From the outside, The Karcher is an unassuming, if not extremely charming-looking salon. But inside, past the hair parlor and through the back door the space opens up to a sunny back garden. Owner Nackie Karcher tells me she got married in the garden, and it’s clear why. The space, private and enclosed with climbing vines feels tucked away, a gorgeous little secret. And that’s exactly the vibe of The Karcher salon and spa itself.
Beyond the garden there’s a staircase leading up to a guest house that, as of a few months ago, has transformed into a chic bohemian spa. The décor has just the right amount of California minimalism to make it feel like an artist’s retreat. Upon entering, I can immediately tell it’s the sort of place in-the-know girls would want to bring their bridal parties. (And their friends would go, “How did you find out about this place?”) It’s extremely cool, but not too posh. It’s accessible. And outside there’s not one but two roof decks where I could imagine a small group gathering with bellinis or summertime iced teas.
I arrive for my first ever facial, from lead esthetician Vanessa Van Walraven. Being a total noob, I showed up in a full face of makeup but brought my particular brand of soap and makeup remover. But I didn’t need any of it. I disrobed, laid down and tucked myself cozily under some soft blankets on the massage table.
First, Vanessa cleansed my face with grapeseed oil to remove makeup. The oil smelled fantastic, and her touch was gentle and relaxing. She followed it up with an activated charcoal cleanser. Charcoal has long been used to purify water, and these days it’s used in hospitals to save people from alcohol poisoning. For the skin, theoretically it acts as a magnet to draw out impurities. The muddy mixture felt cool and smooth on my skin. Then, Vanessa wrapped hot towels around my face. If I wasn’t before, I was now legitimately relaxed. She told me that they only use alkaline water in their treatments, and that’s what’s used with the hot towels. Alkaline water has less acid (a higher pH) than regular tap water, so there’s a belief that it has lots of health benefits—among them, that it’s great for your skin.
After the first few rounds of hot towels that I honestly didn’t want to ever come off, Vanessa gave me an exfoliating pumpkin enzyme masque. The stuff smelled freaking amazing and I seriously wanted to eat it. Turns out all the natural ingredients are good for your skin, too: nutmeg powder, rosemary, ginger root powder, sweet orange, lemon, bilberry, Vitamin E, allspice power, cinnamon bark, and of course pumpkin. No wonder I wanted to eat it.
Every facial at The Karcher is different, and tailored to the individual based on what you tell your esthetician at the beginning of your session. For me, I’ve been seeing dermatologists on and off since I was a teenager for lots of different problems. Plus, I ain’t getting any younger. So Vanessa used products with natural ingredients to stimulate my skin, draw out impurities and decrease inflammation.
After my exfoliation, she used a cleansing oil for a facial massage. And then throughout the process, in between rounds of hot towels Vanessa gave me a super-relaxing upper body (arm, chest, neck) massage. There wasn’t any product she used that didn’t smell incredible. I remember thinking, if this treatment ends at this point I will walk away in absolute bliss. This is fucking fantastic. But I was only halfway through.
After a few extractions (which were not weird at all! I don’t know what I was imagining, but what she did was actually relaxing), she used a toner to close my pores and then mixed up a charcoal clay mask (with alkaline water) and applied an herbal night serum. More hot towels. Then a seaweed toner and an eye rejuvenating cream.
Towards the end I received an LED light treatment, which apparently is one of the latest treatments to help boost collagen production and treat existing acne and redness. To finish the treatment she used an anti-inflammatory cream with botanical oils and a kelp and vitamin base.
After the treatment, I stared at my face in the mirror, barely recognizing the healthy glow reflected before me. And my skin was softer than I’ve ever felt it as an adult. I felt good enough about how I looked to walk outside sans makeup, which I never, ever do.
The Karcher is located at 72 Greenpoint Ave.