This LA Esthetician Turned her Home Spa Business into Downtown's Biggest Spa

I met up with DESUAR Spa owner Deisy Suarez to learn how this former home-spa esthetician transformed a grassroots operation into downtown Los Angeles' largest day spa. On the day we met, downtown LA's busy farmers' market had DESUAR's block sectioned off to cars, so I hopped out of my Lyft, grabbed a green juice and organic berries along the way, and followed signs for the spa into a commercial building. I wandered down a flight of stairs and after turning a corner discovered what felt like a massive spa-speakeasy.

High, exposed and metallic ceilings, gently lit candles and Moroccan Thuya wood appeared throughout. I met up with Deisy in the relaxation room, where they serve tea and sparkling wine, where she handed me off to one of her colleagues for a massage on Deisy's favorite amenity - DESUAR's Himalayan Salt Bed. It was a dreamy treatment, in a gorgeous space that felt both totally urban and a million miles away. 

Here is how Deisy built her dream spa:

Tell us about DESUAR Spa and how you came to the spa world?

"DESUAR Spa is a 4,400 square foot day spa located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. We have eight treatment rooms, one of which includes a Himalayan salt bed, in which we offer massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, slimming treatments, waxing, spray tanning and soaks. Our style is speakeasy-meets-industrial with a Moroccan twist. Our goal is to provide the best relaxation and also cater to the diverse community of Downtown Los Angeles.

I completed my massage program certificate at the National Holistic Institute in 2010, then attended Marinello School of Beauty acquiring my esthetician license in 2011. I opened a “home spa” offering facials, skin treatments and other beauty services out of a room in my home. In 2015, the home version of DESUAR Spa grew too big to operate out of a small space, and I started looking for commercial space."  

How did you know you were ready to make the jump into opening your own space?

"It was tough to find the right space and a landlord that was willing to take the risk and lease to me. My home business was flourishing and that’s when I began scouting for a bigger location, but I couldn’t find a landlord in Downtown LA who was willing to lease a space to a single, female Latina who had this dream of opening a spa. All they hear when I said 'spa' was 'massage parlor' and they just did not have interest in knowing more about it. It was around this time that I got married, and though he doesn’t have knowledge of the spa industry, with him in the picture, landlords were more receptive of renting to me. To some degree, at least with regard to obtaining a lease, my husband legitimized my business."


Did you raise money, or take it on solo?

"This has been a solo venture. I wanted to build my first spa without outside investors. My husband helped me build the spa, carrying wood and drywall up 12 flights of stairs, adding air conditioners, and finding water supplies. He secured business loans that he personally guaranteed, along with his pension and car to help get us the amount of capital we needed.  We worked seven days a week, 12 or more hours a day to secure our new location and cover the crazy buildout costs. We were denied by the city three times for permits thus making the process more grueling and more expensive, but we did it."  

How did you develop your clientele?

"From opening my home spa until now, I’ve always used the best products, found the best training, and have a true passion for what I do. I also posted ads in every local newspaper, dropped my menu to every Downtown LA building, attended and participated in every local networking event. We got our vehicle wrapped to advertise the spa, and I then spent many evenings driving around the local area, parking in strategic locations as a way to advertise. I encouraged my clients to leave reviews for me on every site; took advantage of any technology. Creating strategic partnerships with local businesses has also really served me well to this day. Relationships are very important. It is a challenge to get clients in the door but once I do, it is my goal to make sure they leave with the most positive impression."

How did you come up with the treatments?

"Coming up with spa treatments was the fun part! I traveled South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa to soak in all that I could. I looked into everything, including a 700-year-old Turkish Spa in Downtown Istanbul with the 5" water bugs,  to learn about spa culture across every culture. My dream was to offer the most effective healing treatments, no matter how far I had to go to find them."

What is your next goal for the spa?

"We have been blessed with an incredible therapist team, who we recruited using online posts and social media, who meet strictest standards of spa education and service. Now, with the team in place, I’m excited to soon introduce our own product line and open more locations nationwide and worldwide."

What advice would you have to any current therapists or spa managers looking to open their own facility?

"My number one piece of advice is to dedicate yourself to your craft by constantly studying and improving yourself. You must be dedicated and always learning. Our business evolves and grows so much every day and the only way to stay ahead is to be ahead. Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you and help you grow."

Healthy City Guide to Washington DC


We here on the easy breezy west coast often mistakenly associate DC more with House of Cards and heated CNN debates than yoga and highbrow vegan brunch. But the capital is a wellness hotbed that’s only growing hotter, and with its annual VegFest coming up on September 2, we realized our Google Doc of ‘DC must-visits’ needed some expert attention, stat.

We turned to Well + Away friend and founder of Grassfed Media in DC Sacha Cohen for her pro advice. As someone who exclusively represents conscious clients and supports organizations including the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and the Humane Rescue Alliance, Sacha has become our go-to for navigating where to sweat and what to eat in the capital city. Here are her favorite conscious spots around town to get fit, fed, zen-ed and sunned.


For a yogic experience that ranges from super chill to 90-minutes of sweaty inversion practice, I turn to Tranquil Space in Arlington or Dupont Circle for the 60-minute mindfulness meditation sessions or the 90-minute Flow and Fly class that focuses on training arm balances. For something a bit more scene-y, try Rocket Vinyasa with Jonathan Ewing or Jivamukti with Cory Bryant at Flow Yoga Studio in vibrant Logan Circle. When I need to mix up my practice with something different, I’ll pop into an aerial yoga class with Susan at Spark Yoga in Arlington and Fairfax, or wind down with candlelight yoga on Monday nights at the Arlington Spark Studio, taught by Lika Elwood.


Book ahead for a table at Equinox Restaurant, the city’s most delicious vegan brunch, helmed by husband-and-wife co-owners Todd Gray and Ellen Kassoff. A signature brunch buffet serves up fresh seasonal dishes including a crispy cauliflower tempura, yellow tomato and pineapple gazpacho, as well as a made-to-order tofu scramble bar and vegan sweets like chocolate pot au creme. Mocktails and cocktails including an American Vegano and, naturally, a signature Equinox Bloody Mary are made from fresh juices and purees.

Get Out

Get outdoors to hike it off throughout 32 miles of trails in DC’s beautiful Rock Creek Park, sprawling across 1700 acres and bisecting DC’s northwest quadrant. If you’d rather try your SoulCycle skills in the great outdoors, all roads and paved trails in Rock Creek Park are open to bicyclists. A popular paved path begins just north of Peirce Mill and follows the creek all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.

Get Cultured

Many of DC’s art and culture institutions are free because they are part of the publicly and institutionally endowed Smithsonian Institution. A few of my favorites for contemporary and modern art include The Hirshhorn Museum, The East Building of the National Museum of Art, The Renwick Gallery and The Phillips Collection. If you want to museum hop, the epicenter for access to most of DC’s free museums is the National Mall. Each of these museums has renowned permanent collections as well as rotating exhibitions such as the recent much buzzed about Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirrshhorn.


The adorable, always packed Baked and Wired is tucked into a pretty cobblestone street in Georgetown, one of DC’s most popular shopping areas for the well-heeled. B+W’s Soccer Mom bar with a graham cracker crust, chocolate and butterscotch chips, coconut and pecans is a decadent indulgence, or a Chocolate Oreo Cakecup is an ever-so-slightly lighter plant-based treat. Grab one of the bistro tables outside to watch the world go by or settle into the cozy back room with your sweet treat.


Nusta Spa is a relaxing oasis in the heart of bustling Farrugut North in downtown DC and the first LEED-certified spa in the world. Skincare and bodycare treatments include traditional massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, hydrotherapy and mani/pedis. A personal favorite is the matcha brightening decollete facial to soothe summer skin or a massage using  handcrafted essential oils by BodyBliss.


Opened in August, Take Care is the place to find small batch, synthetic-free and handmade apothecary goods from indie makers around the U.S. Some of my favorites include the cacao antioxidant face mask from Josh Rosebrook, “Ritual” from Smoke Perfume, and the goodness lipstick from vegan lipstick company Axiology. You’ll also find a beautiful collection of handmade lifestyle goods that focus on simple, natural designs and ingredients such as the pure essential oil and a soy cure-all candle from Essential Apothecary Alchemist. With a focus on self-care and taking time out for oneself, Take Care also offers a variety of workshops and events including an upcoming Superfood Latte Workshop.


I’m a little reluctant to mention Bar A Vin because it’s still somewhat under-the-radar. This sexy little spot will make you feel like you’ve just landed in Paris, complete with a stunning copper bar, 30-40 old world wines by the glass, and sophisticated bar bites including marinated olives, pickled vegetables and assorted dairy-free cheeses. On a promising date? Settle into the "living room" just off the main entrance and get better acquainted by the roaring fire.


It’s a bit of a trek from DC, but for amazing organic vegan fare Great Sage Vegan restaurant is  a must. This comfort food-inspired restaurant features plant based entrees ranging from light to lightly battered. The avocado kale hash and gobi Manchurian--battered cauliflower florets with chiles, cumin and ginger, served with stewed black lentils and green pea-coconut jasmine rice-- are perfect for cooler nights.



Irish Road Tripping: Seaweed Baths, Rural Perfumeries and Vegan Castle Dinners

A drive across the Emerald Isle, shacking up at off-the-beaten-path castle resorts and dining at sweet vegan eateries in between spa appointments, is now one of our all-time favorite glam-casual adventures. Starting and ending in Dublin, with at least one pint of Guinness (it’s going vegan in 2017!) and a lot of drop-in yoga along the way, we winded through Sligo, Donegal and Galway on a wellness-themed trek.

Getting there

Ireland’s Aer Lingus started three new non-stop flights from the US in 2016: from Los Angeles, Hartford and Newark. It’s also launching a direct flight from Miami later in 2017. When returning home, a handy pre-clearance in Dublin and Shannon airports mean no customs lines at your home airport when you’re schlepping Duty Free goodies while sleepwalking.


Set up camp at historic, glamorous Shelbourne or boutique and charming Brooks Hotel for centrally located digs. The Shelbourne is steps from Stephen’s Green park and massive (pedestrian-only) shopping thoroughfare Grafton Street, as well as vegan-friendly wine bar Peploe’s. Brooks is located on indie shop-lined Drury Street, as well as a five minute walk from vegetarian Cornucopia restaurant and 15 minutes from the Guinness Storehouse.

And speaking of the Storehouse, The Guinness Storehouse tour may have been around for ages, but is still wildly popular with visitors and a fair amount of locals. A post-tour pint at the top of the Gravity Bar with 360 degree views of the city below is the ultimate touristy indulgence.

Vegan dining in Dublin is easy peasy: Cornucopia is cute for casual lunch for dine-in or to go before hitting the road. If a slightly dressier three-course dinner is more your speed, Fallon & Byrne grocery has an upstairs bistro that serves a vegan menu (in addition to non-veg version) with items including a celeriac and apple salad and roasted cauliflower. After dinner, a night with the famed Literary Bar Crawl is a necessity. Over the course of three hours (and up to four Guinnesses if you have on at each stop) you can get what feels like an entire semester’s worth of Dublin history performed, often in first-person and from the perspective of historic figures like Oscar Wilde, by two locals who live and breathe Irish history.


After a day or two of city living, hit the road three hours north to country castle Lough Eske (pronounced Lock Esk) for grounds and interiors so stunning you best swap out your American athleisure for something more befitting a 17th century castle. Lough Eske does a pan-European tasting menu with risotto, falafel and seasonal salads in their Cedar’s Grill restaurant, but the real star are the forest estate’s 43 acres of manicured gardens, walking paths and fireside nooks.


A visit to Voya’s seaside spa for seaweed-based treatments is a necessary Irish wellness experience. The location alone, on the Atlantic coast and just over an hour from Lough Eske, is ridiculously romantic - stunning on a sunny day and so brooding and lush on a more likely rainy day.

Voya uses a number of different seaweeds, all hand-harvested, throughout their various spa treatments. The signature is their seaweed bath, during which you hop into a steamy claw-footed tub filled with local seaweeds that fill the bath with the weeds’ gel-like goo. Amazing for the skin, detoxifying and so relaxing, the seaweed baths leave you feeling as jelly-like the goo itself. More relaxed than is probably safe, stumble about 200 yards to the Drafthouse Gastro Pub, where they offer a number of vegan options for dinner and dessert that change each evening. On the way out of town, hitting the health-focused vegan and gluten-free eatery Sweet Beat Cafe in the center of Sligo town makes for a quick, nutrient-rich breakfast. This eatery has won national awards for its raw and cooked cuisine, so be sure to stock up a vegan version of the Full Irish (a traditional breakfast often featuring bacon, eggs, and sausage), bean and avocado spelt toasts.


Two hours south of Sligo, Galway is one of Ireland’s older cities and a key stop for some of the country’s coziest pubs. The best meal of our trip was here, at the non-vegan Kai restaurant. Don’t let the regular menu fool you - the vegan tasting menu is Just give them a 24 hour heads up to have it ready. It is way too much food, and yet we finished every bite. Everything is local and perfectly prepared and so creative.

Dromoland Castle

Dromoland is about an hour’s drive south, with a very (very) worthy pitstop being the Burren perfumery and tea shop. The Burren is a crazy section of Ireland that we can’t even begin to describe other than that it feels like you’re on the moon and we hope you’ve gotten used to driving on the other side of the road, because the unpaved ones leading here are not for novices.

Once you arrive, Dromoland Castle is even Castle-ier than Lough Eske. If Lough Eske is your Irish country castle escape for hiking, dressing up and late night drinks by the fire, Dromoland is your ‘which century am I in and I can’t believe this is a real place’ labyrinthine castle for old-school styled fine dining, great spa treatments and a maybe some late night ‘The Crown’ binge-watching with Guinness delivered in-room. Rooms vary greatly, and the corner suites that look out to the grounds on two sides are the ones to nab.