For some, a facial is all about achieving that sought-after natural glow. For skin therapist Kathryn Sawers, however, the real beauty lies in the process of making people feel good while they’re on her table.
As the owner and operator of Yaletown boutique spa Collective Skin Care (1268 Pacific Boulevard), she spends her days beautifying clients with methods that do more than just cleanse the surface of the skin.
It was a facial gifted to Sawers by her father that first sparked her interest in skin care.
“I remember feeling very in awe of the experience, of being cared for in that way, and all the different feelings and senses I got to experience,” Sawers tells the Straight during an interview in her treatment room. “I had this experience as a teenager where I had chronic fatigue syndrome, and after that [facial], it really got me focused on wellness.
“I started looking at my diet and paying attention to my health, so when I was looking at a career, I was really drawn to the balance of working as a skin therapist,” she says. “I love being in a quiet, calm space, and I love the idea of making people feel good.”
Since obtaining her Cidesco diploma at a local esthetics school, Sawers has spent nearly 15 years in the industry, cutting her teeth at long-standing Beverly’s the Spa on 4th and then helping to build Spruce Body Lab in Yaletown.
Sawers says the move to Collective Skin Care came at the perfect time. Housed in the same space as cosmetics boutique BeautyMark, Varnish Nail Lounge, and the headquarters of eyebrow queen Alisha Noon, she works independently, but alongside a handful of Vancouver’s best beauty professionals.
“It was a match made in heaven. We’ve built this synergistic partnership between everyone, and it works really well,” she says. “I get a lot of feedback about my space here, and people are really hungry for that connection with an expert—something that they feel they’re not necessarily getting when they go to a big spa.”
Working with clients of all ages and skin types, Sawers helps treat everything from acne, redness, and rosacea to sensitivity and early signs of aging. With her palpable sense of understanding and innately calm demeanour, Sawers is all about creating a relationship of trust with her clients.
“When people have acne or they’re dealing with sensitivity, they’re a bit wary—oftentimes, they’ve tried a lot of products and they’ve had terrible reactions,” she says. “I’d say the biggest challenge is handing your skin over to a professional and doing what they say. It can be hard, but I’ve seen it work. When people really trust the process and follow the instructions, they see improvements.”
Sawers says the biggest mistake people make when it comes to their skin-care routines is following the never-ending flow of trends.
“Sometimes people will just use a product that their friends swear by, so they jump on this bandwagon—especially with specific brands—instead of really focusing on what your unique skin is, and what suits your lifestyle,” she says. “I don’t blame them, because there are so many messages out there. It’s a cacophony of options, and every day, there’s a new ‘best thing’ for your skin. It can get pretty confusing.”
Instead of fussing over “hot” products, Sawers says it’s important to keep it simple and develop an easy-to-follow routine.
“The three things that I would recommend to people is to cleanse your skin morning and night, introduce some sort of exfoliation into your routine, and always protect your skin using a moisturizer and sunscreen,” she says. “That should be the base line for everyone.”
In her years as a skin therapist, Sawers has been won over by brands like Dermalogica and Tata Harper: Dermalogica for its rigid production standards, and Tata Harper for its dedication to using 100-percent-natural ingredients.
Sawers makes sure to take care of the body’s inner workings, too, with a nutricosmetic that provides nutrients for the surface of the skin as well as internal antioxidant support. She’s even created a facial treatment for her clients that works on the inside of the body as well. Sawers says the skin—the body’s largest organ—has a very symbiotic relationship with the lymphatic system, which is responsible for guiding waste products out of the body’s interstitial fluid.
“When the circulatory system isn’t functioning well, or it’s stagnant, the skin appears dull, which leads to a very tired look in the complexion,” she explains. “Over time, those muscle tissues and fascia become rigid, which means your skin isn’t getting the blood supply and movement from the lymph system.”
Sawers’s refining lymphatic treatment focuses on subtle manipulation of the facial muscles, starting with a deep cleansing of the skin with a lactic-acid peel, followed by a purifying clay mask. She integrates lymphatic-drainage-massage techniques with rosehip-seed oil and ends the treatment with a raw honey mask that is said to purify the pores while hydrating and soothing the skin.
“I really wanted to elicit a nice harmony and balance in the skin,” Sawers says of the 75-minute treatment. “Overall, it just gives this really beautiful glow.”
Sawers has worked facial-massage techniques into some of her shorter treatments as well. She says that over time, repeated facial massage can affect the tone and elasticity of the skin by relaxing muscles that have a tendency to become rigid.
“Usually, you start to see the long-term benefits after about eight or 10 weeks. After that, it’s just about maintenance.”