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Spa Solé

Down-Home Pampering

There are few San Franciscans I know who prefer the hustle and bustle of an upscale spa to the down-home elegance of the neighborhood pampering haunt. You know the place --it harbors the tasteful urbanity of your best friend's house rather than the false fronts of coolness most exclusive digs might offer. Despite occupying a chic corner of Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, Spa Solé plies instant comfort to no-nonsense customers.

This quaint yet cozy second-story spa looks like it could be your friend's swanky flat. Furnished with three stylish treatment rooms, its décor is an exercise in modern Victoriana. Aside from its welcoming ambience, this restorative health and wellness retreat boasts an array of complimentary consultations for first-time spa-goers. And despite its modest size, the list of treats is sizeable.

My treatment begins with 30 minutes of basking in the far infrared sauna, a beautiful 1-2 person cedar compartment that relaxes, detoxifies, and eases aching muscles. Far infrared saunas are essential to reducing stress and improving circulation. Usually, saunas are too intense for me to enjoy, but with a bottle of water, washcloth, classical music playing in the background, and book entitled 101 Ways to Relax, the 30 minutes pass by rapidly. I emerge from my enclosure refreshed and fully hydrated, before my Acti-Sea Body Wrap.

Body wraps at Spa Solé are treatments that further the establishment's mission to smooth, stimulate, and detoxify your body. My body wrap, which contains a mixture of seaweeds and several essential oils, is a treatment that's both cleansing and skin-firming. After the rich mixture is applied to my entire body, I'm enshrouded in layers of saran wrap, foil, and blankets, so the seaweed can sink into my skin and do its work. My aesthetician Catherine massages my scalp and brings me cool water as I enjoy the toasty comfort of my cocoon. When I finally emerge, I feel completely moisturized and as if I've imbibed the marine wholesomeness of the ingredients slathered onto me.

Spa Solé is also known for its sunless spray tanning, which makes customers convincingly brown in just four seconds. And the formula improves the quality of skin while lasting up to 14 days, unlike the unhealthy winter glows associated with most sunless tanning. The spa's superior tanning, sauna treatments, and body wraps are choice therapies for winter-afflicted urbanites.

After taking a shower in the spa's homey bathroom, I emerge after two and a half luxurious hours of balmy repose. Given that the cold season is just around the corner, I'm sure that Spa Solé will come in handy when I'm looking for warmth and ways to effectively combat the winter munchies.