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Holiday Spa Gifts (A Few of My Favorite Things!)

  • Posted on December 12, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Need a holiday spa gift? Of course you do. Think: mom, sister, cousin, co-worker, friend, or you! Since it’s that time of year, I thought I’d share with you some of my spa faves. Most of you know I try hundreds of products every year, and it’s hard to choose the best spa gifts, but here’s a sampling:

shea-soap_lSOAP – My favorite creamy, lightly-scented, affordable, fair trade, planet-friendly soap hails from The Body Shop! Their shea soap is a gentle vegetable-based soap at only $4.00. The perfect spa stocking stuffer. The brazil nut soap has a heartier scent and is great for men.

body-scrub-lg3BODY SCRUB Hands- down, it’s 100% Pure’s Coconut Body Scrub. This scrub is so decadent that I feel like I just swathed myself in a high-end spa treatment every time I use it. It doesn’t smell like the traditional coconut of, say, a sunscreen, but more of a toasted scent. It leaves a glowing shimmer after you leave the shower that lasts for hours. Be careful, though – it leaves an oily residue on the tub floor and can be slippery. This would be my ideal spa gift.

nr_sleep_rgb1-390x500ESSENTIAL OILS – I’ve always found essential oils to be a tricky business. I wonder how pure they are, and I never order them online because I have to smell them first. Some are, let’s just say, not nose friendly. My favorite brand right now is H. Gillerman Organics. Touted to resolve stress-related mind/body issues, Hope’s products deliver. She is well-steeped in the ways of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and her oils are long-lasting, organic, and healing, and they make the perfect spa gift. My three favorites are Sleep Remedy, Stress Remedy, and Travel Remedy. Next up on my list (hubs, you reading?) is the Tension Remedy, perfect for headaches.  

eu_spa-reggae_neckpillow-spamask-heatwrapNECK WRAP AND EYE MASK - As a connoisseur of neck wraps, I found the crème de la crème. The company is Sonoma Lavender, and they make the softest, heftiest Eucalyptus & Lavender Spa Neck Pillow and Eucalyptus & Lavender Sinus Mask. These plush, soft spa indulgences warm up in the microwave and offer gently scented healing lavender and eucalyptus to the neck and shoulders, or to tired eyes. Perfect for sinus congestion.

86130_instinctual_clay_masque_1BODY CLAY MASQUE - What’s a spa gift without a sumptuous, eco-friendly, full-body mud mask from SpaRitual? Slather on the silky red earth clay to towel-dried skin for ten minutes, then shower it off. You will feel like you just reveled in a high-end spa treatment. SpaRitual Instinctual Clay Masque.

buckwheat-pillow-3BUCKWHEAT PILLOW – I bought my first buckwheat pillow when I was living in Pennsylvania. I fell so in love with that pillow that I’ve been buying them ever since, although they practically last forever. I own three of them now, and trust me, once you go buck you never go back. Buckwheat pillows are more comfortable than a typical pillow because the hulls conform to the shape of your head and neck. You can adjust the fit by simply molding the pillow with your hands. It matches your body shape. And talk about comfort! This is truly the perfect spa gift. I got mine in two different sizes (one for traveling) from Sachi Organics, a company I highly recommend for quality buckwheat pillows!

Hooray for Creme Brulee

  • Posted on March 16, 2013 at 4:26 am

I am consumed with all things creme brulee. Whether it’s the one the Santa Fe Italian bistro Pranzo serves, with a perfectly browned paper-thin crust that conceals the warm licentious cream underneath, or whether it’s in my shampoo, body scrub, or hand lotion—doesn’t matter. Even as I write this blog, I am inhaling Laura Mercier’s Creme Brulee Souffle right out of the jar. I also have a Yankee Candle Creme Brulee votive burning two feet away from me, on top of my filing cabinet. I’d pawn a pair of Ugg boots to get my hands on anything creme brulee.

I am a sucker for the decadent food category when it comes to body products. I coat my legs with The Body Shop’s Chocomania Beautifying Oil, lather my bath sponge with Philosophy’s Cinnamon Buns Shower Gel, and drop my Caramel and Toffee Fizz Bath Bomb from Lush Cosmetics in my bath.

Creme Brulee

Is there a psychological component to my attraction to sweet food items in my body products and home scents? I did a little Internet research and found not just an article on the subject, but a term for how businesses capitalize on people like me. “Nebulization Technology” is the science behind converting fragranced oils into dry vapors. The article explains that, upon inhaling something pleasant, the limbic area of the brain wakes up and immediately associates positive emotions connected to those scents—such as baking chocolate chip cookies as a kid, or devouring warm buttered popcorn during a favorite movie.

According to Air Essentials, a company involved in “scent branding,” experiments have shown that enticing the nose can boost sales. They claim a rise of 33 percent in sales for H.H. Gregg, an appliance company, when they gently introduced the scent of apple pie and sugar cookies into their remodeled stores. Cinnabon and KFC are known for pumping artificial shnoz enticers that mimic real food, through special mechanisms, such as vents, to lure customers in.

When I first moved to Santa Fe, I dated a geologist who suffered from anosmia—the inability to detect scent. He visited me one day when I was working at Ten Thousand Waves, and on that day a fire had broken out in one of the massage rooms. We were all nearly choking from the smell. He smelled nothing. Then it hit me that without my sense of smell, not only would creme brulee fail to allure me, but my life could be endangered.

If you crave any particular food scent, let me know. And if you can recommend a product along this line, even better! Meanwhile, I’ll be spritzing Bodycology’s Vanilla Cupcake Fragrance Mist on my pillow before nodding off tonight.

Today’s Tip

One of my latest loves is Laura Mercier’s Creme Brulee Sugar Scrub. It comes with a cute little plastic scooper, but I just dig in with my fingers. After all, with what she charges to indulge CB addicts ($36 for a 12-ounce jar), I don’t even want one sugar granule lost to a scooper. This scrub is very thick and rich. It borders on gooey and requires a lot of water for easier application.

Welcome to Val The Spa Gal

  • Posted on March 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Since this is my first blog post, I’ll set a few ground rules: I will discuss all things spa, including product reviews. I will not hold back. I will answer questions you post. I will not keep my neuroses in check, and I reserve the right to fall into reveries that are only remotely spa related, because I want more than just you spa junkies to read this, too.

Welcome to Val The Spa Gal. Please help spread the word.

I am a full-time writer and editor. Several years ago, when I first moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I took a part-time job at one of the most renowned spas in the US – Ten Thousand Waves. I still live in Santa Fe where, if you throw a stone in any direction, it will likely hit a massage therapist. Over 130 therapists work at Ten Thousand Waves (and boy was it fun trying to learn all their names)!

I will share with you what I’ve learned about this business where you lie stark naked on a blanketed table and allow a complete stranger to massage warm oil onto nearly every inch of your body. I’ve lain on hundreds of these tables and crawled back into real life with the requisite lines on the sides of my face, from the face cradle. I’ve been kneaded, scrubbed, heated, oiled, and even hummed to. From the sublime to the evil, I’ve endured every kind of therapist, and every kind of treatment. And I own enough body indulgence products to open my own spa. I figured since I’m a writer, it was time to blog about my spa psychosis.

I will entertain your inner spa with a relevant quip, and I will always end with “Today’s Tip,” which will address some fun item, perhaps offer a warning about a product, or just answer a common FAQ, such as “Is it okay to leave my underwear on during a massage?”

Today’s Tip:

My latest obsession is with The Body Shop’s “Shea Body Scrub.” It is so decadent I’m tempted to eat it. Its salt chunks abrade my body, but then leave a thin glowing sheen on my skin, and I revel in that all day. When no one’s looking, I sneak little sniffs on my arm. As exfoliants go, this one’s on the harsher side. But they used to make a “Bergamot Salt Scrub” that skinned me alive. So, this is an upgrade. Its scent—floral and fruity—is subtle, so your limbs won’t offend when you enter a room. Be careful when you use this in the shower, as its oils cause the tub floor to become slippery. I can’t explain why you’ll love this—it’s hard on the skin, and you might break an ankle slipping in your tub—but its lasting patina is seductive.