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Think WOW at Ways of Wellness
Spoil yourself with all-natural treatments at Cape Town’s first authentic organic spa
In a Cape Town overrun with eco-friendly initiatives and artisan markets, the terms ‘green’ and ‘organic’ have been largely relegated to little more than modish catchphrases, disconnected from their original meaning or any real level of sincerity. So, naturally, when making my first visit to city centre spa Ways of Wellness – billed as South Africa’s first entirely organic beauty salon – for a much-needed massage, I was admittedly expecting to encounter a trendy, swanky space more concerned with riding on a hip tagline than environmental best practice.
But from the minute I step in to the Park Road retreat’s inviting entrance area, it’s apparent that my preconceptions are utterly unfounded. In its every element, from the fresh, unfussy décor and furniture (much of it second-hand or composed from recycled materials) to the generally informal, unpretentious ambience, WOW! – as it’s affectionately known by a growing group of patrons – oozes authenticity, clearly conveying a genuine interest in pampering the public with safe, natural health and wellness alternatives while simultaneously supporting the planet.
“Big commercial brands in this industry tend to base everything on marketing and sales, and it becomes less about the quality of the products and more about being seen,” explains French-born co-owner Dinah Cook, who spent some time working for major cosmetic companies in Europe years prior to establishing the Mother City salon in November 2011 with business partner Ludovic Berthelin. “But there are lots of different, far healthier ways to do beauty.”
Operating on the belief that nature holds all the answers, the health haven makes exclusive use of carefully-selected certified organic products, several ranges of which are imported rarities and are available for purchase on-site. Each is composed from only pure raw materials and plant extracts and is devoid of harmful chemicals, artificial colourants or any unnecessary nasties. In this way, every treatment in their broad array of offerings is as ‘green’ as the foliage from which the cosmetics are made and equally safe on sensitive skin.
But alternative beauty and body care isn’t the only forte of the double-storey parlour, nor is it its only point of attraction. Frustrated by the typically long waiting period at forever fully-booked conventional salons, and aware that busy locals’ and travelling tourists’ frantic schedules are erratic at best, Dinah has implemented a walk-in, non-appointment policy, a practice that apparently works well abroad but is somewhat alien to a structured South Africa. Thus, the emphasis is on swift, satisfying service and a good dose of flexibility and improvisation.
“There’s so much upper-class pampering in Cape Town,” the easy-going French founder tells me and my colleagues as we laze in the upstairs communal lounge (often used for group manicures and pedicures), feet buried in reclaimed synthetic grass flooring. “But if you’re not too invested in visiting a new, very upmarket spa, and if you want a treatment that’s quick and efficient, then this is the place.”
That’s not to say the unassuming salon lacks charms or fails to invite a spot of leisurely indulgence, though. Housed in a grand restored historic building complete with an ornate wraparound balcony apt for relaxing on, WOW! is rich with calming old-world allure. Worn wooden flooring and door frames fashion a warm, home-like appeal, and a green, white and grey colour palette and scattering of plants not only exude serenity, but also help to highlight the space’s nature-based focus.
An emphasis that is, quite deliberately, made immediately apparent by the retreat’s main foyer centrepiece: two square water-filled tanks used for their famed fish spa, an unusual, eco-friendly part of the pedicure package that’s pulled in large curious crowds, and a treatment my associate Heike is set on trying out.
Developed in Turkey and popularised in Asia, fish therapy is an alternative foot exfoliation technique that employs hundreds of small epidermis-eating Garra Rufa fish, which are drawn to skin quite literally like moths to a flame, to softly suck away at dry and dead cells. The basins of warm water used are frequently filtered for sanitation purposes, the procedure is entirely pain-free (there’s no biting involved), and the result is cleansed feet that feel soft, fresh and revitalized.
“It’s like experiencing a low-level electrical massage,” exclaims Heike, a little giddy from the odd but exhilarating sensation of having her feet immersed in a tank of tiny, darting carp.
I take this as my cue to trundle upstairs to a tranquil private therapy room for my own far more conventional version. One option in a selection of body treatments and detoxification techniques (WOW! also offers a body scrub and peel-off), the spa’s 30-minute organic back and neck rub claims as its key unique highlight the use of argan oil (the essence of the Issahra cosmetics range they sell), a plant oil that’s sourced by communities of local women in Morocco and widely regarded as a pure ‘perfect’ substance for its healing and nourishing benefits. Rich with Vitamin E, anti-ageing properties and antioxidants, it works to hydrate, regenerate and restore brilliance and balance to hair and skin.
Aside from yielding the comforting knowledge that a powerful, all-natural lotion is being lathered on, the rubdown is just right in pressure and as soothing, stimulating and stress-relieving as any good massage should be. Flickering tea-light candles and soft background pan pipes create a classically calming setting, and my therapist, a bubbly young lady filled with helpful information and an appreciation for all things organic, willingly and spontaneously adjusts her method to accommodate for my personal needs and to concentrate on alleviating my core problems, such as tense shoulders and a strained lower back.
Once it’s all (regrettably) over and I’m feeling sufficiently loosened up and wound down, I saunter out of the serene emerald green space into the adjacent lounge. Heike, now boasting red toenails, is beaming nearly as brightly as her polish, and my second colleague, Inge, who’s just returned from having the spa’s popular teeth whitening treatment, has a lustrous smile to match.
One of a kind in South Africa, WOW!’s dental bleaching system makes use of a safe, eco-friendly gel that’s formulated from only natural ingredients (namely aloe vera, chamomile, pomegranate and sodium bicarbonate), and is activated under an energy-efficient LED light. Perhaps the procedure’s greatest advantages – apart from affording a pearly white grin, of course – are that it’s devoid of harmful, enamel-eroding hydrogen peroxide, that it’s far more affordable than at standard dentistry practices, and that, like all the salon’s offerings, it’s quick and convenient, comprising only two short 15-minute sessions.
So, with our time at the unique retreat having come to a close, we reluctantly head past bubbling fish tanks and product display cabinets in the entrance area and step out onto a bustling Park Road, now decidedly more calm and collected, and carrying a new-found faith in the existence of authentic green ventures and honest, bona fide organic enterprises.
Tip: In addition to the aforementioned treatments, Ways of Wellness spa also offers facials, organic waxing (for both him and her), and, in winter, a carrot juice-based spray-on tan. What’s more, free Wi-fi and complimentary cappuccinos are available to all customers, and the team is very open to accommodating large groups for functions, corporate team building or bachelorette parties.
Note: As WOW! is one of the most internationally-oriented spas in Cape Town, the staff at this salon also speak German, French, Spanish and Italian alongside English.
Eager to pop in to Ways of Wellness spa for a relaxing but efficient treatment or two? Bear in mind, the salon is offering a great Monday teeth whitening special and Wednesday waxing discount exclusively to CapeTownMagazine.com readers.
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