By Hermione Wilson
When I headed to Ste. Anne’s Spa on a Thursday morning, my mind was preoccupied with the work I was leaving behind at the office. It helped that the drive up was smooth and relatively traffic free. It was clear from the moment I neared Ste. Anne’s that this place was way off the beaten track. I passed spa cottages nestled in trees with names like Birdsong and Farmhouse, sheep pastures, and the little Ste. Anne’s Spa Bakery. It was all very peaceful and very far from the hustle and bustle of the city I had just left behind.
Still, I arrived the spa feeling a little frazzled. I was early, so I sat in my car for a moment, a bit nervous. This was only my second time visiting a spa and I was convinced I was somehow going to do it wrong.
When I got inside I met with a very friendly staff member who gave me a quick tour of the main building. I promptly forgot half the directions she gave me and had to retrace my steps a bit later, but I did remember her saying the building was shaped like a W, which helped. Down in the change room I realized I should have questioned her more closely about how to open the lockers. I fiddled with the key pad for a few frustrating minutes until suddenly, as if summoned by my confusion, my guide appeared behind me to give me more detailed instructions.
Finally free of my bags (and most of my clothes) I headed to the outdoor pool to spend the few hours I had to kill before my first treatment. After a half hour spent doggy paddling and floating back and forth, and then sunning myself poolside, I was starting to feel a lot more zen.
That being said, I was beyond excited for the Eucalyptus Body Wrap I had been booked in for. It was everything I hoped for and more! After picking me up in the waiting room and ushering me into to the steam room for a very moist 10 minutes (I loved every minute of it), my therapist wrapped me up in warm eucalyptus-soaked towels and bundled me in plastic. I felt like I was in a cocoon as she massaged my scalp and rubbed hydrating lotions into my face and feet (Ste. Anne’s new Drench Mineral Mask for my face and their Foot Cream for my feet).
Aside from being snug as a bug in a rug, I loved that, after every treatment, my therapist would leave her hands in place for a moment – on my head or my feet or wherever she happened to be at the time. Although we were basically strangers and hardly spoke, her touch felt very loving and comfortable. I don’t mind telling you that I very nearly drifted off to sleep several times.
With a smile and a recommendation to drink lots of water, my therapist ushered me back to the land of the living. I had just enough time to grab a delicious cranberry biscotti snack before I met with Ste. Anne’s director of sales and marketing Wanda Hoehn for lunch. I ordered not one but two specials off the menu (because, why not?): a cream of broccoli soup with grated cheddar and a red snapper done up with bean sprouts. I topped it off with a rich chocolate spice tea (Rooibos and chocolate, described as “caffeinated chocolate”) which was dessert enough for me.
Can I just say, as a virtual spa virgin, what an unexpected pleasure it is to wander around the spa in nothing but a swim suit and a robe. Sitting in Ste. Anne’s well-appointed main dining room and sipping my spicy tea, I felt like I had slept in on a Sunday morning and then wandered downstairs in my bathrobe to enjoy a meal someone else had prepared. So this is what being a lady of leisure must feel like!
All too soon it was time to tear myself away from this charming country retreat and face the frightful traffic heading back to the city. Still, I carried the bit of peace and quiet I’d gained back with me.
Special thanks to Wanda Hoehn, my lovely therapist Cherlyn, and all the lovely Ste. Anne staff who made my spa day such a success!
For more on Ste. Anne’s Spa, lookout for our Fall 2015 Spalight feature.
By Hermione Wilson
I discovered something about myself during my first ever visit to a spa: I don’t relax very well.
There I was, getting an amazing double massage with my mother at Toronto’s Spa InterContinental and I was worrying about where to put my hands. Should I keep them tucked under the blanket at my sides or let them hang over the sides of the massage bed? And the silence was a bit maddening. I’m not a chatty person, but I found myself wishing my therapist would strike up a conversation to cover the sounds of our stomachs growling in concert with each other. Strange what your ears pick up when all you have to listen to are the faint strains of classical music.
The spa day was a gift from me to my mother, a package for two that included an hour-long massage, spa lunch, and a pedicure. When I presented her with the gift certificate I was crossing my fingers, hoping my mother would take me along as her plus one. Luckily she did, and my sister tagged along as well.
The day fell on the last day of a week long vacation, which should have meant I was in a state of maximum relaxation. Instead, I was wound up about going back to work the following Monday.
But about halfway through my massage I started to enter that longed-for state of zen. My mind emptied of racing thoughts and my breathing became slow and tranquil. I stopped thinking about work and worrying about whether my mother was having a good time next to me or whether I looked funny lying face down on the massage bed. When my therapist finally let me know he was finished and to take my time getting dressed, I didn’t want to move. My mother was snoring by the end of it.
After a wonderfully sumptuous spa lunch of salmon and wild rice in a lovely sun room we basically had to ourselves, my mom and I went for our pedicures. Now, I’ve had a pedicure at the salon before, but this was an entirely different thing. We were ushered into a private room where we received an unhurried foot grooming treatment. The best part was when they applied a mask to our feet and wrapped them in hot towels.
Throughout all the treatments I was captivated by the invigorating scents of the Aveda products Spa InterContinental uses. Rosemary and mint is my new favourite scent combo!
All in all it was a wonderful first time spa experience, especially since I was there with family and we had the spa almost to ourselves. Now that I’ve gotten my spa feet wet, I can’t wait to go again!
Read about my second spa experience at Ste. Anne’s spa here.
By Hermione Wilson
As summer draws to a close (sad, I know) we’re looking back to the delightfully fragrant spa products that gave our noses the most pleasure this season:
Make Scents sent us a handmade body scrub and body butter from their Garden of Eden collection.
The predominantly lavender scent these products emitted took me right back to my childhood. I associate the smell with my grandmother, who is an avid gardener and has always been fond of sprinkling her chest of drawers with dried lavender. Applying the Makes Scents body scrub on myself was a bit awkward – this is really a product meant to be administered by a spa professional while you lie supine on a massage bed.
Yummy Skin sent a lovely pink and tan bag filled with deliciously fruity smelling hand and body lotions and sugar scrub samples. I haven’t yet dug into the scrubs, but I’ve been using the lotions everyday and I’ve become pretty compulsive about sniffing my hands every time I put them on. I recommend not doing this if you’re feeling hungry because the scents of these lotions will have your mouth watering.
This last batch of spa products has been great as the weather starts to cool. Again, it’s the delicious smells that make these loose leaf organic teas so special. And not only do they smell great, they taste even better. The teas are so rich you can taste every berry, every herb, every spice. My favourites were the wonderfully nutty and earthy 100 Mysteries and Karmic Chamomile, a fresh fruity combo with an exotic flair. The collection also came with empty tea pouches that can be filled by hand. Stuffing the pouches by hand really gives you a sense of ownership over the process. It forces you to slow down, consider your choice, and take lots of delicious whiffs while the water is boiling. Definitely an experience to share with a good friend and fellow tea lover.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!
When we got a veritable bouquet of OPI nail polishes in the mail, including their new Color Paints collection, we knew we had to share the love with the whole office! The test divas here at Spa Inc Magazine pitched in to test drive the new shades, snap Nailfies (that’s nail selfies) and document their first impressions. We invite you to wonder through our spring garden of beautiful OPI polishes. Enjoy!
Spring is in the air! I usually go for a brighter bolder shade when the weather starts to warm up, but I decided to try a neutral for the first time. OPI’s Tiramisu For Two contrasted nicely with my skin tone and didn’t fade into the background like I thought it would. It’s light and airy and wonderfully ladylike. This is definitely a shade I could see myself wearing on the regular. Like jeans and a tailored blazer, it goes with everything!
Spring has sprung and my feet, like the rest of me, are glad to see the sunlight and be out of boots and shoes. So to be able to “put my best foot forward” I used OPI Worth A Pretty Penne and I love it!
Theresa (and daughter)
Whenever I bring home goodies like nail polish, my four-year-old daughter is quick to volunteer as a tester. This time she asked to try Pen And Pink from OPI’s Color Paints line. I applied one coat of the pink-red polish and we both loved the look. It’s sheer and fun, and the perfect touch of girlie for someone usually accustomed to the rough and tumble world of her brother.
O Suzi Mio went on well and very easily with very little mess. The colour is cool because it’s dark, but it’s not too dark. I usually don’t like a deep purple. I usually like brighter colours but I definitely like this one. Since it’s different to what I usually wear, it’s refreshing.
Loving this vibrant blue Venice The Party? OPI nail polish – even though it’s not the typical spring shade! I’m definitely a blue jeans kinda girl, so I’m happy Venice The Party? matches almost everything in my spring/summer closet. Now the only thing missing is the warm weather!
I like that Silver On Ice is a neutral colour, but it still has some glitter and shine to it. It’s good quality and it went on smooth.
We’ve been to Los Cabos, Mexico, but we’ve never seen it like this before!
When Hurricane Odile touched down in Los Cabos in September 2014, it left a lot of devastation it left in its wake – an estimated US$1 billion worth of damage, in fact. For a resort town like Los Cabos, located on the Baja Peninsula, the possibility that the hurricane damage would keep the tourists vital to the local economy away was a frightening prospect. Fortunately, though, the community pulled together for an incredibly quick clean-up operation.
Over eight months later most of the resorts are ready to open for the summer. The recovery process has been a rebirth of sorts for a lot of businesses in Los Cabos. At the spas, this has led to a renewal of the desire to offer an authentic Mexican experience that utilizes indigenous ingredients. So, in honour of Cinco De Mayo, we present to you four examples of popular Los Cabos spa treatments now available. Consider this your #PeacefulPicoftheMonth of May!
Couple’s Obisdiana Sacred Stone Massage (Pueblo Bonito Pacifica)
Originally used by Indian tribes to rebalance the body’s energy, level body temperature and achieve muscle relaxation. Sacred stones are combined with therapeutic massage to achieve a state of harmony.
Quetzalcoatl Oxygenating Experience (Marquis Los Cabos Beach, Golf, Spa & Casitas Resort)
Inspired by the Aztec Serpent Deity, Quetzalcoatl, who represented re-birth and healing, this treatment rejuvenates the skin and body. The treatment begins with a calming eucalyptus footbath followed by a mineral-salt body polish and a derma-purification bath, which detoxifies the skin.
Temazcal Ritual (Hacienda Encantanda)
A traditional steam bath used by the pre-Hispanic Indigenous people of Mexico as an important source of healing. Benefits of the Temazcal steam bath include stress relief, muscle release, detoxification, elimination of negative energy and time for introspective exploration.
Vinotherapy (SOMME Wine Spa at Fiesta Americana Grand)
Mexico’s first and only wine spa offers a one-of-a-kind vinotherapy treatments. Vinotherapy is a combination of natural healing and the rejuvenating power of grapes from Baja California’s wine country, Valle de Guadalupe.
By Hermione Wilson
Every two weeks I go to visit an esthetician at the mall. “What do you need Honey?” she asks me as I approach the front desk. All the other customers swivel instinctively towards me, curious.
I mumble something.
“Sorry, didn’t catch that?” she says.
I clear my throat, blushing, and mumble “Upper lip wax, please” in a slightly louder voice.
I refuse to call it a moustache. A moustache is something men have; but I’m not a man, I’m a lady. My upper lip hair isn’t as dark as a moustache of course, but to me it looks long, dark and grotesque.
My upper lip hair didn’t always bother me this much. In fact, there was a golden age when none of the hair that naturally grew on my body gave me pause. It began with peer-induced shame in my elementary school locker room and pretty soon I was obsessing about all the hair on my body, especially the stuff on my face. At least I could cover up hairy pits and legs with long-sleeved shirts and long pants, but hiding the hair on my face was more complicated.
I’ve done things I regret, but none more than the time I got my facial hair threaded. I was getting ready for university graduation and I wanted to look good for all the inevitable family photos. My friend and I stopped by the local mall for a $10 eyebrow threading – no big deal. But then I decided to get my chin and neck threaded as well.
Due to my mixed heritage (African, Indian, Portuguese, etc) I have quite a bit of fine hairs framing my face. It usually doesn’t bother me too much, but I thought I’d let the lady just clean it up a bit. Now I wish I had left well enough alone. The threading broke the follicles on my chin and neck and I’ve had problems with ingrown hairs ever since.
As ladies we deal with a lot of societal pressure to be hairless, especially in North American culture. Part of us enjoys the feeling of smooth legs on a summer’s day, but another part of us is jealous of the guys when we have to take a razor to them every week. Sometimes we feel like slaves to that razor, shackled to it for a lifetime of shaving and scrapping.
This is why I’ve started to look at more permanent solutions, like electrolysis and laser hair removal, especially for areas of my body that I can’t take a razor to. But hair removal horror stories have me concerned. What if I go in expecting to come out with a baby-smooth hairless visage and end up with a horrible scar instead? So I asked an expert, dermatologist Dr. Andrei Metelitsa, for some advice. You can read about our conversation on hair removal here.
If you think you can live with some of the hair on your face and body, go ahead and rock it au naturel! But if you decided on a more permanent solution to your hirsutism, make sure the medi spa or clinic you go to has a reputable physician supervising the treatment.
By Hermione Wilson
It’s funny how we often package old trends as new. Like the organic DIY skin and hair product trend going on right now. You can’t swing a #catvideo on YouTube without hitting an all-natural beauty vlogger mixing her own hair and beauty products with items she found in her kitchen cupboards.
But here’s a little secret: this new craze is nothing new. Recently, I was talking to my grandmother about what it was like to grow up on the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Here’s what she had to say about the beauty routine she and her sisters followed back in the day:
- Egg yolk mask
- Aloe vera
- Pure honey straight from the honeycomb, for softness
- Aloe vera mask (apply, let harden, rinse off)
- Coconut oil mixed with petroleum jelly and lotion
- Fresh guava or black sage branches (chew until bristly, then brush with your handmade toothbrush!)
- Mint leaves
As you might have guess, my grandmother and her sisters didn’t use these natural products because they were concerned about parabens and carcinogens. The number one reason was that they couldn’t afford the store-bought beauty products of the day. Necessity really was the mother of invention for these women. Not only were they hardworking and thrifty, they were self-sufficient and didn’t let their lack of funds stop them from taking pride in their appearance. They sewed their own clothes and mixed their own beauty products because they could.
The second reason is that they lived in a country blooming with diverse plant life. My grandmother and her sisters were just using the natural products they had at hand. Island born and bred, they knew every plant had its use, often more than one, knowledge that had been passed down to them from their mothers and grandmothers.
I’m sure your grandmothers have similar stories, even if they didn’t grow up in the tropics. I imagine the shortages of various world wars and the Depression forced women to come up with inventive ways to beautify themselves. (Share in the comments if you have a natural beauty remedy that’s been passed down by the women in your family)
I think it’s great that we’re going back to basics! Just the other day I mixed a bit of egg, olive oil and avocado to make a moisturizing mask for my hair. The results were amazing – and my hair smelled great too! So before we brag too loudly about the cleverness of our generations’ natural revolution, let’s not forget that we’re only rediscovering what our grandmothers already knew.
By Heather Ednie
With the hustle and bustle of life in my 40s, I felt like I’d won a lotto over the past couple months as I had the chance to enjoy not one but two spa days with some of my BFFs. What could be better than quality time with your favourite people, while getting pampered and treated like a queen? Nothing!
I won’t wax poetic about my spa days. I don’t need to tell you about how divine it was to soak in the hot waters at Scandinave Spa Mont-Tremblant before and after my luxurious massage that was both deep and therapeutic, and heavenly relaxing. I won’t brag about how beautiful my feet looked after a sweet pedicure at Evelyn Charles in the West Edmonton Mall; soft as baby skin after the hot wax treatment, with the deepest purple on my nails adding a nice dramatic effect. I know our blog readers are spa lovers – so you know what I’m talking about!
What I do want to share are my musings about the two wonderful, but vastly different, girlfriend time experiences.
At Scandinave, I was with the incredible woman who is my “parenting partner” – that is, we each have 2 young boys the same age, and our family vacations tend to be together (parenting tip: find this perfect parenting partner family, and your kids will entertain each other). That said, being in similar professions, with similar families, we have similar stress levels – so a day at the spa was in order. Now, one of the reasons I consider myself fortunate to live in Quebec is the proliferation of top-rate Nordic spas across the province. I can – and I do – lollygag around the baths, saunas, steam rooms, relaxation areas for an entire day, though honestly I’m still a big baby when it comes to the cold dips. Though the golden rule at these oasis is to be quiet, sitting in a hot pool of swirling water, taking in the gorgeous sights and scents, is a perfect time to catch up, chat quietly, and plan your futures as ladies of leisure – I mean, why not? We booked simultaneous massages, so parted ways for a couple hours of 100% me time. And every BFF understands the importance of that hot commodity!
I’ve been to Nordic spas with one girlfriend, two, four and more – I do think it’s a perfect way to get together. Throw in a nice meal and exquisite bottle of red, and it can’t get any better.
At Evelyn Charles, it was fun to go for pedicures as a treat when I met with two fantastic women I only get to see rarely – living in various cities across the country, we were meeting up in Edmonton for a little merriment. The treatments were great, and the set up perfect for a girlfriends time: a semi-private space with four pedi stations, so we were facing each other and could chitchat throughout. That said, for me, it lacks the fantasy, the luxury, of a Nordic spa experience. The lights were bright, and I began to feel a bit awkward as we debated where to go for dinner over the heads of the three extremely talented aestheticians giving our feet their make-overs. I was reminded of a scene in a Sex in the City episode, when Carrie and her friends get together for a gab fest while getting pedicures. I guess I’m not made to be treated like a princess. A bit of unease aside, it was a nice way to sit still and have a relaxed conversation with friends I hadn’t seen for months, before we headed to the more lively night that awaited.
Whatever your pleasure, I do suggest spa days as a perfect girlfriend time. Do your research and find a spa with a stellar reputation you can rely on, and plan – we get so little time with friends outside of work and family, it pays to make sure it’s perfect.
By Michael Markov
People don’t like to acknowledge they are couch potatoes. The term is associated with spending excessive amounts of time on the computer or watching TV, but it’s more than that. Being a high school student myself, seeing firsthand how lazy my generation can be is a tad worrying. Gone are the days when your only source of entertainment was getting outside and being active. Now with the internet and phones, it is even easier for one to become glued to the screen for hours on end.
Next time you are with your friends/colleagues, ask them if they think they fall into the sedentary lifestyle category. People are becoming more conscious of the need for exercise, so you will probably get a response along the lines of: “Oh of course not, I’m at the gym 3 times a week for an hour, and I’m constantly moving around at home.” Then ask them how long they sit for at work every week. Now we have a problem.
In 2012, a Canadian survey found that people worked 36.6 hours per week on average. Keeping in mind that most people have a desk job, that is a lot of hours spent letting the body vegetate. A supposed fix to this problem is the standing desk. This piece of furniture has been around since the 19th century, and really hasn’t changed much since. Even famous figures such as Benjamin Franklin and Winston Churchill have been noted to use the special desk. You can write, type, and use the computer all while standing up.
We know that the standing desk gets people out of their chairs, but what does this accomplish? A lot actually, as hundreds of studies have been published on the negative effects of sitting for long periods. One study of 200,000 Australians in 2012 found that those who sat for 11 hours or more everyday were 40% more likely to die over the next three years. Other studies have found that Colon Cancer, Diabetes, and Heart Disease were also linked to inactivity. Even if you happen to exercise throughout the week after sitting around, you will still be digging yourself an early grave according to the research.
When you sit down, your body’s crucial functions come to a halt. Your heart rate slows and your muscles cease to move, which can all lead to health issues after long periods of time. It is the exact opposite with standing, as your muscles and normal bodily functions are completely engaged and working as they are meant to.
So, since science has proven that it’s better for humans to get up and stand, what are we waiting for? You can’t dispute the facts; it’s glaringly obvious what people should be doing now. The standing desk could be one solution to the problem of inactivity, but it shouldn’t be the only one. We should ideally mold our lifestyles around healthy living and physical activity that promotes fit bodies. In the meantime, invest in yourself, instead of that new “ergonomic” chair.
When I got four delicious Le Mieux skin care products in the mail before Christmas it was like receiving an early present. I couldn’t wait to take them home over the break and try them out!
Altogether, there were two cleansers – the Phyto-Nutrient Cleansing Gel and the Phyto-Marine Cleansing Lotion – the Essence Toner and the Hyaluronic Shea Mask. Of all the products, I was most excited to try the mask. I love the drama of a good facial mask. I love slathering the thick solution on my face, lying under it for a few blissful minutes and feeling it start to work on my face. I love the reveal afterwards, the watery unveiling, and the fresh new feeling my skin is left with. I always fantasize that when I take off the mask, another smoother lovelier face will be waiting beneath.
Well, reality is a little less dramatic but no less satisfying. Le Mieux’s Hyaluronic Shea Mask didn’t dry uncomfortably on my face or make my skin tingle. It felt creamy and rich, but not heavy, and when I rinsed my skin felt refreshed and smooth.
That was actually a common theme with all the Le Mieux products – they all left my skin feeling smooth and soft. My skin is naturally dry and the cold winter weather hasn’t helped, so I was happy to find that the Le Mieux products were very supportive of my skin’s moisture content. My second favourite product, Phyto-Marine Cleansing Lotion, was rich and creamy like the mask and left my skin feeling just as soft. I’ve actually taken to adding it to my regular cleanser for extra moisture.
That being said, I didn’t feel that the gel cleanser or the toner dried out my skin. In fact, I was surprised to find that, unlike with drugstore toner, after applying the Essence Toner I didn’t even feel the need to use my regular facial moisturizer. I did, of course, but unsually I do it out of necessity because my regular cleanser leaves me feeling stripped of essential epidermis! I was a bit confused as to how I should apply the toner though. Was I supposed to spray it on my face and rub it in with my finger tips? When I tried spraying it onto a cotton swab and then applying it, I felt like the swab absorbed more toner than my skin did. If anyone knows the right way to do this, please let me know in the comments!
All in all, though, I was impressed by Le Mieux products. They were rich and gentle on my skin and they smelled great too!