Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
So you want to experience Boulder, and you also want to relax. This city is the perfect place for a healthy vacation, and a huge part of health is stress-reduction and self-care. That’s why we think a visit to the spa is an essential part of any wellness getaway.
But all spas are not the same and treatments can vastly vary from place to place. We visited two of our favorite Boulder spas — the Dragontree Spa and the St. Julien Spa — and experienced their most Bouldery treatments possible: the Dragontree Gemstone Facial and the Pampered Vegan Treatment. The spas, as well as the treatments, are pretty different. Although to be honest, they’re both incredible; you can’t go wrong no matter which you pick.
Here’s a closer look at the two most Bouldery spa treatments in town: the Gemstone Facial vs. the Pampered Vegan.
The Dragontree Gemstone Facial
The Dragontree Spa, 1521 Pearl St., is located (as the address indicates) directly on the Pearl Street Mall. It’s a day spa, not connected with a hotel.
The Dragontree itself is a unique destination, with a boutique bursting with tinctures and tea and sultry, dim treatment rooms that feel cozy and otherworldly. The spa itself is intimate and quiet, designed to feel like a private sanctuary.
The Dragontree aims to create a more peaceful world by helping its clients create peace and happiness throughout their entire lifestyle, long after they leave. The spa recently released a book, “Rituals for Transformation,” and also sells a yearly day-planner that is designed to help people create healthy habits, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The spa also incorporates ancient Ayurvedic treatments, acupuncture, Chinese herbal and nutritional consultation, herbs and more, far beyond your standard ways to treat yo’self.
The best way to start any treatment at the Dragontree is with a relaxing foot bath (a rare treatment that you can’t find just anywhere). You can choose between a variety of different baths, from therapeutic (soothing aching feet after a long day of hiking) to more emotional (like lavender essential oils to relax).
The brand new Gemstone Facial is way more than just a standard facial. It also includes a hand and foot massage and a scalp massage with oil, while the therapist places specific gemstones on your chakras, or energy centers. For example, a sodalite is placed on the throat chakra to help spark intuition, focus energy and provide guidance; and an aventurine is placed on the heart chakra for healing, abundance and growth. The scalp massage is intended to stimulate the crown chakra.
“It’s more of a ritual facial, more of an experience,” says Amy Rivkind, lead esthetician at one Portland branch (there are two in Portland branches and the Boulder one). “It’s obviously going to benefit the skin, but it’s an experience, as well. Taking you on a journey. … It’s a mind-body-spirit experience.”
The facial uses a face mask by Epicuren that contains more than 40 crushed gemstones. Gemstones are hydrating, detoxifying and energy-balancing, the spa says. Plus, the mask has firming properties.
“In general, gemstones used in facials is trending,” Rivkind says.
Dragontree says the gemstones work on a molecular level to balance and hydrate the skin; gemstones allow the skin to better retain moisture, so you feel the benefits days after the treatment, the spa says.
The stones are also supposed to help balance the body, energetically.
On top of the gemstone mask, the therapist places a silver ion mask that is designed to help the mask penetrate. Silver is also healing, hydrating and antibacterial, Rivkind says.
Epicuren products, all luxurious and natural, are used throughout the 90-minute facial. The spa also uses Livia and Shankara products in other treatments.
“They layer the energetics at the same time as they use the products to layer and create an experience for your skin,” says co-owner Briana Borton.
She calls the treatment a great fit for Boulder.
“I think, in Boulder, people are attuned to the subtleties of things. They are really interested in the energies of crystals and the quality of the products they’re using and how that affects them overall, and also in the moment,” Borton says. “The treatment fits the values of Boulder: really high-quality products that are super clean and safe, and gemstones that work on a subtle energetic level at the same time.”
The Pampered Vegan Treatment
The award-winning St. Julien Spa, 900 Walnut St., is located inside one of Boulder’s most luxurious hotels just a block off the Pearl Street Mall.
The spa is large: 10,000 square feet and full service, which means it also does hair and nails. In addition, it includes a 50-foot indoor swimming pool, an outdoor terrace with views of the Flatiron Mountains, a fitness center with mountain views, hot tub, dry sauna, steam room, relaxation room and more. The bright and cheerful spa was also recently renovated.
Although a huge property, the St. Julien Spa does its best to personalize the treatments. Some products are made out of herbs from the hotel garden, and you can pick aromatherapy blends and customize treatments, as needed.
The product lines used here include Luzern, Ajne, Zents and Naturopathica.
The Pampered Vegan Treatment uses all vegan and animal-cruelty-free products, like a vegan body scrub using 100 percent organic sunflower oil with finely ground sugar.
The full-body scrub exfoliates dead skin cells, increases blood flow and moves toxins through the lymph nodes, the spa says. It’s followed by a full-body massage using a client-selected aromatherapy blend that best fits your needs.
The Body Bliss oils span names like “I Love” and “I Play.” Each is designed to invoke a different feeling, says Amber Borcherdt, massage therapist. For example, the I Play blend is for muscle relief and recovery and includes arnica, lavender, sweet marjoram, clove bud, peppermint and wintergreen.
Then, receive a scalp massage with wild lime and avocado oil, using a fantastic hair oil line from Naturopathica.
“Our Pampered Vegan Treatment is a very Boulder-esque treatment that you just don’t see everywhere,” says Susan Hunnell, assistant spa director. “It’s very fitting for local clientele, but we have a lot of people who come from out of state and internationally, as well, who want to get that Boulder feeling when the come. It’s a nice treat.”
Of course, you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy the treatment. But for people who care deeply about the source of their products, the St. Julien accommodates.
Kick your experience up a notch by booking the Very Vegan Package, which pairs the Pampered Vegan spa treatment with a night at the hotel, two vegan cocktails (Cruisin’ in Rio, a fusion of Novo Fogo Cahaca, Aperol, passion fruit, lime and bitters) and food at the on-site restaurant, which has a great vegan-friendly lunch buffet and plenty of regular vegan offers. Make sure you check out Jill’s Restaurant, which recently revamped its menu for a hipper vibe.
“The St. Julien Hotel and Spa are in the heart of Boulder, and it carries the heart of Boulder,” Borcherdt says.
The spa staff adds you can walk to the mountains or Boulder Creek right outside the spa’s back doors. Hotel guests can even borrow cruiser bikes to pedal around town and experience Boulder, inside and out.