A Day at the Spa: Treatments in Northern New York vary in healing, health and simple pampering

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY MAGAZINES Jennifer Bach, owner of River Day Spa and Salon in Clayton, enjoys a facial at her salon on Riverside Drive overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

BY: Norah Machia

Many north country spas and salons have been expanding in recent years to offer clients a variety of aesthetic and integrative services designed to restore health, vitality and wellness.

    There is a myriad of treatments to help people take care of themselves – mind, body and soul – as clients seek out a more holistic approach to their health care.

     The “baby boomer” generation is among the top core consumer group that has been driving the growth of the wellness industry within the spa and salon settings, according to a Stanford Research Institute report. Yet there is a larger and growing generation of younger consumers who are just as interested in wellness products and services, according to the report.

    In a recent survey by the organization, it was noted that 83 percent of spa and salon respondents were using the term “wellness” in their businesses, and nearly all their clients were familiar with the term.

     Some north country spas and salons have been building these types of services for many years, and have continued to enhance and improve their offerings based on the demand in the region:


Simply You Wellness Spa, Massena

       Although many procedures offered at the spa are considered “cosmetic,” they truly can benefit a person’s health and overall well-being, said owner Shelly Chilton. “If you don’t like something on your body, it makes you feel better if it’s fixed,” she said.

   For example, one service offered by the salon is 3D Microblading, also known as “eyebrow embroidery.” It’s a semi-permanent make-up procedure that allows a person to dramatically correct or fully reconstruct lost eyebrows, she said.

     The procedure involves drawing individual crisp hair strokes that appear natural looking on the brow, which results in fuller looking brows.  But it’s not always done purely for cosmetic reasons. Many clients have health issues (such as thyroid problems) that resulted in loss of eyebrow hairs, or have lost all their facial hair due to treatments for cancer, Ms. Chilton said. 

     “A lot of women have cried after this has been done, because they have their thick, full eyebrows back,” she said. “That makes them feel better about their appearance, and as a result, they feel healthier.”

   The spa also offers a “Skin Classic,” a non-invasive treatment for minor skin irregularities, she said. This non-laser treatment addresses issues such as telangiectasia (broken capillaries), cherry angiomas, sebaceous hyperplasia, hyperpigmentation, keratosis and fibromas with “minimal discomfort and healing time,” she added.

   “If a person’s face looks better, and she feels younger, then she feels better about herself,” Ms. Chilton said.

    A licensed esthetician is available to offer aesthetic treatments to improve both the function and appearance of the skin.  One of these is diamond tip microdermabrasion (a non-invasive procedure designed to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while gently resurfacing the skin). It can help correct and/or reduce sun-damaged areas, blemishes, large pores, acne scars, mild pigment irregularities and age spots.

   “These types of treatments have been a big trend,” she said. “People are deciding if they don’t like something on their face or skin, they are going to fix it.”

     The spa has been offering deep tissue massage (traditional Swedish technique) and Reiki (a healing technique that involves channeling energy to activate a person’s own natural healing process).

     “Reiki is becoming more popular as a way to help people with anxiety and depression, and to develop a clearer mental focus,” Ms. Chilton said. “It’s one of those amazing treatments.”

     It has been described as a healing technique that involves a therapist helping to channel energy throughout the client to help restore physical and emotional well-being.  “People may be resistant at first to try it, because they want someone to touch them,” said Ms. Chilton. “But it really helps open and move the flow of energy in your body. It can really help you feel more balanced.”

     For more information: www.simplyyouspa.com

Elements Day Spa & Salon, Lowville

   When Amanda Kraeger-Zehr started offering massages 15 years ago, it was primarily viewed as a “relaxation” service. But in recent years, an increasing number of people are recognizing the value of massage therapy in helping to treat a host of medical conditions, she said 

     “It’s no longer just thought of as pampering,” said Ms. Kraeger-Zehr, the spa owner. “The majority of our clients are seeking help with an injury, recovering from surgery, or dealing with a chronic issue.”

     “We get a lot of chiropractic referrals,” she added. “People are recognizing massage as more medical-based, rather than something just for fun.”

     The spa offers the traditional Swedish massage for increasing circulation, relieving tension and easing sore muscles. Therapists also provide shiatsu massage, which uses stretching techniques and stimulates acupressure points to restore balance and energy. This type of deep tissue massage helps work out stiff and fatigued muscles as well.

    A unique type of massage that has been growing in popularity at the spa is called Ashiatsu, (which has been referred to as “barefoot massage”).  This technique involves the therapist doing the massage with foot pressure rather than hand pressure.

     “The idea is to apply broader, deeper pressure to not only impact the muscles, but also the connective tissue, for an overall better result,” said Ms. Kraeger-Zehr. She recently had a client compliment her on the massage technique, noting the client said he would not have known the massage was done with feet had he not be told in advance.

     Elements Day Spa & Salon also offers another wellness service called reflexology – the practice of applying pressure to reflex points that affect other areas of the body.

   A client recently had reflexology done to help with chronic headaches. The practitioner was able to use the technique to pinpoint an issue with the client’s sinuses and determine that was causing the headaches. The person subsequently was checked out for the problem and underwent sinus surgery, Ms. Kraeger-Zehr said.

   “I even had it done myself, because I was experiencing pain on the side of my foot, and it was not getting better,” she said. The practitioner worked on pressure points in her foot, and determined it was a problem with her hips, which she later found out that one side was higher than the other, Ms. Kraeger-Zehr said.

   “It’s interesting how reflexology can lead you in the right direction of finding a diagnosis,” she said. “It’s also helped people with depression and hormonal imbalances.”

    The spa also receives referrals from dermatologists for a variety of skin care services offered by the esthetician, she said. Some of these referrals have included skin tag removal and diminishing of red freckles and red spider veins.

     In recent years, people have become more receptive of trying new health and wellness services at the spa, she said.

     “It’s surprised me for our area, because I had pictured people to be more conservative,” she said. “But it’s been amazing to see how many people want to try something new to help feel better.”

     For more information: www.elementsdayspaandsalon.com

River Day Spa & Salon, Clayton

    This spa and salon has been offering massages since it opened in 2013, including hot stone, deep tissue and prenatal. One type of massage that appears to be growing in popularity is the aromatherapy massage, which enhances the experience with the use of essential oils, said owner Jenny Bach.

    The combination of essential oils depends on the needs of the client, she said. For example, a lavender-based mixture would help create an even deeper relaxation during the massage, she said.

   The needs of the client are also considered when the esthetician determines the best facial service, because “there is such a difference in everyone’s skin,” Ms. Bach said.

  A basic facial would provide a deep cleansing of the skin, and clients can add to that service, depending on the skin issues they would like to address, she said. For example, a collagen booster can help increase production and fill out fine lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes.

     Some facial techniques are also designed to address hyperpigmentation issues and tighten skin. Other options include a firming peptide mask, which has a “tightening effect” that is felt for about two weeks after treatments, she added.

   The spa offers microdermabrasion services, the non-surgical facial resurfacing techniques that mechanically exfoliate the outermost layer of dead skin cells. These treatments have been shown to help diminish fine lines and wrinkles and are popular for “anti-aging” effects.

    One service gaining in popularity is dermaplaning, a method of deep exfoliation which involves the use of sterile surgical scalpels to gently scrape/shave the skin’s surface, removing dead skin cell layers and even peach fuzz. It’s designed to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles and allow for better absorption of products applied afterward to the skin, such as serums.

     “These types of skin care services are becoming more popular,” Ms. Bach said. “We’re having more people ask about them.”

      The River Day Spa and Salon is also seeing more people coming for spray tanning. It’s become more popular in recent years as the skin cancer risks of tanning beds have become more widely reported. “People don’t want to use a tanning bed with harmful UV rays,” Ms. Bach said.

    “They like spray tanning, because it does not damage the skin,” she said. “This time of year, people are coming in for a little color after the long winter.”

     For more information: www.facebook.com/RiverDaySpaSalon

Glow Skincare and Spa, Canton

    This Canton spa offers many types of massages (therapeutic Swedish, deep tissue, prenatal, and hot stone), and will add aromatherapy as well at the request of the client, said co-owner Carmen Gendebien.  

     It also offers a “tension headache massage” which is aimed at helping the body get relief from stress by relaxing muscle spasms and trigger points in areas such as the neck, face, and jaw, which can contribute to headaches. A tension headache massage can not only help decrease headaches, but can also help people who have difficulty sleeping, she said

   “We also offer hydro massages for those customers who long for a relaxing massage but are not comfortable with the traditional hands-on massage,” she said. During a hydro massage, a person lies down fully clothed on the water massage bed, and presses controls on a touchscreen to adjust the force and direction of the wave of water inside the bed, which travels back and forth.

    “It’s a heated water massage that is controlled by the customer, and does not require you to undress,” Ms. Gendebien explained. “It allows you to specify the area and power of your massage.”

      The hydro massage is convenient and can be done in about 15 minutes. The process gives temporary relief for minor aches and pains, and for some, it can keep their muscles from becoming tense and sore while waiting for a regular monthly traditional “hand-on” massage.

     The spa has a range of facials and body treatments, which are done with organic products, including those from the spa’s own retail line, called “A Wholesome Glow.”

     “We are straying away from using harsh chemicals in our services, and providing more of an all-natural experience,” said Ms. Gendebien. “We love to educate our customers on what we are using on their skin, and why it’s good for them.” The spa also makes its own face masks with rosewater fact mist and butter oils, she added.

   In addition, “we make our own organic sugar scrubs, salt scrubs and lotions for all our body treatment services using all-natural ingredients,” she said. The Glow Skincare and Spa also offers LED Light therapy and microdermabrasion, but “we no longer offer harsh chemical peels,” she said.

    “A Wholesome Glow” product line was started by Ms. Gendebien about two years ago and is an all-natural body and bath line that includes “quality ingredients straight from my farm and the surrounding community, like our cows’ dairy milk, alfalfa from my fields, red clover from my fields and other ingredients,” she said.

   “Making our own products for our customers allows me to have total control of the quality of the products and its ingredients,” she said. “We believe in using eco-friendly practices to create rich, healthy products that enhance the lives of our customers, and help sustain the planet.”

   Several of the products, including a milk bath used for manicure and pedicure services, and an exfoliating bath bar made from alfalfa, oats and milk, were among featured products in recent issues of the American Spa Magazine. Ms. Gendebien was also highlighted in the most recent edition of the magazine “for using alfalfa as one of our super star ingredients in the products that we make,” she said.

     For more information: www.glowspa.org