International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s achievements and contributions to society. It is celebrated on March 8th every year and began in 1917 by the Soviet Union to commemorate the women’s demonstrations that took place in Saint Petersburg, Russia. These demonstrations, which were led by female textile workers, marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution and ultimately led to the overthrow of the Tsarist regime.
In 1975, the United Nations officially recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day, and it has been celebrated globally ever since. Today, women’s day serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for women’s rights and gender equality, as well as a celebration of the many social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women throughout history. Each year, a different theme is chosen and this year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity, a campaign theme to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. We need to acknowledge that people start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
Today, in celebrating international women’s day, we have the pleasure of interviewing two exceptional women who are making significant contributions to the Canadian skincare industry in their respective fields. They will share their stories, experiences, and insights with us, offering advice on how to succeed as women in both dermatology and entrepreneurship.
Dr. Sandy Skotnicki
As the founder of the Bay Dermatology Centre and an Assistant Professor in the Divisions of Dermatology and Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Toronto’s Department of Medicine, Dr. Sandy Skotnicki is a prominent figure in the field of dermatology. Her vision for the Bay Dermatology Centre, which was established in 2006, was to create a patient-focused center that prioritizes individualized care over procedures.
What inspired you to become a dermatologist, and what have been some of your most rewarding experiences in this field?
I did my undergraduate degree in Immunology at the University of Toronto. The field of immunology was very new. It’s hard to believe it now as so much of medicine is immunology. From there I completed my degree in medicine also at the university of Toronto. In my last year I did a rotation in Dermatology and was struck by how much of the skin revolved around immunology. The skin we now know has its own immune system which is separate but connected to our internal system. The skin is our first defense from many “bad guys”, it also has a hand in training our immune system from the first few days of birth. So Dermatology was a natural progression from my interest in immunology.
The most rewarding experiences I have had in this field are around my work with Contact Dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is caused by external chemicals such as allergens and irritants, touching the skin resulting in an itchy rash known as dermatitis. I help patients determine what they are reacting to through history, examination and a procedure known as patch testing. This led me to writing a popular science book surrounding the issue of the increased numbers of patients around the world reacting to their skin and hair care products. The messages and feedback from all the people I have helped has been my most rewarding experience.
Can you share some insights on how diet and lifestyle affect skin health, and how you educate your patients on this topic?
This is a very important part of skin health and is often overlooked. There are many studies now about the effect of sleep and skin as well as overall health. Your skin will age less if you get regular and good sleep. As for diet the evidence is now very strong that foods with high glycemic index drive inflammation. Whether that inflammation be in the skin or other tissues like the gut or joints. I regularly discuss this with those patients with chronic skin inflammation associated with psoriasis, acne and eczema. Exercise has also been shown in clinical studies to slow skin aging. I regularly discuss this with patients. Lastly pollution, smoking and of course UV exposure are all lifestyle changes I discuss with patients, as they can affect skin health.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you have faced as a female dermatologist, and how you have overcome them?
The main challenges I have faced are age old problems associated with the cultural pressures of being a Mom. I have 3 wonderful sons and I’m juggling my career and their school and extracurricular activities (they all played competitive hockey!) was challenging. You always are letting someone down. What I have learnt is that it is ok to say no to some things. Stick to the opportunities that are truly important to you, listen to your gut and heart. The road is long and there are a lot of opportunities as long as you remain positive and open. It is also very important to surround yourself with people that are good at what you are not- managers, assistants, accountants, lawyers. This saves you time and creates a well oiled machine so you can focus on what you are good at and well as time with your family. Lastly, book time for yourself and your family – treat it like an appointment in your calendar and protect it like you would an important meeting.
How do you prioritize inclusivity and diversity in your practice, and what steps do you take to ensure that all of your patients feel comfortable and heard?
I believe as a doctor we have an advantage in this regard. It is in our oath to treat everyone no matter their race, sex religion, culture or social standing. It is one of the most rewarding parts of being a physician. As a Dermatologist, I see babies, teens and the elderly. Working in a Downtown Toronto practice I see much diversity and also have several clinics that refer new immigrants and refugees to Canada. I consider it a privilege to help them. In my area we also have a very robust LBGQT community, many who are going through transition. It has been a very interesting and rewarding experience to help this community with their skin issues.
If you could give a woman interested in becoming a dermatologist one piece of advice- what would it be?
Dermatology is and always has been a competitive field to get into. If you have an interest, it is important to start early with projects in areas surrounding dermatology. Volunteer and get connected to a dermatologist and offer to help with any research they are working on. Finally, my advice would be to go for it – because being a Dermatologist is one of the best jobs in the world. You work very, very hard but it is always interesting and rewarding.
Celine Tadrissi is a well-known figure in the world of luxury wellness. She is the director of the Hammam Spa by Celine Tadrissi, based in Toronto, and the founder of her own Canadian beauty line, Cela. In 2021, Hammam Spa gained global recognition for its outstanding services, winning accolades such as Canada’s Best Day Spa from the World Spa Awards, Best Spa Treatment from the International Resort and Retreat Awards, and Top Choice Spa from Top Choice Awards. In addition to her work with spas across Canada as an expert training consultant, Tadrissi has also collaborated with the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, increasing international awareness for her spa’s signature services and techniques.
Can you share the story behind your natural skincare company, and what inspired you to start it?
I initially had no intention of creating a product line. I was frustrated with not having the right products for the large number of treatments we do at the spa, along with frustrations importing products. I started researching raw ingredients from Canada that I could use for our treatments and ordering in bulk. This went on for a few years, and we started playing with some bases and oils to create different creams and scrubs, which clients loved. Eventually, I decided to work with a manufacturer to bring what I had started to a formal lab and production. The intention behind creating a branded product line was to highlight the amazing ingredients Canada had to offer in skincare and share the spa experiences which were the driving force behind all the products with people to use at home.
Can you describe your brand values and how they guide your business decisions?
Céla is a Canadian-made and inspired skincare brand. Everything we made, down to the details, represents the best Canada has to offer. When I make any business decisions, such as product development, I ensure everything, from the presentation and packaging to the ingredients and aromatherapy, reflects the best of Canada. Additionally, Cela was born out of the spa experience and treatment. I keep this front of mind when choosing all aspects of products, what their effect will be and experience for the user.
How do you ensure that your products are sustainable and environmentally friendly?
All our products are designed with clean formulas – paraben, sulfate and phthalate-free. We use pure botanical ingredients to craft luxury products that yield high results. We called it the ‘Seed to Skin’ experience, which offers a unique take on clean beauty, emphasizing the mind-body connection through science-backed research and aromatherapy.
Our products are also ‘Cruelty-free Kitty’ certified, and we’re proud to commit to being truly cruelty-free. When considering packaging options and design the majority of products are made in a shelf + counter worthy beautiful tube which does not require additional packaging or a box. I have also moved all of our tubes to mixed recycled material. We source where possible and manufacture locally.
Can you talk about some of the challenges you have faced as a female founder in the skincare industry, and how you overcame them?
My biggest challenge as a business owner is managing the pressure to be so many things (and be so many places) at once. It’s difficult to “wear many hats” as a leader and creator, but luckily I work with an incredible team here at Céla and Hammam Spa. Learning when to say no and having the courage to be direct in difficult situations has also allowed me to make more effective decisions and growth.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and innovations in the skincare industry?
I pay attention to what works for me as opposed to following the latest trends in skincare. I also try not to test a bunch of new things at the same time or overload my skin with different treatments. I find the simpler, the better. Over the years, I’ve realized the need to continue my skincare from my face down to my neck and décolleté area and finish on my hands. I care for all my parts, not just my face! I’ve found this has improved cellulite and skin texture throughout my body and allows me to feel confident in my skin. Because I have always loved everything about beauty and spa, knowing what’s happening in the industry comes easy to me since I love to read and look into new technologies, products and processes.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs who want to start their own natural skincare companies?
It’s crucial to look at the bigger picture and stop yourself from getting stuck on the small stuff. There are always going to be challenges as a business owner, but it’s important to stay focused on what’s really important and understand what’s worth your attention and effort.
My advice for entrepreneurs who want to start their own beauty/skincare business is – Listen to yourself & your customers.