Want a massage? There’s an app for that

Los Angeles is a stressful place. Heavy traffic is unavoidable, costs of living are high, and the air quality is abysmal. 

After dropping the kids off at school, driving to and from work, running errands and maybe rushing to the gym, many people don’t exactly feel like getting back into their cars in search of relaxation. 

Thanks to one young entrepreneur, Angelenos no longer have to. Merlin Kauffman, a 29-year-old resident of the Hollywood Hills, has created Soothe, an app and massage-on-demand service that allows locals to wind down from a busy day in the comfort of their homes. 

Merlin Kauffman 

“We have entered the era of on-demand,” he told the Journal. “Uber [an app that connects riders with drivers] really helped propel this movement of instant gratification delivered through an app, and Soothe is the answer to massage and relaxation. … Angelenos spend too much time in traffic, and Soothe keeps them out of their cars, and at home, where they can truly relax and rejuvenate.”

For a flat rate of $99 for 60 minutes, a Soothe user can request that a massage therapist come to his or her home in as little as one hour after booking. A variety of massages are available — Swedish, sports, couples and deep tissue — and gratuity is included in the rate. Massages are available for 60, 90 or 120 minutes, with a different rate for each. 

People can put in their request through the app, on Soothe.com or by calling a toll-free number, (800) 960-7668, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to midnight. 

Users can choose whether they want their massage therapist to be male or female. There are more than 300 available, and all of them are fully licensed, insured and able to travel anywhere in Los Angeles County. 

“Clients love the convenience of being able to relax in their homes, not drive anywhere, and receive a world-class massage in as little as one hour after they book,” Kauffman said. (And massages don’t have to be restricted to your home; they can be ordered at work, too.) 

Cameron McLain, co-founder of the
EndorphMe app, a social and professional network for health and wellness, has utilized the on-demand massage service at his home in West Hollywood. 

“Soothe is really beneficial for both the  [massage therapists] and the clients alike because of the flexibility of on-demand and the lack of overhead in the business,” he said. “It’s a novel idea and a really fantastic experience.” 

Kauffman founded Soothe in 2012, while he was enrolled in Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program. One night, around 7 p.m., he wanted to get a massage but couldn’t find a brick-and-mortar business that was open. It suddenly occurred to him that other people probably have had the same experience. From there, the business was born. 

Currently, the service has more than 10,000 users, according to Kauffman. It’s set to expand to Orange County, the San Francisco Bay Area, Miami and Phoenix. Over the next year, it will be launched in a total of 10 major cities, he said. 

Soothe isn’t the first company Kauffman has started. He’s been an entrepreneur since his high school years, when he founded eWireless.com, a wireless Internet business. He sold it to his partner and then established True Magic, a company that has acquired more than 55,000 domain names, as well as CoinSeed, a Bitcoin mining investment fund. 

In his first year of college at Temple University, Kauffman discovered that he’d rather work than go to school. 

“I love education and philosophy, but I’ve always been more of a doer,” he said. “The final straw for me was realizing I had lost a six-figure-profit deal, because my time that day had been occupied by attending a class. I dropped out right then and there, and I never looked back.”

While growing up in his hometown, Indianapolis, Kauffman looked up to his parents, who were both self-starters themselves. He said his dad opened the first Mexican restaurant in Indiana in the 1970s and day traded stocks. His mom, an independent intuitive counselor, ran her practice out of the house. Kauffman said that entrepreneurship “is deeply engrained in me, and has always been a passion for both of my parents.

“Being an entrepreneur is in my DNA,” he said. “I have never been able to imagine myself working for anybody else because I have always been more focused on envisioning the innovation I would like to create for the world.”

The skin game

Most of us have one body part that we’d like to change, be it our double chin, our tuchis or our belly. And as a quick fix, plastic surgery has become pervasive – according to the American Academy for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 1.6 million surgical cosmetic procedures were done in 2010; a 9 percent increase from the year before.

But it’s not a solution that appeals to everyone; the cost can be prohibitive, and the possibility of going under anesthesia and being sliced open in the name of vanity may seem extreme.

For those looking to take off a few years without breaking the bank or risking their health, though, there are alternatives, including yoga, massage and noninvasive skin procedures that don’t even require a needle.

Of course, no amount of downward dogging can make your breasts two cup sizes larger or help you drop 100 pounds overnight, but to treat saggy or splotchy skin, wrinkles and other signs of a life well lived, here are some suggestions.


When we think of yoga, we may imagine deep, cleansing breaths and stretching tired muscles. But a growing number of yoga instructors believe that the practice can have cosmetic results that go beyond a firm behind; that with the right exercises, yoga can be used to tone the muscles in the face.

“Facial yoga combines five simple facial exercises with a simple yoga workout,” said Michael Glen, who owns the company Facial Yoga Online, based in San Diego.

When muscles get weak, Glen said, they sag, causing the skin above them to do the same. The exercises he teaches work the 57 facial muscles to keep them in shape. “The result is that you tone up the muscles, which helps remove the wrinkles,” he said.

The facial workout, which takes about five minutes altogether, targets three areas: the neck and chin; the face; the forehead and the area around the eyes. He encourages clients to tack on some traditional yoga moves as well, which adds about six or seven minutes but has the benefit of reducing stress. That can, in turn, reduce lines generated by worry.

The workouts should be done a minimum of once a day, and twice if possible. 

“Look at the things you do that you can be doing facial exercises at the same time,” he said. “When you’re driving, watching TV… you can do a dramatic job of lifting the areas.”


Getting a massage doesn’t sound quite as invasive as going under the knife, right? In addition to being relaxing, massage can have results that are similar — if less dramatic — to those of a facelift.

The primary goal of massage isn’t to look younger, said Brian Reder, the owner of The Massage Place, which has locations in Encino, Sherman Oaks, the Westside and South Pasadena. But, by its very nature, massage boosts circulation and improves muscle tone, thereby reducing wrinkles and cellulite.

“Massage can keep your muscles from becoming stiff,” he said, “[and] it improves skin’s pliability, making it less likely to wrinkle.”

Kneading the skin — not just on the face but throughout the body — helps to improve blood flow and circulation, which can bring about a glow, and in some instances reduce cellulite. Massage therapists often tell their clients to come back once a month for the best results, Reder said — not too tough a prescription to follow.


One of the primary causes of sagging skin is the breakdown of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking young, and of elastic fibers in the skin, said Dr. Debra Luftman, a dermatologist with practices in Beverly Hills and Calabasas and co-author of the book “The Beauty Prescription.”

To help reverse the look of aging, she said, a new procedure called Thermage is gaining popularity.

“I truly believe that the future of plastic surgery is something like Thermage,” Luftman said. “I don’t think that in 10 years we will be cutting people’s faces.”

Through radio frequency, heat is applied to the lower layers of the skin to stimulate collagen, while the outer layers are cooled at the same time. The procedure is completely noninvasive and takes about an hour, depending upon how much of the body and face is being done.

According to Luftman, Thermage is nearly painless, with no topical or oral pain medication needed. The treatment can lift skin, making a once-sagging jawline, for instance, become more taut. The results can last up to three years.


Using the same premise as Thermage, lasers target small areas of the skin, causing it to tighten around the area that the laser hits, says Luftman.

In her practice, Luftman uses two kinds of lasers: Fraxel, which can be used to treat wrinkles, sun damage and scars, and intense pulsed light, also called a photofacial. Intense pulsed light can be used to treat a wider range of skin issues, including age spots and protruding veins.

Both are long-lasting, so after an initial series of two to five treatments, patients can go up to a year before having another touch-up.

Whatever alternative to plastic surgery you may opt for, you should do the research to be sure that you’re in good hands, Luftman said.

“It’s important to go to a practitioner who is very experienced,” she said, advice that applies not just to dermatological procedures but to all health-related therapies.

Pesach, Matzah, Maror and Massage


Thanks to an increasing number of spas offering Passover packages, a Pesach getaway doesn’t necessarily have to lead to weight gain. There is no shortage of luxury resorts where you can nourish your spirituality, pamper your psyche and get a workout. In fact, several highly rated wellness centers are hosting seders this year for the first time, including the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Here is a sampling of top spas where you can escape kosher l’Pesach style. Although Passover doesn’t begin until Saturday night, April 23, these packages accommodate religious travelers by including Shabbat the night before.

All pricing is per person, double occupancy, plus tax and gratuities and most programs offer a third-in-the-room price as well as children’s pricing. To experience a massage or another treatment during your stay, schedule it well in advance by contacting spas directly at the earliest date possible. Otherwise, by the time you arrive, the choicest appointments will most likely be taken. The same is true for any spa visit — year-round or at Passover.

Back to the Desert

The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”>www.VIPPassover.com.

By the Sea

The spa and fitness and wellness center at The Mauna Lani Hotel & Bungalows Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”>www.passoverresorts.com.

Packages are also available at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa in San Diego (marriott.com/property/propertypage/SANCI), starting at $3,000; the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa (” target=”_blank”>www.ranchobernardoinn.com) features 12 tennis courts, two PGA-rated championship golf courses and two swimming pools. Its Passover package includes access to whirlpools, steam rooms and more. The spa’s menu of additional-fee treatments includes a wide array of spa services.

Prices begin at $3,000, plus 25 percent tax and tips. The early-bird special features 12.5 percent tax and tips for bookings through mid-February. The cost includes three gourmet glatt kosher, cholov yisroel meals daily, a 24-hour tea room, shiurim and entertainment for kids and adults. Children’s programs draw kids 12 and under and teens 13 and up. Contact Moshe Wein at Kosher Travels Unlimited (800) 832-6676 or visit ” target=”_blank”>desbains.hotelinvenice.com/) features an expansive pool and lawn area, three clay tennis courts and free shuttle boat service to St. Mark’s Square and the city of Doges. Windsurfing, horseback riding and golf are all nearby. The scholar-in-residence is Rabbi Laibl Wolf and the cantor is Shimon Farkas. Prices start at $3,110 per person, double occupancy plus 24 percent tax and tips, and includes all meals, which are glatt kosher, cholov yisroel Italian cuisine, as well as the 24-hour tea room, entertainment, kids’ day camp and more.

The Other Coast

New for 2005 is the Passover program at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton (” target=”_blank”>www.bocaresort.com), starting at $3,370; the Wyndham Miami Beach Resort (” target=”_blank”>www.totallyjewishtravel.com.

Lisa Alcalay Klug, a former staff writer for the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, writes for The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times and other publications.


Bum Knees

The reason I am limping is because of a small man named Shen Hsu. That’s not entirely accurate. I went to see Hsu because I was limping. He performed a variety of ancient Chinese medical practices on me, including acupuncture and a form of massage that could easily be mistaken for torture. I’m still limping. Now I’m limping a little differently, on what used to be my good side.

I am told, but have no way of verifying, that in ancient China, people only paid their doctors when they were in good health. I suggested this to Hsu and he threatened to repeat the therapy for free. I wrote the check. (When I mentioned this payment plan to my therapist, he shuddered in horror at the very thought of it and said, "So tell me again about your mother.")

The real reason I am limping is because I "got up funny." There are only a few kinds of injuries available to men over 40: getting up funny, sitting down funny, sleeping funny, and the catch-all, doing something funny. What happened? I don’t know. I did something funny. I have a friend who hurt himself hiking. Hiking! That’s walking up a hill. That’s so pathetic, it’s funny. Welcome to my world.

I long for a sports injury or a war wound. I wish I could say that I’m limping because of what I did on the court or the field. I wish I’d twisted something in a game. No such luck. I just Got Up Funny and now everything hurts. At least I wish I were limping with dignity. I’m going to have to start lying about it. I’ll bet Hemingway never did something funny.

When I turned 40, I reluctantly accepted the fact that with each passing day I was getting closer to 60 and further from 20. That, sadly, will never change, but I had no idea how quickly I would join the ranks of the elderly. I can’t hum the tune to any of the songs in the Top 10. I can’t eat raw onions anymore, and I’m cutting down on spicy foods. I’m going to get my cholesterol checked. The end is near. You think I’m kidding? I’m now older than the oldest active professional athlete. I’m older than the guys they call the "Ageless Wonder." If life begins at 40, you can have it.

I don’t look like a kid anymore, despite all that boyish charm to which I am desperately clinging. The other night at dinner with my friend Blair Sabol, I complained about a lingering hip injury for which I was getting deep fascia therapy. Blair said, "You know, at your age," and then the rest of it just sort of faded into the background.

At my age! I have never been "at my age." If anything, I’ve always been at an awkward age. Or maybe it was just a phase I was going through. I am not — repeat, not — at my age. How could I be at my age and have nothing to show for it? No millions in the bank, no Best Original Screenplay Oscar, no doting wife, no adorable tots. I have nothing to wear.

I get no satisfaction from the fact that everyone I know who’s at my age has something wrong with him. Nothing life-threatening, but some nagging little injury, some ache or pain that requires chiropractic work, physical therapy, or a knee brace. My blood is now 22 percent Advil.

The signs have been there all along, but I didn’t want to look. I have trouble sleeping sometimes. I’ve started making all kinds of ridiculous rules: Never drink from a glass in a club. Never eat in a restaurant with neon lights inside. Never go out with a girl who’s got worse skin than yours. (That one, at least, makes sense.) As I get older, it seems there are more things I won’t do. New experiences are getting harder to come by, and almost anything exciting that I try for the first time at my age is likely to end up with me hurting myself. Worse, I find myself agreeing more and more with my father. I can tell you, for a fact, that he ain’t getting any hipper.

And so it has already begun, the long, slow march to the grave. Sadly, longevity runs in my family, which means I’ve got another 50 or 60 more years of this indignity to look forward to, the niggling injuries, the creeping infirmity, the costly, time-consuming rehabilitation therapies. I may not be getting any younger, but I think it’ll be okay, as long as I keep getting older.