After months of hibernating on my couch watching television and eating Twix bars, I was feeling bloated and gross. I decided to check myself into a luxurious spa, where I treated myself to organic treatments fit for even the most pampered of princess.
The last time I found myself in a tent was … let’s just say it was when I was forced into one as a child. Though I love the outdoors, I don’t understand why someone would … camp. But, after forcing myself out into the cold, that’s where I find myself. OK, not camping, but in a tent … in a spa on King Street West.
I head to Elixir Organic Spa with good intentions. I’ve been trying to live a more organic lifestyle. (OK, I’ve been thinking of starting to live a more organic lifestyle.) Mostly, I want to detox the winter away.
Elixir Spa bills itself as the first 100 per cent synthetic-free spa in Toronto. Lynn Shulman, the laidback founder, celebrating Elixir’s six-year anniversary this summer, has zero tolerance for synthetic ingredients. With good reason.
In 2001, while she was working in corporate marketing, Shulman had what she explained was an “horrendous allergic reaction” to an “organic” spa product.
“I was young and dumb,” she says. “I didn’t know that ‘natural’ didn’t mean it was purely organic. I couldn’t understand how a reaction of such severity could result from something that was supposed to be all-natural.”
Thus, the idea for a truly organic spa was born, but it was a challenge to find the right products. “Many products on the market are falsely labelled as natural or organic,” she says. “Even in health food stores. You really have to read the labels.”
“If it’s not from a food, we don’t use it. Our motto is: ‘If you can’t eat it, you shouldn’t apply it on your skin.’”
The spa is small but charming and comfortable, kind of like visiting a good friend’s house. I’m offered a variety of, obviously, organic teas, opting for the white tea with peach mint.
When she first opened, Shulman admits that her first customers didn’t understand the concept of an organic spa.
“Once they experienced the facial, they kept coming back,” she says.
“When we do organic cleansings, there’s also an aromatherapy component, so you feel it emotionally as well.”
On the wall is a list of this month’s spa specials, ranging from the divine coconut lime pedicure and manicure combo with coconut lime soak and massage with coconut lime butter to the mojito body scrub and steam that includes an exfoliation with a mojito (lime and mint) scrub.
I’m here to try the slimming detox and steam. The treatment begins with a skin brushing, followed by a massage with purifying essential oils and 25 minutes inside a private steam capsule with fragrant herbs as well as a relaxation massage.
And this is how I find myself in a tent.
After the skin brushing and massage, a contraption is lowered down over my body with a hole for my head.
“When you sweat,” says Shulman, “it releases all your toxins.” She adds that if you steam in the tent you could also lose 500 calories in 15 minutes (definitely an added bonus!).
I worry that I might become too hot or claustrophobic or dizzy (I like steams, but for five minutes tops). But when you’re in the tent alone, and 15 types of herbs and flower scents are tunneled into the steam around your body, it’s an extremely relaxing experience. I didn’t want it to end. I never get too hot as cool towels are placed on my face during the steam.
She says it’s a good treatment if you have a cold or feel like you’re coming down with one.
Next, I move on to the fig enzyme facial.
Here’s a fun fact: figs contain an enzyme 20 times more powerful than papayas (though I have no idea what that means).
Also, the fig enzyme mask loosens the “glue” that holds skin cells together, allowing for a thorough cleansing. Oh, OK.
Before the mask, I get a facial scrub of dates, brown sugar and honey that is handmade at the spa (And sounds great on toast!).
This is the spa’s most popular facial, and I love that they make the masks themselves. (It’s kind of like going to someone’s house for a good home-cooked meal.).
I can’t help but wonder about those who want a quick fix, those who want to use chemicals at highend spas because they may be more focused on getting rid of wrinkles. Going organic is good, but isn’t it all about the results?
Aside from feeling completely relaxed, I’m not sure if my skin is looking any younger. The detox steam does make me feel lighter, cleaner and, dare I say it, healthier.
“Going organic is better in the long run,” says Shulman. “Sure, there are spas out there that will plump up your skin temporarily, but they are damaging it in the long term.”
It’s something to think about, but right now I smell delicious, and I’m making myself hungry. Of course, I could snack on Elixir’s own product line. But I’m not that organic … yet.