I love the concept of day spas, especially when you want an luxury escape for a few hours, where pampering is the order of the day. When we travel, we often review spas as part of our hotel stay, which is different than purposely making the time for yourself either on your home turf or when you are on the road and wish to indulge in a wellness experience. After all, isn’t your body worth it?
Meet Burke Williams, an urban day spa which has been around since 1984 and has quite a few locations in California. They drew most of their influence from some of the top European day spas. I had an opportunity to get a couple of treatments at their facility based in the heart of San Francisco, which is easily accessible for San Franciscans and travelers alike.
Above, is my favorite part of the spa – their massive hot tub. There’s nothing like a large hot tub and rarely do you find them, even at 5 star hotel spas. The lights were dimmed, which only added to the tranquility.
Nearby is a cold steam room which I saw a woman enter while I was in the hot tub and not leave for ten minutes. Brrr – I didn’t have the courage to try it although I’m certainly aware of the health benefits of cold water immersion and alternating from hot water to cold water dips. We reviewed Refuge in Carmel last summer that focuses on Thermal Cycle which is hot and cold water process mixed with relaxation in between.
Exposure to cold water and ice baths, also known as “cryotherapy,” is a popular technique among amateur and professional athletes as well. At Burke Williams, they also have a very large hot steam room as well and unlike so many steam rooms I’ve tried over the years, it’s actually hot. On-site, they also offer a hot dry sauna, which I relaxed in for around 15 minutes before my treatments — you never want to go into a dry sauna after having a facial.
They have two tubs in the spa set in a private room where you can take a therapeutic bath. There are many restorative benefits of hydrotherapy and worth doing whenever you have a chance. Here, traditional spa baths are available only in conjunction with another spa service.
Microsilk Baths are available for booking without another service, however, they recommend doing one in conjunction with a massage or facial.
I tried one of their Wetroom Treatments which are simply divine. While I’ve had body scrubs and wraps before, I’ve never had a salt scrub, which is so renewing for the skin. They talk about your natural glow unfolding from one of these treatments, which couldn’t be truer from how it feels and how your skin looks afterwards. Anthony described my arms as having a “glow” to them and “more radiant.”
Purposefully designed shower heads envelop your body in cascading streams of water, after which you are scrubbed down with sea salt to remove dead surface skin cells — they refer to it as the Salt Glo, although if you have sensitive skin, you can opt for the sugar exfoliation process instead.
After the salt is removed, they wash you down (front and back) and then apply oil to leave your body feeling ever so soft. I absolutely loved this experience and would recommend adding to another service you’re doing that day. Obviously if you get a facial, do the wetroom treatment first.
Sea salt photo credit: Seasalt.com.
Of course they offer a myriad of massage treatments, however I opted for the Anti-Aging Facial. If you’re over 40, I’d strongly encourage it.
They use professional H2V products which helps to regenerate and firm skin cells. Botanically derived stem cells and H2V R3 Transform with Matrixyl peptides repair damage, increase your skin’s resiliency, and boost collagen production. I definitely noticed a different to my face’s texture and brilliance after the treatment.
The Anti-Aging Facial
I absolutely loved this very targeted and customized facial designed to repair damage caused by extrinsic aging. They cleanse your face before applying a Vitamin C peel, their first major step of the treatment.
The 30% Vitamin C infuses the skin with protective anti-oxidants that neutralize free-radical damage and help reverse DNA damage. Key Ingredients for wellness geeks, include Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Bromelain and Papain. This peel is also added to your hands and covered with warm mitts.
Then, they spray the first enhancement: Age-Defy, which is naturally fragranced with apricot milk and is formulated with potent peptides to repair and actively firm the skin to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. There’s Chlorella in this spray, which is a micro green algae anti-oxidant rich in protiens and amino acids, Antarticine; a peptide with ability to regenerate and protect skin by retaining moisture and water, heal wounds, increase collagen and elastin production, as well as boost hydration.
After the spray, they move into the 22 point acupressure massage, which is their signature and something they do with all facials. The second peel and my favorite one comes next — the Pro Beyond Pumpkin and Enzyme Peel.
This peel is by one of the skincare lines I like a lot – Eminence. Note: it tingles quite a bit when it goes on (a rarity for me), something to consider if you have very sensitive skin.
The peel helps to accelerate the exfoliation process by removing dead skin cells, reducing the appearance of pigmentation, fine lines and sun damage. The natural enzyme content of yam and pumpkin leave skin appearing firm and radiant.
Bromelain breaks down connecting structure that holds surface skin cells together and papain breaks down surface dead skin cells for easier removal. It also includes Niacin &Vitamin B3 which when applied topically, acts as a vasodilator to increase circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface.
She then did a Defy mask, which is a potent Resveratrol antioxidant blend that helps to protect and rich skin nourishing fatty acids repair and nourish the skin. Key Ingredients include Monoi oil, Evening Primrose oil, Dragons blood extract, Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant typically associated with red wine. This helps to protect and nurture cells, improve cellular function, increase collagen production, and improve elasticity while also reducing inflammation.
Their second spray enhancement is a stem cell one which is naturally fragranced with Olive and Coriander and is formulated with skin rejuvenating Mexican Bamboo and Japanese Knotwood to signal skin cells and put them in repair mode. These plant based stem cells stimulate our own skin cells’ natural repair process to help eliminate fine lines and wrinkles.
Believe it or not, there’s more! Unlike so many spas that do not give you the full time (especially your full 60 or 75 minutes “hands-on), they are present every step of the way.
After the stem cell spray, they apply a Cranberry AHA Mask, which is a special formulation designed to enhance the capabilities of the fruit acids combined with moisturizers to leave the skin looking fresher and more supple. Ceramides create a strong water binding capacity leaving the skin hydrated with a visibly smoother appearance. Key Ingredients include Cranberry kaolin, Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic acid, Malic acid, Shea Butter, and Wheat ceramides. BRAVO!
They also massage your arms, hands and feet during the treatment before applying the final spray enhancement: Illuminating Enhancement. This one is naturally fragranced with Sicilian Orange and Honey and contains a time released form of Vitamin C that can remain active in the skin for up to a week. This active form of Vitamin C helps to inhibit melanin production while the citric activator spray instantly brighten the complexion.
Before you leave, they also apply an Eye-tox serum to reduce iron deposits under eye and improve hydration as well as a Youth Cell Activator, a Quench Moisturizer and Protect (their SPF).
Like all top notch facials, they did extractions after plenty of steam in the middle of the treatment as well.
While they offer some of the traditional custom facials you’d find at most luxury spas, including teen and gentleman’s facials, I wanted to also mention another unique one I’d love to try at a future time. While the Four Layer Resurfacing Facial is shorter than the anti-aging one, the process includes an intense 4-layer progressive peel to leave your skin hydrated and glowing. Papaya enzymes combine with beneficial Alpha Hydroxy Acids to erase fine lines and minimize imperfections. They also do a detox masque infused with antioxidants.
Join me on a tour of the spa — you’ll absolutely love the ambiance and their wonderful attention to detail throughout.
You can also get your nails done in style. What’s nice is that they have over-sized chairs designed to hug your body. They offer hot cups of tea, a lavender-scented blanket for your legs, and an oatmeal pillow to support your neck.
They also offer other unique services such as body polishes, waxing and advanced eye lifts as well as “sprays” as an add-on to facials, such as stem cell and age defy sprays, which as noted above is included in the Anti-Aging facial.
Below, the vanity room.
They also have a shop on-site where you can purchase water bottles, skincare products, leather bags, gifts and more.
Below is a view from one of the windows — it’s located on the top floor of a mall, the same level as a movie theatre and nothing else. Translation: it’s very secluded and enormous. Two thumbs up!! We would definitely return.
Burke Williams Day Spa
845 Market Street #510
San Francisco, CA 94103
Note: I was hosted by the spa but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.