A city doesn’t come to be known as “America’s Finest” just because it has white, sandy beaches and year-round sunshine. San Diego wears its nickname with confidence thanks, in part, to the profusion of artfully decorated and restored spas in neighborhoods such as the trendy East Village and Gaslamp Quarter. From restored Victorian houses to converted gallery spaces, these San Diego spas have helped put the city on the map as a prime destination for pampering.

Unlike San Diego’s weather, the front-window display at The PaperDoll Salon reliably changes with the seasons. The first days of summer bring mermaids swimming among reeds and nets, and the chilliness of fall portends skeletons and other symbols of Halloween. These displays may be what first catches the eyes of passersby, but it’s the haircuts and coloring treatments that quickly turn them into loyal customers. Inside the crimson-tinged salon, stylists reinvent hair with Schwarzkopf coloring products, consulting gilded mirrors every now and then to check their work.

The neutral colors and plush leather seats at Spa Gregorie’s in Del Mar are reminiscent of a modish 60s lounge. The overall effect is similar to spending a relaxing weekend at a well-off friend’s apartment, but only if that friend had recently won a slew of awards from Dayspa Magazine and American Spa Magazine, among others. The staff favors natural approaches to improving skin’s health and relieving stress, which is why they incorporate lactic acid, vitamins, and fruit enzymes in their treatments.

San Diego averages more hours of sunshine than most cities, and some of its spas take full advantage of this. Housed in a restored 1886 Queen Anne Victorian home, Vasseur Day Spa features a waiting room with wall-to-wall windows that look out on stunning views of the city. After gazing out across a landscape of adobe buildings and palm trees, guests are led to private rooms where aestheticians clean skin with owner Melanie Vasseur’s own brand of products. To design these products, Melanie drew on 30 years of experience as a cosmetic chemist and aesthetician.

A wall of crenellated glass casts orange and yellow shadows across the door of Detour Salon. This entrance gives way to a grunge-chic interior lined with exposed bricks. Pieces of gold jewelry dangle between the styling stations’ mirrors, creating an artsy vibe that’s mirrored in the salon’s edgy cuts and coloring treatments.

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