Greg Alexander

What’s HOT at the Spa!

Mason-Dixon Arrive, January 2008

A New Year brings a fresh outlook on life and a chance to start anew. Whether it’s looking for a new career or relationship, going back to school or getting in shape, January is the time to say “goodbye” to last year and “hello” to a New Year. And while weight loss and exercise are usually the primary body focus points for most people, why not start the year off by pledging to take care of your skin, body and soul by taking advantage of some of the exciting new services and medical advancements found at area spas? The Mason-Dixon region is home to a bevy of fabulous spas, each offering their own approach to skincare, body treatments, massages and spiritual and mental awareness. So, treat yourself for surviving the holidays and do something wonderful for your body and soul.

Like many industries, the spa industry is constantly changing, and each year brings a host of new “it” treatments and services. And while New York and Los Angeles are usually at the forefront in this country for delivering these “it” services, I talked to some fabulous local spas that are giving the big cities a run for their money to find out what’s hot at areas spas in 2008.

The Spa Meets the Doc

One of the most revolutionary developments in the spa industry nationwide has been the evolution of the “Med Spa” or “Medi Spa,” where FDA-approved noninvasive anti-aging medical treatments are offered in tandem with more traditional skincare services, such as facials. And, several leading spas in our area have capitalized on the growing popularity of such spa set-ups.

About Faces Day Spa and Salon ( – with locations in Pikesville, Timonium, Canton, Salisbury and Towson – has been a leading skincare services provider in Maryland since opening in 1970 and has expanded its skincare services with the creation of Faces Med Spa ( at the Timonium and Canton locations.

“The connection with Med Spa is big news for us,” says Ian Robbins, brand director for About Faces. “As an authentic Med Spa/Day Spa, we can now offer 365-degree skincare.” At Faces Med Spa, noninvasive, anti-aging medical skincare treatments are offered to help restore damaged skin.

Robbins says that some of the services are fundamentally unique to Faces Med Spa, and one of the most popular treatments in Fraxel, an FDA-approved laser procedure for skin resurfacing that treats wrinkles, age spots and sun damaged skin. “It’s a revolutionary, noninvasive treatment performed only by a doctor that permanently removes blemishes and aids in scar reduction,” says Robbins. Since Fraxel targets solely the damaged skin via tiny microscopic laser spots and doesn’t affect the surrounding tissue, the recovery time is quicker, making the treatment more appealing. Results can usually be noticed immediately, although most treatment plans call for three to five sessions, spaced about three to five weeks apart.

Robbins says that Faces Med Spa also offers Botox, Thermage (a non-surgical procedure that tightens skin by tightening the tissue), Restylane (a cosmetic filler that corrects facial wrinkles and folds) and Microdermabrasion, which removes the top layer of dead skin cells. However, he stresses, while instant results are great, day-by-day skincare is key. “We try to explain to people that while spending money on medical treatments will restore elasticity to your face, it won’t treat your skin fully. A skincare regiment including facials is necessary, and the secret to anti-aging is still drinking lots of water, not smoking and staying out of the sun as much as possible,” he says.

Studio 921 Salon and Medi Day Spa (, located in Locust Point’s Foundry on Fort near Fort McHenry, also added noninvasive medical treatments to its line of services to meet the growing demand for med spas. Co-owner Colleen Smith says that Botox, Restylane, Microdermabrasion, laser hair removal and Zoom! teeth whitening are some of the current offerings. “It’s a natural fit. This way, people can have these treatments while enjoying the soothing environment of the spa,” says Smith of Studio 921’s gorgeous 5,000-plus- square feet set inside a historic building highlighted by hardwood floors and original brick walls, wood beams and tin ceilings. “Our clientele ranges from upper 20s to 80, and Microdermabrasion is quite popular,” says Smith.

Soothing Scents Add to the Experience

The powers of aromatherapy have used in private homes as well as spas for years, and the usage of aromatherapy to complement spa services continues to grow in popularity. Lisa Pucci of Elizabeth Jacob Spa & Salon in Parkton ( says that fragrant essential oils add to the soothing experience of many of the spa’s services. “We offer scents that are seasonal; however, one of our most popular aromatherapy offerings is the ‘Woodland Retreat,’ which is great with a massage and complements the wooded countryside setting of our spa,” says Pucci of Elizabeth Jacob’s setting alongside Falls Creek that features dark hardwood floors and an electric fireplace in the lounge where guests can enjoy hot tea. The “Woodland Retreat” oil used in an aromatherapy massage matches lavender and rose finishing with Sandalwood; other scents include “Ocean Journey” and “Citrus Grove.”

Pucci says that for pedicures, she recommends the “Chocolate Butter Cream Spa Pedicure,” which features a chocolate mineral foot bath, chocolate scrub, mousse mask and a chocolate butter cream leg and foot massage to add to the already decadent experience of a spa pedicure.

Studio 921’s Smith adds that a “Cherries and Champagne” body scrub is hot at her salon these days.

Nothing Beats a Massage

For many spa-goers, there is still nothing quite like treating oneself to a massage and have someone else work out all your stresses and tension, and these days there is a massage type for everyone.

“The philosophy of massage therapy has changed dramatically over the past 10 years,” says About Face’s Robbins. “It used to be solely about pampering, but now stress and pain management have become essential elements of massage therapy. People who get regular massages work and play better, which is why we offer massage bundles at a discount.”

Robbins says that some of the more popular massages at About Faces are “Lomi Lomi,” an energy massage that uses Hawaiian and Polynesian music for a soothing experience, and Raki massage. Raki is a traditional drink of Turkey – a distilled alcoholic beverage – that is aromatized with anise and mixed with warm oil for an invigorating massage. “Another popular massage therapy is ‘Raindrop Therapy,’ which utilizes therapeutic and essential oils,” says Robbins. In the “Raindrop Therapy” treatment, oils are dropped in succession on the spine to mimic the feeling of raindrops. The warm oils are stroked along the spine and back, and toxins are gently released for several days after the treatment.

Pucci says that in addition to offering Swedish, deep tissue and aromatherapy massages, Elizabeth Jacob offers what has become a sensation in many spas – a Zen Hot Stone Massage. At Elizabeth Jacob, smooth basalt rocks that are heated and then lubricated with essential oils are used by the massage therapist during the massage, utilizing the stones’ heat for deeper penetration and deep relaxation.

Pucci adds that many guests like to add a complimentary dry sauna to a massage for further relaxation. “Reflexology foot massages (applying pressure to reflex points in the feet that correspond to organs in the body) also remain one of our most in-demand services, as do couples’ massages. These are great for Valentine’s Day, as each person can have their massage therapist customize the massage for them,” says Pucci.

“We just redid our ‘Couples Room,’ so our couples massages are really popular now,” says Studio 921’s Smith. “Couples can relax before their massages on settees, and it’s great for a couple right before their wedding.”

Taking the Facial One Step Further

Another trend in spas these days to offer “add on” services to a facial. “While a hand and arm massages comes standard with any facial we offer, guests can opt to ‘add on’ additional services to make a facial more memorable,” says Pucci of Elizabeth Jacob. Since the eyes are always a focus in skin care, Elizabeth Jacob offers an “Eye Renewal” service, which nourishes and hydrates the tissue around the eyes, while reducing lines and wrinkles and eliminating dark circles and puffiness. Additionally, a 15-minute reflexology session for your hands or feet can be added.

Meanwhile, Smith touts Studio 921’s multi-vitamin eye treatment and the silver ion mask, which adds a “beautiful glow.”

Relaxation for People On the Go

In a perfect world, we could all take the day off work, grab our favorite friend and spend the day at the spa, read magazines and gossip. However, except for the special occasion here and there or on vacation, spending hours at the spa is just not practical (work and kids kind of get in the way sometimes).

With this in mind, many spas have responded by unveiling “express” services, which allow busy people to enjoy the benefits of a massage or facial without having to block off several hours on their calendars. “We have a package where you have two people working on you at the same time so that you can get a facial and massage simultaneously,” says Smith of Studio 921. “It may sound hectic, but it’s actually quite relaxing, and you feel great when you leave.” For those who cannot come back to the salon to have their hair styled every time a big event rolls around, Studio 921 also offers the very popular “Blow Dry Boot Camp” on Wednesdays where guests bring their own hair care tools from home, enjoy wine and cheese and work one-on-one with a stylist to learn how to style their hair so that it looks just like they just left the salon.

For those under a time crunch, Elizabeth Jacob offers a “Mini Escape” facial, a 30-minute facial perfect for a lunch break or a quick pick-me-up, complete with a cleansing, exfoliation, steaming and mask.

“Since we are a day spa and not a destination spa, express services make perfect sense,” says Robbins of About Faces, which has packages available where guests can enjoy a couple of services in one or two hours. “In New York, the ‘mani-pedi-Botox lunch’ was coined, and we’re seeing this hit Baltimore now, especially in our Canton location.”

Back to top