At The Spa: Manchester Times writer takes readers along for first facial

Manchester Times writer John Coffelt takes a moment to collect himself following a facial at The Spa in Manchester, 211 Woodland St.

Photo collaboration by John Coffelt and Michelle Valeri

 Staff Writer John Coffelt  To get a male perspective, I was recently tasked with the job of getting “the spa treatment” at The Spa in Manchester as a neat follow-up story to a recent ribbon cutting there. Nearing its third year in operation, The Spa has established itself as more than a run-of-the-mill spa by moving its business model towards holistic skincare and age rejuvenation. Regrettably, I don’t find any fuzzy robes or cucumber slices. At the advice of owner and lead Esthetician, Michelle Valeri, we settle on me getting a facial. To my surprise, a lot of men are getting facials. I’m led down the soothing half-lit hallway (after nervously making two wrong turns) to a room that’s somehow relaxing yet clinical at the same time. Soft music plays from a radio near the door. A reclining table takes up much of the room, flanked by a collection of towel warmers and products that Valeri will customize and apply to my skin. To determine how best to treat my skin, Valeri’s consultation consisted of a series of health questions, an analysis of the skin products I am currently using and a careful inspection of my face while under UV light. It is all quite new to me discussing how I look, but rather than feeling vulnerable, it soon becomes liberating to talk about something so personal. Valeri’s professional, yet caring demeanor, helps. “Your products are wrong for your skin,” Valeri tells me. “The cleanser is too harsh. It is also dehydrating your skin and your moisturizer has pore clogging ingredients.” She tells me that this is a very common problem with most skin care. My skin has been stripped of its natural oils and protection and my body is trying to balance itself out by producing more oil, which is causing the breakouts. “To confirm this,” she tells me later, “we looked at your skin utilizing a UV Skin Analyzer which allows us to see oil, bacteria, hydration/dehydration, and sun damage on the surface of the skin, as well as below the surface. The machine confirmed that you have dehydrated skin, not oily skin.” Valeri adds that “the machine gives nice feedback, not only for clients to build trust with me, it also helps knowing what is truly going on with your skin so we can begin healing it as quickly as possible.” It comes down to getting the body to correct itself. “When we restore the health and integrity of the skin, it will begin to heal. Your skin’s natural balance will be restored and your breakouts will clear up.” As she is working the herbals into my skin, we break the quiet to discuss what acupressure can do to various systems in the body. Valeri explains how pressure along the cheeks can simulate digestion, while pressure along the “baby’s soft spot” causes all of the tension to flush from the body. The idea is to relax; and I’m sure I would have been if my mind weren’t racing trying to simultaneously record every nuance of the experience while worrying about how I will ever articulate them all. That is, until Valeri massages the back of the skull where the spine meets its base. It feels kinda like eating gooey chocolate while being at the chiropractor.   She says that many clients don’t stay awake for the whole thing. Acupressure (I learn later) is an ancient healing art that uses the fingers to press key points on the surface of the skin to stimulate the body’s natural self-curative abilities. When these points are pressed, they release muscular tension and promote the circulation of blood and the body’s life force (sometimes known as qi or chi) to aid healing. At the most basic level, the instinctive impulse to hold your forehead or temples when you have a headache is a rudimentary form of acupressure. Valeri also explains to me later how the treatment works. “I used several hot towels to open your pores and encourage the products to penetrate faster. I used several ancient Chinese facial massage techniques and acupressure on the face, head, and neck, specific to what your skin needed.” I’m reminded of one point during the treatment, when I literally felt (or at least it seemed real) all sorts of stress, toxins or something float away like steam when Valeri removed a warm towel. The products at The Spa are organic and vegan Chinese topical herbs. Each one has a clean, pleasant smell, and each session is unique and based on the patient’s skin at the time. After the session, we also discussed some of the results that other clients have seen; and they are pretty impressive. Valeri’s before and after shots show lines erased from local people’s faces when they stick to the treatment program. Realistically, I shouldn’t expect too much with one facial, still, when I returned to the office, the girls all agreed I had a “glow.” At the very least, I feel more at ease with my skin. Is skin care foremost on my mind? No, but would I be willing to kick back and enjoy another facial? Most definitely.         Q&A with the expert A recent study by the International Spa Association found that 47 percent of clients visiting spas are now men, Valeri explained. Clients are no longer looking for pampering type services, but rather true lasting correction. Another significant shift is the desire for healthy services and nontoxic products.   What is your mission for The Spa? The Spa is a Holistic Skin Correction Clinic focusing on acne and age reversal, in a relaxing atmosphere. All treatments are healthy and effective. Skin care cannot be treated as a one size fits all approach. Facial treatments are customized for each client’s skin needs and skin care goals, at each visit. All products are natural, organic, and vegan. What are your specialty certifications? Since receiving my Esthetics license, I have focused my post graduate studies on Advanced and Complex Skin Conditions. I was the first of two estheticians in Tennessee to receive certification to work with oncology patients at any point in their journey with cancer. I am also the only esthetician in Tennessee to receive private training from a traditional ancient Chinese medicine doctor. Why choose The Spa? We need to change the way we look at our skin; it is our largest organ. Acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation are actually wounds produced by the skin letting us know something is wrong. If we don’t feed our body regular intervals of good nutrition, our health, immune system, and metabolism can be compromised…the same is true of the skin. I am trained to harmonize the body. When the body is in balance, it has the amazing ability to heal itself. By treating the root of the problem, we can achieve dramatic, lasting results. For a healthy, holistic approach to transform your skin contact: Michelle Valeri, LE, OEC The Spa In Manchester 211 Woodland Street 615-542-5874