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Test Divas: Ayurveda Rituals Tri Dosha Cleanser

By Carmelina Karas

If you’re anything like me, you like the feeling of a squeaky clean face after cleansing. However, if you’re also like me, you are not in love with the dry feeling you are left with as the cleanser has also stripped away your natural oils and hydration. Enter the Tri Dosha Cleanser from Ayurveda Rituals. This cleanser had me intrigued instantly by the look of the formula as the clear bottle showcased an ivory, opaque cream. I definitely wasn’t expecting a cleanser to look so thick and luxurious!

Before applying it to my face, I needed to know more. The ingredients list includes rose floral water, aloe vera gel, pomegranate seed oil, turmeric, and many essential oils including bergamot, lemon, rosewood and thyme. This is not your regular cleanser. In fact by the look of it, it seemed more like a moisturizer or facial treatment.

The question that everyone wants answered when discussing a cleanser is – does it actually clean your face? Not only was my face clean, although not squeaky, it also felt smooth, soft and hydrated. I have sensitive skin and sometimes get worried about using new products but because of its creamy base, it was delicate enough for me to use.

This product checked all my boxes for what I’m looking for in a cleanser and I’m interested in testing out the rest of the Ayurveda Botanical Skincare line in the future!

Test Divas: Sound Sleep Cocoon

By Carmelina Karas

Night creams are not new. There are many products that offer a night-time renewal or transformation since your skin absorbs ingredients best at night. However, I have yet to find one that actually helps you sleep! I bet if someone told you that you would not only wake up looking great but also after a restful night of sleep, you would be skeptical.

Let me share with you my experience with the new Sound Sleep Cocoon from Dermalogica. I too was skeptical. I was used to heavy night creams with moisture that soaked into my face overnight, but would wake up feeling greasy. The creams worked and my skin was hydrated, but so were my pillows, blankets, and pajamas! In addition, it took me a few rounds of tossing and turning to fall asleep and when I did, I was easily woken up by my own movements. When I heard about this new product that was more of a gel than a heavy cream that actually helps you sleep – I knew I needed to try it.

Within the first few days of adding the Sound Sleep Cocoon to my night-time routine, I knew this product was going to be a keeper. The delightful lavender smell was the first thing I noticed. I even put a little extra gel under my nose because of how soothing the scent was. I discovered from reading the ingredients that this product has motion-activated essential oils, including French lavender, sandalwood and patchouli, that released as I moved around during the night. The next benefit I noticed was the increase in my skin’s hydration. The fine lines and wrinkles were smoothing out overnight and my skin felt softer and more even.

The final benefit, and a bit of a surprise to me, was the website portal created for this new product – The website includes tips and further information on how to use the product. However, what I was not expecting is that the website has soothing sounds to help you sleep via a playlist by NuCalm! I played it right from my phone as I was sleeping and before I knew it, I was waking up the next day refreshed with soft, smooth, hydrated skin.

Good Customer Service is Always a Good Idea

By Carmelina Karas

I’ve heard it said that good customer service is hard to find – but it shouldn’t be. If you ask yourself what type of interactions you have enjoyed with other businesses, do any of them have to do with their customer service department? You may be surprised to know that even if your job title has no mention of the phrase, this article still applies to you. Do you work with your clients face-to-face? Do you handle customers over the phone? Are the only people you speak to during the day your co-workers? No matter whom you interact with, good customer service is always a good idea. Here are some tips that may change a negative experience into a positive one.

Mind Your Manners
Whether you were taught by family, school or another authority figure, chances are you were instructed to say “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome”. Think back to a time when someone thanked you – I bet it felt good to be appreciated. Clients enter your business with an expectation that they will be treated as a welcomed guest. They may be there to purchase a treatment, product or just learn more. Without them, you wouldn’t have a business so why not make them feel appreciated. A simple please before a request showcases a level of respect that you have for the other person. The same applies for over the phone and email conversations. Manners go a long way.

That Little Extra Step
Have you ever been presented with additional information or a problem that has nothing to do with your business? A client has come in for a treatment after a stressful day and mentions their daughter is moving and they are trying to coordinate the rental truck. Maybe you remember seeing a discount code for a local company or know a reputable mover. Why not mention it to them rather than just being empathetic to their stress. Another client had to cut back their product purchases because their basement flooded yet has run out of their cleanser. You know that in just one week a promotion will be coming up and tell your client that you can apply the discount code early to help them out. These scenarios may not apply to you, but thinking of ways to make their lives easier can create a big difference in client retention and overall satisfaction.

Optimism Is Key
Everyone loves seeing smiling, happy faces when they enter a store or business. Whether you are at the beginning of your shift or the end of a long day, each client deserves a positive and welcoming attitude. Is your job primarily over the phone? Smile while talking and you may diffuse a sticky situation. The customer will be able to hear it in your voice! If a customer enters with a problem, remember they came to you for a solution rather than just posting a bad review online. Even if you are not able to provide them with the remedy they are expecting, keeping a humble approach with a listening ear, rather than going on the defensive, can create a better outcome.

We are all customer service providers, no matter our job title or description. At the end of the day, each team member is a representative of the company’s brand. Use these tips to create an environment that customers can’t wait to step back into.

A Visit to the Newly Renovated Miraj Hammam Spa

By Hermione Wilson

Usually when I go to the spa I feel almost obligated to book a major body treatment – to get more bang for my buck I suppose – but when 2015/2016 Top 25 Spa winner Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie invited my editor and I to visit their newly renovated space and book a spa service, I went with a simple mani-pedi.

I say simple, but the Vinotherapie Spa Manicure/Pedicure isn’t your regular salon buff and polish. A salt and rose bath bomb was added to the water my feet were soaking in and fresh cut grapes were rubbed all over my hands, arms, feet and legs, before my esthetician Yujin applied the Crushed Cabernet Scrub, part of a line of Caudalie products that contain local ingredients straight from Bordeaux, France. After the scrub my hands and feet were covered with a masque, left for five minutes and sprayed with the lovely peppermint scented Caudalie Eau de Beaute toner. The whole process smelled and felt delicious. “It’s like a facial for your feet [and hands],” Yujin said.

I chose two different SpaRitual shades for my hands and feet, the first time I’ve ever tried the vegan nail polish brand, and I relished in the absence of the strong chemical odors you usually get bombarded with at a nail salon. The whole treatment was tranquil and unhurried, just as SpaRitual’s “Slow beauty” tagline would suggest.

Of course, the spa experience is always more than just the spa treatment itself; it is a thousand little details – the decor, the music, the smells – that add up to form the experience as a whole, and on that count Miraj Hammam Spa did not disappoint. The decor is a modern riff on Middle Eastern motifs, the music is distinctly eastern in influence and unobtrusive enough that it fades into the background, and the smell of the spa is a lovely suggestion of something sweet and a refreshing hint of peppermint.

But the detail that really got me in the mood was the gold platter they brought me just before Yujin started on my feet: baklava and grapes on a little ornate plate and a glass of the spa’s special blend of black tea, mint and chai spice (I left the spa with my own tin it was so delicious) and sweetened with organic sugar. When I confessed to Yujin that I hadn’t eaten lunch, she quickly brought me more tea and baklava, along with some banana chips and craisins. God, I love spa food!

All in all my visit to Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie convinced me that sometimes it’s nice to book a “simple” treatment and enjoy the way the spa transforms an ordinary beauty ritual into a luxurious indulgence.

Read more about Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie in our Summer 2018 issue!

The Digital Detoxification Treatment

By Carmelina Karas

How many of you are reading this from your phone? How many are reading from a laptop with wireless internet? How many have spent the day with a curved back and hunched shoulders staring at a screen, much like I am (admittedly!) doing right now? As humans, we crave connection to the outside world and our devices facilitate that connection. However, what effects do these potential negative electromagnetic pulses and improper postures have on our well-being?

As a society, it’s no surprise that we are using our devices more now than ever – both recreationally and vocationally. What if you had the chance to temporarily leave that all behind and focus on combating those achy muscles and joints, and the toxicity that has been building up day after day?

There is a spa treatment that is gaining popularity called the Digital Detoxification. The treatment uses shungite stones to shield the body from electromagnetic radiation, while a massage focusing on your head, eyes, neck, shoulders, hands and feet releases tension in muscles that get stiff while performing work in a seated position. How many of us can say we consistently sit at our desk or workstations with perfect posture?

Want some additional benefits? A Digital Detox will improve your blood pressure, relieve stress, and serve as a great release for those who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes the treatment is combined with essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, bergamot, rose, and chamomile, which chosen to enhance the feeling of relaxation through aromatherapy.

You will leave the Digital Detox treatment mentally refreshed and ready for the next day at work. This treatments can last anywhere from 25 to 80 minutes and are offered at various salons and spas. Needless to say, there are no cell phones allowed in the room!

Navigating The Hiring Process – And Succeeding!

By Carmelina Karas

As a Spa Owner or Manager, you have a lot to think about. There is the day-to-day operations, communicating with suppliers and customers, and making sure all equipment and tools are in working order. Sometimes it may feel that you are doing the job of more than one person and that it is time to find some help.

This is where things get interesting. You contact local esthetic or wellness training programs related to the field you are looking for, put out an employment ad on LinkedIn, Monster or Indeed, and start asking friends and family if they know someone qualified for the role. But wait, you can’t just hire anyone. They need to have a sufficient level of experience, be able to fit into the current company culture and develop a level of trust with you since they are now representing your brand.

Here are some tips for navigating this process and finding the right fit. Just a note before we begin – the specifics of the role may vary but these guidelines should help get you started.

  1. The Job Description – When qualified candidates are reading through your description, it should accurately portray a company that they will be excited to work for. Does it give a clear company background and/or mission statement? Are the Roles and Responsibilities clearly outlined? Are the qualifications reasonable and attainable for the level of the position? Do you state benefits of working for your company – even if it’s just a place to learn and grow and an encouraging work environment? Make sure you stand out and there are not questions as to what you are looking for.
  2. The Interview – Try to hold back any pre-conceived notions of the candidate’s background, including work ethic and history, until you are able to speak to them over the phone or in person. Make sure your questions are opening up the conversation for more than just “yes” or “no” answers. Let the candidate explain any gaps in their resume and positions that may not be aligned with the current role they are applying for. Remember, you are hiring the person, not their resume.
  3. The Background Check – Some companies feel that this extra step isn’t needed. After all, what candidate is going to provide a reference contact for someone that doesn’t think highly of them? In actuality, the types of questions you ask should be carefully selected to draw out information that they may not be ready for. There are some great lists of questions online for helping with this process. Make sure to confirm the information given on the resume and during the interview. Two good questions to ask are, “What was this candidate’s reason for leaving?” and “If you had the chance to hire them again, would you?” If the candidate truly is as great as they seem, then those questions should be a breeze.
  4. The Offer – Putting together an offer that is fair for both parties, as well as aligned with the Employment Standards Act, can be trickier than it seems. If you have always written your own contracts, then the new employment laws put in place in January 2018 may throw you for a loop. If this candidate will be a valuable asset to your team, spend a small amount of money for an employment lawyer to make sure the contract is binding, that there is an accurate termination/dismissal clause, and that employee responsibilities and privileges are clear. There is nothing worse than realizing you now owe someone money because of a clerical error.

Following these general guidelines should help narrow down the extensive pool of candidates to find the right fit. When you find that person, these tips will help you succeed during on-boarding and should provide a smooth and professional experience for your new staff member. Happy Hiring!

Floating Away at Float Valley

I was recently in Jamaica, floating in a pool on my back, looking at the big blue sky and feeling very zen as pool water sloshed around in my eardrums.

This was not that.

I didn’t know what to expect when Nadeem Jiwani, founder and owner of Float Valley in Markham, invited me to try float therapy. Float Valley is like a hyperspecialized spa – they only have the one treatment (two if you count their meditation room), but the decor is very spa: soft blue lights, clean white surfaces, a plethora of gourmet teas in the relaxation room, and another separate room where they offer yoga classes.

I actually began my first ever float therapy in a very zen-like state. As the lights came down I closed my eyes and focused on breathing deeply. I marveled at the way the 800 pounds of magnesium-rich Epsom salts buoyed my body in the few feet of water in the float chamber.

I had heard weird stories about float therapy and sensory deprivation in general. I expected dizziness and disorientation, which I did not experience. What I wasn’t expecting was to feel restless after just 20 minutes in the chamber. By around the half hour mark I was experimenting with the light switches – one that turned the blue underwater lights on and the other an overhead changing starscape of coloured lights. I got out of the tank once to take a bathroom break and come back, but my concentration was broken.

Side note: because of the Epsom salts, float therapy can really dry you out after a while, so it’s important to drink water before and after; the problem is if you’re in the tank and you have to pee, that really stands in the way of reaching that higher plane of consciousness!

Maybe it was the fact that it was the middle of the day and I was heading back to work afterwards, or maybe I just missed my smartphone too much, but I couldn’t make it the full hour of the treatment. I felt a little like a two-year-old in a bath after a while and I was a little ashamed that I wasn’t doing it right.

“It takes practice,” Nadeem remarked when I told him afterwards. Float therapy is a good way to get used to meditation, he said. It’s like the mindfulness gateway drug, and I really do want to get hooked. Next time I plan to go on my day off, fight the smartphone withdrawal and Om my way to a zen state. Hopefully practice will make perfect.

Here’s why you should drink water

By Carmelina Karas

The Basics

Water is essential for life. Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% of it! We need water for vital organ functions, to replenish ourselves after exercise or while working in a hot climate, and for amazing looking skin. You may have heard that 8 cups per day is sufficient for the average human being. However, when has anyone really fallen into the “average” category when it comes to height, weight, body type, level of physical activity and underlying health conditions? We know drinking water is good for us, so why is it so hard to drink it?

According to Wikipedia, the amount of drinking water required is variable. It depends on physical activity, age, health, and environmental conditions. In a temperate climate under normal conditions, adequate water intake is about 2.7 litres (95 imp fl oz; 91 US fl oz) for adult women and 3.7 litres (130 imp fl oz; 130 US fl oz) for adult men.

Did you know that women need more water than men? In fact, men need over 11 cups of water per day and women need over 15! Feeling thirsty? This is very different than the 8 cups I was brought up thinking that I needed.

Enhancing the Taste

Companies have created flavour boosters to enhance our water, since it seems that “plain water” is boring. Health experts have asked us to add lemon to our water to help detoxify internal organs. Did you know that lukewarm water is actually better for you than cold, as cold water can shock your system? 

The bottom line is, we need to drink more water. I have yet to meet someone who has been hitting or passing their water-drinking goal on a daily basis. Keeping a cup or water bottle by your desk, making sure you are adequately hydrated while at the gym, and choosing healthy foods with higher water contents will all contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle. Your body will thank you and your skin will look amazing!

Local Flavour at the Spa

InterContinental Presidente Cozumel

When you visit a new country, are you the type of traveller who searches out familiar dishes or are you looking to try local delicacies? If you identify more strongly with the latter, you might appreciate these spa treatments featured at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts around the world. These regionally-inspired spa packages reflect the unique cultures that they are embedded in:

Cozumel, Mexico

The spa at InterContinental Presidente Cozumel Resort & Spa offers treatments that allow guests to experience the mystery and magic of Mayan culture, including the 170-minute Mayan Lovers Ritual. This treatment begins with a traditional Mayan Temazcal, a sweat lodge concept dating back centuries to when Mexico’s Mayan Rivera was wilderness and Mayan civilization was at the peak of its power. Guests embark on a private journey with their loved one while they relax in a generous soaking tub containing aromatic salts and essential oils, finished with a side-by-side massage.

Miami, United States

MySpa at InterContinental Miami introduces travelers to the wonders of citrus grown in the state with the Gentlemen’s Ginger-Lime Scrub. Men are invited to relax after a day of activities in the vitamin D-rich Florida sun, with this citrus treatment designed to calm and awaken all of their senses.

InterContinental San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Travelers can pamper themselves with an amazing combination of treatments that take them on a wellness journey at Akua Spa at InterContinental San Juan. The Caribbean Indulge treatment, inspired by the island, starts with a coconut sugar exfoliating scrub paying homage to one of Puerto Rico’s most popular foods, coconut, which is followed by a soothing mango wrap. The treatment ends with a relaxing Swedish massage or organic glow facial.

Cancun, Mexico

A treatment at InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort’s Ikal Spa includes the Signature Mayan Honey Exfoliation that allows guests to pamper themselves in a delightful blend of local honey and fresh yogurt. The experience melts tension away and instantly revives dry skin. The locally produced Mayan honey is recognized for its extra sweetness and health benefits.


Massage: The Good, The Bad, and The Funky

By Heather West

I remember my first massage vividly. It was almost 20 years ago. I was in the midst of planning a conference and my CEO at the time could see the stress building. She asked if I’d ever had a massage and when she found out I hadn’t, she recommended a trip to her therapist, conveniently located two doors down from our office.

That massage was transformative. Not only did it relieve the tension I was feeling; it turned me into a massage junkie. It became the first of many, many massages. I’m a sucker for the whole scene now. I love the soothing soundtrack, aroma of essential oils, and the sound of trickling water when I walk in. Even before I get my massage, I feel the tension begin to slip away, and I’m like a kid in a candy store waiting for my turn.

I have had a lot of wonderful experiences, a few mediocre ones and one doozy that will be forever etched in my brain. In most cases, I dread the end. I always wish the therapist would lose track of time and I would get away with a few extra minutes. However, on the occasion of my worst massage, I was watching the clock waiting for it to end.

I was at a high-end retreat with my mother and sisters. We’d been looking forward to our get away for some time. We were giddy filling out our information on the clip boards waiting to see who would be greeted and taken into their room first.

I should have known when the gentleman who greeted me arrived with bare feet. In my Zen state of mind, I shrugged it off. That was until I laid face down on the table with his feet directly below me. No amount of essential oil would mask that odour. It’s not very relaxing to hold your breath during a massage, but that’s what I did until he moved out of that position. The smell was still there, but at least it wasn’t directly below me.

Then there was the temperature in the room. When I first walked in, I commented on how cold it was. It was winter. The window was wide open. Even with many layers of blankets, I was freezing. I mentioned it again, but he still didn’t close the window. I started to seize up.

The kicker was his massage technique. I always request a full-body massage. I don’t have any issues, so I don’t have special requirements or need “therapy.” However, he started to twist and contort my body in really physically uncomfortable and unusual ways. I felt like an athlete being prepped for the Olympic trials. I asked him what he was doing, but by this point, I was so flabbergasted, I don’t even recall what he said. Although, I do know that it wasn’t anything along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like me to stop?” Or, “What technique would you prefer?”

It was the longest 60-minute massage I’ve ever had. It created tension that wasn’t even there when I arrived. Thankfully, that tension melted away when I regaled my mother and sisters with the story over wine and peals of laughter.

Heather West, principal of Fresh Communications, is an executive communication consultant and writer who helps leaders and organizations build trust with effective communications. She can be reached at, by phone at 416-884-5741, or email at