feel comfortable and relaxed. The shop’s dedication to organic and toxin-free products is admirable even if you wouldn’t ordinarily go out of your way to find such products.

Comfort & Joy Wellness Spa, 9514-A Main St., Turnpike Shopping Center, Fairfax City; 703-425-8800;

—Jill Hudson Neal

• • • • • • •

New and Sleek: Hela Spa, Chevy Chase

Treatment we had: The Reykjavik, a 50-minute deep-tissue massage for $120.

What we loved: Hela’s original Georgetown branch has a spare, soothing look; the new Chevy Chase outpost is even sleeker, with blond-wood floors and lots of white surfaces.

When I arrived, I was escorted to a small spa lounge with three low-slung, white leather chairs and offered a cup of tea. Mary Szegda soon came to fetch me for my massage—when I had booked Szegda, the receptionist had blurted out: “She’s wonderful.” Although Szegda works only one day a week in Chevy Chase, she also takes appointments in Georgetown.

Szegda was expert in her strokes, happening upon all of my kinks and frequently checking to make sure the pressure was okay. It was a good therapeutic massage.

What you should know: Hela bills itself as a medical spa, with physicians on staff. It offers a range of services from regular facials to Botox. Perhaps for that reason, every treatment I’ve gotten at Hela—including the massage in Chevy Chase and two facials in Georgetown—was more clinical than soothing. They also seem a bit pricey.

Bottom line: If you like spas with a modern, sleek vibe, you may like the new Chevy Chase Hela. This is a good choice if you like competent staff and don’t mind paying for that expertise—we hear Terrie Thomas is a good aesthetician in Chevy Chase. It’s also best if you like to get in and out of a spa instead of lingering after an appointment.

Hela Spa, 5481 Wisconsin Ave., Second Floor, Chevy Chase; 301-951-4445;

—Sherri Dalphonse


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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 05/01/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles