Visiting a day spa can enhance both mind and body wellness.
Ahhh… the pleasing waft of aromatherapy, the warmth of a comfortably heated table, the gentle caress of a massage therapist, the soothing softness and glow of a facial… just breathe and relax.
In what for many is a chaotic world, especially since the onset of the pandemic, the gift of self-care can oftentimes be elusive. But it also can be critical to wellness.
While there are numerous forms of being kind to oneself, self-care can sometimes have a more serious implication, such as seeking help for an aching back or neck, or as a way to address really dry skin or those dark circles beneath your eyes.
The good news is, there are plenty of day spas in the area that specialize in helping clients look and feel their best.
Rachel Wilkerson, an esthetician and massage therapist, and owner of the Brick City Spa in southeast Ocala, says healthy skin is wellness.
“We have to have healthy skin to protect our bodies and avoid sun cancers,” she explains. “We go to the gym to work out our bodies; a facial is a workout for the face. Like we eat a heart healthy diet, this is basically like food for our face.”
She says the starting point to great skin care in Florida is wearing some kind of sun protection factor (SPF) agent every day.
“Even if it’s a little cloudy, the sun is so, so strong,” she notes. “Our skin is the largest organ, it’s our protective coating, so it’s so important to maintain its healthy, happy place. Sunscreen is super important, and an antioxidant is important and a good moisturizer—on the home care side.”
Brick City Spa offers skin care and various forms of therapeutic or relaxing massage, with three therapists, one of whom is Donna Wilkerson, a 28-year veteran of the therapy and Rachel’s mother. For take-home skin care, they offer Shoogie Company natural products made in Ocala and a peptide-based line of formulas made in Brooksville.
“Coming in late spring will be an all-new premier menu of skin care,” notes Rachel. “We will be debuting a new technology to the Ocala area that speaks to our passion to provide healthy, non-invasive, results-driven skin care; needle-free transdermal infusion is your solution for healthy skin.”
No matter the therapy, “We add individual hospitality,” Rachel says of herself and the other therapists. “So, each session is very geared to the individual. We take the time to get to know our clients and figure out what your goals are and customize a treatment plan for you.”
Easing The Tracks of Time
Rachel lowers the lights and adjusts the heat level of the bed on which her facial clients’ repose. She softly goes over one of her signature services, the “cryo algae glow facial.”
“I do dermaplaning as the first step of exfoliation and then a lot of lymph drainage and mechanical massage to wake up your facial muscles,” she begins, “and then we end with an algae peel-off face mask. It covers the whole face, even the eyes to help with puffiness.”
She begins the facial with a gentle cream cleanser to “remove any oil, dirt, residue that’s on the face from the environment, us just being out in the world,” she notes. “That’s why it’s important in the evening to do a nice cleanse, makeup or no makeup, so that way we can get a day’s work off of us before we sleep. Sleep is also extremely important for your skin. It’s when your body rejuvenates.”
After applying a soothing hot towel, she wipes the face with witch hazel to balance the pH of the skin and adds a few drops of nourishing facial oil.
This oil is used to prepare the skin before dermaplaning, a non-invasive method of skin rejuvenation that provides a deep exfoliation using a very fine, medical-grade scalpel to gently remove the top layer of dead skin cells and fine vellus hair (peach fuzz). This is a great alternative to a chemical peel or microdermabrasion treatment. This process is extremely effective for the reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage (hyperpigmentation), helps aid new collagen production and creates a healthy glow through a smoother, brighter complexion.
The addition of oil to this process is called oilplaning and creates a smooth barrier to the skin, which helps to prevent overdrying and sensitizing your face.
“Some say it feels like a cat’s tongue,” Rachel says with a laugh. “By removing the vellus hair, which is like peach fuzz, products penetrate better and your makeup or sunscreen will go on more smoothly. It just gives a nice glow.”
Then comes the mask.
“This mask is a peel-off. It has a little weight and is cool and tingly. You look, literally, like the guy from The Mask; it’s bright green,” she offers with a giggle. “It’s cryogenically frozen algae that is rehydrated with B5 and aloe; B5 is a hydrating complex. As far as being an esthetician, it’s the fun part of skin care. It’s kind of like chemistry class.”
She says a client could have such a facial treatment on a “maintenance” basis once a month, but some choose to do so more often, adding that anyone who wants to have healthy skin should have a home regimen “including exfoliation so your epidermal and dermal (the outer and middle skin layers) barriers are at a healthy level.”
She says everyone’s needs are “a little bit different just inherently, like a teenager going through acne and hormonal changes.”
“Your skin is often a sign of what’s happening internally,” she further explains. “Oftentimes, we’ll use enzymes and other modalities. We really don’t treat based on age per se, but more on condition. You want to feel and look your best for your age. I bring in conscious healthy skin options with results where you can look the absolute best and still be you.”
Across town, in southwest Ocala, the Celeste & Co. Salon and Spa also offers facials and massage services, along with manicures, pedicures and a full menu of hair salon services. Owner Stephanie Celeste, a master specialist in waxing, skin and nails, says she opened the spa because she “wanted to build something where everyone was actually happy to come to work. It’s my happy place and I wanted to bring that sense of peace and caring to our staff and our clientele as well.”
Celeste says that, in the era of COVID-19, the spa practices social distancing and that every staff member has achieved a special certification related to the coronavirus.
“Barbicide is a disinfectant company and they came up with a certification to make sure everyone understood COVID-19,” she shares. “We don’t ever have two people in chairs next to each other unless you came in together and were already exposed to each other. We only have one service provider per room, per person. We’ve always been hospital-grade (in terms of disinfection) because I’m allergic to bleach. We didn’t really have to change a lot besides wearing our masks and we already had the 15 minutes of cleanup time built into every appointment anyway. Our lives did not change probably as drastically as a lot of spas did.”
Celeste notes that spa services include micro-dermabrasions, intense pulse light facials and hair removal, “plasma fibro blasting, the newest anti-wrinkle technique,” and body sculpting, with she describes as “laser lipo, with agitation of the fat cell into the lymphatic system to get rid of it as waste. So, we’re taking your fat cells from the size of grapes down to the size of raisins.”
Now About That Aching Back
Iris Nunez’s therapy room at Celeste & Co. is serene and pleasant. Nunez, an Ocala native, is soft-spoken and assured. She attended local schools including the College of Central Florida and Rasmussen University, then obtained her massage therapy license through the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville.
“I’ve been doing this almost two years. Prior to that, I worked in the health care field: neurology, general surgery, orthopedics, so I used to see a lot people in different kinds of pain, long term or short term,” she shares. “I worked with a physician who was a neurologist and opened my eyes to a different form of therapy, and that was massage.”
Nunez says she bases her therapy on each person’s needs.
“Everybody is different when I see them, all their pains and injuries, so I assess the person, the pain and how long it’s been. Then, depending on which areas they want me to work on, I work those with different modalities,” she outlines. “Depending on what’s going on in your lifestyle—physically or mentally—it definitely helps all of those aspects.”
As the spa is located near On Top of the World and other neighboring active adult communities, Nunez says she often has clients who want help for tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and also “pickleball; it’s one of those sports with rotator cuff issues.”
She also treats many people for low back, neck and shoulder pain.
“A lot of people work on cellphones or computers, or sit and read or watch TV. Those habits end up affecting people long term,” she comments. “We should treat ourselves to massage at least once a month to help alleviate muscle tension and stresses. What I can do is help you get from one day to another with no pain—or try to.”
Nunez says there also are more intrinsic benefits to massage therapy.
“Massage is a great opportunity to not only help you physically but mentally as well,” she expresses. “A lot of people who are not used to touch, and for a lot of people that have grief—losing a spouse or loved one—it is very therapeutic. The goal is to provide them a service that helps their quality of life.”
“We don’t do walk-ins,” Celeste cautions. “We’re always by appointment only, because your time is yours and that’s important.”