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Spa Dee Dah

Valentine’s Day at Home

It’s hard to harbor too many qualms when it comes to getting the royal treatment at a spa. But even when luxury dons a big, fluffy robe and inhabits a warm, candlelit, aromatherapy-infused treatment room, the atmosphere might be a bit too stifling for even the most zealous spa-ster. Add to all the formality increasingly draconian spa policies (no talking above a whisper, mind you) and the awkwardness of lounging in the waiting room with tons of other magazine-skimming clients, and even the most epicurean establishment can leave a little something to be desired.

This is when house calls can be just what the doctor ordered. Enter Spa Dee Dah, an Oakland-based at-home spa company that delivers on uber-pampering, while dispensing with all the rules and rituals that can make your typical spa feel more tedious than restful.
And if you’re feeling the need for just a wee bit of hedonism, unnecessarily commodious locker rooms can easily be traded in for a simple bolster, massage table and microwaveable moist towels. And who needs a steam room when there’s nothing more hedonistic than a post-treatment nap?

Spa Dee Dah was launched in 2005 by massage therapist Andrea Turner and aesthetician Ellen Olson. The entire philosophy around the services pivots on the idea that “spa services are best done where you are most comfortable: in your home, surrounded by your friends!” Andrea and Ellen typically offer event-based parties to gaggles of girlfriends who’d prefer to chill with each other in the privacy of their own digs; some of Spa Dee Dah’s themed offerings include bridal showers, bachelorette parties and girls’ nights in. And, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, groups of couples and V-day curmudgeons alike can book Spa Dee Dah’s services.

Andrea herself describes Spa Dee Dah as something that helps to enable stronger ties among groups of friends. “We wanted to create the opportunity for friends to get together and have fun in a not so formal or rigid environment,” explains Andrea. “So while the spa treatments are a definite perk, it’s more about the time you spend with friends.”

Ellen -- who used to own a spa outside Portland, Oregon -- had a similar epiphany after frequenting a spa where her natural gregariousness was quelled by the place’s narcotized environment and “peace gong,” signaling strict quiet time. Naturally, both Andrea and Ellen gelled in their desire to create a spa environment that was simultaneously luxurious and casual.

Typically, Ellen and Andrea offer their mobile services throughout the Bay Area, within an 18-mile radius. Moms to be, fun-seeking bachelorettes and ladies who lunch can book the duo for a minimum of four hours. The idea is that all your guests can experience a combination of skincare and massage treatments that range from a few minutes to a leisurely hour or so, depending on how many people are gathered together to get services (they can do as many as 35, just so you know). All you need do is make sure you have spaces of 8x10 feet cleared for both the aesthetician area and the massage table (or 5x5 feet for chair massage). I myself recently got to experience a spa party that included a coterie of girlfriends, my best gay male friend, and my husband (because I was feeling generous). As the rest of us sat around eating pizza and drinking mineral water (engaging in the typical table confab of politics, Hollywood gossip and relationship kvetching), each of us got to partake of two fabulous treatments.

Don’t let the casual home atmosphere fool you -- Spa Dee Dah has an arsenal of environmentally friendly yet results-oriented products at their disposal, ranging from Rhonda Allison to Pharmacopeia products. A line of locally made, paraben-free organic essential oils -- ranging from Rosemary to Ginger to Lavender -- was used for Andrea’s ever so soothing chair massages (which were surprisingly comfortable, despite the cramped quarters of my bedroom), while Ellen’s bag of tricks, in turn, included everything from brightening creams to enzymes to refining masks.

The mini-facials, which were about 15 minutes a pop, were particularly appreciated by my face-first buddies. Because Spa Dee Dah tries to keep it seasonal, our facials centered around a yummy winter favorite, pumpkin. A pumpkin cleanser, parfait enzyme mask, and cream moisturizer were each applied to our faces, bringing with them a bevy of good stuff--vitamin A, beta-carotene, and various antioxidants, to name a few. Along with Ellen’s precise, pressure-point-targeted facial massages, a slathering of delectable ingredients on one’s face, and the accompaniment of bawdy conversation in the background, those 15-minutes were the perfect energizer for the remainder of the day. By the end of each session, the girls and boys positively glowed. And all of us noticed.

Given the recent rash of at-home spas, is Spa Dee Dah just the beginning of a phenomenon in the Bay Area? Andrea doesn’t necessarily think so. “There’s always going to be a place for both the regular spa and the at-home spa,” she says. “It’s great to be able to get together with your pals and have a party where you get to both hang out and feel completely nurtured…but a lot of times, people go to spas to get the ‘me’ time and silence.”

Whatever the case, this year I’ve decided to do away with my typical Valentine’s Day spa retreat with the hubby. Couples massage and rose petal-strewn baths are invariably swoonworthy, but I’m all about foregoing waterfall soundtracks and prissy codes of conduct so I can chill with all the folks who matter and be as loud as I wanna be. A scalp massage doesn’t hurt, either.