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LaBelle Day Spa

Traditional Luxury with a Twist

Over three years ago, I had my first introduction to the glitzy, glamorous world of spa. I was on assignment for a bridal magazine to get the scoop on the latest trends in hair and makeup. After a few phone calls to my most pampered, privileged associates, I was directed to LaBelle Day Spa in Palo Alto. Despite the fact that even on an early Saturday morning, the place was packed to the max with anxious brides and hardcore beauty buffs, I was immediately impressed with the professionalism of the staff, who curled my tresses and polished my visage like I was the only gal around. Three hours and a first-class makeover later, I was smitten, and certain of one thing: Founder Bella Schneider runs a tight and impeccable ship.

I recently had the pleasure of making a second visit to LaBelle, but this time, rather than going back to the bustling Palo Alto location, I checked out the San Francisco one. In general, LaBelle is synonymous with excellence. An award-winning establishment that was founded in 1976 by pioneering aesthetician Bella Schneider, back when the spa concept was just beginning to get wind in its sails, LaBelle melds excellent customer service with the most innovative in skincare and beauty. At LaBelle, you can get anything from laser hair removal to cellulite-zapping endermologie to the most relaxing and results-driven European facials in town. The spa’s sheer range -- from salon services to anti-aging treatments to herbal peels -- ensures that men and women of all ages and from all walks of life can get their pampering needs met in style.

Israeli-born Schneider, who’s also an educator at the School for Advanced Aesthetics, which she opened in 1998, insists that the difference between her establishment and other spas is that “schools in America don’t teach European pampering the way I learned it. LaBelle’s philosophy merges beauty and pampering with great, results-driven ingredients. Clients still want a clinical facial but in a spa setting. There is still a lack of understanding, nowadays, on combining the two. Getting great extractions in a facial is very rare.”

The San Francisco location is more diminutive, more hushed and relaxing than LaBelle’s Palo Alto mainstay, but all the same, the options are dizzying. The treatment menu teems with a slew of restorative body therapies and beauty options ranging from Brazilian hair straightening to customized facials. And the product lines run the gamut also. The spa carries high-end cosmeceutical lines like Obaji and Cellex-C, but LaBelle also uses over 120 of its own products --fashioned by Schneider, who travels the world to scoop up the best ingredients. These include Israel’s Dead Sea minerals and vitamin-based products from Austria and Switzerland.

“We want results, but we also want products with a low chemical content and low fragrance,” Schneider explains. “A lot of research on the best skincare ingredients is being conducted in Europe, so we stay ahead of the trends and work to identify those ingredients and come up with the best formulations.”

My treatment, the Jet Lag Facial and Body Wrap, is a prime example of LaBelle’s trend-setting philosophy in skincare and body therapy. It offers gals on the go a detoxifying post-travel indulgence that helps boost the skin’s immune system and increase circulation, two things that are especially imperative after experiencing an airplane’s stale insides and being subjected to the ravages of a different climate. After receiving a complimentary footbath and gnoshing on cheese and fruit in the cozy waiting room, I’m led to my treatment. Under my aesthetician’s scrupulous hands and gentle facial massage, my skin is applied with a combination of apple pectin enzymes and red wine and lactic acids, which serve to slough away dead skin cells. A blast of cool oxygen, as well as a goat milk lifting mask, tighten the skin and restore elasticity and vibrancy. Admittedly, I haven’t done any traveling of late, but the effects are still demonstrable. The facial is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

The wrap is an incredible supplement to the facial. A slimming serum is applied to my body before I slip into a suit that reminds me of a vacuum bag. My therapist turns on the machine, and the suit tightens gradually around my body as it works to drain toxins from my lymphatic system. I’m not entirely sure of the benefits of such a treatment but in concert with my delectable facial, the sensation of having my limbs massaged by this strange machine is doubly relaxing.

One of the great things that sets LaBelle apart from other day spas of the same stature is that the therapists are all sensitive to a client’s needs, why they are there, and how much they want to hear. My therapist is full of useful tidbits of information, but at the same time, she doesn’t lecture me on the do’s and don’ts of my skincare regimen. “A therapist must do a thorough consultation, observe how much someone wants, and be capable of prescribing something (that fits their needs),” says Schneider. “Many of the women who come to our spa don’t have time to be inundated with a whole lifestyle philosophy. So we strive to offer the things that make life more livable and beautiful, as well as useful information in little bits.”

Admittedly, spa enthusiasts who want the opportunity to get some education while they’re being pampered might be disappointed by the hands-off approach. And given that it’s a premium spa, clients can expect premium prices, in addition to waiting rooms that sometimes have a tendency to pile up with clients who are essentially in line for their treatments. All the same, the authentically European, no-holds-barred luxury and sheer range of treatments make LaBelle a beauty force to be reckoned with. And I can certainly confirm that the second time around is just as wonderful as the first.