Relaxing in a spa lounge always requires a bit of Jedi mind trickery. It takes time for the brain to release its grip on its logistical daily duties in order for the body to begin fully enjoying the luxury that a spa day offers. But when I arrived at the newest milk + honey spa and salon, located in the West Ave. in swanky River Oaks, it quickly registered that all worries should be checked at the door.
The spa’s fourth location (first in Houston, three others in Austin) opened in April 2016. And while they continue to add finishing touches to the facility, it is definitely open for business. While awaiting a signature facial, I admired the lounge’s timeless décor, feeling transported between the space that exists between mid-century modern and today. The combination of deep woods and classic whites along with filtered natural light creates a healing, peaceful ambience. Maybe I’ve watched one too many “Dr. Who” episodes, but this spa’s lounge made me wonder if I was sitting in 1960 or 2016, sipping a refreshing cucumber-flavored water and not worrying about time or space a bit.
“Alissa always has clear direction for her locations,” explains Kasey McCarty, principal interior designer of Kasey McCarty Interior Architecture and Design. “We always want to be true to our materials. We look for balance of elements throughout; balance of feminine and masculine, balance of soft and hard, clean lines and pattern and texture. The most important element is function. All the parts must function for the patrons and the spa partisans.”
In the spirit of time travel, I recalled the first time I met Alissa Bayer, owner of milk + honey, in 2006 and wrote about her first location in Austin’s 2nd Street District. Back then, Bayer wanted her spa to be a place that was decadent and luxurious, while feeling wholesome and basic. milk + honey completely captured this essence. Even a decade ago, natural healing was an important feature to Bayer. “We live in such a toxic environment and that means people have to take time to detoxify and recharge,” Bayer said. “Consumers are becoming more aware that not only our food affects our health, but so do the products that we use on and around our bodies. Clients are requiring more attention to health, balance, and sanctuary.”
Fast forward 10 years, milk + honey spas and salons (voted one of “Elle” magazine’s top 100 salons in the country) remain true to this sentiment, while exploring new frontiers in the Texas market.
“We had been ‘eyeing’ Houston for some time,” said Bayer. “Then, last year, the West Ave at River Oaks development actually reached out to us directly. Everything about it felt right — the timing, the location (you can’t beat Kirby and Westheimer!), the space, our neighbors….and we’re so happy that our first spa + salon expansion outside of Austin is in such a diverse, exciting city.”
Transported to a relaxed state, I enjoyed the 60-minute (75 minutes is also available) signature facial, described as a customized by their expert estheticians for specific skin type and needs, this treatment includes cleansing, exfoliation, masques, extractions, toning and intense moisture. I splurged on a benefit antioxidant-rich vitamin C peel add-on that nourishes and protects the face. Finally, the skilled esthetician put the cooling finishing touch on the facial by rolling ice globes along my face, providing a refreshing sensation that reduces swelling and enlarged pores, combat wrinkles and diminishing swollen tissue and broken capillaries. In the beginning, Bayer implemented a discount program for loyal spa patrons (or partisans) and continues that tradition today. “A spa partisan is a supporter of all things spa and always votes for the spa party,” said Bayer. Milk + honey offers discounted services and bonuses to customers who purchase a treatment series, become a milk +honey member or participate in the spa’s VIP referral program.
A select line of milk + honey products may also be found in 100 Whole Foods locations throughout the Northeast and Southwest, (as well as online and in a growing number of boutiques across the country) including Body Wash No. 16, Body Soak No. 14, Bath & Body Oil No. 14, Body Cream No. 22, Body Cream No. 16, both lip polishes ND Gentle Body Wash No. 14. The staff at milk + honey have mastered the art of stopping time, if only for an hour, restoring me with enough Zen and healing goodness to balance another day in the modern urban world.