The concept of working out to stay young is nothing new -- getting that heart pumping, toning those muscles and following a sensible diet will keep you on the straight and narrow. But what about a training regimen for the skin? After listening to feedback from customers at her burgeoning Yaletown spa, co-owner Andrea Scott realized that everyone was talking up their facials. "It was a calculated risk, but we decided to ditch the bikini waxing and pedicures and go skin whole hog," she says. "After all, you don't go to Starbucks for a burger."
What Skoah came up with was the concept of "personal training for your skin." Here's how it works: The trainer is the aesthetician who gives you a facial, after which she fills you in on your skin workout program. Then you train at home with the new line of all-natural Skoah products.
As it turns out, some workouts are an absolute pleasure.
Yaletown's brick loading docks and warehouses have been yuppified over the past decade into contemporary lighting shops, home and apparel boutiques, cigar bars, a Mini car dealership, a yoga centre and oodles of glassy condos. If you were to draw up a blueprint for a utopian yuppie village, Yaletown would be it.
Skoah boasts an airy, modern vibe that says boutique hotel more than downtown day spa. The walls are a light pistachio hue with blue accents and mahogany-look wood. There's tile work, track lighting and cork floors, as well as exposed ductwork and whitewashed concrete that hearkens back to its factory days. The six treatment rooms, including one double room for skin-loving couples, are expansive and lovely with wood-trimmed mirrors, cozy chairs, suspended sinks and cheery blue paint. Cool tunes pipe in from the sound system -- no Enya or waterfowl sounds.
A "Facialiscious" treatment (coupled with a night at the neighbouring Opus hotel) was one of the gifts offered to all Oscar presenters this year, but aside from the glitterati most of the customers are young urban professionals in the 24-to-45 age range, a goodly 30 per cent of whom are gents.
A visit starts with a welcoming bottle of Skoah water (other nice touches include a jar of Dubble Bubble in the bathroom and a free Lip Love balm when you leave). You get undressed, cozy up under the sheets and the personalized Facialiscious "workout" begins. It includes cleansing and toning, a gentle exfoliation with a 10-per-cent vitamin C and 2-per-cent AHA (glycolic acid) gel that lends a slightly prickly feeling. No steaming or scrubbing is needed following the gel's natural sloughing power. Then there's a peel made from things like grapes and apples, some extractions, a calming mask to take down the redness and add moisture, plus massages for the legs, face, hands and shoulders throughout.
Essentially, my workout started with getting cleaned and toned, then getting physical, getting treated, and ended with getting hydrated and protected. If I were to buy some of the products for home training sessions, they would include the likes of "tonik" (with soothing arnica) and "hydradew mask" (with kelp alginate).
Skoah offers only seven different treatments, from the "Two Scoops of Skoah" and "Melted Muscles" massage to "Facialiscious Sunny Side Down" (a facial for your back).
On a personal note, during the week after my Facialiscious workout, five different people commented on how good my skin looked. And this almost never happens.
Decked out in a chic pale blue Skoah T-shirt and form-fitting pants, Laura dishes out cucumber tonic, melon masks and mimosa massages with calmness and clarity. Then she polishes you off with a matte-look moisturizer so you can immediately show off your new visage in Yaletown without risk of impunity. "Enjoy your Skoah glow-ah," she says as you stride out the door.
On first blush, placing all of your eggs in one skin-care basket seems risky. But if that basket happens to be a gorgeous spa and those eggs are the best skin-care treatments in their milieu, it doesn't seem so risky any more. And when you add a fresh line of products for home follow-up to the mix, suddenly it sounds awfully smart.
Skoah: 1011 Hamilton St.; (604) 669-9775; http://www.skoah.com. The Facialiscious treatment lasts about an hour and costs $90.