Column by Adrian Brijbassi
TORONTO, ONTARIO — I’ve been searching for the perfect hangover cure for half of my four decades. I didn’t expect to find it in my first men’s facial. A night after several glasses of Rioja and Malbec at my favourite Toronto wine bar, I arrived fighting a headache and fatigue for an appointment at the spa at the InterContinental Toronto Centre. I left feeling the way I do after a massage, calm and pain-free, tension in my shoulders gone and my muscles loosened to a state similar to a rubber band. The headache vanished, the fatigue ebbed. It’s not at all how I expected to feel, nor is this the story I expected to write.
The point of receiving a facial was to provide fodder for a self-deprecating article about how no amount of miracle creams or aesthetician effort could ever turn me into George Clooney. While that’s still true, my idea of a facial — and I think most men’s idea of a facial — was completely wrong.
In fact, if it was termed face therapy or above-the-shoulders massage, I think the spa industry would have much more success convincing men to give it a try. “Facial” sounds far too feminine — and vain. I thought I would be sitting in a chair resembling what you would plant yourself in at a hair salon. While my face was slathered with muddy cream, I imagined being surrounded by other facial customers — all women, no doubt — who would be twittering (not tweeting; no cell phones are allowed in the spa rooms) about recipes and travel plans and how much they wished the men in their lives looked like George Clooney. I have no idea how I came up with that misconception, because that’s not at all what the experience at the InterContinental was like.
It began with the presentation of a robe, flip-flops and locker-room key. I still didn’t fully comprehend the situation after I was directed to the men’s change room. “I’m just going for a facial,” I thought to myself, while staring at the open half locker, “do I really need to take off my clothes and put on a robe?”
Should you decide to book a men’s facial, the answer to this question is yes. The hour-long treatment took place in a massage room. With my head feeling like it had been used as a substitute for a snare drum, the thought of a dark room and a flat surface to slide down upon were welcome. The treatment began with the therapist waving a variety of scents in front of my nose. I chose the one I found the most appealing, a citrusy aroma that went straight to my synapses, instantly calming the drum beat.
An Eyeopening Experience During a Men’s Facial
The scent was from a blend of oils that would be used to massage my neck, shoulders, and head, as well as my feet. A cloth covered my eyes while water bubbled near my noise, its evaporating vapours warming my lip. The therapist applied creams that cleansed and exfoliated the skin, then she did the most painful part of the procedure, which was also something that will sound, well … gross. Using a tiny tweezer, she pulled a few blackheads — oily specks that have accumulated dirt and hardened on the exterior of the nose — out of my pores. It hurt. But I could breathe easier and was all the proof I needed that guys should get this done.
Another reason? The food. The InterContintental Toronto Centre features a spa menu with options that are delicious and healthy. I enjoyed the grilled lime and cilantro shrimp ($22), which extended the restorative sensation of the facial and massage.
Spa days, it turns out, have been one of those clubby activities ladies have hung onto without much encroachment from men. That began to change about 25 years ago when men began to routinely receive massage treatments, partly because the athletes we admire exposed the benefits of wellness therapy. Couples’ massages have brought more men into the spa. In 2000, a survey of the industry from Price-Waterhouse and Yeasavich & Pepperdine showed that 33% of spa clients were men. The InterContinental Toronto Centre told me it has about that many male clients. But some spas in Europe report having equal or slightly more male clients than female. The shift in marketing from beauty care to physical and fitness care has bolstered male participation at spas. Facials, however, have been one spa product that men haven’t yet adopted. I think that will change as perception shifts.
After all, how many guys wouldn’t love a foolproof hangover cure?
MORE ABOUT THE INTERCONTINENTAL TORONTO CITY CENTRE
Location: 225 Front Street, Toronto, ON (see map below)
Nightly Room Rates: Hotel prices fluctuate wildly in Toronto. A recent search on the hotel’s booking engine for a Friday night in December, showed a room with a king bed going for an outrageously low price of $138.57. Rates will soar above $300 per night during peak tourist season.
Reservations: Telephone, 1-800-422-7969, or visit the hotel’s website.
Men’s Facial Rates: The Element Nature Facial that I received costs $110 for 60 minutes and $130 for 90 minutes. The spa also offers a 30-minute Pure-Formance Express for Men facial that costs $75. Click here for more details on full services and “On the Go” options.
Spa Food Menu Rates: The cuisine is prepared at the hotel’s splendid Azure restaurant. Entrees range from $21-$28. Your meal is prepared for you while you receive your treatment. Here’s the menu.
Spa Website: www.thespaintercontinental.com
Hotel Website: www.torontocentre.intercontinental.com
Thoughts on the Hotel: I’ve stayed at the two downtown InterContinental properties in Toronto and while both are excellent, this location on Front Street is impressive for several reasons. It boasts arguably the best location in Canada’s largest city (it’s attached to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre) and to its credit makes admirable efforts to deliver an experience similar to high-end rivals such as the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and Four Seasons in Yorkville. Service is the hallmark that has separated those elite brands from the rest of the industry, however as the InterContinental Toronto Centre showed me, high-quality service can also be enjoyed at a lower price point in a few rare properties.
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