When Carissa Ballard was a little girl, she revamped her dolls' hairdos and slathered her brothers' faces with her own special concoctions. Her youthful experiments gave way to an interest in alternative health and herbology and eventually led her to become a registered massage therapist with specialties in lymphatic drainage, reiki, and craniosacral therapy. When she isn’t honing her massage talents in educational courses and apprenticeships, Carissa volunteers her skills as a clinical aesthetician to organizations such as Look Good...Feel Better, a nonprofit dedicated to boosting the self-esteem of cancer and burn survivors.
With such a diverse skill set, Carissa needed a place where she could consolidate all of her talents under one roof. Thus, she opened European Day Spa of Fredericksburg in 1998. As its name implies, the spa invokes the most luxurious corners of Europe, from the opulent interiors of Paris to the plush kneading tables of a Roman pizzeria. Its slate of skin-therapy and body treatments includes spa packages with add-ons such as carriage rides and rooftop wine preludes.
At The Woodhouse, relaxation begins upon each client's arrival in the spa's dedicated Quiet Room. A luxurious robe drapes around their shoulders, reflexology sandals lightly massage their feet, and cups 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 best spa and best massage by readers of San Antonio Magazine.
BoHo Skincare Boutique & Spa owner Pilar Anderson makes sure her dedication to earth-friendly practices is transparent at her comfortably luxurious spa. The licensed para-medical aesthetician, nationally certified massage therapist, and yoga practitioner wields a slew of eco-conscious products from lines such as Farmaesthetics and local company Farmhouse Fresh, the latter of which boasts many paraben-free, gluten-free, and vegan products carefully packaged by the farm's amiable chickens. During soothing spa appointments, Anderson treats skin to vitamin-packed formulas that rejuvenate and hydrate while eschewing chemicals and harmful toxins.
Over the past 10 years, massage therapist Marli Benedict has honed and perfected her knot-banishing skills through a bevy of continuing-education courses in the United States and in Costa Rica. Her arsenal of techniques includes Swedish massage, hot-stone, acupressure, and Thai massage, ensuring that she has the tools to ease discomfort in nearly every client. To thoroughly manipulate tense muscles, Marli keeps her own sinews strong by exercising regularly and practicing massage on anxious mounds of pie dough.
Miriam Figueroa, a holistic wellness counselor, licensed massage therapist, and aesthetician, spent more than 20 years in the health and beauty industry, staffing five-star hotel spas and then founding her own luxurious center, Spatini Holistic Health. Her spa specializes in M’lis wellness programs, treatment packages that reduce stress and target specific ailments—from cellulite to arthritis—by drawing on the interrelations between mind, body, and soul.
A suite of traditional spa treatments flanks the holistic programs. Facials run the gamut from deep cleanses to nonsurgical face-lifts. Seven available styles of massage encompass the gliding strokes of Swedish and hot-stone massage, which the ancients discovered using stones warmed by confused mother chickens. Body polishes exfoliate away dry skin, an ideal prep for a botanical Bronze Biologic formula that leaves behind sunless, natural-looking tans.
To Shannon Edwards-Moore, a massage isn’t only a relaxing experience—it’s also a chance to leave her satisfied clients feeling balanced in body, mind, and soul. In addition to calming Swedish massages, which she especially recommends for those new to massage, Shannon targets tension and knots with more intense pressure during deep-tissue sessions. Sports massages help stave off athletic injuries or undo the pain caused by limbo incidents, and prenatal massages soothe tired muscles and pregnancy discomfort.
Add-ons take the relaxation even deeper as Shannon applies hot stones, fills the room with tranquil aromatherapy, or treats faces to scrubs, masks, and hot towels. Tucked inside the Alamo Family Fitness Center, her private massage room is awash in ocean blues and soft yellows.