Snuggled on a black leather sofa inside the stunning South Granville skin clinic, Project Skin, MD sit Christine Palylyk, Jennifer Bowles, and Gwen De La Costa. The posh neon sign above them reads “It’s Glow Time” and even though it’s barely 9am, the three Blanche Macdonald Esthetics grads are positively radiant—one even bears a striking resemblance to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Not only are these women gorgeous, they are insanely kind, funny, and extremely talented backed by impressive careers and credentials. They’re now comfortably nestled in the bright, beautiful, and modern walls of the prestigious Project Skin clinic—which has garnered numerous glowing client reviews and media coverage in the five short years it’s been in business. Wildly different, yet alluring, captivating, and instantly trustworthy, Gwen, Christine, and Jennifer sit to share a small part of their skincare journey and their top tips for happy skin.
You all do vastly different things here. Can you give us an idea of what a typical day looks like for you and how your role fits into the clinic?
Christine Palylyk: I’m a Laser Technician here so I perform procedures that are prescribed by the doctor. I do a number of different laser treatments, from vascular and retexturing treatments, to skin tightening treatments, IPL Photorejuvenation, vascular treatments and things like that! Right now, I’m the only person who does laser hair removal so we split up some of the other treatments between staff members who also perform them. I also do cosmetic tattooing 2 days a week. That’s pretty much me!
Gwen De La Costa: I’m a Medical Esthetician so I do chemical peels, microneedling, microdermabrasion, clear+brilliant treatments – basically the less invasive treatments.
Jennifer Bowles: I’m Dr. McGillivray’s assistant, meaning I deal mostly with Botox and fillers but I also do a lot of derm services so that means ENC which is electrocautery, which is the process of removing skin tags and millia, and acne. I do things that are more medically based.
Do you need some sort of medical background to do that?
JB: I was a paramedic before this so I have a background in medicine. I started out in the medical field right out of high school.
What brought you all to Blanche Macdonald?
CP: When I was shopping around for schools, Blanche Macdonald was the one school that when I called to inquire, treated me extremely well. Right from the get-go, they were so kind. They treated me like my business mattered, they invited me in, they took me on a tour so I could see how everything worked and meet people who were going to lead the program.
CP: Other schools answered my questions and told me the cost of going there but I was looking for something extra. The people at Blanche Macdonald made me feel special as a 21-year-old. I ended up choosing it because it was affordable and I knew I would learn a lot – and I did. I went right into the industry when I finished.
JB: I worked as a paramedic for quite a while and then I did a complete turnaround and started working in hospitality which put me overseeing food and beverage for Fairmont Hotels, which gave me a great groundwork for management. Then I decided that I wanted to go back into the medical field but in a different direction so I went to Blanche Macdonald, took the Esthetics program and applied here!
GDLC: I did a lot of travelling in Europe after high school and I had no idea what I wanted to come back and do. Skincare was something that I had always been interested in but there wasn’t a lot of choices for schools back then. Blanche Macdonald was one of the few that was available and it was closest to my house! I’m so glad I went there though. The education and instructors were amazing and they got me to where I needed to be.
The Career Directors in the Esthetics program have some really incredible connections in the industry. Is that how you got started in the industry?
GDLC: Debbie [Nickel] was a great resource that I used after I graduated.
CP: I reached out with a few questions and they always got back to me but once I graduated, I was always working so I didn’t really need to!
Focusing on Project Skin, what is their training and hiring process like?
CP: I’ve worked for a few different laser clinics, probably a handful of the best clinics in Vancouver. When I applied here, they created a position for me because my resume is really good and I have a lot of experience with a lot of different lasers and I’ve worked under some really well-known physicians. I started off doing makeovers, booking appointments, and promoting the products. From there, I moved into laser work.
What do you feel sets you apart in the industry, as Blanche Macdonald graduates, from other candidates?
CP: Blanche grads are always professional, meticulous, and they know their stuff. It’s a real credit to Blanche Macdonald and the training they give.
JB: That’s all true. It’s definitely a credit to them.
GDLC: I’ve noticed that through various training I’ve given at all different places, Blanche grads have way more confidence. They’re just ready for the world.
Why did you all choose to make Project Skin the next chapter in your career?
JB: It was a no-brainer for me. It’s an outstanding facility, it’s beautiful to work in, and the team is absolutely incredible.
GDLC: It’s like a family.
CP: The first time I walked in and the elevator doors opened, I was like “Oh my God!” It was just so beautiful. It’s so different in that you have space in the waiting area and in all the rooms. It’s a very comfortable place to be. The relationship between the clients and staff is amazing also. When I was starting, I read through the staff bios on the website and I was intimidated! Everyone is here is just insanely talented.
GDLC: It’s the people here too. You can feel the warmth and the smiles from the elevator!
What’s the most important part of your job?
All: Customer care!
CP: All of the aspects of customer care. Providing treatments, not doing harm, being friendly, compassionate, warm – the list goes on!
What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?
GDLC: My co-workers!
You’ve got a retail component to the clinic on the main floor stocked with numerous brands and the entirety of the SkinCeuticals line. What is special about SkinCeuticals and how are the other brands chosen?
JB: We’re very lucky to be a flagship store for SkinCeuticals. They’re a great brand.
CP: Dr. McGillivray felt connected to SkinCeuticals. He just loves the science behind the line. For the other brands, they choose things that are safe and effective with quality ingredients.
Is there a piece of advice you find you give to your clients more often than not?
GDLC: Other than sunscreen, I find that a lot of people need a skincare routine. Lots of people think a one-shot treatment deal will be enough but more often than not, they need a plan.
JB: It’s a journey. That’s what Dr. M would say. Nothing is a one-shot deal.
Do you find your clients ebb and flow with trends in skincare?
CP: We research things extensively before we bring them in but sometimes there’s a surge in inquiries about certain services if there’s a lot of discussion around them. Microneedling, for example, wasn’t new in the industry when Kim Kardashian had it done.
JB: For me dealing with fillers and Botox, people often come in with celebrity photos to give an idea of what they want for their lips or cheeks but this is something they’ve given a lot of thought to.
GDLC: I find that educating clients and being honest over pushing products or services on them makes a difference. In the end, if they see the product or service work, they will come back. With each and every client, we focus on education. We teach people how to take care of their skin when they’re not here.
CP: Gwen has the most dedicated client base I’ve ever met. She has people that will absolutely not see anyone else. Her clients loooove her!
It’s evident that education is a cornerstone of Project Skin. It’s on the wall in your entrance and there’s lots of mention of education on your website.
JB: They give us a loooot of training so that we can educate our customers. There’s so much available to us.
CP: A lot of people come in saying ‘This is what bothers me. What can I do?’ and from there we customize a treatment plan. People are pretty savvy nowadays, they usually come in with an idea and it’s our job to fill in the blanks. Specifically for my laser clients, they say ‘This redness here bothers me’ and then we discuss what we can do and where we can go.
GDLC: What’s so different and special about our clinic is that we can cross-reference and promote each other’s skills, services, and knowledge. From a simple facial, they can become a laser client, or they could be looking to add some volume and then we can send them to Jennifer and Dr. M. It’s all about options and a range of service and ours are very broad.
Top 5 tips for happy skin:
- Vitamin C serum
CP: But you guys know me, I’m gonna IPL [Photorejuvenation] for the rest of my life!