It's not just about the hair
Story by Sarah Berkley
The celestial glow of a wedding day bride is not-surprise, surprise-completely the product of nature.
Every bridesmaid knows that behind closed doors, a preponderance of prenuptial preening occurs: plucking and purifying and detoxifying and pumicing and plumping and a thousand new-age beauty verbs that you never thought you would conjugate, let alone apply to your thighs.
Whether your wedding-day regimen consists of a half year of hot yoga detoxification or simply rolling out of bed after intoxicating yourself with a good pinot the night before (strictly for the antioxidants), you can't help find the formula for matrimonial panache in Sonoma, where salons and spas and stylists abound.
You could go the route of Sonoma's major destination spas, but don't forget the smaller, more intimate and style-savvy enterprises tucked in and around the Valley. Bridgene Raftery's Pampered Pout provides a full menu of makeup services, facials and waxing (they even do a male brow wax) in a cushy retro parlor on Broadway. If you're afraid of the Big Bad Botox, Bridgene's series of Botolin facials offer wrinkle reduction without the permanent freeze frame.
For more intensive treatments, the dazzling dermatologists at Sonoma Skin's Laser, Skin and Surgery Center can wield their space-age treatments to whip any complexion into shape.
Or, if you just want to decompress and get your wits about you while preparing to look spontaneously gorgeous, Catalina's Skin & Body Spa, just off the Plaza, has a whole suite of bridal services, including day-of hair and makeup, as well as a stress-reduction facial for relief from prenuptial nerves.
But from the endless options out there, we had to make a choice for our SONOMA shoot, so we ended up at a Valley favorite-Blush Day Spa and JAC Hair Gallery. Although marvelous Mary, our bride-to-be, didn't partake in all the sumptuous offerings the staff came up with in the bat of a few eyelashes.
Owner Dolores De Alba, who presides over both the spa and hair gallery with her husband, James, has been in the business long enough to know what matters to a bride.
"You almost become her bodyguard," she confides with an air of maternal protection. That means fending off pesky phone calls, creating a tranquil refuge and lavishing attention upon "her girl." She might even take you for a glarifee at the Swiss Hotel if you really hit it off.
An esthetician for 15 years, De Alba originally trained in Italy and has since beautified the faces of Hollywood celebrities and L.A. glitterati before relocating to the homier hamlet of Sonoma.
Her roster of services includes "results-based" facial treatments that diminish wrinkles and tone and hydrate skin, including light therapy sessions or nourishing oxygen blasts. To slim the body and pump up circulation, an herbal detox temporarily mummifies the customer in something not unlike Saran wrap to purge toxins and waste from fatty tissues.
And if that's not your cup of tea, there's a soothing green tea and chi body treatment, a lavish pineapple and papaya body scrub or meditative river rock aromatherapy.
A popular fixture at Blush are spa parties, which allow a private group or wedding party to essentially rent out the salon, bring in their own food and wine, giggle, gab and make an afternoon of it.
The day of the wedding, head stylist David Christopher at JAC Hair Gallery and assistant Monique Javier coordinate hair, while Dolores and staff apply makeup next door at Blush.
Ours was a small party the day of the shoot, but no less attention was given to Mary, our stylish sylph of a bride. Her auburn hair, arranged in pin curls in the back, was woven into a braid that framed her face like a wreath. A tulle hairpiece (which Mary made herself) provided the finishing accent on a style that felt both natural and glamorous.
With an arsenal of gentle and mineral-based cosmetics, Dolores drew from a palette of earth tones-chocolates, golds and bronzes-to accentuate Mary's porcelain skin, applying a stronger hand and more layers for the sake of the camera and to maximize the makeup's staying power. The result? A look that lasted through 10 hours of hot sun, stiff wind and 1,000 shutter clicks with barely a touch-up.
Man facial sooo pretty
Story by David Bolling
The word "facial" does not enjoy common use in the male vocabulary. I myself have never heard another man say, "Yo, let's go grab a beer after we have a facial," or, "Dude, I had a killer facial last week. My skin is, like, glowing."
Most men would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what a facial is. Something to do with mud, cucumber crème, defoliation and lip balm. It's a secret woman's rite, especially just before a wedding, part of the esoteric female mystique to which men simply aren't privy.
But the biggest barrier to male facial-dom may be the lingering suspicion that getting one just isn't, well, manly. "Uh, thanks anyway, but I'm not actually, you know, that kind of guy."
Layer that with the gender-bending fear, "Damn. What if I really like it?" and you get guys who simply won't go there. Like me.
But that was then, in that other lifetime, before I encountered the caressing hands of Andrea Lettic, before I knew the difference between de-foliate (think Roundup on poison oak) and ex-foliate (think "gentle botanicals synergistically combined with nutrient-rich antioxidants"), before I met David Erlich, before I had my first facial!
Let's talk for a moment about David Erlich. He is a hard-core athlete. He does triathlons, he surfs, he snowboards and he gets a regular manicure and pedicure and, not infrequently, a facial.
"If a guy could do a pedicure every couple of months," says David, "their feet would be in much better shape." David knows this because of his own feet, and because of thousands of other feet passing through the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa where he's director of spa operations.
OK, but what's that got to do with my face?
One word, said Erlich: Ex-fol-iate.
Your skin, he explained, constantly sloughs off dead cells, many of which pile up on the surface clogging the pores and making your epidermis look dead. Get rid of those cells, and the younger, healthier ones beneath them can flourish. Men actually perform a crude exfoliation every time they shave, but that's like using a road grader to smooth your lawn. There's a better way. Which leads us to Andrea and the revelation that there are actually man facials, that they extend beyond the face (who knew) and that the whole experience is-what can I say-divine.
What I remember most about Andrea is her hands, her voice, and of course, her hands. She had me climb into a pre-heated cotton cocoon on top of a massage table (I thought you sat in something like a dentist's chair), the lights went down and soft music, played by a symphony of invisible angels, filtered through the room.
She covered my eyes with strips of something soft and feather-light, and then rubbed and coated my face with a spirulina cleansing gel. That was followed by a clarifying foaming sea wash, an exfoliating scrub, lavender body oil, a thermal mineral moor mud mask, and various other things most men have never heard of and couldn't pronounce. I tried to pay attention but my mind had already left the building.
Andrea's fingers danced lightly over my face like puppy tongues, and then moved to my scalp and neck and shoulders, removing knots of tension. I drifted into dreams. I was very far away.
The rest is a blur. I left on a cloud. When I was conscious enough to connect words into a sentence, I looked in a mirror and remarked to myself, "You don't look any different."
"Wrong," said my wife a little later. "Your face is less 'crevicey,' it looks younger and more radiant." This is a woman who keeps numerous mysterious and expensive bottles in the bathroom.
The SMI (as we call it) Spa has been rated one of the 24 best such places in America. Whatever. The minute you enter it's salmon-colored confines the rest of the world drifts away. Peace pervades the perfectly manicured space.
If you're getting married, a consultant is on hand to plan your tiniest need. There are, by my count, 80 treatments, massages, wraps, kurs, scrubs, enhancements, trainings, assessments, readings and alignments available, several designed to calm the nerves of a nervous bride. There's a warm mineral pool, a hot pool, a eucalyptus steam room, a sauna big enough for your wedding party. I could go on.
But what I want to do is go back. Soon.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, 100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma. Call 877.289.7354 or go to www.Fairmont.com.
From the Summer 2009 issue of SONOMA