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Scenes from the Face Cradle

  • Posted on July 4, 2017 at 9:50 pm

What do you think about when you’re in the face cradle staring at the floor or your massage therapist’s painted toenails? If you’re like me, a million thoughts run through your head during those 60 minutes. Even with eyes shut, lights dimmed, and body warmed, an array of odd and ridiculous things cross my mind.

My first instinct is to relax of course. So I take some deep breaths, close my eyes, and allow my draped body to sink into the table. The therapist starts gently applying lotion and kneading my tight spots. And that’s when the craziness begins. My eyes open and I think, “Did I e-mail my client back before I left? I think I did. No, wait, I think I left in draft. Crap.” Then I close my eyes again and try to relax as my therapist firmly elbows her way into my right scapula. I quietly “Ohm” to myself but don’t want to meditate because then I risk falling asleep, which I do not want to do.

The therapist asks me if the pressure is okay. “Perfect,” I say. It is killing me, however. Why am I always so quick to please while on the table? Maybe I am succumbing to that infuriating Western “no pain/no gain” mentality. Or maybe it is because of the vulnerability of my nakedness on the table. Or is it because I just trust that she knows what she’s doing?

I close my eyes again. “I wonder how old Jerry Seinfeld is. I should’ve told him I had a crush on him before the whole world knew him. Who knows – I could’ve become Valerie Seinfeld… I can’t wait to see who Rachel picks on The Bachelorette. I watch too much TV. I need to study for my meditation certification. Testing is coming up.”

My nose itches, but I have to move my arm to scratch it, and I feel funny doing that. I know that’s ridiculous, but I don’t want to interrupt the calm of the massage. She’s palpating my glutes and what if moving makes me … ya know.

“It’s almost July Fourth, and I hope I get some really good coupons in my e-mail. I’m going to make a Fourth of July resolution – I’m giving up Candy Crush. There, I said it out loud, in my head, so I have to do it. I need to get that crack in my windshield fixed. Damn, I think I’m out of almond milk.”

My therapist removes the face cradle and is turning me over now. She slathers too much lotion on my neck and shoulders. It gets in my hair. I don’t say anything. There are only 15 minutes left of my massage. My knots are loosening. My thoughts are not.

What I think about next is this: I love my massage therapist. She truly does help with my kinks, and she lessens my chronic headaches. But I don’t think she wants to give her pat answers and not to speak up about what I want. So, next time she asks about the pressure, I will gather the courage to say it is a bit too deep. I will ask if she can use a tad less lotion. And if my nose itches, I’ll scratch it. This doesn’t mean I won’t think about one of my editing projects or whether my United miles are expiring soon or I won’t list the states alphabetically, from Alabama to Wyoming (yes, I did that). I’ll just try to be a bit less neurotic with my aim to please. My thoughts? Well, they’re beyond hope.

Sheet Masks

  • Posted on February 15, 2017 at 3:12 am

One of the hottest and newest trends in skincare is sheet masks, and I can’t get enough of them. Not to be confused with face masks, sheet masks are thin, single-use gel- or cloth-soaked films placed on the faced for 20­–30 minutes. These moistened facial sheets are infused with hydrating, firming, brightening, or anti-aging serums such as hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamin C, antioxidants, tea tree oil, and licorice extract. Sheet masks have been an Asian staple for ages, and their popularity is growing exponentially in the US. They are a quick and fun pick-me-up for the face. A single sheet mask costs between $4.00 and $12.00. Here are just a few I’ve tried.

Boscia Sake Brightening Hydrogel Mask This sheet mask is gluten-free, in case you choose to eat it or some drips into your mouth. (Just kidding.) Although it has a slight cocoa scent, so you might be tempted. This sheet comes in two pieces, which makes it easier to apply and less likely to rip. Although it said to massage the remaining essence into the skin, there was nothing to rub in because my skin absorbed it all. It says to follow up with a moisturizer. This sheet mask claims to brighten, firm, and hydrate and boasts a “high concentration of sake.” Rich in enzymes and amino acids, sake is known to boost hydration and brightening of the skin.

Le Mieux Moisture Infusion Mask This is a cloth sheet mask, not a gel. It was somewhat perfumy. It stuck to my face better than some of the others. I could stand or walk without it falling off. It claims to contain “the most stable vitamin C.” It also “provides a unique cooling sensation.” This is true; actually, my face was uncomfortably cold, although most sheet masks initially shock the face with a cold, wet sensation when first applied. But it was silky smooth after rubbing it in post-removal. It did not leave my face feeling sticky, as some of the others did.

Le Mieux Sheet Mask

Tony Moly Tea Tree Soothing Face Mask Sheet This sheet mask says, “I’m real.” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounded cute. This Tony Moly version (there are many) is a three-layer cloth sheet that “balances and soothes skin tones.” It offered excellent coverage and good clinginess. It had a slightly raw, musky scent, which was not unpleasant. I do believe it balanced my skin tone. I could swear I saw an evenness to my skin afterward.

Tony Moly_im_real_mask_sheet_tea_tree

Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion This hydrogel sheet mask immediately split in two upon removing it from the package. But then I realized that it actually came with a split across the face, which I wasn’t crazy about because it left a line from one cheek to the other, just under my nose, without coverage. I placed it on my face for 30 minutes, as instructed. It had a pleasant flowery scent. After massaging the remaining serum into my skin, as the directions indicated on all the sheet masks, it left my skin feeling sticky afterward.

Dr. Jart sheet mask

Too Cool For School Egg Cream Mask My favorite of all the masks! This microfiber sheet mask was less flimsy than the others and came with a strong mesh backing, which ensured it would not rip upon opening. It fit my face perfectly. (Some of the others—especially the ones by 100% Pure—were humongous and seemed to be made for an elephantine-sized face.) This sheet mask boasted superb adherence to my face and smelled delish. The ingredients include collagen and egg yolk, so vegans beware. I used the “firming” version (it also comes in “hydration” and “pore tightening”), and it did firm my skin but did not leave it feeling tight.

Egg Cream Mask Firming

Tip: After removing the mask, it will still be soaked with product. Before tossing it, rub the excess onto your hands!

Coffee Spa Treatments & Products = Yes!

  • Posted on January 14, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Happy New Year, everyone! I decided to try something different this year. Instead of writing my own resolutions, I’ve come up with a few for you, my readers! First resolution (repeat along with me): I will try to get to that spa I’ve had my eye on. (Day spas count.) Two: I will try at least one new skincare or hair product. Three: I will follow Val The Spa Gal religiously and tell everyone I ever met to do the same. If you have any issues with these resolutions, you can contact my complaint department. However, I did give them the year off. Okay, now for today’s topic: Coffee + Spa = Good. How popular is this caffeinated crowd pleaser in spa products?

Coffee Massage

Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, which fight free radicals (those pesky molecules that wreak havoc on the skin), but the greater benefit for some is its caffeine content. Next time you wake up with puffy eyes and you don’t have cucumbers or hemorrhoid cream available—a remedy that works because it constricts the blood vessels—try coffee grounds. The caffeine found in coffee beans acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. One way to use coffee for tired or puffy eyes is to either retain some brewed coffee grounds, wait for them to cool, and then apply them under your eyes and on the lids. The other method is to simply dip a cotton ball or face cloth in fresh coffee, let it cool, and do the same. Using the coffee grounds directly might yield better results.

The two products I use at home both contain coffee beans, among other ingredients. Farmhouse Fresh Triple Shot Caramel Coffee (12 oz.; $34) is a sweet java-scented luscious body polish, with a yummy hint of caramel. It contains the arabica coffee bean seed extract, caffeine, shea butter, and coconut, and is paraben- and sulfate-free. Add a handful to water in the shower and use as a full-body scrub. It’s absolutely delicious.

Farmhouse Fresh Triple Shot Caramel Coffee

Invigo-Spa makes a hearty coffee scrub derived from such places as Madagascar, Ceylon, Ethiopia, India, France, Arabia, and Brazil. This face and body scrub is much more coarse than Farmhouse Fresh’s product and evokes a bolder, more robust coffee scent that can be overwhelming, yet it offers a heavy-duty exfoliation. Although it’s labeled as a face and body scrub, I prefer a gentler texture in a facial scrub.

For a natural indulgence, sans synthetic chemicals or toxic preservatives, try the Cocoa Kona Coffee Body Cream (8 oz.; $17), or the Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream (0.5 oz.; $17), both by 100% Pure. Check out all their vegan, gluten-free, coffee/caffeine products, including coffee cherry treatments for sun damage. 

Coffee for facial

Spas all over the world offer various coffee- and caffeine-infused treatments, and what better way to perk up the mind and body, and fight inflammation while on a spa vacation than a coffee-inspired pick-me-up? Many dermatologists agree that it can reduce the appearance of cellulite, but don’t hail it as a cure-all. The Anushka Spa in West Palm Beach offers a Slimming Café Wrap, (60 minutes; $110) is a hot cellulite-busting treatment, with espresso coffee grounds, cinnamon bark, and green tea. The raised body temperature promotes cellular metabolism and eliminates water retention.

Treat your feet to a Natural Coffee Bean Spa Pedicure ($55) at iNail Artistry & Spa in Kansas City. They will soak your tootsies in a bath of ground coffee beans, then apply a coffee mask and rejuvinate you from calves to digits. They occasionally offer specials, contests, and Groupons.

What would the coffee capital of America—Seattle—be without coffee-drenched spa treatments? Paule Attar Salon and Spa delivers a blissful 60-minute Anti-Toxin Body Wrap With Green Coffee, for $102. The Salish Lodge & Spa is a gorgeous rustic getaway that will revive you with a 50-minute Northwest Coffee Exfoliation (click on “Body Therapies”) made from locally grown roast coffee and Dead Sea salt, for $125.

Coffee Foot Soak

Ever thought about bathing in coffee? Hakone Kowakien Yunessun, a hot springs spa and water park in Hakone, Japan, offers this quirky soaking option. They also offer tubs of green tea and wine. (Int+81) 0460-82-4126.

Coffee Spa in Japan

The Spa at the Hotel Galvez, in Galveston Island, Texas, will treat your cheeks and peepers to a CoffeeBerry Facial (50 minutes; $115), an organic delight infused with anti-aging Whole Coffee Fruit product. 

Makes Scents Pumpkin Spa Line Giveaway!

  • Posted on October 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Makes Scents Natural Spa Line and Val The Spa Gal have teamed up for a scrumptious pumpkin spa line giveaway! The lucky winner will receive either a Pumpkin Sorbet Body Scrub (7.8 oz.; $25); a Pumpkin Mousse Body Butter (7 oz.; $20); or the newly released Pumpkin Spice Eco Soy Candle (10 oz.; $25).

Pumpkin Sorbet Body ScrubI sampled the body scrub and the mousse. (Yes, I have a tough job!) The body scrub is a blissful blend of dried pumpkin, raw sugar, sweet almond, coconut, rice bran and avocado oil. This is a strong spa-industry-grade scrub. The hefty crystals slough off dead skin cells and leave you with a light glow and a powerful pumpkin scent that will last long into the night. I had to make sure to mix the oil into the crystals (which I did with my finger), or else it began to separate. Also, it left a light oil on the bathtub floor, so be careful because it might be slippery.

The Pumpkin Mousse Body Butter was light in texture, but strong in scent. The whipped white pumpkin-scented butter glided on easily and worked well as a gentle massage lotion, which I used on my feet … a lot! I detected a hint of cinnamon, which I did not notice in the heartier body scrub. The aroma is also robust, like the scrub, and lasts long after its application. Delicious!

Pumpkin Mousse Body Butter

Makes Scents Natural Spa Line owner, Heather Kreider, says, “Since we strive to use as many natural ingredients as possible, we suggest using the products within six months of opening.” She also mentioned that they occasionally runs sales of 20% off throughout the year. Check the website often for seasonal offerings as well at Makes Scents Natural Spa Line

Pumpkin Spice Eco Soy Candle

 

 

 

Now for the CONTEST! Lucky for you, there are a number of ways to enter. It’s easy to pile up multiple entries. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Spa at Camelback: Hospitality at its Finest

  • Posted on August 20, 2013 at 7:51 pm

I arrived at the Spa at Camelback on a sweltering day in mid-July. Did I mention that it’s in Phoenix? The temperature throughout the week hovered in the low 100’s. But the price was so irresistible that it was worth every melting penny in my pocket.

Camelback Spa

The Camelback Inn Resort & Spa set the tone for their outstanding customer service the minute I pulled in. Despite the Arizona heat, a group of greeters met me in the parking lot, with smiles. The front desk cheerily welcomed me as well and pointed out on a map which building I’d be staying in.

My room was missing the spa slippers and blow dryer. I called the front desk, and they immediately sent me the slippers, but the blow dryer took a long time to arrive, as my hair began to dry, style-less, in the desert heat. When someone finally knocked on my door to give me the blow dryer, it occurred to me that someone had just gone to the store to purchase the brand-new appliance.

Vichy shower

The next day, I hit the spa. The check-in was simple, and again, a round of smiles, “My pleasure,” and “Please let me know if you have any questions.” The desert rain loofah was heavenly, with the Vichy shower washing away my worries about the due date of my next book review. (I even got to keep the loofah.) The Native Hot Stone Massage ended blissfully, with my therapist gently shaking a rain stick around my body. The salon at the spa even lent me a round brush to take to my room when I realized that I had forgotten to pack mine.

Dining options overflowed from their array of on-site establishments. Rita’s Kitchen offered gluten-free choices and “gluten-free upon request” selections. The beet & goat cheese salad had me peeing red for days because I simply could not stop ordering it.

My particular package offered $159 a night for my room, plus a $50 daily credit good for the spa, golf, and other activities. When I ran into a snafu with a spa store purchase, I mentioned it to Joseph, the uber-kind front desk manager, and he immediately apologized and offered me a $25 resort credit.

Camelback Spa_Rita's Kitchen

I honestly cannot think of anything that disappointed at the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, and I am one scrutinous spa-goer. Well, okay, I wish they had told me that they were going to have to purchase my replacement blow dryer and that it would take a while. But how could I complain while waiting in a spacious room with a patio outside my sliding-glass doors and a pool I could walk to from there?

If any of you have been to the Spa at Camelback, I’d love to hear your story.

 

What Massage Therapists Want You to Know!

  • Posted on July 2, 2013 at 4:41 am

In my ongoing effort to open the lines of communication between clients and massage therapists and other body workers, I asked two well-seasoned therapists what they wish clients would know. What you read might surprise you.

Neil, a massage therapist for 25 years, works at a high-end spa in Arizona, and he’s seen it all. I asked him what he wished clients knew, in an effort to make his job easier. Not surprisingly, his number one issue is cleanliness. His biggest pet peeve is dirty feet. “Yes, it’s hot here in Arizona,” he said, “but we have showers. People don’t realize that if they wear black sandals in this heat, the black will rub off on their feet.” He told me a story about a guy who came in for a massage straight from the golf course, and had sand between his toes. Neil said, “I told him I wouldn’t work on him until he showers. He actually thanked me and said he felt so much better afterwards.”

Smelly Feet

“Some people come in with really bad attitudes,” says Neil. “You wouldn’t think this would happen at a spa, but it does.” He said some of his favorite clients have been celebrities. “They’re just so thankful to have some alone time, without cameras in their face that they make the best clients.” He admits that most clients are easy to deal with, though. “It’s the 1 in 20 high-crust spa visitor that’s difficult.”

I got a good laugh when he offered that, “Men are wimps. They can’t take the pressure.” And he confessed that the thinner the woman, the more pressure she usually requests. When I asked him why he supposes that is, he said, “Probably because they have less adipose (fat) tissue.” The slimmer the client, the less pressure is needed to get to the muscle.

Megan, a massage therapist based in Santa Fe, offers a different opinion on what she wishes massage clients knew. Although she doesn’t have a particular problem with smelly feet, she admits some massage therapists will do the feet first and then the face, if a client comes in with stinky feet. I thought this was a brilliant way of deterring clients with toxic tootsies to schedule a massage before washing.

Tipping

Other things on Megan’s wish list? Silencing cell phones, speaking in a quieter voice, avoiding wearing strong fragrances, and if you are a smoker, trying to avoid smoking a cigarette right before a massage. “If you wear contacts, they can be uncomfortable in the face cradle, for some people, so consider sporting your glasses to the session,” says Megan. And when I asked her about tipping, she said, “When tipping, be aware that your therapist is probably only making maybe one-third of what you’re paying for the massage, so an extra couple of bucks, if you really enjoyed it, can go a long way.” I suppose this only applies to massage therapists and body workers who are employed by a spa. Those who work for themselves probably appreciate the tips as well, but are not handing part of the fee over to an employer.

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Opinions? Suggestions? Leave ‘em here!