The smell of freshly cut cucumber fills the air at Nefaire of Westport. Behind the counter in the day spa’s “kitchen,” Wen Chang is slicing the cucumber and crushing other ingredients together. If one didn’t know better, you might think she was a bartender preparing a cucumber-infused cocktail. In reality she is making cucumber eye patches, rounded white patches infused with nutrients, made to rest on the lids of people getting facials.

All ingredients — including salts, oils and vegetables — used for facials and as part of massages at the spa are organic. Each element is customized to each client. Wen Chang’s son, Michael Chang, the founder of Nefaire, says this fresh and organic philosophy is inspired in part by the healthy-food movement. “I think people are really starting to be more conscious of health issues and problems caused by poor modern diets, given that so many things today are processed or touched by antibiotics or hormones.” He adds, “The skin is the body’s largest organ, so naturally the fresh and organic trends have also spilled over into skincare and wellness, as well. This is what we focus on at Nefaire, where our ‘kitchen’ not only serves as a medium to create the fresh and organic things we use for our facials and massage, but it also serves as a way to let our clients see exactly what is being used.”

The kitchen also allows Nefaire’s estheticians (those trained to give facials and other services) to zero-in on each patient’s skin type and skin concerns. For instance, if you have dry skin they’ll create a formula that particularly addresses that issue. 

Nefaire of Westport

141 Post Road E., Westport

Nefaire takes its name from the Egyptian word “Nefer,” meaning “wellness and goodness.” The spa, which opened in February, has a membership fee of $39 a year. Members receive a 15- to 20-percent discount on all spa services and up to a 15-percent discount on products available for sale.

Services offered include one-hour facials ($99, or $79 for members), 35-minute facials ($55, or $45 for members) and HydraFacial treatments ($175, or $150 for members), a modern type of microdermabrasion that pulls impurities from the skin while infusing it with nutrients. The spa also offers a one-hour Swedish massage ($99, or $79 for members), a one-hour, deep-tissue massage ($99, or $79 for members) and chemical peels ($99, or $79 for members). Add-ons include hand and eye treatments.

Michael Chang was inspired to open the spa after experiencing his own hardships with skincare. “I’ve always had pretty sensitive skin. I had chronic acne and hyperpigmentation [a condition in which patches of skin become darker than the surrounding skin], and would also be prone to dermatitis and hives if something I used for the acne contained an ingredient I’d be sensitive to, which created another skin problem in itself,” he says.

He went to several dermatologists and tried a variety of drugs including antibiotics, oral steroids, and Accutane (a prescription vitamin A derivative) twice, but none of the treatments were effective. “Nothing really helped completely, and either the acne would return, or the drug I used would cause some sort of adverse reaction. That’s when I decided to start researching skin and acne, purely out of frustration. I learned that acne-prone skin is typically not in balance, and that throwing various drugs at it at once doesn’t typically solve the problem.”

One day, after coming back from the beach, he noticed that his skin looked extra clear and later learned this occurred from a combination of vitamin D exposure (he says “sun really helps with skin”) and sea salt, which acts as an antibacterial. “That’s when I started to look into natural solutions for skin problems, and also when I was introduced to facials at the spa.”

These experiences inspired him to open Nefaire, and he is now in the process of developing an app that will let people order services from the spa at their homes, hotels or offices. In the meantime, he explains the spa is designed to fit into the schedules of busy people, and none of the spa’s services are longer than 70 minutes. 

“Natural, pure ingredients that don’t irritate, coupled with relaxation, were the two big factors that helped me, and what we try to incorporate into Nefaire,” Chang says. “We incorporated massage as well based upon the same natural principles.”

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University