Canada’s Top Spa Experts Share Their Skin Care Routines

To keep skin healthy (and happy) in the midst of chilly temps, who better to share pro secrets than these experts.

Canadian Spa DestinationsPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

How to Take Care of Your Skin in Canada: Lake Louise

The pro: Rebekah Gerber, director of spa, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

The weather forecast in Lake Louise: Besides being stunning to look at, snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers inform the weather. “A lack of humidity definitely plays a role,” says Gerber. “It gets very cold here, but it’s a dry cold. Because we’re at a higher elevation, we’re always slightly colder than Banff and especially Calgary. A temperature of –35 degrees Celsius is not totally foreign, but usually –15 degrees Celsius to –20 degrees Celsius is more constant.”

Her winter skin care routine

  1. Use a gentle exfoliator in the morning

If your mindset is “have dry skin, will moisturize,” you’re missing out on an important and helpful winter-care step. “I find a lot of people who have very dry skin never exfoliate, which means a lot of the time they’re just moisturizing dead skin that needs to go,” says Gerber. Regular use of a gentle exfoliator will slough off dehydrated skin cells and create a more receptive canvas for hydrating ingredients to get to work. Gerber is also a fan of a.m. exfoliation. “I use one first thing in the morn-ing, before I put on makeup for the day, so it isn’t going on top of lifeless skin,” she says. It just helps give your face a fresh palette to work with.

2. Shield your skin from the elements

From skiing and skating to ice fishing and dog-sled tours, winter in the Banff area is all about experiencing the great outdoors. For maximum enjoyment with minimal skin damage (think: windburn), Gerber considers an emollient cream as much a part of her must-have gear as a thermal face mask. “Skin exposure is a big factor. I find guests feel the effects very quickly. They’ll say ‘I only arrived yesterday and already my skin is so dry.’ On top of that, being at a higher elevation leads to an increased exposure to UV levels,” she says. Her on-site fave, Kerstin Florian Correcting Rescue Crème, is blended with fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants to hydrate, reduce redness and promote healing. “If your skin is already dry, anything like wind or cool temperatures, will help contribute to that texture. However, using something preventive that creates a protective barrier over the skin will definitely reduce the damage that can be done,” she says. (Don’t miss these Canadian skincare brands we’re obsessing over. You may just find your new fave!)

3. Get used to double cleaning and multi-masking

Being a reactive organ, your skin is likely to adopt different behaviour during cold weather. Since working at Lake Louise for the last few years, Gerber has found that the composition of her oily/combination skin has changed. “I’m experiencing dry patches and even some eczema, which is never fun to deal with,” she says. (Here’s more on how to prevent an eczema flare-up.) To manage the seasonal shift, Gerber commits to self-care rituals like the spa’s Nature’s True Indulgence Facial, orchestrated with green beauty products from Tata Harper. “It’s amazing because it uses a multiple cleanse, multiple mask system with very active facial massage. It helps to clear out skin, rebalance skin’s composition and add whatever moisture is necessary. Plus, it helps to restimulate circulation.” For a DIY approach, double cleansing and multi-masking will ease frost-related irritation. Start with an oil cleanser to dissolve SPF and makeup, followed by a mild cleansing formula to gently remove leftover surface residue. And whether you need to tame a blemish, add hydration or refine skin’s texture, it’s always a good idea to customize mask time.

How to Take Care of Your Skin in Canada: Toronto

The pro: Victoria Radford, medical esthetician and owner of Radford.

The weather forecast in Toronto: Be it –30 degrees Celsius wind-chill warnings, snow alerts or ice storms, the metropolis is no stranger to severe weather conditions. Taxing is how Radford describes it. “A Toronto winter is not kind to any of the skin on our face or body,” she says. “It’s extreme, and people don’t know they need to change everything about their skincare routine.” she says. Not-so-fun-fact: Your skin actually ages faster in winter!

Her winter skin care routine

  1. Play offensively

“I don’t mind dry, scaly patches or chapped, split lips,” said no Canadian woman ever. A vigilant eye, plus a dedicated spirit, is the formula to avoid Mother Nature’s winter sabotage. “Once your skin gets to the place where an issue has arisen, it is so difficult to heal because the skin is in a state of emergency — it’s broken. It’s much easier to prevent the things that are going to happen,” says Radford. To get ahead, the pro would like to see us doing more between cleansing and moisturizing.

“I’m always shocked at how many people don’t use a serum,” she says. “If you don’t do that middle step, the winter is the time to add that in.” Facial oil is also a winning in-between option (Radford’s first choice is coconut), but both serums and oils need to be sealed with a face cream for maximum benefit.

2. Be gentle-ish

“It’s not what you do but how you do it” applies to many a life skill, skincare techniques included. Radford’s rules of exfoliation start with the use of kid gloves above the shoulders. “In the dead of winter, you want to avoid anything harsh on the face,” she says. “Never use a facecloth, harsh face scrub or even scrub physically with your hands.” Gentle chemical exfoliants, such as lactic acid, are her preferred method for smoothing, with a hydrating and brightening bonus. From the neck down, Radford loves dry brushing. “I do it almost daily,” she says. “It gets the blood flowing and circulation going because everything kind of slows down and goes into hibernation in the winter.” Copy her dullness-busting routine: dry brush, then shower, followed by an application of body oil and then a moisturizer. Here are 3 more ways to soothe your dry winter skin.

3. Get regular facials

With the season doing its best to make skin worse, the long haul to spring can be eased with intensive monthly treatments — as Radford sees them, training sessions. “Getting a facial is very similar to going to the gym. There’s no such thing as someone who does too many facials.” She offers the ultimate skin workout called The Hollywood Facial, which uses a low-frequency sound wave to help products applied to the surface of skin travel deeper into the epidermis. “It’s the equivalent of putting 40 nights’ worth of cream on in one hour. After, it’s like you’re emerging from an ocean: Your skin has been able to drink in more vitamins and ingredients than it ever has. It feels plump and hydrated.” At-home sheet masks are an affordable, easy-to-use solution with transformative results. Designed with the same principle as surgical silicone patches that are used to heal scars, a sheet mask covers skin to enhance the efficacy of ingredients. The product will be forced further into the skin, says Radford, who created her own hydrogel version with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid and colloidal gold. “If you have little wrinkles or dry patches, you’ll see them visibly dissipate, even after one use,” she says.

How to Take Care of Your Skin in Canada: Wallace, N.S.

The pro: Joann Patriquin, spa director, Do-lás Spa at Fox Harb’r Resort

The weather forecast in Wallace: Anything goes on Canada’s eastern coast. “Winter seems to be different each year now,” says Patriquin. “Many things have changed, we no longer have the deep snow we had when I was growing up in this area. We will get periods of –25 degrees Celsius temps, and even as high as +20 degrees Celsius two years ago in mid-February. We always say just wait a minute when you are in the Maritimes, the weather will change!”

Her winter skin care routine

  1. Don’t forget what’s south of your jawline

With 90 percent of your figure swaddled in cozy layers, it can be easy to neglect what’s happening underneath. “The drying weather in winter has an impact on your skin, but many people forget everything below the jawline,” says Patriquin. “Don’t ignore your neck, décolletage and hands – those are telltale signs of your age if forgotten!” To address it all in one go, she recreates the award-winning spa’s popular Moroccan Head-to-Toe treatment, which uses argan oil-rich products.

“The ingredient is very nourishing and hydrating for your skin, plus the aroma alone is a relaxation cue for the body, mind and soul,” she says. To DIY, follow the same steps as you would with a facial. “Do a complete body exfoliation, followed by a hydrating body masque. Then spritz with a dry oil, it’s non-greasy and easily absorbed — and finish with a body moisturizer.”

2. Try microcurrent technology

Regular maintenance is Patriquin’s secret to keeping skin in top shape from November to April. “My team and I start educating our guests on how winter and other elements, like travelling, can impact their skin. We suggest a monthly facial, if possible, but at the very least as the seasons change,” says Patriquin. Professionally and personally, she is a fan of NuFace. The high-tech gadget stimulates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which contributes to the creation of collagen and elastin. “It uses a gentle microcurrent for skin tightening and reducing fine lines and visible signs of aging. To start, you use it daily with a serum or gel for 30 days and then once or twice a week for maintenance,” she says, “You’ll see results instantly. When we use it on guests, the therapist will do one side of the face and then show them the difference in the mirror.” (You may also want to check out facial acupuncture, which also has plumping effects.)

3. Balance with toner

Pros love a multistep skincare routine — but not without good reason. In addition to a cleanser, exfoliant and day/night cream, Patriquin champions the regular use of a toner loaded with antioxidants. “It balances my skin’s pH level after cleansing, and it is also hydrating and soothing,” she says. Used to prime skin before applying a serum or facial oil, the watery substance helps protect the hydrolipidic barrier, which is the site for potential dehydration and tightness. “It may seem like a lot, but once you have the daily routine down, it’s just minutes,” says Patriquin. She also considers the beginning of the new year an ideal time to step things up in the skincare department. “As we age or, as I say, become wiser, our skin’s natural job of exfoliating and producing oils and collagen slows down, so it needs a bit of motivation from us to encourage it to continue its job.” Use a revamped routine to give the new you a helping hand. Next, learn 20 things your skin reveals about your health.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada