By Katrina Clarke Staff Reporter
Maria Litwin is due for a good pampering.
But the Toronto restaurateur doesn’t have time for a leisurely day at the spa.
“I don’t know that anyone has that kind of time,” Litwin said before settling into a pedicure chair at The Ten Spot beauty bar on Queen St. W.
These days time-crunched women are seeking a quick beauty fix and a growing number of specialty beauty bars are offering express walk-in service for waxing, lash treatment, and the popular mani-pedi. Toronto’s first express facial bar will open next month.
Good grooming used to equate to luxury but increasingly Torontonians just want to maintain a polished appearance.
“This is not about escaping,” Rani Sheen, beauty editor at The Kit, a fashion and beauty publication. “It’s about getting your service done.”
Body Blitz Spa will open the city’s first facial bar in Leslieville mid-May followed by a second location on Queen St. W in June.
“We’re going to introduce … that the facial is not just a luxury, it’s something that you should be doing, similar to going to the gym,” said Body Blitz Spa co-owner, Laura Polley.
The Blitz facial bar will offer a stripped-down version of a spa — no robes, clothes changing, free tea or private rooms — but with the same high quality services, said Polley. Express facials will take 30 to 60 minutes and cost $48 to $118.
Kristen Wood, CEO and creator of The Ten Spot beauty chain, identified this demand nearly a decade ago.
“What I wanted to do was have something where somebody like myself would want to go and go with girlfriends and have a fun vibe … and first and foremost, have it be sanitary,” said Wood.
She opened her first beauty bar on Queen St. W., coined as an “anti-spa,” in 2006. The Ten Spot now has 14 locations across the country and saw “huge growth” during the late 2000s recession, said Wood.
Her beauty bars offer cheeky services — such as the “Bumkini” wax — and have a welcome vibe, with locations boasting big street-facing windows and a bright interior.
Sheen says the rise of middle-to-upper scale express services kicked off in 2009, when blowout bars became ubiquitous and Torontonians realized good hair “didn’t have to be an afternoon at the salon.”
Express hair prep was quickly followed by express hair removal, with Toronto’s Fuzz Wax Bar — dedicated strictly to a quick and efficient wax — opening in 2012.
Polley said the success of other specialty bars indicates that beauty-seekers are interested in going to locations that excel in one area, such as waxing or nails, as opposed to those offering a buffet of services.
“(A facial is) the only thing we’re going to do so we’re going to do it perfectly,” she said.
But Wood — who offers a range of services at The Ten Spot — sees specialty bars as a “tiny bit of a fad,” adding that around 90 per cent of her clients get multiple services.
And while beauty bars are popping up across the city, some attribute growth to greater demand for beauty services all-round.
“The express bars are … trendy right now, but the industry has more gone toward more non-invasive treatments, (which aren’t suited to the express model) where the client invests more time and more money,” said Ann Mariani, an esthetic and spa therapy program co-ordinator at Seneca College.
Mariani said she’s seeing more interest in pricier treatments that offer longer-lasting results, such as laser hair removal, chemical peels and skin-tightening treatments.
She doesn’t think this will go the express bar route, but there are Botox bars in California.
Toronto dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett doesn’t predict that express injectables trend will stretch into Canada the same way beauty bars did.
“I think we’re actually smarter than that,” she said. “You’re dealing with a drug, it’s not like you’re going for a haircut or you’re going for a manicure … the risks are significant.”
But Kellett does has some concern that health and safety will be sacrificed for convenience. She advises beauty-goers to ask their shops about sterilization practices.
Back at The Ten Spot, Litwin and her friend prepare to slip into a pampering coma.
“My husband makes fun of me and my friends and calls us the ‘dead protein society,’” she said with a smile. “Because we care only about our dead protein … our hair and nails.”