Updated: Oct 9, 2019
I had been hearing about her for months. A woman, whose facial treatments are next level, and centres her work around a philosophy of mindfulness and self-care. Sounds like some sort of mythical animal—too good to be true, yet friends insisted she existed, and that I "simply had to meet her". If I could score an appointment...
Well I did and,like so many things in life, good things come to those who wait. And wait I did for an appointment with Erin Dick-Jensen. But, of course, one hour was just not enough with this amazing woman, and so I sat down with her on a silver cloudy day over toast and coffee to ask her all the questions (seriously—it was a bit hard to narrow it down because she has such a wealth of knowledge about skin care). Of course, I had questions, and she answers them all below, but it was her personal story of how she was lead to this career that I found so moving and inspiring. But, I'll leave that story for her to tell—maybe you'll be lucky enough to hear it in person one day during a beautiful facial treatment.
At Elixirs for Life we use the term spiritual skincare as a way to convey the concept that wholistic skin care is about addressing more than just your physical body. What does that term mean to you?
Spiritual and skincare are certainly terms that overlap. Whatever your skincare routine is, and no matter what products you are using, it is important to ask, ‘Am I doing this as ritual of kindness for myself, or am I doing this from a place of fear?’ It is really important to examine your intention. For example, putting serious chemicals into your body on a regular basis doesn’t feel very loving to me. That’s not a criticism: it’s simply an awareness that is important to have.
I took an entire year off from coloring my hair, wearing nails, and make-up just to really examine my own relationship with beauty products and those practices, and I realized the major foundation was fear. A huge part of that fear, I discovered, was related to the ‘male gaze’, and worrying whether men would still find me attractive? But now when I decide to wear make-up it is a completely different feeling. I wear it for the pure joy of it, and it takes me back to the excitement of being a little kid at my grandmother's dressing table, and experiencing the really amazing aspects of these beauty rituals.
Your treatments are incredible! It feels like a lot of your treatment is very intuitive. How much of what you do is informed by your training vs. how you are intuitively guided?
Of course, there are some very sensible approaches to treating each person’s skin, which you learn with training and experience, as well as a lot of communication awareness that makes up a large part of my treatments. A really major part though is intuition.
As a facialist, what I’m doing in my treatments is spiritual practice. I am a meditation practitioner and I feel like when I’m performing a treatment each step is its own mindfulness practice. We know that so much of skin health revolves around healthy emotional states, so my role is to create a healing space for my clients, to show up for them, and to really see them. That practice of mindfulness is so important for me because I have a history of unhealthy and unskillful living. Meditation and mindfulness taught me how to come into the moment and be with someone. I think about the version of myself six years ago trying to do a facial, and it’s hilarious. I couldn’t sit in my own skin for six seconds. But now for me to be able to hold that space for someone, and to really show up for each step of the facial is hugely important.
There is a growing awareness that emotional wellbeing has a massive effect on skin health. For someone who is new to this concept, how do you suggest they get started?
It’s interesting because I think even the idea of ‘emotional health’ is a new concept to most people, and it feels like we are in a time where that idea is being commoditized somewhat. You see magazines about how to be mindful faster and better but, again, I really believe that everything comes down to your intention. How do you want to take care of yourself?
When I see someone who’s in a really stressful job, it absolutely shows in their skin. So for my clients to come and spend an entire hour and allow themselves to be cared for is massive. They come into my treatment room exhausted and emotionally drained, and slowly we start to develop a routine with natural, beautiful products that smell amazing and make you feel really good about taking care of yourself. After that, the rest of that healing journey begins to unfold naturally.
When I started this work, a therapist I was seeing told me, “You are going to care for the warriors of the world.” I just burst into tears because I felt the truth of that statement.
How much of good skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside of us as opposed to simply how we treat the outside of our skin?
Ha! I would say 95% is inner work, and 5% is skin care and products. Now, that 5% is super important: it’s like the icing on the cake that you’ve worked so hard to create, so I really encourage people not to neglect that. But you really can’t discount everything that’s going on inside of you. The clients that make the biggest changes in their skin are the ones that are willing to look at the whole picture.
Alternatively, I know people whose lifestyles contribute to their skin health in a really negative way, but they just aren’t willing to change. Change takes time and effort, but without it they’re really not going to achieve the results they’d like. Interestingly, there are so many products marketed towards people who are reluctant to change; and, almost always, those products are simply band-aid type solutions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that as long as people are aware that’s what they’re paying for. Do you want a band-aid? Or do you want to change?
With so many skincare products available, what advice can you give us about making good decisions about what to use?
I feel that a lot of product marketing takes advantage of our underlying insecurities, and leads us to believe that products can take care of everything. It's misleading because, while there are some really powerful ingredients we can use, topical products certainly can’t solve every challenge. The best advice I can give you is to be clear with your intention. What is your intention for buying that shiny new product? There is so much amazing packaging and so many super cool cult beauty brands it’s easy to get carried away. I love going to the beauty counter and seeing what’s new and beautiful. (Small interlude, while Erin and I gush over our mutual obsession with Tom Ford lipstick…price tag be damned).
Get clear on what is driving your desire to buy that new product. What are you hoping it can achieve? Are you working on establishing a healthy skincare routine to really nurture your skin, or are you just feeding a desire to buy? If it is just about shopping then you are going to be constantly confused because real skincare, like any other aspect of your health, takes time and consistency. You need to allow things time to work, and sticking with a program is the key to achieving your skincare goals. But if you are buying skincare products like a new outfit, it might be fun for a little while, but be aware that you aren’t establishing ritual skin health.
When I mentioned to some friends that I was going to be interviewing you, the number one question people wanted to know about is exfoliation. What’s your perspective on that whole process?
90% of people that I see aren’t doing it, or they are completely overdoing it. I’m not a fan of scrubbing your skin at all because I think that people just can’t help themselves and overdo it, so their skin ends up raw, irritated or susceptible to bacteria. Especially because our climate in Calgary is so dry, any kind of scrubbing can be really hard on your skin. The only time I really feel scrubbing is appropriate when your facialist is doing it. Leave it to them. I use crushed peony flowers in my treatments because they have a bit of bounce to them and won’t tear the skin.
The chemical kind of exfoliation happens with different enzymes, and in low concentration of AHA of around 1-2%; you can get yourself into trouble if you are going higher than that! Using a low concentration exfoliant once a week is a really good thing to build into your routine.
Calgary is so dry! Do you have any specific skincare tips for our climate?
Yes! It’s so dry, and you may be surprised, but cleansing is super important for us, and it is something that I see is overlooked. I suggest that you find a really good cleanser with beautiful ingredients, and without sulphates (which can dry your skin out even more). Really, don’t be afraid to lean towards more moisture in your skin, which could mean the difference between using a really hydrating moisturizer rather that an oil-free, sulphate-based product. Consider using facial oils at night, and build up a little arsenal of products that you know will work for you and help you transition through the seasons. I love jojoba oil, as one example, and it is magical for all skin types.
Botox or no Botox?
Does it work? Absolutely. And I’ve seen it done really well, but it’s not a choice I likely would make. Aging is a natural process, and resisting that can produce a lot of fear in the body. Even though that is my personal choice, I would never pass judgement on people that make different choices than I do. I simply say, “Great, let’s just make sure you have a really good routine for taking care of your skin as well.”
How do you practice self-care? My background is in health-care, and this was something I really had to learn because so much of my training was focused on taking care of others first.
Self-care is a new practice for me, and I am certainly not a perfect practitioner of it! I have to constantly remind myself: oh yeah, me too!
I’m a founder of a meditation group for recovering addicts, and this work informs a lot of my focus on self-care as well as discussion about teachability, and willingness to learn and grow. A big part of self-care for me is the practice of self-awareness.
Erin Dick-Jensen (@woodsroseskincare) offers her therapeutic facials at Woods Rose Natural Skincare (2022 34 Ave SW Calgary, Alberta). For bookings please visit woods rose.com