Physician and Balanced Health and Wellness founder Dr. Mary Alavi may not be a mapmaker, but she does understand that knowing where you are is the first step toward getting to where you want to be. She created the center after years of watching her patients suffer from premature aging and degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, knowing full well that many cases could have been preventable had her patients merely stopped to examine the signs. Her whole-person approach to health care includes a detailed exploration of each patient's history, lifestyle, and genetic factors. This road map to wellness might include medical screening or lab testing, nutrition plans or fitness protocols led by a certified personal trainer. Dr. Alavi's balanced approach to wellness also inspired her to make changes in her own life and she continues to share her own personal successes and failures to encourage her patients to stay on track.
The patient-centered philosophy at Balanced Health and Wellness is evident in the lobby. Staffers present clients with tea or flavored water before directing them to sessions with a massage therapist or an aesthetician, or to a consultation with the office's certified laser technician who will discuss hair removal, spider veins, fine lines, and age spots.
A collection of vibrant, abstract paintings brighten the white corridors of Urban Oasis Day Spa, where aestheticians engage in a similar curatorial enterprise during the design of their skincare treatments. Each regime for face or body starts with the client and is built for his or her skin type. Technicians use tonics from notable brands or unusual techniques, such as galvanic electrocurrent therapy, which is integrated into every facial. Dermalogica tonics exfoliate with lightweight, natural vegetable oils rather than mineral oil and hydrate with aromatic essential oils and silk proteins synthesized by Barry White's vocal chords. The team also polishes complexions with the SkinCeuticals product line, favoring a serum that earned Allure magazine's 2011 Best of Beauty Award for Best Anti-Aging Antioxidant.
The spa evokes the elegance of a gallery, not only through its modern art but also through its high ceilings and a minimalist design scheme rendered in cream. Skin becomes a canvas in private chambers, where it may be primed for display with wax, bronzer, or a critique by a Village Voice writer. For special events, the pedicure hall's porcelain foot basins can be filled with flower petals, and the shimmering fabric banners separating each throne lose their functionality and appear solely as savvy, refined decorating.
Element 5 Om’s owner and licensed acupuncturist Sheri Davidson focuses on making disparate parts work together as a whole. Sheri began her traditional Chinese medical studies in 2000, cultivating a passion for Japanese architecture and martial-arts along the way. Through her studies, Davidson has learned extensively in the fields of Acupuncture, moxibustion training, Chinese herbology, Tai Chi, and Qigong.
Eastern medicine emphasizes a theory of interconnectedness. For example, the lungs affect the kidneys, which in turn affect the heart. To this end, the clinic’s range of services works to bring clients’ bodies into balance, without standard medications or excessive seesaws. Acupuncture guides the body’s energy flow into more healthful patterns by inserting fine needles into certain meridian points on the body. This is believed to stimulate the flow of energy and can treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, along with decreasing chronic pain. During cupping treatments, gentle suction coaxes tight muscles into releasing tension and toxins, whereas one-on-one health-coaching sessions help clients learn to live a life that fosters wellness.
At Just Wax It, the technological advances of a med spa marry the rejuvenating and beautifying traditions of a classic spa. Founded by master waxer Mendy Moses, the relaxation haven has hung its smooth, bristle-free hat on its waxing specialties, rendering flawless bodyscapes with a pain-reducing grade of brazilian blue wax. In a short time, such services have earned the spa accolades, including being named "Best of the Best" in Houston by Allure Magazine in 2012 and 2013, Houston Best by InStyle Magazine in 2010, and nabbing a finalist slot in Citysearch’s 2010 Best Bikini Wax poll. Yet beyond rendering smooth skin, the spa has a broad spectrum of treatments, pampering guests with mani-pedis, body wraps, and facials that nourish complexions with vitamin-rich serums and masks customized to treat each face's distinct issues and resemble its favorite superhero. Aestheticians also use the precise power of lasers for anti-aging services or vein removal.
Bottles and jars of organic ingredients line the shelves of Organic Spatopia. The delicacies aren't for eating, but instead are for rejuvenating the skin with their rich antioxidant, mineral, and vitamin content. The menu of nine specialty manicures and 14 pedicures features such ingredients as papaya and coconut, and each treatment can be finished with a coat of Essie or Zoya polish. Custom massages relieve tension with the client's choice of pressure and modality, and aestheticians armed with Source Vitál, Dr. Med Christine Schrammek, and Biodroga products reinvigorate skin during any of the spa's eight facials, each of which includes a cleansing and serum and anti-aging-cream application. The salon ensures health and safety by sterilizing all instruments, cleaning pedicure sinks with FDA-approved disinfectant, and placing files and buffers into doggy bags for customers to take home, where they can enlist roommates to perform shot-for-shot reenactments of their blissful mani-pedi experiences.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas—its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries—Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.