New Years Eve Guide
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Spa Gifts for the Holiday Season

Gifts for the Naughty and Nice

Yep, it’s that time of year again, and if you’re anything like me, the hedonist in you will spring for only the finest products and services for loved ones and obligatory giftees alike. Certainly, it’s the thought that counts…but what could be more thoughtful than exclusive spa treatments and beauty items that don’t scream “mass production”? Your generosity will be remembered for years to come…

For Once-Removed Giftees: The Top-Notch Bath and Beauty Items at elizabethW
The ubiquitous cheap bath set tends to dominate when it comes to stocking stuffers or unoriginal offerings a la the work gift exchange, or obligatory treats for folks you either don’t know or don’t like. Class it up several notches and inspire delighted thank-you notes by ditching Bath & Bodyworks this season and opting for goods from elizabethW, a San Francisco-based boutique that specializes in non-generic bath and body accoutrements for only the most discriminating connoisseurs.

The Pacific Heights perfumery, which has drawn fans like Oprah Winfrey and Christina Aguilera, is the brainchild of Albert Nichols, whose custom creations tickle the olfactory system without aggravating allergies. elizabethW’s atelier utilizes the highest grade of essential oils in the company’s fragrances and bath products, culminating in original collections full of verve and timeless sophistication. Favorites include the signature Eau de Parfum, which comes in 10 tantalizing scents (including the addictive Sweet Tea and the poetic Leaves).

Aside from triple milled soaps, bath oils, and lotions, you can also choose from a dizzying array of “interior essence” products, which range from long-burning perfume candles to aroma bags for your lingerie drawers and closets. Seasonal specials perfect for gifting time include elizabethW’s Twilight Kit, a comforting batch of items especially suited for the insomniacs in your life (including a lavender liner for your pillow, a silk eye pillow, and a CD of classical piano recordings to inspire sweet dreams); the warming Citrus Spice gift set (including a diffuser, room spray, and candle); or a selection of elizabethW cotton/terry single-use bath pouches, which come in eight signature scents and are infused with sea salt for a luxurious exfoliating session or invigorating bubble bath.

For Mom and Dad: Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture at Stillpoint Wellness Center
Aging gracefully is a virtue, and Stillpoint Wellness Center’s facial rejuvenation acupuncture package prove that you can stay beautiful at any age without overloading on Botox and Restalyne. Tautly stretched beauty is so 2000, so if you’re looking for the perfect gift for harried moms and dads, send ‘em to Bina Jangda, the star acupuncturist at Stillpoint Wellness Center, a cozy Cow Hollow haven of nothing but good stuff. Jangda is one of the only acupuncturists in the city to offer facial rejuvenation acupuncture (FRA), a technique that’s been known for centuries but has just started to make a splash stateside.

FRA offers a non-surgical, non-invasive method of reducing aging signs -- the basic philosophy is that, by boosting circulation and restoring balance to the body, the technique can repair the sort of cellular damage that’s directly connected to aging. Paired with consultations on lifestyle (since beauty ain’t just skin-deep), FRA utilizes needles in specific areas of the face, scalp, hands, feet, and legs to increase blood and lymph flow, and also to strengthen the immune system and restore overall balance. You simply recline and relax as the treatment is administered; it typically lasts about an hour and a half and includes ingestion and/or topical application of a special herb formula.

While the sensations aren’t always pleasant, particularly if you’re nervy around needles, Jangda’s personable table-side manner definitely makes for a soothing visit. Individual sessions are available, but in order to really see the results (reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging; tightened pores; and increased collagen production), you’ll want the 10-session package, which has the recipient coming in every few weeks. Just be sure to approach Mom and Dad with extra sensibility; while FRA is incredible (and also results in side effects like sleeping better), getting a gift tag that basically proclaims “You’re getting old” most definitely isn’t.

For Your Rock Star BFF: The Scrubdown at Imperial Spa
No doubt about it -- s/he’s been there for you: through the bad hair days (or eras), the waste-of-skin romantic entanglements, and even the moments of bubbly giddiness when you were on top of the world and needed the perfect wing-woman or man to enjoy it with. Your BFF deserves a little something for all those hours of unpaid counseling, natch. That’s why a trip to Imperial Spa is in order for the guy or gal who’s stood beside you through thick and thin.

From the outside, it’s little more than a nondescript box, but walk into this traditional Korean spa (whose separate male and female bathhouses can easily give neighboring Kabuki’s a run for its money) and you might begin to understand why so many society ladies swear by the power of weekly visits. Aside from a steam room and hot and cold whirlpools, the spa’s most definitive offering is its red clay sauna, a traditional Korean wellness contrivance thought to boost metabolism, treat inflammation, and remove toxins from the body -- resulting in happy, youthful skin.

And of course, there’s the Purification Body Scrub and Oil Massage, Imperial’s signature treatment, which includes 90 minutes of scrubbing and rubbing. Essential oils mixed with milk and yogurt are slathered onto the skin to rehydrate you, and a hedonistic head massage completes the royal treatment. The communal massage environment (separated by gender) takes a bit of getting used to, but don’t worry -- everyone’s too busy getting pampered to take any notice.


For Your Beloved: The Harmony Couples Massage at Nob Hill Spa
Atop San Francisco’s illustrious Nob Hill, across the street from Huntington Park and Grace Cathedral, and secreted into an alcove (or two, or three) of the Huntington Hotel, the city’s most epicurean spa experience awaits you and that special someone. Nob Hill Spa might make down-to-earth spa-goers a little chary; after all, places frequented by society dames and other high-rollers tend to give a little credence to the neighborhood’s other nickname. But given all the amazing therapists and amenities (poolside service, divine sun deck, sauna and steam room, rain showers, whirlpool, yoga classes, complimentary fruit and tea, fireplaces in all the treatment rooms, and inimitable views of the city skyline, to name a few), the spa’s many accolades start to make a little sense.

It’s the serenity of the place, paired with the impeccable service and healing-meets-hedonism raison d’etre, that has socialites and folks simply in search of the perfect massage coming back for more. Innovative treatments include the Guided Imagery massage (with a soundtrack created by Dr. Martin Rossman and award-winning composer Gary Malkin) and the Alchemy Transformation massage (which utilizes Judith Jackson’s special Alchemy Elixirs, Renaissance-inspired potions with specific intentions and names like Artemis, Venus, and Mercury). But it’s the totally sexy Harmony couples treatment you’ll want to surprise your sweetie with: two 60-minute massages side by side with your chosen one, followed by a three-course dinner at the Big 4 Restaurant downstairs. Despite my own adherence to conscientious consumption this season, the spa’s luxurious pairing of food and massage is enough to win over even the most curmudgeonly of spenders.

For You: The Potent Organic Skincare Products at In Fiore
Didn’t think we’d forget you, did you? Never mind the naughty or nice list -- after all the TLC you’ve dispensed to indulgence-deprived loved ones, opening your pocketbook for some fine skincare is certainly in order. The great thing about gifting yourself with supreme skincare is that it’s both practical (warding off crow’s feet is a health issue, people!) and purely sybaritic. Take a walk on the primrose path and visit In Fiore, Julie Elliott’s sinfully scented San Francisco lair, whose offerings have cultivated a ferocious following in both Europe and Japan.

You can brag to anyone who cares to compliment your pores that you’re privy to the beauty secrets of In Fiore (which translates to “in bloom” in Italian); Elliot bases her stuff on the traditional homeopathic therapies of European apothecaries. The boutique’s “handmade couture” runs the gamut from balms to oils, but it’s the skincare you’ll purr over. Elliott’s concoctions are perfect for all skin types, and are purely organic and flower-based, which means you never have to worry about suspect ingredients. Effective treatments include Treate, a silky cleanser that combines aloe vera gel, rose water, and jasmine; Complexe de Fleur, an anti-aging cellular renewal formula with 12 herbal infusions; and Pur, a light-as-air moisturizer with evening primrose oil that leaves a matte sheen on oily skin. There are lots of reasons to buy In Fiore: the products are great for the environment, they promote balanced, dewy skin, and they smell damn incredible. Enough said.