Vancouver’s First Vegan Spa: Introducing Willow’s Wax Bar

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Many folks who are new to the world of vegan, or those that explore any component of it, may assume that the term is only applied to the choices we make in the kitchen, the ones that determine what we eat, what we drink, what we put into our grocery baskets, and what lines our pantry shelves.

Living as a vegan extends far beyond the kitchen. It applies to considerations of what we wear, and where we make our purchases. It applies to the businesses we support, the things we clean our houses with, and naturally, one of the biggest and financially fruitful industries out there: we’re talking the beauty and grooming industry, folks. This is one of the biggest industries that revolves around, and incorporates the use of animal testing protocols, on a regular basis.

The CCAC (Canadian Council on Animal Care) reports that in 2015, 3,570,352 animals were used for research, teaching, and testing in Canada.
Note: this includes those used in the beauty/cosmetic industries, and others.
Note: this is only Canada.
Note: this does not include China, where animal testing is legally mandated for all beauty and personal care products.

Enter the terms “Cruelty Free”, “Cruelty Free Beauty” and (drumroll) vegan spa. While we have seen business models emerging all over the world under these umbrella terms, Vancouver recently welcomed Willow’s Wax Bar to the city, our first (ever) vegan spa. The business was opened by one of our own, and a dear friend, the ever-talented Rhiannon Whitney. What exactly a vegan spa is? Why is this one so crucial, and what does it mean to have one here in YVR?

Why did you start Willow’s in the first place (and how long has the “original” location been open?) Note: Willow’s was previously operating out of a different location in East Vancouver.

I grew up all over the world in countries such as England, Syria, Oman, Australia and Singapore. Growing up, my hobbies included painting my nails every night instead of doing my homework, giving people massages and hair updo’s, and playing hockey and piano.

In my mid 20’s after moving to Vancouver Island from Calgary, AB, I opened a spa in Parksville called Natural Synergy Day Spa. As a Vegan since 2003, it has been one of my greatest passions in the industry and in life, to find and deliver the highest quality of Cruelty Free, Organic/Natural, and Healing Vegan products to my clients, not to mention to promote the lifestyle of Veganism to clients and friends. It’s also one of my own biggest beauty secrets…not so secret!

I specialize in Brazilian Waxing, Eyelash Extensions & Cosmetic Tattooing, and have over 14 years of experience in the Beauty and Wellness Industry. Willow’s opened last month in Hastings Sunrise, after years of being a proud east van resident. My goal is to see Willow’s become Vancouver’s destination for all things related to vegan beauty and wellness.

If someone was visiting a vegan spa for the first time, how would you introduce it?

Traditional/mass produced beauty products are loaded with toxic chemicals, animal by-products, and/or raw components that are directly linked to animal-testing. A vegan spa is an environment where you will find only cruelty-free, plant and nature-based options, which are superior in quality and value.

What are the quintessential components of a positive spa experience?
Most importantly, it’s about how you feel when you arrive, and when you leave. A great spa offers a sensory experience from the moment you enter: the lighting, the aroma, the music, the design of the space itself, should all set the mood for what is about to happen in the treatment room. You should leave your treatment feeling relaxed but energized, refreshed, and beautiful.

Things to look for:
-Qualified practitioners, with both formal experience and training in their area of expertise.
-Personalized services tailored to the customers needs and requirements on the day of their visit.
-Professional-grade products and tools used in the service.
-Clean, welcoming atmosphere adhering to all standards of sanitation.
-Service follow up and aftercare recommendations.

Can you talk about some of the vendors and lines that will be represented?

Ilike Organic Skincare – This extensive line addresses a variety of skin types, conditions and needs. Whether you are looking for a solution for sun damage, severe dryness or sensitivity, premature aging, wrinkles, acne or rosacea, choose Ilike. It is an all Natural, Organic, Hungarian grown in small batches to maintain consistency and potency. These real fruit and vegetable pulps were created by “Aunt Ilike” in the late 1950’s. What many people do not realize is that the skin is the largest organ of the body and nutrient absorption through the skin is between 60-100%! It is important that we feed our skin with only the best, and with Ilike’s credentials (to name a few; BDIH Certified, Professional Choice awards, Green Skin care company of the year awards and Top 5 Spa products in SPA magazine) you can feel confident that we are providing the best. Although they do have a few products which contain honey and diary, we do not carry them here Willow’s.

Youngblood Cosmetics – First and foremost, and most importantly: this line is 100% cruelty free and vegan. This incredible Natural Mineral makeup line contains absolutely no animal by products, absolutely no animal testing, parabens, petroleum, mineral oil, talc, artificial dyes, artificial fragrances, irritants or harsh chemicals. These products are not only gorgeous with amazing coverage and pigment, but they are suitable for all skin types and come in a comprehensive range of realistic, natural-looking shades! Another incredible bonus, the formulation also naturally provides sun protection.

SugarLash – We have been assured that all of the Lash products we use in our treatments are Cruelty Free and Vegan, which sadly is not the case in may Lash bars around Vancouver(some even using REAL mink hairs from Mink fur farms). Sugarlash PRO is committed to sourcing ethical and innovative products for eyelash applications. Whether they are visiting factories in person around the globe to ensure safe working conditions and certified wages, they aim to keep their lash products safe, sustainable, and ethical, and we agree that that is very important!

Davines -Davines is a Haircare line used all over the world by the most amazing hair professionals and their clients who want only the best. The line is sulphate, paraben and Gluten-free, vegan, except for the Volu-mist line which we do not carry at Willow’s. Their products are manufactured using renewable energy, the key ingredients are from and supporting 9 small scale farms in Italy. The packaging is food grade, and is highly recyclable and reusable plastic! We are on board with everything this company stands for, and the products are actually incredible. ( We all use them at home!)

Here & Now Botanicals – The owner of this company is our lovely friend Jessica lives right here in Vancouver and started this company a few years ago. Every product is credited in small batches and is handcrafted right here in the city! We love supporting local, but her products actually are to die for. She sources the finest raw material and formulates products that are gentle and natural by combining therapeutic grade essential oils, minerals and botanicals to restore the skin and its natural vitality!

The current vegan beauty scene in Vancouver: what are you thoughts on it? How will Willow’s impact/improve it?

There are many salons, day spas and beauty bars in the city. That said, there is a lack of focus on offering an environment dedicated exclusively on educating non-vegans, and providing savvy options for the active vegan consumer.

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Join Rhiannon, her team, and The Vegan Project this Friday, March 3rd for the Willow’s Wax Bar Grand Opening and Spa Warming Party. Kicking off at 7PM, the night features live music, champagne, vegan cake (from the amazing Vogue Cakes), door prizes, and a few surprises.

**Mention ‘The Vegan Project’ when you book an appointment at Willow’s for 15% off your first treatment!**

Call: 604-564-1929


Monday – Saturday

10am – 6pm

IG: @willowswaxbar


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Feedback/questions/comments? || IG: @zoemarg  || #theveganproject


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