The Growing Disconnect Between Spas and Their Clients

There is a growing disconnect between spas and their clients that I have discovered over the years while working as a spa consultant. Because I am also a licensed esthetician, I often work directly with the spa’s clients — sometimes just the 2 of us, alone in the treatment room. When they discover that I am not actually an employee of the spa, they often share some really helpful info with me that spa management would never otherwise be privy to.

The days of the “Fluff & Puff” facial are over! (Actually, those days have been over for a really long time, but apparently not everybody got the memo. Lol)  The World of Esthetics has changed a great deal since I opened my day spa back in 2000. Our pro products were what I like to call “spa-ish”  which is really all that was required back then. Home care products smelled really good and were packaged beautifully. Spa owners, like me, purchased the entire line from a skin care product manufacturer based upon the advice of the sales rep. Our facial services were along the lines of “Steam & Cream” and everybody got steamed (as in use of a steamer) because we were taught in esthetician school that steam was good for everything and everyone. Not true. (We also learned that “double-dipping” in the wax pot was okay. Absolutely not true!)

Ah, those were the good old days. It was simple then…but wow, is it different now. And therein lies the disconnect. Here’s a visual to help make my point:

Imagine that the Spa Business is like a BUS…which, if all components aren’t connected and thereby working together, the bus cannot move.

The Spa is the actual vehicle. The spa is the Bus.

The Spa Owner/Manager is the Driver of the Bus. Guiding; deciding the direction that the Bus will go. 

The Spa’s clients are the Passengers on the Bus. They are along for the ride and their experience is in the hands of the driver. They must put their trust in the safety and dependability of the bus.

The Estheticians are the Wheels on the Bus. The estheticians bear the entire weight of the vehicle, the driver, and all of the passengers. Without the Wheels, this Bus isn’t going anywhere. In other words, you can paint the spa a pretty color and spend millions on creative marketing, but if your spa doesn’t deliver the goods in the treatment room, you’re stalled.

In my work as a Spa Consultant, I’ve met lots of the above-mentioned components of the imaginary Bus. There are lovely owners who want nothing more than to provide wonderful hospitality to their guests. There are well-educated and well-intentioned Spa Managers who have degrees and pedigrees and know all about budgets and payroll and hiring and firing, which of course is important to the health of the business. But far too often, those in charge aren’t in touch with today’s esthetics, which can be an absolute gold mine in the spa because of the potential for visible results, retail sales, happy clients and repeat business. So, although it may be more comfortable to blame the economy if a spa is struggling, odds are that you just aren’t doing it right!!

I have written about all of this in my book The Heart of Esthetics so I will not go into too much detail here, But very briefly, here is what you need to know:

Estheticians and spa owners need to make an effort to understand today’s esthetics and adjust their service menus to GET AWAY FROM the long list of facials of yesteryear. It is not the guest’s job to choose the correct facial from a spa menu. The reception staff can’t do it, the spa manager can’t do it, the janitor can’t do it. The ONLY way to give the client the best possible — and safest — facial service begins with a very well-trained and licensed esthetician (see my advice to Estheticians below) who will assess the client’s current skin condition and personal goals, do a proper intake, extract important info, and then create the perfect facial for that client’s needs on that particular day.

Clients have so much info available to them via the internet, TV, magazines. Granted, much of the info is painfully inaccurate but nonetheless, clients walk into our treatment rooms armed with info they have gleaned from ads purchased specifically to convince the public that a company’s one-size-fits-all product is nothing short of magical. Even Spa Directors fall for this sort of marketing. A few years ago, I had a Spa Owner proudly tell me that she had chosen the product line used in her spa because the skin care company offered an online resource (including e-store), where clients could “talk” to an esthetician from the company, and buy their home care products on the e-store. How does this Spa Owner not know that she is directing all of her spa’s clients (and their money) away from her own estheticians and away from her own spa… and directly to the pockets of the skin care product company?  DISCONNECT. #selfsabotage

So my advice is:

Solo Estheticians, You work by yourself so you can do anything you want to! Offer your clients a custom facial, especially your first-time clients, as you get to know their skin. Create, customize, perfect your client’s service every time they come to see you based upon their goals, needs, current skin condition, etc., that day. Don’t make the client choose a facial service. It’s YOUR job. And personally, I think creating a customized facial specifically for a client is the fun part!

Spa Directors: If you don’t have a hands-on background in today’s esthetics, then hire a consultant who does have hands-on experience. Or hire an absolutely fabulous Lead Esthetician, and then trust him or her.  It is important that you hire estheticians who are trained very well in skin analysis, skin conditions, and ingredients. In today’s esthetics, that is more important than general esthetics skills, so you must look beyond the license when assessing candidates for employment. Also, it is in your spa’s best interest to choose a professional skin care line that offers product knowledge classes for your estheticians. That’s the only way they can give great service to your spa’s clients. (And p.s., if your estheticians don’t love the product line, it will negatively affect the spa’s bottom line.)

New Estheticians: GET MORE TRAINING in skin analysis and skin conditions. Most importantly, understand ingredients. Facials are not just “feel good” anymore. It’s a new world. Yes, we have to be better trained than we used to, even though our licensing requirements are still well below where they should be. But starting out right will set you apart from the rest and make you confident and successful. Your clients will get the very best service and great results, and they will return. (And your employer will love you!)

Seasoned Estheticians: If your business is struggling, could it be that you are still using the same product line and offering the same old stale facials? I know that if my only option all of these 17 years would have been to continue to do the same old stuff, I would have quit a long time ago. Have you been to an Esthetics & Spa trade show lately? If not, why not? It’s Esthetician Nirvana and you will find inspiration there!

Consumers: I wish I had some great advice regarding how to find a well-trained and qualified Esthetician in your area, because I am positive there are some great ones near you. (We are everywhere!) The spa business is booming, especially with regard to esthetics. But in most states, our licensing requirements have not kept up. Most of us who have an enormous amount of esthetic training are simply overachievers who knew we were not learning as much as we needed to be really competent in our field. To make matters worse, there are far too many estheticians who label themselves all sorts of fictitious titles that are misleading. For example, in California, where I am licensed, there is only ONE esthetic license available and that is “Esthetician.” There is no such thing as a “Clinical Esthetician,” “Medical Esthetician,” or “Master Esthetician” in California. I have thousands of hours of post-graduate training, but my license says “Esthetician” like every other Esthetician who is licensed in California. To make matters worse, there are no Continuing Education requirements in order to annually renew our Esthetician licenses in California, which means all of my advanced education is of value only to help me provide better service to my clients. But that’s good enough for me. So my advice to consumers who are looking for a qualified Esthetician: Ask for referrals and references…and check them!

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