It may be hard to wrap up in a cute little box, but experiential gifts can be the best: manicures, massage, sensory deprivation, cooking classes, whatever. Plus, sometimes there might be people in your life to whom you would rather not gift a physical object. Getting a facial is up there with massage as something that seems purely indulgent, but both can contribute a great deal to your health. Even if you go only once, a good skin expert can give you insight on how aspects of your lifestyle are manifesting themselves in your body's largest organ, give you some guidance on product choice, and sandblast the dead skin cells off your face with diamonds. What a gift.
It's hard to know, though, where to send someone. There are salons and spas all over town, and not just the visible ones that have storefronts and signs. There's a quasi-underground network of aestheticians working in small studios across the city that you only hear about through word of mouth or diligent online marketing. If you are considering buying someone a super-fancy professional face washing (or if you aren't spending every dirty dime you've got on other people this month), I've rounded up a few of the places I've tried recently:
1) The Dragontree. This place is the mothership of holistic beauty and health treatments. They have a huge range facials that go from 30-90 minutes, can involve extractions, peels, and extras like hand massages and foot baths, and offer specialty treatments like a pro-biotic clarifying facial. That's just the tip of the iceberg, though. The Dragontree's vast menu of services and combos ranges from herbal medicine, acupuncture, and nutrition counseling to Ayurvedic therapies that could involve sitting in a steam tent or having someone pour warm, herb-infused oil on your forehead for 30 minutes. There is an entire menu of foot bath options, targeted or full-body massage (you can get just a scalp massage for 40 minutes, with or without warm oil)—the list goes on. Heaven on earth, but not the place to go if you are looking for someone who will break out the srs business tools on your face for micro, etc.
2) The Green Goddess. Geographically and philosophically close to what you'll find at the Dragontree, the Goddess is a tiny hole in the wall version that focuses just on organic facials, waxing, and holistic wellness consultations. Located in a tiny studio on the bottom floor of an unassuming NW building, you wouldn't know it was there from the street. Owner Madeline Hutton has studied Ayurveda in India and carries dietary supplements right alongside her array of mostly Oregon-made products (100% Pure, Spawork Organic). Because her space and staff are both much smaller than their larger neighbor, you can tap into the same philosophies here for less of an outlay.
3) Illume Day Spa. Another tucked-away destination in inner NE with with a variety of facials administered by Cate Wheetman and Stara Laborde. I've never had a treatment by Laborde, but a Wheetman facial is like a two-in-one massage/facial combo. It's not on unusual for a facial to include a little massage, but Wheetman takes it to the next level, hitting your hands, arms, calves, feet, and scalp. I tend to be all business with my beauty treatments (fix this, prevent that), but Wheetman's approach is probably the most purely pleasurable and relaxing I've had.
4) Ariel's Skincare. The only place I go to regularly, owner Ariel Fauley is my personal match in terms of combining that all-important inner/outer health-oriented approach with gleeful deployment of all the latest gadgets. The last time I saw her I got microdermabrasion, an acid peel, and galvanic, which involves electrical currents being run through your face while you clutch a little metal bar. It's arguably kind of scary (that metallic taste in your mouth), but I call it exciting. She offers a variety of facials, but I'd advise going straight for the "custom" option and let her improvise based on what she sees.
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