Three different spas put twists on the trend for indigenous treatments.
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Courtesy of The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg
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Courtesy of The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg
Imagine soaking in a bath of ramen noodles in Japan or softening your skin with a black pearl body scrub in Tahiti. Those are just a couple of the exotic indigenous spa treatments a world traveler might indulge in these days, but one doesn’t have to visit Bora Bora to find a wonderfully unique spa treatment; a few can be found in Virginia. In sync with an international trend in the spa industry of promoting indigenous health and beauty treatments, three very different Virginia spas now offer specialized services or products—either custom tailored to local clients or custom made from local sources.
In 2009 Vanity Fair magazine named The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg as one of the top 10 spas in North America. Four years old and connected with the Williamsburg Inn, the spa has 12 treatment rooms, a couples’ suite, full service salon and top of the line services from an expert staff. In the mountains, The Homestead Spa, part of the classic Homestead family resort, boasts a huge spa with 38 treatment rooms and a vast menu of services. And tucked away in tranquil Casanova, an hour from D.C., the independently owned INN Spa at Poplar Springs has been mellowing out city dwellers for a decade. It is comparatively small in size, with only six treatment rooms and a space for manicures and pedicures, but comparable in service to larger spas.
The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg arguably has the most well-researched indigenous spa experience in the state. Spa Director Kate Mearns has created a menu of spa services inspired by wellness practices from the last five centuries—among them a detoxifying health treatment inspired by the 17th century health practices of the Powhatan Indians (featuring a special body scrub and hot stone massage) and a 21st-century rejuvenating, particle-free Ultrasonic Microderm Abrasion facial. Guests can receive dry body scrubs made from such ingredients as cornmeal (maize, lavender and rose hips) as used in the 19th-century treatment or “wet” ones like the 18th-century-inspired Sugar Scrub (organic raw sugar, ginger, orange extract and sunflower oil) and the Sarsaparilla Coffee scrub—the Spa’s signature concoction.
For a truly personalized body scrub, guests may create their own using custom oils and powders. Mearns, who says she is committed to the idea of a holistic spa experience, has even dreamt up signature tea blends and lunch menu items to match the themes of the various “century” treatments—among them, a steaming cup of Purifying Tea (a blend of tightly rolled Formosan gunpowder tea and peppermint leaves) to complement the healthful properties of the water-rich 20th Century Modern Spa experience.
Virginians and foreigners alike have been enjoying the relaxing powers of the waters near The Homestead for decades. In keeping with this tradition, The Homestead Spa has explored unique services and products, most notably body scrubs featuring local mountain wildflowers or mud made from the mineral-rich area clay. Though they are not indigenous treatments, kids, tweens and teens can experience specially designed manicures and pedicures such as a Cookies and Cream Pedicure in the atypical family spa suite. “This smells so good it is making me hungry,” said Elinor Jenkins, age 10, while enjoying her sweets-inspired pedicure during a recent visit.
One indigenous treatment unique to INN Spa is its Pumpkin Glow treatment. Though it sounds like something garish for Halloween, this treatment is relaxing any time of year. Pumpkin enzymes dissolve dead skin cells, leaving the skin soft and glowing. “We mix this scrub ourselves,” says esthetician Marieke Van-Diemen: “It is pumpkin from the kitchen, blended with pumpkin oil, cinnamon, Himalayan sea salt and brown sugar.” For further stress reduction, guests in the summer months can take advantage of a pool and hot tub adjacent to the spa. For a small operation, the level of service at the INN Spa is impressive. “We try… to bring our products and services to a high level, and I think we’ve accomplished that,” says Howard Foer, the inn owner and chef at the Manor House Restaurant.
Whatever your motivation—health, beauty or reducing your global footprint—it’s possible to enjoy our native plants and heritage with an indigenous, and very satisfying, spa treatment.