Estheticians, like so many specialists, are the sort of people you find either by word of mouth or stabbing in the dark/trial and error. A facial, which usually starts with a commitment of around $60 and an hour or so of your time, is no minor purchase, and so recommendations are crucial to finding someone whose practices match up with your needs and comfort levels. For instance some people don't like to deal with the heavy machinery that you can get into for microdermabrasion, ultraviolet light therapy, microcurrents, etc. Some people value all-natural products over everything, and in general people either get facials as part of the regular maintenance of their bodies, like going to the gym or dentist, or they do it every once in a blue moon just to pamper themselves. Or you have a specific problem that needs to be addressed, perhaps.

Most estheticians will cater to any one of these client profiles, but considering how overwhelmingly many options are out there, it's worth it to seek out someone whose practices perfectly dovetail with your own. And there are more options than you may even know. Aside from the visible salon signs on the road, there are places ensconced on the upper floors of office buildings, people who work out of their homes, and still others who are tucked away off of busy commercial corridors.

The later situation is the case with Illume Day Spa, a petite, tranquil space located just off of Sandy Boulevard at 2453 NE Pacific. It's the workspace of Cate Wheetman and Stara Laborde, a cozy environment with bowls of chocolates in seemingly every room.

Two, count em, two bowls of chocolate in the waiting area,
  • Two, count 'em, two bowls of chocolate in the waiting area,

On my visit, as I waited for Wheetman to finish with her previously client, I scoped out the all-important product wall, which features a comprehensive but well-edited selection of botanically based, high-quality lines like Astara, iS Clinical, and Epicuren. (One thing I will say about skincare products, is that you really do get what you pay for, and there's something about your skin that is really bothering you it's worth finding something that gives you real results, and you can certainly expect to pay more for it than anything you'll find at Wallgreens. That said, don't waste your money plunging blindly into a $60 face cream. Estheticians are loaded with product samples, and you should try as many as you can before taking the plunge. You know you've found the right one when it seems worth the money to buy.)

The all-important, always telling product wall.
  • The all-important, always telling product wall.

Wheetman's approach is based on what I think is the most logical thinking: That your skin's needs are the same as your body's. Your diet and lifestyle are—at least eventually—going to present a direct reflection onto your body, especially your skin. (Both Wheetman and Laborde were educated at The Euro Institute for Naturopathic Skincare in Renton, WA.) Illume specializes in working with clients in the long term to trouble shoot factors that might be provoking unwanted blemishes, dryness, puffiness, and other issues. And while she has a good number of plug-in toys at her disposal, once you're in her hands you'll find that she relies more on applications of some truly exquisite, personalized products than on her gadgets.

But the best thing about a facial with Wheetman is that it's basically and two-in-one facial and massage. The Illumination signature facial includes serious attention to your skin as well as massaging of your hands, arms, calves, feet, and scalp. It is probably the most indulgent facial I've ever had in that regard and at $125 for 90 minutes of thoughtful skin therapy and ridiculously pleasant massage it's a screaming bargain.

Sort of like the dentist except a million times better.
  • A treatment room at Illume.

If I were to imagine the perfect match-up between client and Illume, I would say that you 1) understand the symbiotic relationship between your overall health and appearance, 2) gravitate toward organic/holistic/all natural products, but make room for some exceptionally effective innovations, 3) aren't particularly eager to break out the heavy machinery (but open to it when deemed advantageous), and 4) you know a good value when you see one—their facials start as low as $60 for 45 minutes.

I've only ever had a facial at Illume, but it's also worth noting, if you like their approach, that they also offer body treatments like wraps, bronzing, and scrubs, waxing, brow and lash tinting. If it sounds like your jam, check 'em out.