“ Type: Day spa and restaurant / Location: 14 East St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1HP / Tel: 01273 823 178 „
I'm addicted to groupon. For those of you who don't know what groupon is, it's basically a website where you can buy deals in certain towns. If enough people purchase the same deal as you then it's on and you usually make huge savings. I found Aloka on groupon. The offer was £26 for a get up and go facial, a mini-manicure, an eyebrow shaping and foot massage. If I'm completely honest it's the eyebrow shaping that sold me. I am always looking for somewhere to get my eyebrows done. The thing with eyebrows is that if someone messes them up you have to wait weeks for them to be fixed. Even after living in Sussex for over a year I still haven't found anywhere to get my eyebrows done so I thought this would be a great opportunity to try somewhere new for my eyebrows and get a few extras for a little bit of extra money. Groupon claimed that this package would usually cost £75 and sure enough if you look at Aloka's price list you will find the following prices:
Eyebrow shaping- £10
30 minute get up and go facial-£32
Which left me with the impression that foot massage would usually cost £18 (I couldn't find it on the price list).
==Booking and Arrival==
Booking my appointment was really easy. Aloka also has a restaurant so although the day spa closes at 6.30 there is still someone there after this time. I tend to work long hours so found this really useful as I never get to call during the day. The person on the phone was really friendly and helpful, which automatically gave me a good impression of Aloka.
When I arrived at Aloka I was greeted immediately in a friendly manner. Aloka is big and isn't just a spa so I found it reassuring to have someone guide me. I had to fill out a quick questionnaire and I was then taken to the treatment room. The treatment room is up three flights of stairs. I don't know if there's a lift or not as I wasn't at any point asked if I was okay with stairs. I found this quite annoying. Three flights of stairs is not how I want to start a relaxing treatment and I found the assumption that simply because I don't use a wheelchair or have a walking stick I can't be disabled worrying. I think that anyone who may have mobility difficulties that aren't immediately obvious should avoid Aloka or at least ask if there's an alternative route before booking your appointment.
==The Treatment Room==
Aloka describes itself as being a day spa so I was expecting something relaxing and tranquil. Instead what I found was a very clinical looking room. The treatment bed is in the middle of the room and the first thing I thought was "dentist." The whole room reminded me of a dentist surgery. I think it was a combination of white walls, lack of furnishing and the bed in the middle of the room that made me feel like I was visiting the dentist. One wall does have a line of coloured bottles and the therapist explained that at Aloka they believe in colour therapy and that's what the bottles are for. Throughout my time at Aloka I found it difficult to relax, two of the reasons for this were that I felt very exposed by being on a dentist style bed in the middle of the room and the room was so light. It was daytime and the windows are large and not blacked out. I always think that dim lighting is nice when having relaxing treatments. It was strange because throughout the treatment the therapist emphasised the relaxing element of it but the entire environment seems to designed to stop people from feeling relaxed.
We started with the mini-manicure. I was surprised to see that there was no manicure table and that we were just going to do it on the treatment bed. I sat on one side and the therapist on the other and I found it very bizarre. I've had a lot of manicures in a lot of places and always had a manicure table. During the manicure some water spilled on the bed and the therapist had to change the sheet before I could sit on it, which really just demonstrates one of the practical reasons why manicure tables should be used. The mini-manicure consisted of soaking my nails in some water (which I assume had something in it) and then the therapist filing and painting the nails before putting some oil on my cuticles. I chose a clear nail varnish, I think you can pay extra for a French Manicure but I didn't take this option. The result of the mini-manicure was fine, my nails were nicely shaped and the nail varnish lasted really well without chipping. However, if this wasn't something that came with the rest of the package I wouldn't pay for it. I have quite an extensive beauty regime anyway and although it's nice to have someone else file your nails and shape them she didn't do anything that I wouldn't usually do myself. The only difference being that I would usually moisturise my hands before doing any of it.
I got the impression that the therapist wasn't going to do my eyebrows. When she was talking about what she was going to do she didn't mention it so I did. I like to have my eyebrows waxed and assumed that by eyebrow shape they meant that they would be waxed (every other place I've been to has always used wax unless otherwise stated). The therapist used tweezers to do my eyebrows. The reason why I pay to get my eyebrows done is that I hate having my eyebrows plucked. If I wanted to pluck them I would do it myself. I guess I can't hold this against them as they didn't specify that they would wax my eyebrows. What she did of my eyebrows was done very well. She followed the natural shape of my eyebrows and didn't make them too thin. However, she didn't ask me how I like my eyebrows and she didn't show me my eyebrows after doing them to make sure that I didn't want them any thinner. She also didn't do the middle of my eyebrows. I was left feeling quite let down because now part of my eyebrows look really good and the middle looks ridiculous and overgrown.
==Facial and Foot Massage==
After the eyebrow shape it was time for my facial. It was impossible to relax during the facial. Not only was the room too bright and too clinical but the therapist kept running the tap, I assume to wash her hands, during the facial and the noise of the water was not at all relaxing and it completely drowned out the noise of the gentle music that was playing.
She started the facial by cleansing my aura. To be honest this annoyed me. I have a crystal therapist who I visit regularly who I feel very in tune with and who I feel comfortable enough with that I don't feel like she's invading my space when she works on my aura and chakras. To me the aura is something very personal, it's literally my personal space and I don't want it cleansed by some woman who I've never met before, don't have any connection to and don't even feel comfortable with.
I'm not sure exactly what she did to my skin. I know that it included a scrub and various lotions as well as a mask type thing. The mask was made out of some kind of material and covered my face with a little hole for the nose. She did ask if I was okay with that so if you do go for a facial at Aloka you will be given the option of not having the mask but I think it's worth warning people anyway. While the mask was on I had my foot massage. The foot massage was so brief that it's barely worth mentioning. In fact it wasn't worth mentioning on the groupon. It certainly wouldn't be worth £18. After moisturising my face she used some lotion on my hands too which I thought seemed out of place, surely the hand lotion should have been used during the manicure?
The facial left my skin feeling good, not great but good. Actually it left it feeling very similar to how it feels at night right after I've finished my evening beauty regime. Basically the treatment I received achieved the same results that I could have achieved from the comfort of my own bedroom. Usually when I have a facial (including when I've had express facials) my skin feels good for days after, not with this one. By the next morning my skin was back to normal.
When I left she gave me a little bag with the flannel she had used on me and some little miniature bottles of lotions, which I thought was a nice gesture.
The whole experience felt very rushed. Although I was told that the treatment would take just over an hour when I called and the voucher specifies an hour it only took 40 minutes. I didn't feel like any of the treatments had the desired results and I certainly wouldn't pay to have any of them done again. The therapist was nice and she was polite throughout my time at Aloka but she didn't show any interest in what I wanted and didn't make me feel valued as a customer.
Aloka is the poorest excuse for a spa that I have ever visited. I actually think that referring to itself as a spa is stretching the truth significantly. It's a low quality beauty salon with delusions of grandeur. I had big expectations for this one. With half hour massages starting at £30 I expected something great but Aloka proves that just because something is expensive doesn't mean that it's any good. Aloka is a first for me, it's the first place I've discovered through groupon that I won't return to. Even the 20% off voucher that they gave me won't persuade me to return.
Aloka is not recommended.