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Trend Watch: Spas

SPAS & WELLNESS

Spas are becoming more than just a place to be pampered and indulged. A focus on health and wellness is a growing trend in the industry, with some spas including gyms, nutrition and diet programs, and yoga studios into their spaces. A 2007 study done by the Leading Spas of Canada shows that 50 per cent of spa goers visit with the intention of reducing stress, weight loss and improving their emotional health.

Kathryn Stolle, the company’s media relations liason says that more people are taking responsibility for their health. “There’s a new focus on longevity, and aging gracefully with vigour,” she explains. “Our bodies are very important, and if we don’t take proper care of them, whether that’s through yoga or eating properly, how can we be healthy? Spas are now offering the opportunity to address these needs, as well as allowing us to touch base with our inner core, to have downtime, and be touched in a healing way.” Stolle goes on to say that the fact that Canadian spas are beginning to position themselves as wellness destinations makes perfect sense. “It is a natural connection to our beautiful resources.”

At Oasis Wellness Centre & Spa, the city’s largest spa at 16,000 square feet, you’ll find a spacious 1,000-square-foot yoga and Pilates studio, complete with drop-in classes and private lessons. President Peter Smed says that incorporating yoga and Pilates into the business is a part of the company’s mandate to provide good, overall heath strategies. “Yoga is one of the best ways to do this,” he says, adding that the staff practice what they preach: he and the rest of the employees partake in the classes as well. Starting in June, Oasis will also incorporate an area intended to give patrons a space to look at books offering information on health and wellness, as well as to participate in relaxing activities like water paint Buddha boards.

Santé Spa and Liv Spa both offer programs on wellness. At Liv Spa clients can have private sessions with a personal fitness trainer, as well as naturopathic sessions for acupuncture, traditional Chinese cupping, and intravenous therapy where natural remedies are administered directly into the bloodstream. Santé goes a step further with life coaches and nutrition counsellors.

Meanwhile, at RnR Wellness, they take the idea of wellness so seriously that they bring the treatment to you—even to your office or hotel. “Today’s corporate traveller is very stressed with increased demands and busier work schedules than ever before. The traveller doesn’t always have time to go to a spa,” owner Elisabeth Fayt explains. “Often by the time we realize we need the rejuvenation, it’s too late to organize anything.” Travellers can receive a treatment, anything from a Shiatsu massage to hydrotherapy tub treatments, within hours of arriving; while office employees can enjoy a quickie “chair massage” right at their desk. The spa also offers lunch hour classes on the “Law of Attraction”—made famous by the 2006 motivational book and film, The Secret; and before spa services, visitors can listen to an inspirational 5-minute CD on the same topic.

No matter what you’re looking for, all sources agree that the downtime spas provide—whether it’s a manicure, massage or body wrap—feeds the mind, body and soul.MEDICAL AESTHETICS 411

If there’s one trend in the spa industry that shows no sign of calming, it’s medical aesthetics, a catch-all term for cosmetic treatments that were traditionally done in the offices of dermatologists, plastic surgeons and other medical professionals. According to the International Spa Association, the number of medi-spas (spa facilities with doctors and nurses on staff) tripled in the United States between 2006 and 2007.

We spoke with Dr. David Zloty, medical director of the Dermatologic Surgery Centre at Vancouver General Hospital and a professor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia, who gave us the lowdown on what these treatments actually are, along with their potential benefits and what you should watch out for.

MICRODERMABRASION
What it is: There are two technologies, but the most common way is to direct a fine grain sand against the skin, which is then vacuumed immediately.

What it can do: It puts a bit of a glow on the skin. It may help even out small pigment irregularities and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

What you should keep in mind: This is something that can be done in a spa setting without the need for physician guidance.

CHEMICAL PEELS
What it is: There is such a range of chemical peels. The most common are glycolic acid peels, which, for the most part, are very safe, shallow peels.

What it can do: The peels temporarily remove the skin’s outer layers; the skin will reform these layers with (we hope) even pigment and less fine or medium-depth lines.

What you should keep in mind: In low concentrations of 20-35 per cent glycolic acid, they should be done under the supervision of a physician. The stronger ones, the 50-70 per cent glycolic peels, should certainly be done under the supervision of a physician.

BOTOX
What it is: An injectable used to relax wrinkles of the upper face.

What it can do: Smooth the vertical lines between eyebrows, the horizontal forehead lines, crow’s feet, the lines that cause our noses to wrinkle.

What you should keep in mind: Even though Botox has a good safety profile, that safety profile can be compromised if the technician doesn’t have a good sense of anatomy of skin, muscle, bone structure, or changes in skin quality with age. There is no set protocol for injecting Botox; it varies from patient to patient, and so it needs to be injected by a nurse under the supervision of a physician or by the physician.

SOFT TISSUE FILLERS
What it is: It’s basically a volume substance. To take a beach ball analogy, with time that ball is losing air and becoming wrinkled; if we could put more air back into that ball, it would re-inflate it and give you back that volume and youthfulness.

What it can do: Fillers can reduce the depth of lines, such as lines that run from the nose to the corner of the mouth. They are used very commonly to increase the size of lips, and now we’re also using them to bring back that youthful volume the face loses over time.

What you should keep in mind: To minimize side effects, you have to be well trained not just in how to use fillers, but where you are putting them. They should only be injected either by a physician or nurse injector when a physician is on site.

INTENSE PULSE LIGHT (IPL)
What it is: Intense pulse light uses a broadband light source, which includes a whole range of wavelengths. The light energy is taken up by different targets in the skin, and those target molecules are either destroyed or minimized.

What it can do: It’s used to even out pigment irregularities, reduce facial redness, reduce fine lines and improve the textural feel of the skin by reducing pore size.

What you should keep in mind: This is a so-called very safe procedure, but if the person is not adequately trained, the probability of side effects increases. IPL should only be done under the supervision of a physician. It can be done by a technician, but the physician should be on site.

LASER THERAPY
What it is: In a spa setting, non-ablative lasers help the skin, but leave the outer layer relatively intact; the energy is absorbed by the deeper layers.

What it can do: Wavelengths are absorbed by a certain target in the skin. If that target is blood vessels, the laser can help to eliminate facial redness. If the target is pigment producing cells, it can help get rid of pigment blotches. If the target is water, it can really tighten the skin and help eliminate some of the fine and medium depth lines.

What you should keep in mind: This is probably one category that should, without a doubt, be under physician supervision. The side effects, even for non-ablative lasers, certainly do exist; they’re not common, but if it happens to you it needs to be dealt with properly.—Laura Pellerine and Sally MacKinnon

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