Softly lit, brassy elevators open on the fifth floor of Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton hotel to a bright foyer. To the left is a saltwater pool fringed by overgrown palms and a window that offers a dizzying view of the CN Tower. To the right is a gift shop and reception area, where an urn of orange-infused water glints in the sunlight and soft-voiced attendants wait, ready to welcome guests to the Spa My Blend by Clarins.
We here at KHACHILIFE are ever in search of that perfect slice of luxury. Whether it’s a hidden gem of the Cayman Islands or lavish restaurants along the French Riviera, we are constantly on the hunt for an opulent escape. As it turns out, that escape can be found close to home at the Toronto Ritz-Carlton spa.
Three years ago, the spa received worldwide attention; it was voted No. 1 in the ‘Top Hotel Spas Overall’ category of Travel + Leisure magazine’s ‘World’s Best’ awards. At that point the spa was in its infancy; the hotel itself opened in 2011 and the spa followed suit roughly one year later.
As the chill of fall creeps over the city and the prospect of an Almanac-predicted brutal winter looms in the air, we’ve been searching for balmier destinations that can offer a temporary reprieve in the dead of February: Greece, Bolivia, Sri Lanka. But growing ever more popular is the idea of the ‘staycation’: an experience found at home, one that attempts to emulate escape without the hassle of air travel, passports, or packing. If you’re in search of a Toronto staycation this winter, the spa at the Ritz-Carlton is worth nudging to the top of your list.
The Spa My Blend by Clarins offers much more than its services alone. Its 16 private treatment rooms are tucked away in quiet hallways, a design that cleverly allows its common facilities to take the spotlight.
Beyond the glass doors of the reception area, guests will find a warm changing room, its lockers outfitted in dark and soothing wood panels. After changing into a luxurious robe, guests are invited to use the facilities at their leisure both before and after their appointments. These facilities include a steam room, where a basket of facecloths chilled with ice and cucumber wait just outside for a cooling reprieve; a dry sauna; a Jacuzzi with two jet-lined reclined seats, perfect for soothing sore muscles on the back; and a quiet room with an assortment of teas and dried fruits.
Beyond this is a bright and airy lounge, accessible to all genders, where guests can order cocktails and light meals from the small menu as well as help themselves to complimentary house-made chocolate bark or a variety of nuts and fruits. The room is furnished with double-wide daybeds, perfect for allowing couples to relax together while perusing the magazines on hand. I would recommend bringing a book; luxuriating here in this airy room, under a stunning lighting installation, is the perfect winter equivalent to lounging on a beach.
Upon my own recent visit I received a 90-minute My Blend Facial. I was treated by Anjela, a highly knowledgeable woman who received her training in Sochi, near the Black Sea. This was before the region was ushered into the international spotlight for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, she told me.
A facial at the Spa My Blend by Clarins begins with a quick iPad test that allows guests to answer questions relating to skin type, lifestyle, and habits. The “machine”, as Anjela calls it, then calculates the combination of products best suited for the individual.
While the products used at this spa are Clarins, a well-known brand, they are not the sort made commercially available at department stores; unlike the Clarins products available at your local Shoppers, which are comprised of plants and essential oils, the My Blend line by Clarins contains medicinal ingredients. The brand’s handsome packaging is part of a push towards sustainable, environmentally friendly design; many of the products come in thin containers that can be inserted into a one-time purchase glass container.
The My Blend line was created by Dr. Oliver Courtin, the son of Jacques Courtin Clarins (the brand’s founder). Its products are highly customizable, designed to help cater to any specific skincare needs. Customers are able to purchase ‘boosters’, which work as additives to the creams and help to treat specific needs like hydration, fighting the effects of jet lag, and soothing redness.
The Ritz-Carlton is one of only five places in the world where one can purchase these products — an exclusive line indeed.
The facial began with a hot compress for the hands and feet. I wasn’t expecting my feet to get a little love in a facial session, but at one point Anjela even massaged them while I was under a mask. This stimulated the blood flow in my limbs and helped me to relax, something I particularly appreciated; while facials can we soothing, elements like extractions can also be painful and a part of the session we come to dread. (I needn’t have worried about this with Anjela; she does extractions with her hands rather than harsh tools, and I barely felt a thing. It was over before I even had time to tense.)
The facial consisted of three machines. First was the Colourblend LED Light Mask, which looks not unlike a costume piece from The Phantom Of The Opera. It sits on the face and glows bright red — like a Christmas tree, said Anjela. This is designed to restore balance to the skin, using changes in light frequency to stimulate collagen.
The second machine, the Wave Blend, uses the pulsating movements of a hand-held device to help with lymphatic drainage. It also claims to reduce puffiness, crow’s feet, and other winkles while lifting the skin. This was my favorite device; the sensation is akin to the massaging jets of a hot tub.
The third machine, a cryotherapy device, is another hand-held tool that uses a deep cold to help tighten and firm the skin following a salicylic mask.
As with any facial, the proof of its effectiveness lies in the days and weeks that follow. My skin was left feeling clear, firm, and deeply cleansed. It’s undoubtedly the best facial I’ve had, and also the best experience with a practitioner. Anjela is clearly skilled in her profession and offered a lot of comprehensive advice during the session that I will be incorporating into my own beauty care regime: for instance, apply sunscreen after moisturizer to prevent the latter from blocking pores (and never rely on a moisturizing sunscreen; like a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, the results are lackluster when a product tries to do too much at once), and cleanse at night rather than in the morning (according to Anjela, cleansing before leaving the house opens the pores and makes them vulnerable to toxins and environs).
The personnel working at the spa are also world class in terms of their hospitality. I was well catered to be a lovely spa attendant named Iryna, who made sure that my visit was comfortable and went smoothly.
Aside from the stellar treatment I received in the session alone, I highly recommend a day at the Spa My Blend for those in search of an indulgent Saturday afternoon. The purchase of any service of sixty minutes or more allows access to all of the facilities, and one can spend hours—the entire day, even—soaking in the bright natural light by the saltwater pool or sipping champagne with a cheese plate in the lounge. Bring a good book and prepare to feel as though you’ve been temporarily whisked away to a far-off, exotic location — if only for the day.