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La Petite Rose

Affordable Services for the Urban Epicure

When I think of all the things I love about spa facials, first I have to identify all the things I hate: those red bumps that show up on my face after harsh extractions; the way those red bumps often turn into pimples because my skin has been unduly aggravated; overly harsh chemical processes like peels and microdermabrasion (which are generally implemented when the aesthetician is at a loss regarding what to do and doesn’t have that much knowledge on the reactivity of obviously sensitive skin; oh yeah, did I mention the crazy prices?

A few days ago, I discovered a place that delivers on...well, exactly the opposite of all the things I lament in a respectable spa establishment. La Petite Rose is tucked away in an alcove just off Taraval Street (in the Sunset, in case you’re mulling). Set foot inside the cozy, modest-yet-luxurious digs, and it’s likely that the only sounds you’ll hear are the barks of neighborhood dogs or the clickety-clack of the surface street car. In many ways, the windswept, residential location is the perfect place for a spa -- there’s tons of parking and one-on-one attention (aside from owner/massage therapist/aesthetician/Jane-of-all-trades Mandy Fung, there’s only one other aesthetician who works here), and you can take a refreshing breather from the uber-hip downtown pampering houses that make you feel like just another faceless number in the queue.

Unlike most places that see themselves more as skincare or massage studios rather than spas, La Petite Rose is surprisingly commodious. When I walked into the sun-dappled building, I didn’t realize there were two levels: the first houses the lobby, a restroom, and a body treatment room (with its own shower); the second holds two facial rooms (which can both be converted into massage studios) and a waiting area that feels like someone’s living room—plush sofa, tea station, and all.

Aside from the comfortable intimacy of the place, all of La Petite Rose’s treatments are crazy affordable. Mandy used to work at larger spa establishments where prices were severely marked up and the experience was “more about relaxing than getting results and doing what’s right for the client’s skin. (We) prefer to look at the client’s daily skincare regimen and see what we can do to help--and the prices are low enough so that clients can afford to come in more often.” That’s right -- if you get a series of six Signature Facials, that works out to $65 per facial...i.e., 75 luxurious minutes that also happen to include an arm/hand massage and paraffin dip. (Take that, corporate spa goons!)

Despite the number of employees here, the treatment menu is far from diminutive. La Petite Rose includes full-service waxing, a range of massage, facials specific to clients’ conditions (like caviar for aging skin and oceanic ingredients for sensitive skin), and ear and navel candles, the joint’s holistic specialty.

I was here specifically for the Signature Facial, which is quite popular among the clientele. As I snuggled into the facial bed in the cozily dark and elegant room, with Vivaldi playing in the background, I eagerly awaited the service, which began with a warming paraffin hand dip topped off with a vigorous hand and arm massage. Mandy used Pevonia, a botanical line from Switzerland that smells absolutely delectable but doesn’t have any artificial fragrance. Mandy told me she specifically liked Pevonia because it garners efficacious results for all skin types but the products themselves are very gentle and appropriate for even the most sensitive visages. The treatment included a deep cleansing, exfoliation, extractions, and a soothing mask--all of which contained active botanical ingredients that work to turn over dead skin cells and brighten up the face.

At one point, I asked Mandy (who’s keen to talk skincare during the facial but knows when her clients just want to sit back and unwind) what she thought about microdermabrasion. She said that she prefers to use it as a last resort, for clients who absolutely need or want it. “I see the treatment as a ‘sandblasting’ of the skin, because you’re taking away the protective surface layer. It doesn’t really work deeper into the skin, like a chemical peel might. It’s especially not the best thing for skin with acne, as it can spread bacteria and add to more inflammation.”

The idea of a chemical peel might summon up images of "Sex and the City’s" Samantha hiding her blistered face beneath a veil at some feted event, but Mandy uses the PCA line in her peels, which are way less harsh than other chemical products tend to be. The peels are specifically for people who suffer from acne, rosacea, or aging skin (and you can do them every two, three, or four weeks depending on your specific skin condition). The great thing about the PCA line is that you don’t actually have to remove the peel -- you simply keep it on your skin, with the addition of special serums and creams, and make sure your skin doesn’t come in contact with water for 12 hours. According to Mandy, unlike other similar processes, you don’t need to take a breather between peels every four to six weeks; with PCA, it’s safe to treat your skin year round.

While I didn’t get to experience a peel (it’s generally not a good idea to do one in conjunction with a facial), I did get to experience La Petite Rose’s signature ear candling. This clearing therapy is an ancient one -- used by everyone from the Egyptians to the Hopi Indians -- and can still be found in many holistic therapy centers. A hollow candle is placed in the ear, and the top end is lit, creating a vacuum that sucks out fungus, residual toxins, and fluid from the wax-secreting ceruminous glands. At first, I was afraid that it might be a little painful, what with the flame and everything, but it was more sleep-inducing than anything else. The best part? Mandy performed a lymph-draining facial massage during the ear candling. “This assists in circulation and tightens the skin around the face; it’s helped by the fact that the ear candling already assists lymphatic circulation,” she told me. Believe it or not, when she gave me a mirror to examine the effects (with one side of my face massaged and the other not), I could immediately see them and understand why ear candling is generally dubbed the “mini-face lift".

Aside from a bevy of spa-package bargains and opportunities to party with girlfriends while partaking of the therapies, La Petite Rose sells products in the PCA and Pevonia lines, as well as flawless Jane Iredale mineral makeup (throw away your Bare Escentuals, ladies). Sure, if you’d prefer to hobnob at some spa where products cost more than your weekly salary and where ladies who lunch nibble artisan cheeses in full-to-capacity waiting rooms, have your pick. It’ll be just fine with us gals who prefer to keep La Petite Rose on the down-low.