Arizona’s spa maven makes the spa lifestyle accessible for everyone
By Jessica Runberg • Photos by Mark Susan
Lisa Kasanicky is Scottsdale chic in a cobalt blue dress accented with a chunky gold necklace and matching earrings. She’s fresh off her fourth 3TV appearance in a row, sharing a “week of spaaah” with viewers—and in need of caffeine. Kasanicky wears a lot of hats, and as she sits down for this interview with a Starbucks in hand, she admits that it’s sometimes hard for people to define who she is and what she does.
North Scottsdale resident Kasanicky is perhaps best described as Arizona’s leading authority on spas, salons and beauty. The 45-year-old spa maven is the founder of the website AZSpaGirls.com, an information-rich guide to more than 4,000 Arizona beauty and wellness facilities. In other words, she’s like the state’s cheerleader for spa-goers. What started out as girlfriend-to-girlfriend reviews of spas throughout Arizona has blossomed into a thriving insider’s guide to spas and salons.
But there’s something different about Kasanicky: she doesn’t believe that the spa lifestyle should be reserved solely for the well-heeled. Au contraire, she’s rooting for everyday women to fit visits to the spa into their busy schedules and tight budgets.
And that’s probably because she was—and still is—an everyday woman.
“I didn’t think going to the spa was for me; I thought it was just something rich people did,” Kasanicky says. That was until she actually went to the spa. On a weekend getaway with girlfriends at the Phoenician, then-30-year-old Kasanicky quite literally “found herself” at the spa.
Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after a wonderful spa day, she decided to attend the resort’s guided meditation session. “We were supposed to look deep into our psyche . . . and all I saw inside my head was this little bald hobbit man with a cane,” she laughs. “I took it as a sign that I was in the wrong career, and transitioned from technical to lifestyle writing.”
Naturally she began writing about spas and started what is now AZ Spa Girls. “The website was ugly, but I loved it anyway,” she says. “I would get emails from people thanking me for recommending a certain spa or treatment and it inspired me to keep going.”
Along the way, Kasanicky started transforming into the person she is today. “I used to be a bit of a hippie; I sported torn jeans and didn’t wear makeup,” she says. “But then I realized that it was OK to feel pretty.”
The change wasn’t merely skin deep. The spa lifestyle encouraged Kasanicky to slow down in a high-speed world and discover who she was inside. “I used to be a little sarcastic and cynical,” she says.
Today the successful business owner is cool, calm and collected—and completely comfortable in her own skin.
Summer Spaah Series
But the real aha moment came eight years ago when a local spa called her and asked if she could help drum up business in the dead of summer. Her response? Let’s have a party! The plan was to get locals into the spas and build long-term relationships. The award-winning Summer Spaah Series now hosts parties at select spas throughout the summer. Locals sip cocktails and nibble on hors d’oeuvres from resort chefs and caterers while enjoying mini spa services, wellness talks and beauty demos. The best part? Participants go home with a highly coveted goody bag filled with Kasanicky’s personal beauty-product picks and a gift certificate to return to the spa.
“People like Dr. Phil and Oprah are always touting the benefits of taking care of ourselves, but the problem is that we don’t how,” she says. “Attending The Summer Spaah Series is a great first step.” Women are invited to discover their inner ahhh! at the likes of such resorts as Alvadora Spa at the Royal Palms; Agave, The Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland; the Joya Spa at Montelucia and Dolce Salon and Spa.
This year’s theme is “rediscovery,” and Kasanicky’s hope is that women not only rediscover these fabulous places in their own backyards, but also rediscover the benefits of taking care of themselves. Proceeds benefit Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, a Phoenix-based organization that empowers women to transform their lives through engagement and education.
The Skinny on North Scottsdale’s Spa Scene
With so many of the Valley’s top resort, day and med spas located in North Scottsdale, Kasanicky says the Greater Airpark is “the seat of the spa lifestyle.”
Her latest addiction is Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ innovative spa program that includes a medically guided and fully customized wellness experience that combines health, wellness, nutrition, integrative medicine, fitness and advanced skincare.
“It combines everything I love about the traditional spa experience with medicine in a very modern way,” Kasanicky says. “But it’s the people that make it such a great experience; they have the best staff, from the spa director to the team members who perform the services.”
Kasanicky is also obsessed with blowouts and is a self-proclaimed dry-bar junkie. “When they first opened Drybar at Scottsdale Quarter, I thought there was no way anyone was going to go for that,” she laughs. Now blowouts are the “it” thing, and Kasanicky can’t get enough. “What can I say? It makes you feel good and you always leave looking hot.”
“Every spa has an interesting personality and discovering them is half the fun,” Kasanicky says. She says that Kierland’s Agave has a “fun and bubbly” personality and that The Body & Soul Spa on Northsight has a welcoming neighborhood feel. Although Kasanicky isn’t personally into med spas, she acknowledges that it’s a big part of the Scottsdale lifestyle. “The most important thing to me is feeling good on the inside,” she says.
Finding Time and Money
But the question remains: how does one afford the spa lifestyle? Kasanicky explains that she will happily pass on a new dress to get a facial. It’s one of the ways she prioritizes feeling beautiful inside and out. “It feels so amazing to have someone touch your face,” she says.
“People have the money for it,” she adds. “They just haven’t made it a priority.”
Kasanicky believes we’d all be better off if we made taking care of ourselves a priority. “We’re so glued to our computers and smartphones that we never slow down long enough to look deep into our psyche. Who knows, there might even be a little old man in there,” she laughs.
And guess what? Even men need spa time. “The truth is they need it as much as we do, but they’re far less likely to make it a priority. Take my husband for example. He loves getting massages, yet he never gets around to making an appointment. So I make it for him and he’s always so thankful he went.”
She adds that many spas, like Agave, are very gender neutral. It’s just a matter of getting men there.
Kasanicky is so passionate about making the spa lifestyle accessible that she offered specials on her website long before Groupon or DealChicken came along. Last year she revamped her specials to be more competitive in the crowded deal marketplace by launching SpaGirlsClub.com, a sub-website specializing in Arizona salon and spa deals.
Her personal philosophy is to offer discounts that encourage people to try new things—without giving away the farm. “I want people to be educated about the costs,” she explains. “I don’t want to give away a facial that costs $65 for $35 because you may ultimately decide that it’s too expensive to go again.”
The idea is to make taking care of yourself an ongoing endeavor—not a one-time thing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t be on the lookout for deals. Kasanicky suggests signing up for emails from your favorite salons and spas, as well as looking for last-minute flash sales on Facebook. “You can even call and ask about specials,” she says. “There’s almost always something going on.”
She also suggests going to resort spas on weekdays to save money or asking about evening hours. “If you’re having difficulty fitting a beauty appointment into your busy schedule, an evening appointment can be win-win,” she says.
“This month [August] is actually a perfect time to make a spa appointment, because not only are the kids back in school, but the salons are still offering summer specials,” she says. “And, of course, there are still two more Summer Spaah Series events left.”
No matter where or how you get started, Kasanicky suggests trying something that’s always intrigued you, whether it’s a Thai massage or a facial. “You may or may not find your groove with one treatment, but if you close your eyes and relax, you might discover something interesting . . . or you might just have an awesome nap,” she says. “I mean, when’s the last time you had a really good nap?”
Want to schedule a spa day? Here’s a sampling of the Airpark’s best spas.
Agave, The Arizona Spa at The
Westin Kierland Resort
6902 E. Greenway Parkway
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Red Mountain Med Spa
8600 E. Shea Blvd., Suite 110
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Vitality Med Spa
14301 N. 87th St. #112
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Body & Soul Spa
15090 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 107
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Canyon Falls Spa & Salon
14891 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 121
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Dolce Salon & Spa at Scottsdale Quarter
15323 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 180
Scottsdale, AZ 85254