Displaying 11 - 20 of 25 entries.

Fight Aging Skin With Six Simple Ingredients

  • Posted on July 31, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Aging skin gracefully is a wonderful thing. Looking fantastic while doing it is even better. I have six words for you to help your skin rival that of a girl in her twenties: Vitamin C; Hyaluronic acid; Matrixyl; Argireline; Hydroquinone; Retinol. You’ve probably heard of some of these ingredients, but they are not often combined, forcing you to buy six different bottles. Well, I’ve managed to get all of these in just four.

Here’s a crash course on why Vitamin C; Hyaluronic acid; Matrixyl; Argireline; Hydroquinone; and Retinol will save your skin:

Skincare Fun

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): A key to producing collagen, the protein that firms and strengthens skin and also takes a hike as we age. Collagen is essential for preserving healthy connective tissue. It firms the skin and helps maintain its youthful appearance. Vitamin C also helps protect the skin from sun damage. The challenge is that you need a fair amount as it is not terribly stable in liquid form. I use a 20% solution, which is one the highest I’ve found, yet it doesn’t irritate my skin.

Hyaluronic Acid: The wrinkle enemy. Created naturally in our bodies, this beneficial little bugger also starts saying hasta la night-night as the clock ticks. Luckily, hyaluronic acid is easily absorbed in the skin. Before topical serums arrived on the market, this complex sugar was used as an injectable to plump the skin. It protects against the sun’s harmful UVB rays and adds moisture and elasticity back into maturing skin. The Skin Science is a company that combines hyaluronic acid with the next two skin savers: Matrixyl and Arigerline.

Matrixyl: The best kept secret in skincare, even according to scientists’ published studies in Molecular Pharmaceutics. A powerful peptide-based treatment, this is another collagen booster and the brilliant brainchild of the Sederma Corporation. A recent study from Reading University claims that Matrixyl “can almost double the amount of collagen that the cells in our body produce, provided the concentration is high enough.”

Argireline: Dr. Oz himself touts Argireline as the suggested alternative to Botox. Well, if the cute doc says so, who am I to argue? At a recommended concentration of 5 to 10%, this peptide should be strong enough to penetrate the skin. If you can’t afford the needle, Argireline is your Botox-lite.

Skincare Ingredients

Hydroquinone: I visited my dermatologist last year and said I’d like to lighten the brown age spots that have been partying on my skin, sans an invitation. He laughed, because the so-called “spots,” he said, were more like blonde microscopic dots. I disagreed, so he gave me a prescription for hydroquinone 10%. While hydroquinone is the queen of brown spot annhiliation, I do not recommend using a 10% concentration. Let’s just say it mauled my skin with scabby bloody blisters. The doctor’s office did admit that it’s strong and that not all skins respond kindly to it. So I bought a 2% concentration, which I believe is the highest you can buy without a prescription.

Retinol: The mother of all collagen restorers. All-Trans Retinol 2% from NCN Professional Skincare helps restore collagen type I, III (the one we lose in our youth), and IV. Their formula is paraben- and chemical-free.

To get the hyaluronic acid, Matrixyl, Argireline, (and even COQ10, an antioxidant that fights harmful free radicals) all in one, I suggest Active Cell Repair. You can get it at The Skin Science. The best (and most potent) formula for liquid Vitamin C is from Cosmetic Skin Solutions. For the hydroquinone solution, try Murad. Yes, it’s pricey ($60.00), but Murad is a trusted company. Sometimes Sephora or Ulta offer specials on Murad products.

Let me know if you’ve bought any of these formulas and whether they’re working for you. I have truly noticed a tightening of the small lines developing around my eyes, and my brown spots have not worsened.








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.


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!



Spa Pet Peeves

  • Posted on May 29, 2013 at 2:33 am

Today’s post focuses on spa pet peeves, highlighting spa and massage clients who have had less-than-amazing experiences. My goal is to help both the therapist and the client understand each other better, which will lead to an awesome spa experience every time. In airing pet peeves, I hope to open communication between the client and therapist. For massage therapists and other body workers: Please read and feel free to respond! Next week’s post will be all about you and your client pet peeves.

Complaint Department

I don’t have many spa grievances, but I will mention one. If I’m paying for a 50-minute massage, please give me a 50-minute massage. Starting late, or ending early, cuts into therapy time that I’ve paid for. And most massage therapists, even when beginning on time, spend the first few minutes very lightly grazing their fingers across your body, over the sheets and blanket, as if to “prepare” you for the massage. They might rock you a bit or even ask you to take a few deep breaths first before they begin.  I’d much prefer they skip these steps and simply get on with the massage. More time is also wasted when they leave you to get undressed for much longer than you need. It takes less than a minute to disrobe and get on the table, yet most therapists give you five minutes or more.

Debbie, a health administrator in San Diego, had been enjoying pedicures from the same place for 8 years, until she contracted a severe infection that required 2 weeks of antibiotics. Unfortunately, she did not report it and instead just stopping visiting that spa. But when something like this occurs, it’s important to say something to the spa manager, because your complaint could lead to stricter disinfecting practices, which are essential for spas that offer manicures and pedicures.

Don't Like My Therapist

Would it annoy you to listen to your aesthetician blabbing to a coworker while painting your toenails? When Bonnie, a Santa Fe, New Mexico, resident went to a local salon for a pedicure, her nail tech, along with the one sitting next to her working on another client’s nails, were “verbally bitch-slapping each other the entire time,” according to Bonnie. She did complain to management and received an apology, nothing more.

Jill, a Sonoma, California, resident prefers that her massage therapist not speak at all (unless necessary) during the massage. I usually prefer quiet as well, and appreciate it when the therapist knows when light chatting is okay and when it’s time to be silent.

Bad Pedicure

Communication is so important when it comes to the intimate nature of body therapies. Kindness and respect also go a long way. But when Beth Spottswood’s massage therapist intrusively threw talk therapy into the equation, even claiming that Beth’s ankle pain was her mother’s fault, the therapist had overstepped her boundaries. You can read about her story in the San Francisco Gate.

Do you have any pet peeves for your massage therapist, aesthetician, or spa? Let’s open the lines of communication. Next week, the therapists speak out. If you are a therapist who would like to chime in, please e-mail me at Val@ValTheSpaGal.com

Got Headache? This gadget might help ~ The WunderClip

  • Posted on May 10, 2013 at 4:21 am

WunderClip’s website says this about its product: “All natural pain relief literally at your fingers. No pills, no powders, no potions, no kidding.” They are referring to a headache remedy in the form of a two-inch yellow plastic doohickey that pinches the fleshy area between your thumb and index finger. The WunderClip is a natural headache treatment that operates on the ancient principles of Chinese acupressure.


Acupressure—and its close cousin, acupuncture—is based on the idea that we have a life force in our bodies that runs on pathways called meridians. When the energy (called chi or qi) is blocked, pain and disease can occur. The webby flesh between the thumb and index finger is the LI4 meridian (LI = large-intestine) and when squeezed, can relieve many types of headaches, particularly tension headaches and those stemming from tight neck muscles. As a chronic headache sufferer, I have often found myself pinching that area with my own fingers, only to get a cramp in that hand, and a bruise on the other. Then, on a recent flight to Los Angeles, I saw an ad for the WunderClip in the in-flight magazine. It claimed to do the pinching for me. I ordered one.

The WunderClip website shows a video on how to use it, but it was obvious to me, since I was a longtime pressure point squeezer. The ideal spot rests about 1.5 inches in from the edge of the padded area between the thumb and index finger. Think of the gadget as a clothespin, but with a more intense pinching mechanism. In fact, it holds on so tight that it won’t easily fall off, although I do recommend keeping your hand still to keep it in place.

My verdict is this: If this headache pressure point usually works for you when you activate it manually, the WunderClip will work as well, and you’ll save yourself the … um, headache … of having to use your other hand or asking someone else to squeeze the spot for you. I used it about five or six times, and it usually lessened the severity of my headache each time. I can’t say it ever completely disappeared, however. Then again, my headaches can be tough beastly little buggers. The makers suggest kneading the round ends together to intensify the pressure, and therefore the healing process. I did this, and the soreness jumped a notch, but it felt like therapeutic pain.


So, for convenience, I give the WunderClip a 9, and for effectiveness A 7.5. If you’re not used to stimulating the LI4 pressure point, the clip will feel very tight. Yes, it can hurt, but just enough to let you know it’s on the right spot, and that it’s working. I have found that the stronger my headache, the more painful this pressure point becomes, when stimulated.

The company does not indicate whether one hand should be treated over another, or if there’s any greater benefit to placing one on both hands simultaneously, but they do suggest you keep it on between five and fifteen minutes, then rest for five minutes, and repeat if necessary. I have a few of them now and keep them throughout the house and even in my car. They are $9.24 and you can find them at WunderClip.

If you try one, let me know if it worked for you!

Today’s Tip

WunderClip advises against use of the device if pregnant, as it can stimulate contractions.

Blissful Hand and Body Scrubs ~ BonBliss

  • Posted on April 27, 2013 at 1:21 am

I have found heaven. And its name is BonBliss. Comprised of husband and wife team Elissa and Jay Choi, BonBliss makes deliciously scented hand and body scrubs. I have sampled each of the 14 scents, and I can honestly endorse every one of them. BonBliss scrubs are single-use treats perfect for traveling or a quick sweet indulgence wherever you are.

BonBliss treats come in the form of Moisturizing Body Truffles, perfect for the shower, and Scrub-2-Go minis, ideal for a moisturizing boost after washing your hands. Each is individually wrapped and resembles an edible delight.

Bon Bliss Truffles

BonBliss Moisturizing Body Truffles

And you know how skincare companies often write “Do Not Eat” on their packages, and you sarcastically think, “Really? I never would have guessed.” Well, BonBliss really did need to warn users because their products are so ridiculously alluring that you’ll truly want to eat them. But don’t.

Instead, add a little water to one and gently crush it and rub it onto your skin. It will leave a yummy scent and a light moisturizing gleam. And get this: If you shower with a truffle in the morning, you will still be able to smell it at night. As a body scrub connoisseur, I can assure you that most scrubs do not last until bedtime. BonBliss products are free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates.

Choosing your favorite scent might prove difficult, but mine is the Cherry Almond. I simply cannot get enough of this one. First runner up? Sweet Satsuma. Each 1-ounce body truffle is $3.75, and a tin can of bite-size scrubs are $10.95, but they occasionally run specials. Visit them at BonBlissBeauty.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.

BonBliss Scrub-2-Go

Cherry Almond BonBliss Scrub-2-Go

Today’s Tip

As BonBliss states, be careful when using the truffles in the shower because they will leave a light film that can make the floor slippery.

Even though they are intended as single-use scrubs, if you are willing to forego a little indulgence, the moisturizing body truffles can last for two uses.

It’s Spa Week!

  • Posted on April 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

April 15 to April 21 is Spa Week, which means that spas all across North America are offering luxurious full-service spa treatments for only $50. This is a biannual event, occurring every April and October. It’s a chance to sample a spa affordably; and for the spa, it’s an opportunity to seduce you into becoming a repeat customer.

But I noticed some states that were conspicuously missing from the list of places participating, including my own—New Mexico—who, some might say, is the spa capital of the U.S. Iowa, Arkansas, and Maine were non-participants as well. I wanted to know why this was the case, so I called a local spa director and asked her. It turns out, her spa did participate in Spa Week two years ago, and lost a lot of money. The spa saw no repeat business from the event, and even had to pay over $1,000 to partake in it. “Our loyal customers know the value and luxury they’re getting and don’t use deals to come here.” She related the “coupon” idea to those who use discount social media sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. These generally attract people who are looking for a one-time deal.


This got me thinking about where I stand in the matter of getting a “deal” and whether or not this makes me a repeat customer, and my answer is that I am the poster girl for companies who want to tease me with their wares and lure me back, and this includes spas. I’m the one who drools over the free samples that places like Sephora and Beauty.com give me. If I like the sample, I’m back online ordering the full-size product. Most people love a good spa deal, like the kind you get from Spa Week, but they aren’t necessarily spa junkies, like I am, and therein lies the difference. The average person might say, “Wow, that was a nice treat,” whereas I would say, “Oh my God, I have to get this treatment every single day for the rest of my life.”

Whether you want a one-time deal or you’re looking to sample a massage, facial, or body treatment in hopes of finding a spa you can frequent, Spa Week is worth it. Their website will not only tell you which spas in your area are participating, but they gab about all things spa, just like yours truly. Check out Spa Week’s travel deals, blog, and contest to win a spa and wellness gift card at Spa Week.

Today’s Tip

Spa Week is the ideal time to book an affordable spa vacation. Most participating spas will allow two to three full-service treatments at $50 a pop. If you can’t get away, see which spas are participating in your area. Running a spa is expensive, so if you find a treatment, spa, or therapist you like during Spa Week, consider being a repeat customer. Some spas offer loyalty programs for locals. For example, here in Santa Fe, the Inn & Spa at Loretto has such a program, which features 20 percent off year-round for New Mexicans.

Take Care of Your Hair!

  • Posted on April 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I have had long hair my entire life. At its longest, it was about two inches above my waist. People have told me it’s my mane, my identity, and how they know it’s me in a crowd. In elementary school, my hair would hang down over the back of my chair, and the boy behind me would push his desk up against my hair, to trap me. The cliché everyone spouted—especially my parents—was that he was doing that because he liked me. I still don’t get that.

So, I’ve always tried to take the best care possible of my hair. Here are a bunch of tips I’ve learned over the years to ensure healthy tresses.

Woman with smooth hair. High quality image.

Not So Much

Avoid washing your hair every day. This strips your locks of their natural oils. Unless you suffer from very oily hair, most dermatologists agree that it’s best to shampoo every other day. For particularly dry, frizzy, or treated hair, you can wash it every third day.

 Warm, Not Hot

Use the warm setting on your blow dryer, rather than hot. Even though it might take you a little longer to dry your hair, the lighter setting is less likely to cause heat damage. Hair care expert Raymond Bolton says, “You can avoid damage by keeping the dryer moving, not allowing the heat to dwell on any one location.”

Sage Brush Advice

Raymond has this to say about brushing wet hair: Avoid using natural bristle brushes on wet hair. Water softens hair and natural bristles are sharp enough to slice hair lengthwise, increasing breakage and split ends. Instead, use a plastic paddle brush with ball-tipped pins.

Get a Little Air

Unless your hair is just too unmanageable or freaky looking without blow-drying, consider air-drying your hair. It will boast a much smoother finish when allowed to dry naturally. The next best option is to air dry it for five to fifteen minutes before grabbing the blow dryer. This cuts down tremendously on drying time, which is better for your hair.

Keep it at a Distance

If you are a blow dryer addict (like I am), hold the dryer at least two inches from your hair. Again, this will lessen the damage. Never place the blow dryer directly on your hair.

Treat Your Tresses

You didn’t actually think I was going to blog about hair care without praising the virtues of my favorite hair treatments, did you? My favorite overnight treatments for my hair are Alterna’s Caviar Overnight Hair Rescue ($38.00 at Alterna Hair Care), and Fekkai’s Protein Rx Anti-breakage Treatment Mask ($30 at Fekkai).

Apply Alterna’s hair treatment to dry hair, and leave it on overnight. It will not leave any residue on your pillow, and it washes out in the morning, revealing soft hair. It is free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Fekkai’s creamy white concoction is drenched in soy and milk proteins and leaves my hair incredibly silky. Use this on damp hair for 10 to 15 minutes.

Ojon also makes a hair mask called Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment. This can be used on dry hair for 20 minutes, or overnight for deeper conditioning. It boasts a strong nutty scent and only liquefies when rubbed between the hands. It’s $33 at Ojon. I place a towel on my pillow when I use this one, because it will rub off on linens.

Trying to return damaged hair to health? Raymond suggests getting a polymeric treatment from your hairdresser. This refined process strengthens hair up to six weeks per treatment.

Today’s Tip

Everyone’s hair is different, so you can adjust these steps for your particular needs. Also, try mixing in some of these hair treatments with your regular shampoo or conditioner. I find that they add a little shine boost when used as a quick add-on treatment.

You can reach Raymond Bolton at Raymond Bolton Hair Design LLC

Priceless Primping at Pamper Me Fabulous

  • Posted on April 1, 2013 at 4:14 am
Pamper Me Fabulous March 2013

The Pamper Me Fabulous Dance!

I stood on line for seventy-five minutes, business cards in hand, awaiting my “Pamper Me Fabulous” arm stamp, which would allow me to enter the crème de la crème of spa events. Pamper Me Fabulous is held six times a year, and this was my first one, held at the Vibiana, a Los Angeles venue.

Roughly 1,500 women of all ages stood in line to drench themselves in the latest lotions, age-defying serums, lip plumpers, and foot soothers. More than 70 vendors teased us with their quirky, yummy, and sophisticated wares. We pushed and shoved to grab a sample of a mineral peel from O.R.G. Skincare, a whiff of a Twilight Forest body truffle from BonBliss, and to test the Smooth as Silk Day Creme from Dermadeli Facial Foods. The lines for Space Mountain at Disney had nothing on the queues for manicures, hair straightening, and even the free Pamper Me Fabulous gift bags.

It was brutal. In fact, the lines were so long for the facials, massages, and manicures that I didn’t even bother with them. But I did sit down at the Hum Nutrition booth. Billed as “Your Free Personal Nutritionist,” this company promises to customize your supplement regimen. I filled out a short computerized questionnaire, which a dietician will review before designing my vitamin protocol. They will be e-mailing me the results, which I will share with you.

I left with oodles of delicious products, most of which I will review in upcoming blogs. (The woman from Nerium AD Skincare swore the age-defying treatment I went home with would “change my life.”) I’m giving it 30 days, I’ll let you know. Some of the vendors were blush-inducing, including the company Kanoodled, which sold a “Coochie Cleaner” and “Wiener Wash.”

Pamper Me Fabulous Gift Bag

Pamper Me Fabulous Gift Bag

Even though the crowd was a bit large for the venue, and the ticket takers were a bit disorganized, it was all worth it. It was a chance to try new products—including a mini portable I.Q. Massager—meet other spa junkies, network, and bliss out on a little pampering. The ticket for the 11 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. event was $40, although they freely offer a 20 percent discount. Others who had attended previous Pamper Me Fabulous events said that the one held at the Terranea last year in LA was better organized and offered more physical options, such as yoga on the lawn of the gorgeous Palos Verdes resort.

The next one up is in Dallas on May 19. Then comes Chicago (June 23), Miami (September 15), New York (October 13), and Los Angeles again (November 10). I will attend at least one more this year, and I promise to gather a bunch of new goodies to review for you. Here’s the link: Pamper Me Fabulous

Today’s Tip

Get on line early on the day of the event. Bring a very large bag that is easy and comfortable to carry. You will collect so many samples (or full-fledged products, if you choose to buy them) that you will need a place to put them as you walk around. I lugged around so many bags from each vendor until finally the nice guy at KM Fantasy (who sold me a massage oil candle—yes, I’ll review it) took pity on me and double bagged all my stuff into a huge brown shopping bag.

I Got (Hot) Stoned

  • Posted on March 22, 2013 at 11:36 pm

I got up off the table after my 90-minute hot stone massage, and I was so woozy it’s a miracle I was able to stand up. Now I know why they have mirrors in the treatment rooms. They’re to make sure you don’t leave with your underwear on the outside.

Hot stone massages feel nothing like traditional massages. No fingers or elbows knead your back, the lotion is used sparingly, and of course there’s the scorching heat. But a really cool thing happens as soon as those stones hit you. The heat instantly drops just enough to feel hot but not Towering Inferno hot.

woman having stone massage in spa salon

My therapist, Heidi, placed one tiny warm basalt river stone on my forehead and palm-sized ones in each hand, as I lay face up on the massage table. The facial stone packed more healing power than I expected it to. It nearly melted blissfully into my third eye. The hand stones were hot and also equally calming.

Heidi started by saying, “I’m going to have you lie down on a row of stones that will sit along your spine.” I thought, “Okay, bulging discs be damned, I’m going to let her do it, even though it sounded only slightly more comfortable than a lumbar puncture. Surprisingly, I hardly even felt them, as they were wrapped in a soft gauzy covering. 

A rectangular black heater was plugged into the wall three feet from the massage table and held an array of black stones of different sizes. I occasionally heard it buzz as my limbs softened into the table. Heidi placed a large hot stone in each of her hands and, like an artist, began drawing large broad strokes across my legs and arms. After a half hour, she flipped me over and did the same on my back and neck. The heat infiltrated my body so deeply and aroused the kind of repose you often feel after emerging from a Jacuzzi.

It looked like Heidi had to work really hard at this, so I asked her if hot stone massages were more difficult for her, and she said, “It’s harder to concentrate on the rhythm of the strokes, but it’s actually easier on the hands.”

When the massage ended, I was so (hot) stoned that all I could manage was a crooked smile. I might have mumbled a “thanks.” After dressing, Heidi handed me a small cup of water and said, “Sometimes you can feel lightheaded after a stone massage because the heat penetrates deeply into the muscles.” I was so glad she said that. She even suggested sitting for a while before leaving. I had had previous experiences with dizziness during and after massages, but this, thankfully, was just an uber relaxation of my muscles. I stopped for a sandwich afterwards at a café, for takeout, and I messed up the entire order. Twenty minutes later, I was back to normal.

It’s so cool to get hot stoned.

Today’s Tip

If you’ve never had a hot stone massage, I strongly suggest trying one. This massage is contraindicated, though, for certain conditions such as pregnancy or high blood pressure. A good massage therapist will ask you if you want stones to rest on certain areas, such as your legs, face, and hands, while she’s massaging the rest of you. If the stones are too hot, you should ask the therapist to place a light covering over them. I suggest getting a hot stone massage when you have nothing planned afterward, as you might feel dazed for a while.

The Nose Knows: Are Aromatherapy Massages Worth the Cost?

  • Posted on March 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Last week, I touted the deliciousness of all things crème brulee. Today we’ll discuss the aromatherapy massage. Last year, at Mohonk Mountain House, in New Paltz, New York. I chose the 50-minute “aroma massage,” where I was given the choice of which essential oils I wanted rubbed on me. The choices were pure breathing, relaxation, or clear mind. It took up about half my massage time just trying to decide which one I wanted, but then again, I spend 20 minutes in the produce aisle picking out the perfect banana. The therapist told me that pure breathing would clear my sinuses, relaxation would calm me, and clear mind would awaken my senses and keep me alert. I chose the latter.

Ultimately, this was a visceral decision.I chose clear mind for its hearty scent, because I am nose-oriented above all else. I didn’t really believe it would do what its name promised, but I kept an open mind. Actually, I didn’t feel any more alert when I left than I did when I entered the spa. 

spa arrangement

Studies on the effectiveness of aromatherapy are mixed. We know that smell receptors are connected to the hippocampus and amygdala, the areas of the brain that store emotions and memories, so scents do affect us. But studies on whether peppermint oils can cure headaches or lavender oil can put us to sleep are varied. When I was in camp as a little girl, I was miserable, and the soap we always used was Ivory, and to this day, the smell of Ivory soap stirs sad emotions in me.

Deciding whether it’s worth it to pay the extra $5 to $15 dollars for an aromatherapy massage, for me, comes down to whether or not the scent of the oil pleases me. If it energizes me or helps me edit the next great American novel, perfect. If not, it didn’t cost much, and I might even love it.

Today’s Tip:

Before booking an aromatherapy massage, ask whether or not you will be offered a choice of oils. Ask what they are and what their effects are. Some spas use specific oils that change with each season. For example, the Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, changes its scent each season. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, escorts you to their apothecary and lets you customize your own aromatherapy oil. Others use a variety. If you’re particularly olfactory-oriented, it’s probably worth the extra few bucks just to try something new.

 Please post here and tell me what you’ve discovered.