When Martha Millan says, "Beauty shouldn't hurt," she's not peddling a slogan—her first job in the beauty industry literally caused her pain. Working at an upscale salon, her exposure to common hair and makeup products triggered hives and headaches. While searching for more natural goods for personal use, her research revealed unsettling truths about many industry product lines that often use irritating perfumes to mask the underlying odors of harsh chemicals. Feeling that everyone should have the opportunity to look beautiful without fear of harming health, she bought a salon and transformed it into Salon O Day Spa.
Amid Salon O Day's industrial decor, Millan and her team of stylists, aestheticians, and a massage therapist use products so natural that some are even edible, though Millan imagines the taste would leave something to be desired: barbecue sauce. Among the array of certified-organic, not-tested-on-animals, gluten- and chemical-free products, Millan's favorites include Osmosis Pur Medical Skincare, developed by an American physician who advocates against overexfoliation. For hair, stylists use products from lines including Surface Hair and Organic Color Systems, and during nail services, technicians use natural products from SpaRitual in tandem with scrubs made in-house from ingredients bought at a local co-op.
You might call Paul Jones, managing partner of Elements Laser Spa, a bit of a technology junkie. He worked in the semiconductors industry for years, making equipment for manufacturers in Silicon Valley before deciding to fly solo. He created a company that used lasers to inspect the surface of semiconductor wafers and the insides of sandwich cookies. Jones then collaborated with a group of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists to found what has become one of the leading rehabilitation clinics in the Austin area.
It's no surprise, then, that his latest endeavor—two hip, welcoming laser spas—have taken home four Best of CitySearch awards: in the laser-hair-removal category in 2009 and 2010, and in the hair-removal category in 2011 and 2013. Jones has chosen medical directors who match his zeal for innovation, namely plastic surgeon Dr. Vishnu Rumalla and Dr. Shirat Ling, an expert in medical aesthetic procedures. The staff of certified technicians uses Venus Freeze to tighten skin and reduce wrinkles, Zerona lasers to noninvasively reduce stubborn fat, and advanced Candela systems to remove hair, spider veins, and sun spots.
Practicing in aesthetics and pain management since 2004, Leslie Escalante has concluded that natural remedies can enhance the practice of Western medicine. She left her position as an assistant to a board-certified physician to open Balanced Health & Beauty, where she melds medical practices with natural solutions to combat physical aging. She recruited Dr. J. Scott Gaertner, a board-certified family practitioner and graduate of The University of Texas Medical School, to oversee the center's more involved procedures. These include FDA-cleared cosmetic injections that require absolute precision to create firm, smooth skin, and personalized hormone-replacement regimes that mitigate the fatigue caused by winding the town clock daily.
Representing Escalante's interest in holistic wellness, the center also fosters proper nutrition with Xymogen vitamin supplements and a variety of diet plans. Multitalented lasers use radio frequency to gently clear detritus from pores, evict unwanted hairs, or diminish visible sun damage or spider veins. Traditional facials target conditions specific to each patient's skin type with chocolate antioxidants and pumpkin enzymes, and peels rely on serums from PCA Skin and Obagi to reveal healthy, youthful complexions.
At Laser Therapy Clinic Of Austin, highly trained technicians—some of whom have performed more than 20,000 laser procedures—do more than just zap away unwanted hair. They also make sure their clients enjoy custom treatment plans and utter privacy. No two clients are ever in the clinic at once, ensuring total patient-staff confidentiality and exclusive access to the waiting room's stock of Highlights magazines. To keep patients comfortable during treatment, the staff wields only FDA-approved GentleLase lasers by Candela, which are equipped with a skin-soothing cooling device and may also be used to treat spider veins, wrinkles, age spots, and hemangiomas. Complimentary consultations take into account factors such as general health and skin type before determining treatment routes for each client, and technicians keep flexible hours to accommodate all kinds of schedules.
At The Woodhouse, relaxation begins upon each guest's arrival in the spa's dedicated Quiet Room. A luxurious robe drapes around their shoulders, reflexology sandals lightly massage their feet, and mugs of loose-leaf tea warm their lips as they await the start of their services. The spa's product selection reflects a similar attention to detail: employees fill the shelves with natural, organic, and wild-crafted products. They also go the extra mile to include small extras with each session, such as home-care recommendations after facial treatments and foot-cleansing with each massage. The award-winning spa was voted best spa by the readers of the San-Antonio Express-News, and was deemed best spa and best massage by readers of San Antonio Magazine.
Wellsprings Dermaspa feels like the sort of place that’s been hiding right under your nose the whole time. The simple spa hideaway sits tucked into a new, upscale office building just off the 183. There are several medical offices in the same area, but Wellsprings focuses on more homeopathic treatments, all from within their calming and comfortable interior. Husband-and-wife owners Shannon and Andy Hicks are well-loved for their array of treatments, including laser hair removal, photofacials, chemical peels, microdermabrasion and other anti-aging treatments. All of these rejuvenating techniques are performed quickly but not without care, and Wellsprings’ spotless, professional rooms put guests immediately at ease.