When you walk into Bree Hyland's house in the North End of Halifax you are immediately put at ease. A calming aroma takes over your senses as you walk down the hallway lined with old wood floorboards to her soothing treatment room. Customized facials are Bree's specialty, using all natural, in season and local ingredients like honey, Foxhill yogurt and algae as well as Province Apothecary products. Bree also offers skin consultations, waxing and brow/lash tinting as well as customized and signature natural perfumes (that are completely addicting). She has recently started concocting her own tea blends and brews, selling them at BARRE and the Periwinkle Cafe in Cape Breton. On top of all of this she is a painter at heart, making time for her art when she's not doing BARRE.
I've suffered from problematic skin since day one, and have tried everything in the book. As of late I gave up on trying, as I sometimes do, growing tired of spending money on products and services that never seem to work, but I finally decided to try something new again. I had been wanting to try one of Bree's facials and skin consultations since I met her, so I made an appointment. From my dermatologist's to naturopath's and all kinds of different doctors, I've never felt anyone really put as much thought and care into understanding and explaining my skin as much as Bree did. I can't recommend her enough. Even if you don't have problematic skin the experience of her facials is heavenly and so therapeutic.
There was a benevolent and genuine manner to Bree that captivated me from the first moment I met her. I had been dying to sit down and pick her brain about where she came from and how she got started so I paid her a visit, post facial, and we chatted over her homemade hibiscus tea.
Where did you grow up? How has this shaped the person that you are today?
My family moved to Nova Scotia when I was 9. We lived in a few different homes in Dartmouth while I was going through junior high and high school. Most of my young life I have lived in suburban landscapes but knew it wasn't for me. In a way, learning about the things that didn't resonate provoked me to search for the things that did. I really value the ways I have chosen to spend my time and I think a lot about what I consume. I had to work really hard to understand what felt right for me versus the way I was introduced to the world.
BARRE Fragrance and Skincare offers a few different services. Did you start with one project and then lead on to others or did you offer everything from the beginning?
BARRE has in one way or another existed as long as I have had my hand in aesthetics. I have always performed services outside of my regular hours when I was working for other business. When I decided to create what I was doing as an official business, I had already been working towards holistic treatments and natural perfumes. I had spent years working on the different aspects of my vision not intending to create a small business. Eventually, I figured there was probably other people like me who would be interested in alternative approaches to self care.
A lot of love goes into your business. What is it about your process that makes your product so special?
I try to consider the body as a whole. When I focus on the skin, I try to bring in the other aspects of a person's wellbeing that contribute to their health and in turn the condition of their skin. Our skin is not isolated, it is effected by our mental, physical, and emotional state which is always changing. Using ingredients that the body recognizes has a harmonious effect on us. Once you smell real lavender, you never forget it. This is because our body can process it, it is a part of the natural world and so are we. I think this relationship is important. My approach to wellbeing is nourishing, learning how to listen to the body's signals of discomfort to generate ease.
You started out as an aesthetician working on the opposite end of the spectrum in plastic surgery, how was that shaped your business and outlook on beauty?
I think to truly be critical of something you must spend time to understand it. I formed my opinions which have shaped what I'm doing currently because I had those experiences within the medical/clinical approach to skin care and beauty. Although I learned a lot about the skin and ingredients from my clinical training, I realized by working in those environments that I didn't like the way beauty was discussed. It was usually about an ideal and the remedy was typically to change what is natural or to use something aggressive, overriding the body’s inherent function. This is the way a lot of conditions of the skin such as acne have been dealt with. Strip the skin of its natural oils and try to regulate its oil production. This almost never works. It usually causes the skin to become inflamed or dehydrated which can cause more break out. There are also so many internal reasons the skin might be breaking out. Clinical advice usually only deals with the typical problem through a standardized solution. In my experience, I found that beauty or health is all the components of the body and how they feel, versus how it all looks.
What does an average day in the life of Bree look like?
I spend my time multi-tasking. Some days I focus more on developing new scent combinations for future additions to my line of natural perfumes, or researching different preparations of herbal infusions on the skin. Other days I'll be busy in the treatment room with appointments. I'm also a visual artist so when I'm not focused on BARRE I'm working in my studio. Everyday, no matter what I'm working on I drink steeped herbs!
Greatest challenges with BARRE?
I'm a private, appointment based small business. One of the biggest challenges has been visibility within the public arena. A few supportive businesses in Halifax carry my perfumes but I'm constantly looking for ways to enable people to interact with my business.
The relationships I form with my clients and their feedback is very rewarding. One of the best comments I heard was about the perfume Dark/Purple. This scent has a cult following because it is very unusual. Someone who was wearing it was told they smelled like a witch! I thought that was a great response.
Three things you can't live without?
I find these kinds of questions so difficult to answer so instead I'm going list my current favourite herbs : passion flower, lemon balm and hibiscus.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
This one came recently, "you've got to be in the problem to solve it."
Favourite thing about living in Halifax?
How close the city is to the ocean and how hard people work to stay in such a beautiful place.
I'm learning how to read tarot cards. Again, something I have been dabbling in for a long time. I'd love to see tarot readings offered on the BARRE service menu one day!
Do you have any advice for artists/entrepreneurs starting a business themselves?
Find a way to do what interests you most and make that your life's work. This way, how you make a living never feels isolated from the other aspects of your life. If you are feeling involved on a deeper level with how you spend your time the business aspect comes second to your passion. Creating and working for yourself is a total commitment, a risk and hard work. I think to do it well it has to come from a place that isn't about money alone.
Thank you Bree!
Check out BARRE's website here
Find Bree's fragrances at Lost & Found, Big Pony and Elsie's here in Halifax!