Welcome to The Now Age, our tribute to the fascinating and ever-evolving landscape of alternative wellness. From Reiki to plant medicine, we're taking a closer look at how holistic healing can factor into the modern woman's lifestyle—with curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism.
Like many in my generation, I grapple with both the compulsion to constantly check my social media feeds and the all-consuming fatigue of maintaining that particular hologram of my "life." This steady current of anxiety often makes true presence feel like not just an impossibility, but an annoyance. Exhibit A: When I was treating myself to a pedicure recently, I found it completely impossible for me to relax. It felt wrong to be sitting still, and I toggled through every possible app on my phone to pass the time; my mind flickered from my calendar to my inbox to Instagram and back again. I left the salon feeling more stressed out than when I had entered it.
It is, of course, the hazard of having the world exist at our fingertips—it can make those quiet moments feel wrong when, in fact, they're our opportunity to recharge. And as I've continued to cover the frenetic growth of the wellness industry, I've noticed a distinct parallel: There are countless workout classes, products, and exciting new brands at our disposal. The dizzying array of options is thrilling in many respects, but are we actually engaging with it at all with the goal of genuine self-improvement? As we book our workouts with the tap of a finger and dump our herbal "dusts" in our rainbow-hued, Instagram-ready smoothies, are we really feeling fulfilled? We're surrounded by Health™, but are we actually healthy?
There are, of course, outliers to this scrum of consumption—and interestingly, many of these rebels actually aim to introduce mindfulness and spiritual engagement to beauty-specific treatments. Consider Adriana Rizzolo, a self-described "hair witch" who leads her clients through meditation exercises before giving them a trim. Or Mashell Tabe, a celeb-loved facialist who sees her work as an opportunity to impart energetic healing through touch. "To me, this is the true beauty and empowerment of my industry," says Tabe. "It's the ultimate act of self-care an individual can give themselves."
Pay attention to her terminology, as that's precisely the point: The individual is not just a paying customer but an active and engaged participant in the treatment, a collaborator in their own healing process. It's the knowledge that something as seemingly frivolous as a haircut or a facial can actually be a means to something much more significant rather than the ends.
And above all else, these outliers offer a unique approach to both mindfulness and beauty that transcends the noise. From "intuitive tattoos" to "healing haircuts," learn more about the beauty-wellness hybrids that exist outside the norm—and might make you feel grounded again.
The "Hair Witch" Who Offers Healing Trims
Many of us carry a lot of unrealized emotional weight in our hair—which is why a big cut can often feel deeply transformative. Adriana Rizzolo leans into this catharsis with her "healing haircuts," which effectively take the culturally enforced role of hairstylist-as-therapist to the next level. Based in Los Angeles, Rizzolo supplements her clients' trims with meditation sessions and energy clearing.
"It's an opportunity," she says. "You're releasing something physically from your body. It's a representation of this energetic thing that we can't really see, because all of that kind of transformational work happens on a subtle level."
Rizzolo started cutting hair in high school, and it quickly became a source of income as she cultivated an interest in yoga and meditation. "It basically helped me fund all my training," she says. During her years in New York City, she began to host women's circles in her living room, and soon sensed a parallel between these two seemingly different parts of her life.
"I was learning how to connect with women in a way that is really transformative and healing in terms of the kind of conversations that we were having," she recalls. "That very naturally just carried over to my work because that's what I do—I talk to women all day long when I'm cutting hair."
After moving across the country, Rizzolo decided to begin taking "healing haircut" appointments at her home in Echo Park. (She also hosts workshops and teaches yoga.) By nature, every session is unique. "Typically we'll sit down and have a conversation, and I'll lead you through a centering exercise in the beginning," she says. After meditation, she'll invite the client to share anything that they'd like to focus on. "Then we move into the haircut and we either continue that conversation or I ask I'll ask questions that will kind of help us go a little deeper."
To be clear, these sessions are often lighthearted, says Rizzolo. "People will say, 'Oh, I'm writing a book,' and I'm like, 'Oh cool, let's put some energy toward that,'" she says. "And other times, people are crying because they're going through something hard, and I'm just there to support the process. There's a creative, transformative energy inside you, and my job is to guide you into awareness."
And, as a bonus, she makes you look great while doing so.
The Intuitive Tattoo Artist
In the years that I've started to accumulate some diminutive ink, the aspect I've struggled with most is coming up with tattoo ideas that feel truly authentic and unique to me. This is not actually a "problem" when you're dealing with something so permanent; it has tempered the urge to etch my body with relatively meaningless symbols that I'll probably (definitely) regret later. I only really feel compelled to get another when I have a very unique, clear-cut idea or else want to commemorate something significant in my life. Earlier this year, it was the latter: After my grandmother died in January, I wanted something that would symbolize the passage of my childhood. I wasn't sure what that might look like.
So it seemed like kismet when I was invited to check out Earth Altar, a high-vibe tattoo studio and workshop space in L.A.'s Eagle Rock neighborhood that essentially combines the ethos of crystal healing and tarot with body art. Earth Altar co-founder Justine Serebrin specializes in what she calls "intuitive tattoos": After she facilitates an energy healing session to understand her client on a deeper level, the pair then collaborates on a resulting tattoo design. It's essentially an illustrated manifestation of a very cathartic therapy session.
After I picked out a crystal that "spoke to me"—for those well-versed in geology, I went with a vibrant green malachite stone, which symbolizes creativity and breaking through old barriers—Justine led me through a tarot reading that was eerily on-the-nose. In addition to alluding to my deep, visceral connection with nature and the planet, my reading reiterated the fact that I was in the process of closing one very dear chapter of my life and hurtling toward an exciting metamorphosis. And as we recalled the years that shaped me into the person I am becoming, it suddenly became very obvious: My tattoo would have something to do with water. I am a water sign, and my earliest, happiest childhood memories take place at my family's lake house. And to state the Hallmark obvious, life churns on.
After we settled on a delicate wave design, Serebrin quickly inked it into my skin, with a very special (and very L.A.) pièce de résistance: After attaching my crystal to the end of a needle, she finished the ends of the tattoo in a stick-and-poke style so that I would be imbued with that energy. All in all, it made for the perfect visual homage to a complicated mess of nostalgia and emotion. Wave tattoos have been done before, yet mine feels as singular to me as my memories do.
The Custom Perfume Label Rooted in Feng Shui
Upon entering The Harmonist's Los Angeles boutique, it's immediately clear that this shopping experience will be totally unique. The space has the air of an exceedingly zen art gallery, complete with yin and yang motifs and malachite countertops. All of this, of course, speaks to the French parfumerie's MO: to offer each customer a bespoke fragrance experience that incorporates elements of feng shui, the Chinese philosophy of personal and environmental harmony.
The 10 different scent profiles at The Harmonist are each crafted to represent yin or yang as well as the universal elements of fire, water, wood, earth, and metal. "Interpreting these scents is like the best playground any perfumer can imagine," says general manager Segundo Broggi. The idea is that a customer will be most drawn to a scent that speaks to their personal feng shui profile, which is determined with the help of a store associate and your birth date. (You can find yours online.)
I learned, for example, that I am Yang Earth—loyal, contemplative, good at listening, not so great at communicating. After being presented with a few different fragrances that most matched these elements, I settled on one called Velvet Fire ($285): a heady, smoky blend of oud, musk, French herbs, tobacco, and tonka bean. While I admittedly made my decision solely based on scent attraction, it was rather fitting to hear that this fragrance embodied extroversion and charisma—the perfect complement to my decidedly reserved personality.
Whether you subscribe to these energetic aspects or not, Broggi notes that if nothing else, this kind of mindful approach makes the shopping experience more meaningful. "When we become more self-aware of what we want and what we are looking for, our purchases are much more enjoyable and satisfying," he says.
The Facialist Who Moonlights as a Spiritual Healer
"Caring for someone's skin is such an intimate experience to begin with," says Mashell Tabe. "It's only natural for those who are attuned to subtle energy to want to translate this sacred time of nurturing into a deeply spiritually nourishing event." It's been a decade since the esthetician first noticed that she could incorporate this kind of hands-on spirituality into her skincare treatments—and as clients realized that they were getting so much more out of their sessions with Tabe than a radiant complexion, a cult following quickly materialized. (Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts are among her high-profile fans.)
A huge proponent of micro-needling, Tabe sits right at the intersection of alternative and cutting-edge therapies. Superficially speaking, this approach actually bodes very well for our complexions, which are heavily influenced by our general well-being. (Anyone who has experienced a stress-related breakout knows this to be true.)
But Tabe prefers to look at it the other way. "Many of my clients will tell you: The facial is just an added bonus," she says. "When you seek out these kinds of [energetic] treatments, it gives you the ability to think more clearly; when you remove density, you're better able to connect to your light within, giving you the ability and openness to bring in deeper and more meaningful relationships in all areas of your life. It's the ultimate act of self-care."
And it's an invitation to view otherwise typical beauty rituals completely differently: as a means to mindfully connect with yourself, even if just for a few minutes while you wash your face.
The Skincare Guru With a Knack for Holistic Medicine
While I've collected many items from Tammy Fender's excellent, plant-based skincare line over the years, the esthetician's IRL treatments are nothing short of legendary in the beauty editor community. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to meet with Fender when she made a stop in Los Angeles earlier this year. That's not to mention that as someone who is highly fascinated by herbalism and the therapeutic power of plant medicine, I was honestly just excited to pick the skincare guru's brain—especially since Fender is essentially one of the earliest pioneers of the green beauty movement.
"Over 25 years ago, I very quickly woke up to the realization that many of the commercial, chemical-based beauty products that my clients were using were actually causing damage to their skin and I was determined to find a better way," she says. It's a testament to the recency of plant-based beauty's mass appeal that just two decades ago, Fender's only alternative was to get scrappy. "I began custom-blending skincare formulas in my kitchen," she says. "Happily, word spread, and we slowly grew the collection."
Fender's in-person facial treatments incorporate elements of herbalism, aromatherapy, and energy work. Before she got to work on my skin, we sat together as I sniffed and selected my preferred essential oils, discussed their benefits, and how they might balance out my mood and well-being that day. Fender believes that this collaboration is crucial to maximizing the impact of every treatment. "Every ancient healing modality relies not only on the expertise of the practitioner but the sincere participation and the partnership of those who were being treated," she explains. "When we work together at this deep level, engaging self-awareness and intuition to activate healing, the results are simply stunning, and they last."
Like so many of her contemporaries listed here, Fender believes that her practical work as an esthetician really allows her to facilitate something much deeper to her clients. "I work through the skin, but I treat each person holistically," she says. "I've found that a sense of joy and happiness, or simply coming into energetic balance, hugely impacts the way we perceive beauty and that working with clients on these deeper levels is also profoundly effective in healing the skin. I guide clients through the small shifts and lifestyle changes that allow vibrancy to shine throughout their lives."
Sure enough, I left an hour later feeling both radiant and empowered—because I too had played a vocal role. And I realized that perhaps the real appeal of these kinds of hybridized alternative beauty treatments is that they finally blur the longstanding divide between active practitioner and passive client. After all, true wellness is an expression of autonomy—sometimes, it just takes a really insightful hairstylist (or facialist or tattoo artist) to help us dig into to that self-realization.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.