The Spa-Massage Connection
Whether you work at a spa
or for yourself, it behooves you as a massage therapist to stay
on top of spa-massage trends. For those of you in spas, read on
to learn about add-ons to massage that can make bodywork sessions
super-special. You self-employed therapists will find information
here about adding spa services to your massage sessions.
From hot towels to hot rocks,
back facials to body wraps, facial steams to steam tubes, therapists
nationwide are upselling spa treatments, and adding spa therapies
into their practices - and finding that doing so helps build a loyal
clientele while taking some of the "work" out of bodywork.
Tara Edwards owns a small
massage practice in Ostin, Vermont. About a year ago, her clients
started requesting more spa-type services.
"I started to look around
for options that weren’t expensive but would offer a hint
of spa flavor," she said.
Edwards started with a simple
towel warmer to offer clients a mini-facial steam with aromatherapy-infused
towels at the beginning of each massage. The cost? $23 for a Crock-Pot,
$5 for hand towels, and $20 for two bottles of essential oil. For
less than $50 Edwards began her exploration of the spa world.
Clients at Belavi Day Spa
in North Laguna Beach, California, are also treated to hot towels.
Owner Belle Tuckerman, a massage therapist and paramedical esthetician,
recommends doing a massage with hot towels for the exfoliating,
moisturizing and body-polishing effects.
"Doing a massage with
hot towels is magical," she says. "You can really do so
much with the concept. You can use essential oils and apply hot
towels to each section of the body before you massage it. I like
to do a hot-oil scalp massage followed by a steamy towel wrap as
a part of the massage."
Alan Share, owner and president
of New Life Systems spa, salon and massage product company in Minnetonka,
Minnesota, thinks it is wise for massage therapists to extend their
practice to spa modalities, both for their businesses and for their
"Even if proper body
mechanics are employed, doing hours of massage is hard on the body
and can lead to a shortened career," says Share.
Spa treatments, he says, can
be a massage therapist's saving grace - and a treat for clients
who benefit from these luxurious offerings right in the comfort
of their massage therapists' office.
wraps are just a step beyond massage and are thoroughly enjoyed
by customers," Share says. "Body wraps are such a hit
because they are so therapeutic. They help to increase blood circulation,
reduce swelling, nourish the system, eliminate toxins and much more."
What’s more, many body
wraps don’t require a wet room or shower. New Life Systems,
for instance, offers a seaweed body-wrap product that can be used
on the face and removed with steamy hot towels.
"This body-wrap system
can be performed in an hour, costs a few dollars in product used
and can add $40 or more to a massage session," Share says.
Other items that are useful
for performing body wraps include cotton sheets, a hot-towel cabinet,
Mylar foil, plastic table sheeting, wool warming blankets and a
loofah or natural-bristle brush for exfoliation.
If cost is a big concern,
don't worry. Many of spa products can be found in your local shopping
"There are so many things
that you can do in a dry room," Tuckerman says. "[But]
there seems to be this myth that doing spa services has to be expensive,
with a lot of fancy equipment."
Instead of a hot cabinet ("cabi")
for steamy towels, for example, towels can be warmed in a Crock-Pot.
Instead of a mylar body-wrap sheet, go to any sports or outdoor
store and purchase survival aluminum sheeting for $2-3. To protect
your table, a neutral-color shower curtain can replace plastic table
Mike Lapp, president and co-owner
of Naturalbeauty.com cosmetics company in Littleton, Colorado, thinks
that transforming a regular massage into something more "spaful"
can be as simple as using a different product while doing the massage.
"We custom-blend aromas
so you can have a signature fragrance that is unique to your business,"
The company also offers antioxidant
massage oil that includes therapeutic essential oils and vitamin
Morenings, co-founder of Universal Companies spa-product supplier
in Bristol, Virginia, started her company in part to help provide
a resource for hard-to-find spa equipment and sundries. Universal
Companies has grown over the years to be one of the industry’s
leading sources of both typical and exotic spa offerings.
"There is so much that
a massage therapist can do to dabble in spa treatments without spending
a lot of capital," she adds. For example, she says, "with
a $50 wet sheet, a massage table doubles as a wet table."
Other services that Morenings
suggests therapists include in their massage practice are body buffs,
wraps, clay packs and paraffin wraps.
The initial investment in
a one good spa product could pay off in many ways. A simple paraffin
tub, for example, can be used for a number of spa treatments. "You
can coat the feet and hands in paraffin and let the client wear
heated booties and gloves until the end of the massage," Tuckerman
says. The client can also be painted in paraffin for an extra-nourishing
Another easy spa treatment
is a foot bath, Tuckerman says. "Get a big easy chair, an aromatherapy
diffuser and put your clients’ feet in a pedi-bath to offer
that extra luxurious perk," she says. And have fun: The choices
for foot-bath treatments are limitless. Goat’s milk, essential
oils, Epsom salts, rose water, rose petals, glycerin, alginates
or peppermint can all add a special twist to a foot bath.
"Take a really grainy
scrub and offer a thorough exfoliation. Follow up with ... a rich
glycolic cream for extra softness," Tuckerman suggests.
A back facial, which involves
steaming the back with hot towels, exfoliating the skin, application
and removal of a "facial" concoction and then performing
massage, is another spa treatment that is easy for massage therapists
to incorporate into a practice.
"We use a honey-based
lotion that is sticky," Tuckerman says. "Using reverse
percussion movements during the massage portion of the treatment
makes for a very tactile touch. The movement of the fingers sort
of snap away from the skin for circulation and physical comfort."
The treatment ends with removal
of the honey product with steamy towels. A misting with toner on
the back and an application of moisturizer rounds out the service.
spa/massage offering, stone massage, has become very popular in
the past three years. Massage therapist Sonia Alexandra, of Boca
Raton, Florida, believes this is because the stones make massage
more effective, relaxing and exotic.
"The variety of stones
available make for hot and cold therapies to loosen up muscle tissue,
aid in circulation and act in a variety of therapeutic modalities,"
she says. "There is such a variety of stone types and sizes
that working with stones is really an extension of the therapist's
imagination and skill set."
Steam It Up!
Massage therapist Jeff
Roth, of Boulder, Colorado, recommends adding a steam unit to your
"The single-person steam
unit is only three feet in diameter and 65 pounds. It can be disassembled
to be stored against a wall or in a closet. You can allow the client
to steam before or after the massage," Roth says. "You
can use it without having a wet room or shower. It’s just
a great compliment to the basic massage."
Massage therapist Steve Scuddler,
of Fort Collins, Colorado, purchased a steam canopy for personal
use while in massage school. Then he realized he could augment his
massage sessions with the canopy.
"The steam was so completely
relaxing and the treatment created the opportunity for other health
benefits, like detoxification. I was sold," Scuddler says.
Today Scuddler rents space
in a salon/spa, and has a thriving practice. By adding the steam
treatment before a massage or both before and after a massage, he
has attracted a loyal clientele that would be hard-pressed to find
a similar service elsewhere.
"I would say that on
average I make an extra $25-35 by adding the steam, per treatment,"
Scuddler says. "The steam doesn’t really cost me anything
and [having clients use it] gives my body a chance to rest in between
Charlie Slater, owner of Spa
Central in Minneapolis, Minnesota, agrees that steam is an easy
spa perk to offer. If you want to start very small, Slater suggests
a facial steamer.
"For $300 [initial layout
for equipment] you can do herbal facial steams, mini facials or
full-blown facials if your licensing allows it. Everyone enjoys
the hydrating effects of steam," he says.
The Right Table
Purchasing the correct
table for doing massage as well as for spa treatments is crucial.
Slater advises that it is worth the extra money to get a really
"Look for a table with
adjustable arms and legs. Also having a tilt feature to elevate
the client's upper torso is wonderful for doing facial services,"
Today, some massage tables
feature a warmed surface, water-filled cushion, built-in foot-treatment
tub, and hydraulic positioning that allows therapists to do spa
treatments with ease.
One company just came out
with a spa/massage table with built-in foot-treatment tub, for $5,000.
This might seem like quite a lot to pay for a table, but you need
to think long-term. Ask yourself: How long will the table last?
Will you get more clients because of the additional perk? How much
can you add to the cost of your services because of the additional
feature? How flexible does this piece of equipment mixed with your
skill set make the opportunities for future treatments?
Before purchasing equipment
and supplies, sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm on the
types of services that you can offer with that equipment. Write
down the amount of money you feel that you can charge for the additional
perk or treatment, to estimate the cost/profit ratio.
"It is best to have a
treatment menu, business plan and a clear vision for the scope of
your practice before purchasing equipment," Slater advises.
Maybe you're ready
to incorporate some spa therapies into your regular massage practice.
How do you learn these special treatments?
Accessing information about
education about simple spa therapies is as close as a massage publication
or the Internet. Training in stone massage, body wraps, uses for
paraffin and other spa treatments is readily available throughout
North America, at massage schools and through specialized programs.
Marketing Spa Services
Once you begin offering
spa services, how do you let your clients know?
"Clients have the tendency
to request Swedish massage because they understand what that is,"
says Ursula Longo, spa manager at the Givenchy Hotel and Spa in
Palm Springs, California. "We have wonderful body treatments
and we train our reception staff heavily in promoting them. When
a client calls in for a regular massage, the staff is trained to
suggest a body therapy like a body scrub or a body wrap. The receptionist
explains the benefits of the treatment, how long the treatment lasts
and what to expect. We have found that when clients know more about
body treatments, they are less intimidated and much more apt to
try something new."
"I do all sorts of things
to let clients know that I also offer spa treatments," says
massage therapist Alexandra Flavin, owner of Angel Touch Therapy
massage business in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "My answering machine
mentions the spa treatments that I offer. My business card says
'Try one of our relaxing spa therapies.' When a client calls in
for an appointment our reception staff asks if they would like a
steam with their massage or maybe a salt glow. We have pictures
of spa treatments being performed in our window display."
Angel Touch Therapy also mentions
spa treatments in their yellow-pages ad and has a listing under
"beauty" as well as under "massage" in the phone
Scuddler offers this: "I
did some research in addition to the business schooling that I received
in massage school. I also spent money on creating a logo that included
the concept of steam treatments. I have business cards and a brochure
on my services. Word of mouth and client referrals is also a powerful
way to let potential clients know that you don’t just have
a generic massage practice."
Getting a write-up in your
local newspaper can also boost your bottom line. This option is
much easier than you might imagine. Larry Oskin, owner of Marketing
Solutions in Fairfax, Virginia, suggests hosting a charity event
or soiree to create a story for the press.
"Getting written up by
the press is as simple as getting their attention," he says.
"Create a signature treatment that is truly unique or invite
a reporter in for a spa treatment. Having pictures is also a great
idea. If you can generate a press release to be sent seasonally
to the press, that is also very helpful."
Marilee Houser, a massage
therapist and owner of Relax day spa in Charleston, North Carolina,
started integrating body-polish treatments as a regular part of
her massage routine. The offering was so popular that she eventually
opened her own day spa. Now Relax has a wet room and offers a variety
of signature body treatments.
"When I had my one-person
practice out of a small office, it occurred to me that my clients
would enjoy a little more than just a 60-minute massage. The body-polish
treatment gave me a leg up on the competition," Houser says.
Marketing for Houser was essential
to the life of her business. The spa-marketing portion of her plan
was almost accidental.
"I received a body polish
at a spa and loved it. That experience gave me the initial idea
to add the treatment to my regular massage practice. I let clients
know when they were shopping around for a massage that it included
a body polish.
"We also do body wraps,
hydrotherapy treatments, clay packs and esthetics services, says
Houser. "I am so thankful that I considered offering spa treatments
right from the beginning."
No matter what your practice
currently involves, you can add in a few, or several, spa services
to your existing regimen. Once you've found the spa options that
fit your clientele, skills set and personality, you’re set!
Melinda Minton, L.M.T., is
an esthetician, cosmetologist and former spa owner. She currently
works as a spa and salon consultant, E-business expert and free-lance
writer. She calls Fort Collins, Colorado, home.