“We have a true spa scene in Washington,” says Ada Polla, CEO of the skin-care line Alchimie Forever and a board member of the Washington Spa Alliance. “It has really improved over the last five to seven years.”
So many local businesses now advertise themselves as spas that beauty deals pop into our in box regularly from Groupon, LivingSocial, and Bloomspot, tempting with everything from half-off facials to discounted pedicures.
How do you know where to spend your hard-earned cash? We’ve visited dozens of local day spas; those listed here are the ones we think are among the area’s best.
For this article, the business had to offer more than just a single treatment room. We passed over salons that focus mainly on hair, wellness centers that do primarily massage, and med spas that concentrate on treatments such as Botox and peels.
We paid attention to the quality and cost of treatments as well as a spa’s atmosphere, cleanliness, and service. We favored places you’d want to spend not just your money but your time—spas with guest lounges, free tea and snacks, comfy robes, and locker rooms with sauna and steam. We also included “neighborhood havens” where you might pop in for a quick facial or massage. We tested chains and privately owned spas, newcomers and old favorites.
Nationally, the number of spa visits has increased from 90.7 million in 1999 to 143 million in 2009, according to the latest data from the International Spa Association.
During that time, spas have changed. More have embraced the green movement; most offer at least a few naturally based treatments, with spas such as the Still Point in Takoma Park moving toward an entirely organic menu of options.
Spa-goers are also looking for “something that goes beyond pampering,” Polla says. “Not everyone wants Botox or a peel, but they want to make sure they’re getting results, whatever that means to them, be it a more powerful massage or a results-oriented facial.”
A few things to keep in mind if you’re a first-timer. Prices generally don’t include gratuity, and many spas accept tips in cash only. Most require a credit card to hold a reservation and often won’t refund your money if a service is canceled less than 24 hours before the appointment. It’s best to show up 15 minutes early to fill out any paperwork the spa may require or to relax in the steam or sauna before a treatment.
During a treatment, keep in mind that you are the customer—if a massage or facial is too painful, speak up. You should leave feeling more relaxed than when you arrived. That’s another thing we looked for.
This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.