Celebrating our Founder, Brea Gratia

Sabrina Spa Notes

We couldn’t let our Anniversary and Women’s History Month go by without honoring one of the most fabulous women we know, Brea Gratia! Brea Gratia, Sanctuary FounderWe all know Brea started Sanctuary Spa based on an inspiration from a London trip. We wanted to know more and share with y’all, so we sent her a few questions. We imagined her sitting in one of her many beautiful cabins in the mountains of Asheville writing us these wonderful responses. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

What has inspired you most throughout your career?

My imagination! And, the clients! Especially clients who traveled frequently. When they would come in for facials, they would tell me of services they had while traveling across our country and out of the country. My imagination saw something more than what they experienced. I would create services based on something I imagined. In my mind’s eye I could see and feel my version of the service all the way through to the end. There are many services I created that I never experienced. I guess you could say I’m a dreamer. Sometimes inspiration would come from the most unusual experiences like having a Moroccan restaurant wash my hands by pouring rose water over them before dining with my fingers. From that experience I created the Moroccan foot wash during a facial.

What was it like getting started in skincare in a world without smartphones, apps, and instant social media hype?

In some ways, it was easier. If you were able to find the right advertising venue combined with excellent services, word of mouth would soon be the driving force. Nowadays, any and all competitors have the same edge with phones and social media. Getting started in 1980 for me required a night job as a cocktail waitress to support my new skin care practice by day. It took about two years before I could let go of the night job.

You are the founder of Sanctuary, how has that legacy impacted you?

It gave me the opportunity to learn so much more than basic esthetics. I studied the body, hydrotherapy, massage, fitness, health, aromatherapy, etc. I learned about designing websites, designing spa layouts and flow. I had the opportunity to teach and really dig deep into my thoughts to share what I felt was important for our client/guest. I learned about employee relationships, about being a great “boss”, leader and co-worker. I feel it has given me more credibility than my current competitors. It gave me a more holistic approach to my personal life. It gave me opportunities to make mistakes, crash & burn, be judged, suffer humiliation, be forgiven then journey my way to the top again. Riding that wave only makes one stronger if you keep your eyes open and trust in your own strengths. For me, rewards have always been there when I keep on keeping on!

What is your biggest advice for individuals new to Esthetics, Massage, or this industry in general?

Be ethical, be on time, study “outside the box”, follow your inner voice, be daring, believe in yourself, follow a course of logic, ask for help if needed, pay attention, travel and be inspired!

What is a quote that really speaks to you?

This quote has just appeared in my life and it speaks to me so much because I think it is how I’ve lived the majority of my life. “Scare yourself with excitement over your future!”

What has set you apart in the industry?

Being fearless, I think. I never followed the crowds thinking. If my work was so different from the norm, I just continued to work quietly, not bragging about my difference. My clients set me apart through their recognition as offering something special and important. Clients continue to tell me they’ve traveled the world over and never experienced work like what I do.

What is your absolute favorite treatment?

For forty-plus years it has been the Restorative Facial.

How about your favorite product?

Algae Deep Cleanse. It is special during a facial because I use my most invigorating technique followed by hot towels. To experience that combination is phenomenal – I love it.

What does your home care/ self care routine look like today?

I have never missed a night of washing my face before bed since I was 14. I then apply an aromatic serum. Morning routine includes some type of exfoliation like a scrub or mild chemical peel, followed by aromatic serum of some type (I use a variety of serums), then moisture/protection.

You literally are always glowing, what do you attribute your amazing appearance to?

Great skin care routine, positive attitude, great sleep, happy & loving relationship with a very special man and my daughters, and most importantly a fabulous family (my girls, David and all my adopted/extended relatives).

You’ve raised two badass twin entrepreneurs, what do you attribute that sense of empowerment and entrepreneurship to?

Love! I love my girls so much. I spent time with them, paid attention to them, never gave up on them and went to work every day. They came to work with me often. They worked for me many times in various capacities. I don’t really know, perhaps it’s just genetics at work here. I believe in them and they consequently believe in themselves.


We know you relocated to Asheville NC, what is life like for you up there?

Asheville was a long time coming for me. It was a calling to be in an environment that fed my soul. The mountains, the forest, the nature, the wildlife, the seasons, the people…. I love the country folk, the stories they tell, the history of the area…. I love that many people who live here chose to live here – it is a very happy place. Black bears walk across our yard as do deer, raccoons, possums, wild turkey, coyotes, foxes, and rabbits. The pace for me now is so much slower. I enjoy every day including the sunny days, the rain, the days when we are in the clouds (fog), the 14-inch snowfall, the incredible sunsets, the average summer temperature of about 82 degrees, going for a strenuous hike or just lazing around the house with all the doors and windows open. It feels safe here, too. We have chickens and get fresh eggs daily. A little kitten showed up one day so now we have a cat. I’m not a cat person, but it has been fun having her. She walks with me every morning to feed the chickens. Haha, life is so different here. We sleep with the windows open about 320 days of the year. The singing birds wake me in the morning. Life is great!