When the Fairfax branch of the Red Door spa opened this past October, it became the sixth outlet of the spa chain to open in the Washington area. I’ve been a fan of the Chevy Chase Red Door for years, and I was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon at its sibling. It’s on the second floor of an office building in the bustling Fairfax Corner Town Center.
“Have you been here before?” the receptionist asked. I shook my head no. She led me to the small locker room, with lockers covered in the kind of faux wood that often covers office desks, and handed me a fluffy robe and slippers. I changed and made my way to the “relaxation area,” a modern room done up in chilly shades of gray and slate blue. I knew there were drinks offered—a coffee table was littered with empty glasses—but nobody told me where I could find them. Mohair blankets sat in messy piles along the long, angular couches. The magazines were tattered and outdated. A man in a bathrobe paced the room, muttering that the temperature was too cold. I was relieved when my aesthetician fetched me for my Red Door Signature facial.
I told her my skin didn’t have too many problems—just some midwinter dryness. She settled me onto a comfortable and warm padded massage bed, placed some cool pads over my eyelids, and examined my pores under an intense light.
The facial comes with a choice of eight masks, from a sage balancing mask to a mint purifying mask. She recommended substituting a chamomile lavender seaweed mask, which cost $25 extra. I needed all the moisture I could get, so I decided to spring for it.
The aesthetician used pleasantly fragrant chamomile-based products to cleanse, tone, and moisturize my skin. She slipped warm mittens on my hands, gave me a nicely transportive face massage, and slathered on the thick seaweed mask, which stayed on for ten minutes. At the end of the service, I had to remind her that I wanted extractions done.
My skin looked unusually shiny in the locker-room mirror. I paid the bill—$108 for the 50-minute facial and $25 for the mask, plus a $20 tip. The next day, my skin felt just as dry as before—there wasn’t much discernable change. In the end, I felt like I’d paid top dollar for an average facial in a spa that’s low on charm.