Established: Shannon Ronan
In poetry, the term Volta represents a turning point.
It’s a beautiful word, one that every creative individual can relate to at one point or another, a single moment of their journey where something changed, where they felt as though they were on their way, that they were established.
For Shannon Ronan, the owner of Volta Skin Studio in Victoria, the term blends into every aspect of her craft. For her, Volta represents the turning point in one's wellness or skin health, in how one sees themselves and how they move throughout the world, because let's face it, your skin's health impacts so many more aspects of your life than just aesthetic. The way we feel in our skin is not just physical, it's mental, psychological and even spiritual.
“I wanted to create a space that tapped into all of that,” Shannon said to me. I had just finished observing her do what she does best. Camera in hand, I captured her movements as she worked, fluid, precise and focused, her hands dancing through a facial. After completing her work, she and I moved with my camera to the entryway of her studio where she posed naturally and comfortably in front of the camera before we sat down to chat.
“Skincare does require a commitment,” she continued, “but wouldn't you want to make that commitment to yourself in a space that completely embraces you?”
Allowing someone to touch your skin, take a close look at it without the barriers of makeup and filters, can be nerve wracking. As individuals, we are always so hard on ourselves, noticing things that others do not, picking apart our appearance and feeling guilty for texture and blemishes that are completely normal and natural. It’s vulnerable, but there is no one else you would rather put your trust in than Shannon.
Shannon is kind, exuding confidence and an unmistakable intuition, while remaining calm and sincere. Her space is an immersive mystical experience, a hug as you enter, as if her sweetness is enveloping you within it. The space is clean, cozy and homey, with the sounds of crackling candles, running water and soft thuds of thunder surrounding you. The natural light greets you before you enter a more moody setting for your service. It's a sensitive but relaxing treatment and Shannon wants every experience to elicit a positive emotion.
“I wanted it to feel like art, and I wanted people to walk out feeling like they are a work of art as well.”
Born into a family of strong, independent women, Shannon was raised with the belief that she could do anything she set her mind to. With fond memories of a childhood full of outdoor adventures and horses, her family is truly Vancouver Island at its core. According to Shannon, skincare always called to her as well as an interest in holistics. Shannon’s education began at Pacific Rim College in the acupuncture program, before moving onto other jobs such as modeling and working in an explosives detection unit. She has lived many lives.
Seeking something that truly fulfilled her, Shannon followed her heart and went back to school throughout the pandemic, cozying up with her tea and computer while she took on a new adventure through distance learning. Luckily for the people around her, her program required volunteers to practice on, and her family and friends were eager to do so.
Volta Skin Studio’s approach to skincare is gentle, guiding it back to a more kind and natural place.
“One of the biggest things that surprises me about skin care and the skin industry is how outdated a lot of approaches are, especially towards inflammatory conditions,” Shannon explained.
“Even in schools now, things that are taught about, for example, how to treat acne is very stripping, very damaging. And if you don't kind of understand that from your own perspective, you're just going to continue to strip the client’s skin barrier over and over and over.”
Shannon and I reflected on growing up and what was marketed toward us. From a young age, we were told we needed a skincare routine, even before our skin was showing signs of changes or natural teenage blemishes. The products that were pushed on us were stripping, harsh, and we were forced to believe that if the product left our skin dry and tight or if it burned when it was applied, it was working. For me, I believe this is a root cause of my skin problems that were to come later in life.
“You really have to put that time in yourself to be able to solve all those puzzles and to work with skin. Like, it's so complex, it's different every single time. And there's no one size fits all,” Shannon said over her cup of tea, “So in that sense, like, it's very, very nuanced and you got to be able to read between the lines and figure it out for yourself every single time. And there's never a break from that. It's always a new puzzle every single day. But that's what I love about it.”
A twenty step skincare system is not realistic, or financially practical. For Shannon, striving to practice as ethically and honestly as possible is one of her main goals. For her, it's about people, not profits.
“When I look at somebody, I'm looking at a person, I'm not looking at a case. It's always individualized, I’m never going to recommend you buy 50 steps of this or 50 steps of that. Skin really does thrive with consistency and simplicity at the end of the day.”
I can attest to this. Since beginning to see Shannon, she has taught me so much about my skin and what it needs. She has taken the time to encourage my fear of oils (thank you Shannon!) and describe to me why certain ingredients in my new moisturizer weren't working for me. Simple is better, and my skin is thankful for that reminder.
Those quick moments, questions over DMs and her genuine interest and excitement are what draws people to Shannon. It’s not surprising that during her time in business she has created a dedicated and supportive community around her.
“I have so much love and care and respect for everybody that comes in here, truly,” she said. “Just to be able to see those relationships develop, not only my relationships with people that come in here over time, but to watch their skin, their relationship with their skin, the relationship with themselves develop.”
Those return visits have evolved into an abundance of new friendships for Shannon, her business forming a sort of extended family in a way. She hopes her studio becomes an oasis for people, a place for her guests to visit and slip into another dimension where you can forget about everything, where nothing exists.
“I love to be able to provide that for my guests because I truly care about them,” she said, “And you can see what I'm giving a facial. I'm very, very focused. And it's not only just the work, but it's the person. Like, every single person. Like, I want them to feel that I care about them. And I do. I genuinely do. And I've had so many experiences myself getting treatments in places where I felt like they just couldn't care less about me. And that doesnt feel good.”
The experience she seeks out to provide is exactly what you get.
I had my first ever facial at Volta. I was nervous, insecure about my skin and looking for answers. I never felt judged, I truly felt as though I was being taken care of, and she was happy I was there. It was genuine, she wants to see people succeed, she wants to be the reason people feel relaxed, confident.
Then I photographed Shannon as she immersed herself into a hydrafacial, allowing me an inside look into what I had experienced, but this time from a different perspective. She was in the zone. I watched as she moved so thoughtfully, pulling in different aspects of temperatures, textures, smells and more to bring the whole experience together.
“I want it to have this deep level of detail that goes into every single one, like a piece of art.” Shannon explained, “I’m a very artistic person, and I want to infuse that into this. It's kind of like a dance, every single one. There's a rhythm of the way that your hand connects to the skin, and it's incomparable. I go to bed thinking about it, because for me, something about it just activates this part of the brain that just makes me so happy. It's very satisfying. It feels good. I get so much from it every time I do a treatment because it fills me up.”
Then we talked about self care. How many times in your routine, in a year, or several years do you lie down for an hour and a half and be taken care of by someone else? Not on your phone, not listening to a meditation, not getting your hair done, just truly being nurtured by another person, and it's all about you?
“The way that we're raised, men and women alike, like everybody alike, is not to focus on ourselves and not to make it all about you,” she stresses, “At the end of the day, it is not selfish to put yourself first and it's not selfish to require that you are taken care of and acknowledge what you deserve and allow yourself to be taken care of and allow yourself to be in those spaces where it is all about you.”
Shannon’s studio and brand has evolved past her services, has also created her own line of skincare, including face washes, masks and serums. This personal touch allows her to go even more in depth into the experience and be confident in the product she is utilizing with her clients.
The ingredients are sourced from an apothecary in Portland. Once arrived, Shannon and her wife set up a small production line in her kitchen to create small batches of products that are 92% organic.
“They’re all going to be nice and healthy for your skin and only very gentle formulations. I have a couple of formulations that are purely botanical, and then I have some that are both botanical and medical. So they would have some of those sort of, like, medical ingredients. Like the antioxidant serum is retinol, but it's also like rose hip, and it's also a bunch of other sort of botanical ingredients that are going to tie it together and just make it feel more blended.”
Skin care is so much more than aesthetics. When you struggle with a skin related condition, whether it be acne, rosacea or eczema it can take a large toll on your mental health. When I struggle with acne, it's all I can think about. When I’m speaking to people, it's all I think they see. It takes a stab at my self confidence, it makes me want to hide away from the world.
Today, we have access to so many people and the personas they put forth online. We can choose to believe the filters and editing or we can embrace the truth of skin. Skin has texture, bumps, marks, scars, wrinkles. What we see online isn't the truth and we need to stop comparing ourselves to the curated versions of others.
Shannon wants to help us get there, to love the skin we have and take care of it how each individual skin requires. It has been a long journey to get where she is today, and when I reflect on the question of ‘When did you feel established?’ with her, she has a lot of thoughts.
“You don't even have to tell yourself. You just know. Mindset is everything,” she said, “Like, you go into it with the mindset that you're already established, and people feel that coming off of you, and you feel that, and it'll change the way that you walk.”
“It'll change the way that you speak, the way you move, and the way that you think, but then also acknowledging that no person is ever 100% established. Because if you just go, oh, well, I'm comfortable. I got it. Where is the inspiration anymore? You have to always be striving to always be working. You have to always be allowing yourself to become better and giving yourself boundaries, taking time to just be alone and to take care of yourself. But you always have to be striving to improve it. You know what I mean? Like, you can't just go, oh, well, I have it now.”
When I was creating my blog, I was terrified, but I decided to start posting about it to ensure I would be held accountable by all the incredible people who have entered my life and began supporting me. During our conversation, one quote, among many many others by Shannon, stood out to me.
“Wouldn't you rather do it and fail than just be like, I never did it at all?”
Volta is not a beauty business, it's a wellness business. Shannon acknowledges that when your skin looks good, you feel good.
“Skin health is health care, it's more than just aesthetics, and it's something we all deserve.”
Location: 1015 Cook Street, Victoria BC
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Sunday (by appointment)