It’s almost Mother’s Day – so what do you have planned? In advance of May 14, our Beauty Editor Amy Pigeon visited some of the best spas in the city and tried their signature treatments that would make a perfect gift for Mom. Below are her top recommendations.
For the Luxurious
The Four Seasons Toronto Spa is the epitome of what a spa should represent: warmth, luxury and serenity. Upon arrival, I was warmly welcomed by Shane at the reception desk, who called my guide to lead me into the spa.
I was immediately in awe of the spa’s size. The amenities outside the treatment rooms alone were incredibly large and extensive—perfect for those in need of a little R&R before, in-between or after treatments, and those who need a little extra primping time. I was particularly impressed by the level of privacy instilled in this large space— bathrooms were large and there were equally large individual change rooms with big comfy chairs and floor-to-ceiling doors. As a woman who won’t leave the house without a little bit of glam on, I was excited by the multiple vanities throughout the spa, which were complete with a full suite of toiletries and hair tools (and bathing suit drier for those who enjoyed the pool). After I changed into a robe, I reviewed the playlist options for my treatment (I chose the “sleep and dream” option).
My esthetician, Raquel, and reflexologist, Karina, greeted me in the waiting room and took me through the spa to my oversized, treatment room. I was there for a “Head to Toe” treatment, which was a dual-focused treatment with one person performing a customized facial and the other reflexology. The ladies asked me a series of questions about any concerns I might have or specific goals for the treatment, provided me with a quick overview of the products that they would be using, and then left the room briefly while I got into the comfortable and cozy heated bed. When they both came back, I felt a bit uncomfortable with two therapists simply because I was not used to receiving that much attention or being pampered so much—but I got over that quickly! I had never received a reflexology massage before and was apprehensive because I expected some pain, but that apprehension was also put to bed quite quickly—it felt incredible.
The reflexology started off with an invigorating orange-scrub/exfoliation and progressed to a combination of traditional calf/foot massage and reflexology massage. The facial was fully customized with an added “instant anti-puffy eye and wrinkle treatment” enhancement, since I had mentioned my primary concern was anti-aging/prevention.
When we were finished, my skin was glowing and I felt incredibly relaxed from the reflexology, paired with the arm and scalp massage I received during the facial. Raquel and Karina escorted me out to a more relaxed, dark waiting room, with full-sized, horizontal spa beds where I was tempted to take a post-treatment nap (unfortunately, I had places to be that day). They debriefed me on the treatment and left me with a card that had all of the products they used/recommended for me.
For the Adventurous
The Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie at the Shangri-La Hotel is a wonderful option for those looking for an urban escape, where adventure meets relaxation. A large sign welcomed me, as I stepped on to the fifth floor of the hotel. To the left was the 20-metre-long pool with private cabanas and a view into the buzzing energy of the outside world, complete with a gym and sauna; and to the right, a gorgeous space for those looking for exotic pampering at the spa. After entering the reception area, I was ushered to the changing room to change into my robe. The hallways were quiet and dimly lit, reminding me to slow down, put life’s worries aside and take a deep breath.
Entering the treatment room was like stepping into another world. A dimly lit room was reminiscent of an apartment-sized, luxurious shower. The floors were laid with gorgeous tiles, with quite a bit of water: my first clue that this was going to be a very wet treatment. I was instructed by my esthetician to go around the corner to my right where there was a private bathroom stall and changing area to disrobe and put on a sarong with an (optional) pair of disposable underwear. I had never received a classic Hammam treatment and had not done my research beforehand. To those also unfamiliar with Hammam treatments, a Hammam treatment is a deeply cleansing ritual in which one enters a high-intensity steam room and the treatment is performed in a low-intensity steam room—and my goodness, was it intense!
My esthetician guided me through the low-intensity steam room to the high-intensity steam room where I lay down on the Jerusalem gold marble counter for 15 minutes and detoxed. This was a full-blown steam bath, followed by a trip back to the low-intensity steam room, where I disrobed and received a full body, invigorating body scrub using authentic black Moroccan soap.
After I was rinsed off and re-robed I was taken into the Sultana lounge to further unwind post-“gommage”. The ambiance in the relaxation room alone is a reason to visit this spa — the very dimly lit area with private cabana-like velvet beds adorned with welcoming, silk, beaded pillows beckoned me to take a nap. It truly was as if I had stepped into a Middle Eastern palace. I was served a glass of comfortable, traditional Middle Eastern tea, with a piece of delicious baklava and grapes, as well as a selection of banana chips and dried cranberries to snack on post-pamper.
I left with my entire body feeling baby-soft and glowing, as well as feeling deeply reinvigorated overall.
For the Contemporary
The Sweetgrass Spa is tucked away on the basement level of a building, just east of Yonge Street on Queen Street, and must be one of the area’s best-kept secrets for a contemporary pamper session. The pretty and feminine décor of the reception area was a warm welcome, as I checked in for my Head and Scalp Renewal Therapy treatment. After changing into a robe and sandals in the beautiful, bright locker and change room, I waited in the combined lounge and lunch area for my masseuse, where I pre-selected my spa lunch options. The décor was ultra femme with semi-low lighting and accents of various pink colours, tea lights and candles everywhere, with lots of eclectic furniture.
My masseuse, Veronica, took me to the treatment room where she asked a few questions about any concerns I may have and what I was looking for in the treatment. She began the massage on my back and explained that I can expect it to be very different from a regular massage. I was very interested in the different massage techniques and asked Veronica a ton of questions that she kindly answered with great enthusiasm.
Veronica had created this massage in partnership with two of the other masseuses at the spa. They were inspired by Indian head massage and sport massage techniques of using short, brisk motions to bring as much blood to the surface as possible and increase absorption of Argan Oil into the skin (which is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin E and all of that other good stuff). They also wanted to turn the massage into an hour-long treatment, so they added in time focusing on the back, décolleté and face, in addition to the head. She mentioned that most people find this treatment very relaxing, which I found hard to believe in the beginning due to the very brisk movements. Surely enough, about halfway through when I had turned onto my back and she was working on my shoulders, the relaxation hit me like a pile of flying bricks and I nearly fell asleep. Apparently, many of Veronica’s clients describe it as an outer body experience.
When the treatment was over, I left with my skin feeling very nourished, relaxed and refreshed. Be prepared to shower or don’t wear clothes that can get damaged from oil stains, your hair will be in Argan Oil as well—so, be prepared to either wash it in the shower or slick it back and wait until the next morning for maximum Argan Oil absorption. I waited until the following morning and my hair felt incredibly soft after it was blow-dried.
After the treatment, I went back into the lounge/lunch area and was treated to a delicious smoked salmon salad (complete with quinoa and guacamole). This spa was very unique in that it seemed to fill a void in the market by catering specifically to social spa outings rather than solitude relaxation. The Sweetgrass vibe is perfect for mother-daughter outings, Mimosas and beautifying treatments.
For the Classic
The Elmwood Spa, located in the heart of downtown Toronto just north of Dundas Square, is the largest spa facility I have visited. I was in awe as I entered the large, beautiful wooden doors on Elm Street and was informed upon my welcome that the historic brick building was designed and built in 1889 by the same architects who designed Casa Loma. I was handed an itinerary for my day with my Pamper and Polish package and was taken upstairs to the second floor, where the change rooms were located. This area was complete with a hot tub, which I thought was a lovely touch of convenience and privacy for those who didn’t want to use the unisex facilities. I could not believe the size of the four-story spa and I had only been on two of the floors. Equipped with two restaurants, a juice bar, 34 treatment rooms and extensive water therapies, the Elmwood truly had a resort feel to it. This is a spa you should spend a full day at, in order to explore and enjoy it properly.
First on the agenda was lunch at the Terrace restaurant on the fourth level. My server Deniz was absolutely lovely. I began my three-course meal with the kale Cesar salad which was to die for. I mentioned to Deniz that I would purchase the Cesar dressing if it was for sale and she came back to my table with the recipe from the kitchen! A perfectly grilled rib eye steak was my choice for the main course and I finished the meal with a warm apple crisp with coconut ice cream.
I then moved down to the third floor for Water Therapies, where I enjoyed a quick refreshing shower and then hopped into the high-intensity steam room to unwind before my massage.
Next, I went back up to the fourth floor for my 50-minute Swedish massage with Lester. I entered the treatment large enough for two beds and loved the gas fireplace which was turned on in the room. I was a bit apprehensive because I’m not generally a fan of massages—but Lester’s hands were absolute magic. I caught myself asleep via the sound of my snoring—the ultimate compliment for a treatment geared towards relaxation. I certainly will be back to see him, and hope that this review of his services won’t have him booked up years in advance.
Back on the second floor after the massage, Irene prettied up my fingers and toes in an Essential Manicure and Pedicure (complete with a hot-stone massage). This area was bright and beautiful, with tall windows overlooking the historic buildings around the spa. It was incredibly large with plenty of space for individuals or large groups.
The Elmwood Spa is the ultimate spa for a one-stop day retreat for Mom or anyone deserving a special day—it would also be perfect for larger groups be it bachelorette or corporate parties. I have already booked another visit to take a few of the special Moms in my life to a fantastic lunch here along with other various treatments.