Framed by the rolling Santa Monica Mountains and a sparkling Pacific vista, the spectacular setting of Malibu invokes a sense of well-being for both residents and visitors. Between stunning coastal sunsets and over 20 miles of uniquely pristine beaches, the iconic town offers a beautiful backdrop for outdoor activities and the health-minded people who enjoy them.
It’s a scene Veronica Barton-Schwartz has cherished since she moved to Malibu in 1971.
“It’s magical,” says the esthetician and owner of Veronica Skin & Body Care — which has been offering wellness treatments in Malibu for almost 40 years. As one of the longest-running skin and body care centers in the LA area, the business now operates in three locations: out of a home spa near Pepperdine University, on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, and for the past six years, within the seaside spa at Malibu Beach Inn.
Among the myriad treatments offered at the luxury spa is reflexology, a massage technique effective in relieving stress and stimulating healing through an artful application of pressure to key points throughout the body. Derived from an ancient Chinese practice, the touch therapy is considered helpful with improving circulation and lymphatic drainage, as well as aiding in everything from high blood pressure to asthma to persistent headaches.
“Reflexology has been around for many, many years, and now that its healing properties are becoming known, they’re even doing it in hospitals,” says Barton-Schwartz. “It’s what we teach and what we do.”
Her talented team of massage therapists, who have also become certified experts in reflexology, are fluent in something known as Zone Theory, which maps the foot into reflexive regions that correlate with organs throughout the body. Using this knowledge, practitioners can help treat afflictions like anxiety, clogged sinuses, and even the side effects of diabetes.
“This is a good business for longevity,” says Barton-Schwartz, who arranges reflexology services for herself at least once per week, as well as for her 98-year-old mother. In the spa owner’s experience, there are two types of people who come into the hotel spa seeking the specialized treatment.
“A lot of people staying here see it on the menu, and they’re curious because they haven’t done it before,” she says. The other type of person, she explains, is already very familiar with the benefits.
“They’re doing it for healing, and to feel better, whether they just ran a 10K or if they want to walk on the beach,” she says. “They usually feel better and make another appointment.”
When booking a half- or one-hour reflexology treatment at Veronica in Malibu Beach Inn, patrons can expect a massage therapist to greet them at their room before they are led to the hotel’s spectacular spa suite overlooking the Pacific.
“You almost feel like you’re on a ship because of the view and crashing of the waves,” says Barton-Schwartz.
After picking from a selection of aromatic essential oils (like orange, mint, or lavender – which are then blended with an organic Epicurean lotion), guests settle onto a soft-cushioned massage bed with their head and knees slightly propped. As they lie listening to the undulating tide from the beach below, their therapist works the aromatic oil lotion mixture into specific acupressure points in the feet, hands, and ears.
Here, guests can choose a generalized reflexology service aimed at promoting relaxation or one that’s more targeted based on areas of persistent pain or discomfort. For the latter, the experts at Veronica are happy to teach their pressure point methods so treatment can continue away from the spa.
Photo: Quinn Killick
“If they ask questions or if they feel like they have one point that really hurts them, we’ll try to educate them and let them know how they can do their own foot massage and their own reflexology at home,” says Barton-Schwartz. “As soon as you take off your shoes after working out all day or if you’re on a trip, you want to massage your feet, and you’re almost giving yourself a little bit of reflexology.”
Drawing from four decades of experience, Barton-Schwartz believes that those visiting Malibu can enhance their stay with a reflexology session.
“There’s a reason that we do it,” she says. “It complements your experience because you feel better. You’ll swim longer in the ocean and take longer beach walks. It makes your trip happier and healthier.”
Featured Photo: Sebrin Elms