Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: Spa services that won’t have you pulling your hair out

Being pampered can be wonderful, but a spa day can also leave you feeling guilty with how much you are spending. Columnist Dara Squires looks for a stress-free, affordable way to be indulged.
Cordelia Richards, a student of the esthetics and spa management program at Academy Canada, takes a client appointment for the students' clinic days. (Dara Squires)

The last time I had a "spa day" was more than three years ago. 

The whole time I couldn’t relax because I was thinking about all the money I was spending. A pedicure alone runs typically anywhere from $40 to $60. A haircut and dye job is at least $100.

It kind of defeats the point of getting pampered if you’re just feeling guiltier with each layer of skin that’s exfoliated.

Academy Canada's students work together in the spa, with eight private 'cabins' available for individual appointments. (Dara Squires)

So, is it possible to get pampered and not stress about the money?

It certainly is if you’re happy to DIY. As my friend Judy pointed out, you can get a candle, single-serving adult beverage, bubble bath, bath pillow, borrowed book and sample size mask and deep hair conditioner for $20 or less.

Of course, that would mean scrubbing out the tub …

Other friends suggested hosting a Mary Kay party or similar: get a free makeover and maybe even earn some free product while hanging out with friends – all for the cost of some party nibbles.

Of course, that would mean cleaning the house …

There are also some places that sell makeup who will provide you with a free makeup lesson and application — in the hopes you’ll buy of course. But that means sales pressure…

A time to go back to school

Sometimes you don’t want to do things yourself. Sometimes you want to just let someone else do the prep and the cleanup and the planning and you just enjoy. And usually you pay through the nose for that.

Not so if you know where to go.

I wasn’t expecting a lot: some hot towels and a mud mask of some kind maybe. What I got was a full-on treatment.

For instance, just next to Value Village on Kenmount Road. A lovely little spa establishment called Academy Canada.

Yeah. You read that right …a school.

A school with a full-service salon and a whole collection of students eager to do haircuts, facials, and relaxation massages. The same students who in a few months will be giving you a $70 spa pedicure will do it for just $23 before they move out into the “real world.”

These students are trained by some of the best, like Lee-Ann Fleming, instructor and co-founder of Ossetra. I was able to drop by and receive one of their facials with Lee-Ann at the helm.

For $20 (there’s no tax!), I wasn’t expecting a lot: some hot towels and a mud mask of some kind maybe. What I got was a full-on treatment. Starting with a cleansing and exfoliation after Lee-Ann did an analysis of my facial skin. I then moved on to a steam treatment. The whole time wrapped in blankets, listening to soothing music and enjoying the heated bed. After the steam I had a bit of skin grooming and then on to the highlight: a massage of my face, neck and shoulders.

Whole experience was heaven

I literally felt the stress drip away. It was followed by a serum and mask application. Pretty much the whole experience was heaven.

All the products used are all-natural. The spa uses a line of products called Ossetra, created by Lee-Ann and her business partner and featuring natural active ingredients from Newfoundland, such as iceberg water and blueberries.

The price you pay simply covers the cost of materials and supplies. The students are required to do at least 43 facials of various kinds before graduating and don’t start in the salon until they’ve completed courses and at least a couple of weeks of labs.

The same facial that would cost $90 plus tax and gratuity at any other spa in the city is an even $20 and you get the feel-good factor that comes from helping a student prepare for their future!

Spa and hair services are offered at the St. John’s and Corner Brook locations of the campus, with massage offered in St. John’s only. Call 570-2746 to book an appointment in St. John’s or 637-2104 for Corner Brook.

If you’re not handy to one of those, you can check out Woodford Training Centre in Kelligrews for similar deals or look up an esthetics program at a school near you.


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.


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