The first thing you notice when you enter Kiwi Spa is, well, the kiwis. They're everywhere. On pillows, on the wall, and even on the earrings that spa owner Maya Banks wears. The scrubs that Banks and her estheticians, Luna and Anastasia, wear are kiwi green. And Maya's nail polish? Yep, Kiwi green.
Banks calls it the "Kiwi Lifestyle," and explained why she chose the name for her spa: "First, when you look at a sliced kiwi, it's one of the most amazing patterns that nature created and it's so rich in nutrients. Second, when people are in depression and they look at a picture of a kiwi, it increases the serotonin in their brains. I have one in my bedroom, I have one here. It makes one happy. It has a special energy like a green sun. Third, green is the color of life and symbolizes something organic and natural. And when you say Kiwi Spa, you can remember it."
The spa opened two years ago at 1919 Grand Ave. in Pacific Beach . It's a dream come true for Maya after a world tour of working in different spas. "My life has taken me to 23 different countries where I've been practicing and improving my knowledge," she explained. Growing up in Ukraine, her first inspiration was her grandmother who was an organic esthetician, she said. "She would go into the forest and pick roots and plants, and she healed skin issues for people whose doctors couldn't help," Banks recalled.
At age 18, she followed her boyfriend to Israel. By that time, she finished cosmetology school and got her first job with his sister, who was an esthetician. Banks worked in Israel for five years, until the spa franchise opened a location in Croatia and sent her to be the manager/esthetician. Next, she did the same at a new spa in Cyprus, then in the Dominican Republic. While there, she said: "I did a facial for one guy from the United States, and he started to come to me regularly. We got married and that's how I came to the States."
At that point, she was ready to open her own spa, taking the best from each spa she managed and combining it all at Kiwi Spa: "It was always my dream to have something that belongs to me ... something organic and all natural so people can see the results immediately ... and it doesn't cost a lot of money."
Kiwi Spa uses only vegan and organic ingredients — nothing synthetic — and Banks explains why: "When you apply commercial moisturizers, they have ingredients that make their shelf life very long, but when they penetrate your skin, they don't dissolve. They're stuck, like little microscopic pieces. As you use them over the years, the ingredients build up and close the entrance of oxygen, so you start to age from the inside."
Banks also believes in the power of machines, and uses only the latest, state-of-the-art technology. She recently purchased the Jet Peel machine, which no other spa in San Diego County has. (Only two spas in Beverly Hills have the same machine.) Jet Peel is a touch-free, needle-free transdermal infusion technology from Israel. It combines oxygen and saline in a high-pressure jet stream that penetrates the skin deeper than a needle. Banks said the speed of the jet stream is 777 miles per hour. The jet stream of micro droplets exfoliates the skin's surface and is infused with serums to stimulate collagen and elastin. Jet Peel delivers instant results with no downtime or skin irritation.
Another popular machine-based procedure is the Hydrokiwi Facial, which combines micro-dermabrasion and oxygen infusion to improve sun damage, acne, rosacea and the effects of aging. There are dozens more unique facials available.
Instead of botox, Banks uses starfish infusion. "It's all natural, but it works like botox," she said. "It relaxes your muscles in a natural way and you don't feel like your muscle is dead, but you feel all plumped, and the results are amazing."
Other ingredients used include rose water, coconut butter, witch hazel, cocoa butter, raw organic honey, white clay, chamomile and green matcha tea, and even coffee. "I invest a lot of time in my customers because I really love what I do," she said. "If a customer comes for a one-hour facial, I invest half an hour on consultation, an hour for the facial, and another half hour to give them recommendations to go home with and some samples."
Banks plans to open a Kiwi Spa in Solana Beach this year, and eventually, hopes to franchise her brand.
• Kiwi Spa is located at 1919 Grand Ave., Suite 1L, in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. (619) 621-1177. kiwi-spa.com
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