Local Heroes

Élegance Boutique's garden provides organic treatment ingredients and an open-air guest lounge.

Élegance Boutique Spa in Manhattan Beach, California

On the menu: The Basic (60 min./$95), Signature (85 min./$135) and Corrective (60 min./$140) facials are typically created with organic herbs and customized to each guest’s allergies and skin type. All clients receiving facials or body treatments also get complimentary foot soaks beforehand—which come in Soothing (lavender), Detoxifying (sea salt) or Stimulating (rosemary).

Recipes call for: Parsley, balm mint, basil, lemon, lemongrass, oregano, thyme, comfrey, marjoram, grapes, apples, naseberry and more. All are grown and picked right in the cottage spa’s backyard garden!

How they’re served: Prior to each facial treatment, guests are brought into the garden’s open-air lounge (weather permitting) for a consultation with the therapist to determine the best organic materials to be used. “For oily skin, we take a clay or zinc probiotic base mask and use a mortar and pestle to add, say, rosemary, a stimulant, and anti-inflammatory balm mint,” says Élegance’s owner and lead esthetician, Bernadette George. “For sensitive skin, we take a gel and zinc mask base and add calming chamomile, pore-shrinking cucumber or anti-irritant rosehip.” George adds that dry dermis benefits from the emollient comfrey and that sluggish skin gets a jolt from rejuvenating, antiseptic sage mixed with an açai cream base. Élegance however, is by no means a low-technology spa. “Our facial range includes oxygen treatments, microdermabrasion, ultrasound, medical spa–level services, peels and more,” George says. “We just use herbs to complement almost everything.”

Inspiration: After almost 30 years of being an esthetician, George was feeling the surge in demand for natural spa modalities. “Over the years, lots of clients had expressed interest in organic ingredients, and I enjoy gardening,” she says. So in 2005, George hired a local master gardener, Geri Miller, from Homegrown Edible Landscapes (homegrownediblelandscapes.com), who helps small businesses design and plant functional gardens, teaches maintenance, and even co-hosts gardening workshops. “She’s helped us make the [garden] dream happen,” George says.

Trade secrets:
“If you love to garden, this is a wonderful way to offer your clients beauty and results,” George says. Élegance also uses veggies and herbs in spa water—lemon with cucumber; mint with strawberry—and scents treatment rooms with garden goods. “Our signature fragrance is a blend of homegrown orange and lavender,” George says. The one drawback? “It’s difficult to maintain production in the winter!”

Final verdict: The Élegance herbal treatment protocols hold appeal even for clients who aren’t diehard organic loyalists. “Our guests love that they can get a medical correction with their indigenous treatment,” George says. And the complimentary foot soaks have been so successful that George recently added a manicure cottage to the garden where guests can receive services and soak their hands in warm herbal waters. “We use completely organic nail products,” George says, “and guests love the private garden setting.”