Like leaving someone at the altar to elope with a true love, Akari Skin & Body Care owner Julienne James left hair school. It was 1987, and she had been giving her friends mini massages on the side. "I didn't have a true interest in my heart to do hair because of all the chemicals," she explained, "and [my friends] felt better after I did just a little bit of shoulder massage." That passing fancy was formalized through the massage therapy program at Therapeutic Learning Center in Fresno, aesthetician's training at Federico's Beauty College in Visalia, and a vow-renewal ceremony for her and her hands, creating a commitment to holistic health and skincare that she has sustained for more than a quarter-century.
Julienne exercises her passion on clients who range in age from 12 to 90 years. Treatments begin not atop the massage table she modified with extra padding and a tiny, hidden pea, but at the doorstep. The aromas of lavender and clary sage waft from the softly lit space, as these are some of her favorite scents for blending into massage oils and foot lotions. She acquired her knowledge of aromatherapy in England, where she also expanded her repertoire of Swedish, Shiatsu, and therapeutic massage with an Indian acupressure technique targeting stress in the scalp and neck. Massages are usually a fusion of these styles, which are further customized with the heat of the room and the presence or absence of scents and music. Julienne once noticed that a client who teaches piano recognized the classical music she turned on during the session, and has since been very careful about selecting tunes that would not remind anyone of going to work. Her meticulousness also extends to skin. Facials use additive-free Dermalogica products that won out against other brands in a personal, several-month-long test, and her wax is so thorough it can rid clients of hair and the memory thereof.