Caviar facials and wine massages try to lure travellers

The Millcroft Inn and Spa/Canadian Press


Thai massage, also known as “yoga for the lazy,” is a popular spa treatment that strengthens muscles and tendons, and leaves the body loosened and stretched.

gary lloyd

A golden caviar facial offered at The Millcroft Inn and Spa uses caviar extract to moisturize, plump-up fine lines and wrinkles and aid cell metabolism and skin microcirculation.

Imagine a table laden with rich, dark chocolate, the world’s best caviar, a glass of the finest red wine and sweet, amber honey.

Now imagine these same extravagances being massaged into your parched skin. What a waste, you say? Not at all, according to experts in the spa industry who say this is just one of many trends.

Certain foods contain a class of antioxidants that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, increase immune function and enhance antioxidant defence systems. These same antioxidants when applied to the skin can nourish it and help protect it from free radicals which damage skin cells, say advocates. Some of the top offenders of free radical skin damage are UV sunlight, smog, toxins and cigarette smoke.

Marianne Persia, owner of the Hummingbird Hill Spa-Country Retreat, located near North Bay, Ont., says chocolate’s sensual pleasure and health benefits make it a natural spa treatment.

“Our chocolate indulgence spa getaway is one of our newest packages,” she said, adding she came up with the idea around Valentine’s Day. “It is very popular.”

And what’s not to love. Chocoholics and those who just want pure pampering are treated to two nights’ bed and breakfast and four delectable spa services consisting of a hot chocolate massage, a chocolate body wrap, a scalp and hot stone neck and arm massage and a chocolate pedicure.

Mary Hughes, editor of Spa Life magazine, said spas are always inventing new treatments in an attempt to be unique. “The industry is very, very competitive. Even the smallest of properties, such as bed and breakfasts, are opening spas or partnering out.”

Some of the newer treatments include Thai therapies and flavoured pedicures built around themes.

Hughes said Thai therapies have taken Canada by storm, and for good reason. The treatments are some of the best in the world, she said, especially a Thai massage, which is often described as a lazy man’s yoga.

“They pull and stretch you which feels great. I also recommend their signature massage which involves the therapist getting up on the client and using her body weight and elbows, knees and feet to release tension.”

Flavoured pedicures are also all the rage, and are often created with a particular season or holiday in mind. HavenWood, a spa just outside of St. John’s, Nfld., offers an apple pedicure in autumn and a cranberry pedicure at Christmas, and at Valentine’s they use rose petals and rose water.

At the Millcroft Inn and Spa near Orangeville, Ont., clients can choose an organic candy cane-based salt scrub at Christmastime, or a pure mandarin scrub year-round. They also offer chocolate or malt and barley pedicures.

“All our body products are organic, so you could eat them,” said Jennifer Stemmler, Millcroft’s spa manager.

Charles Banfield, Millcroft’s marketing manager, said food-based treatments are popular right now, in part because spa-goers are intrigued by the local area and have a when-in-Rome mentality.

“We try and incorporate local products into our treatments, such as the malt and barley scrub and soak, which includes a glass of premium draft from the Hockley Valley Brewing Company.”

Another intriguing treatment at Millcroft is a caviar facial, which uses caviar extract to moisturize the skin and comes with a glass of wine and a taste of the sumptuous seafood.

Or, if you prefer, you can have your wine mixed with a lotion and massaged into your skin. Beyond Wrapture Day Spas in Kelowna, B.C., offers vinotherapy treatments, including a grape pip scrub, a honey wine wrap and a red or white wine massage.

“It is one of our most popular packages,” said Debra Pender, president and CEO. “Research shows that grape seeds, stems and skins contain antioxidants called polyphenols. ... Since we’re home to the Okanagan Valley and its rolling vineyards, we make use of this local product.”

Pender said she has been in the business for 12 years, and has seen a lot of changes in that time.

“I opened one of the first day spas in Canada. At first it wasn’t great because people thought it was a house of ill repute. But now there are 35 day spas in Kelowna alone and the resort spa industry is one of the fastest growing industries.”

She said consumers are looking for touch because they are not getting enough of it in their own lives. “People are not getting it from their partners or spouses. I also think people have shorter periods of time and that’s why day spas are so great.”

Pender predicts a future trend in Canada will be music therapy, which uses the vibration from instruments to help clear body and mind. She is looking into treatments that feature a harpist playing instead of a CD, and crystal bowl therapy where bowls are placed on different parts of the body and then “played” by the therapist.

“Crystal bowl therapy started in Mexico and is becoming very popular,” Pender said. “The different sound vibrations travel through your body.”

novel spa treatments

Spa treatments and getaways should be booked in advance. Some sample prices:

  • Hummingbird Hill Spa-Country Retreat, near North Bay, Ont., chocolate indulgence spa getaway, $525 per person, or $425 per person if booked by two people staying in one room.

  • HavenWood, near St. John's, Nfld., Haven signature pedicure, $65.

  • Millcroft Inn and Spa, near Orangeville, Ont., men's malt and barley scrub and soak, $100; golden caviar facial, $145.

  • Beyond Wrapture Day Spas, Kelowna, B.C., vinotherapy package, $238.