When she opened her massage practice in 2003, Laura Allen didn’t have any intention of offering spa services.
“However, almost as soon as we opened, people started calling and wanted to know if we did spa treatments,” Allen recalls. “I thought, well, if I don’t offer them, they’ll go somewhere else, and it will probably be more convenient for them to get their massage wherever they go, too—so I decided to put spa services on the menu.”
Traditionally, spas and larger massage practices that offer spa services have special rooms and equipment like Vichy showers, wet tables that require drainage, slanted floors, tiling along the walls and a heat source. However, even a shower is not needed to offer today’s spa-treatment products in a massage practice.
Many of today’s products are designed for use in wet or dry rooms, so massage therapists have the ability to provide clients with a total spa experience with minimal expense and some basic equipment.
To address a variety of needs, today’s massage product manufacturers create exfoliators, muds and finishing products that serve double duty, according to Jean Shea, president and CEO of BIOTONE, which manufactures massage and spa products.
“These products retain their moisture, which keeps them from drying out during the treatment,” Shea says, adding that the key to a quality dry-room product is easy removal with warm, wet towels.
The type of product selected for a technique can also make the difference between a pleasant experience for both client and therapist and an untidy chore. For instance, if the massage therapist plans to do a scrub, then sugar-based products work better in a dry room than salt-based products, according to Bruce Baltz, vice president of education and business development at Bon Vital´, manufacturer of professional massage therapy and spa products.
“Sugar granules are smaller,” he explains. “When you use sugar on the hands and feet and then wrap them in a hot towel, the heat melts the sugar, making cleanup easier.”
Quantity is important, too, Baltz adds. “A full scrub would make more of a mess,” he says. “You want to make sure the treatment is not burdensome for the massage therapist, yet still provides a satisfying experience for the client.”
Of course, quantity equates to expense as well. “The easiest way to go broke is to use gobs of product,” says Janet Blevins, a North Carolina-based national continuing education educator who conducts workshops and teaches classes on spa wraps in a dry room. “You should use 1-ounce-portion cups and will really only need on-third of that during the treatment.”
She notes the body can only absorb a certain amount of product. “You’ll waste product if you use too much,” Blevins says, adding that 1 gallon of scrub or mud should be sufficient for 40 treatments.
In addition to the right product, therapists should have a few other items on hand for dry-room treatments. A hydroculator to warm towels is a must, and an electric table warmer or steam canopy makes the client’s experience more comfortable, says Diane Brinsko, spa-education consultant for Spa Elegance/Amber Products.
“A spa treatment is usually wet and you don’t want the client to get cold,” she says, adding that infrared heat lamps and product warmers can enhance the pampering aspect of the session. Brinsko advises against using a microwave to heat products, since this method can chemically alter a product’s composition. Crock-Pots, although seemingly appropriate, should also not be used, since they are not thermostatically controlled and could cause burns, she adds.
For wraps, a therapist should have an adequate supply of Mylar film, although Blevins points out painter’s plastic makes a suitable and less-costly alternative. Also, wrapping blankets and plastic covers to protect the massage table will keep the client cozy and the room neat.
Organizing all of your equipment in one place ensures a pleasurable client experience and makes the best use of a therapist’s time. Brinsko notes a “spa in a cart” with inserts similar to a buffet station keeps all supplies together in one place and can easily be moved around the massage table. Variously sized pans accommodate towels, lotions, oils, brushes, bowls and other items necessary for the treatment.
“The most important part of doing a spa treatment is to control the mess. This is a way to keep organized,” Brinsko says.
Other amenities, such as robes, slippers, flip-flops and towels, pamper the client without adding significant cost for the therapist. Brinsko also recommends having a supply of drinking water with flexible straws close by. “Clients become dehydrated during treatment,” she says.
Client satisfaction has little to do with whether a treatment is done in a wet or dry room, but rather is based more on how a treatment is performed, according to Shea.
“Dry-room treatments are very luxurious—and when done correctly, clients are thrilled with their experience,” she says.
To market spa therapies to clients, Allen suggests you describe the services on your menu or brochure to make them sound attractive and convey what they do. “Tell anyone who’s getting a massage about the spa services you offer,” she adds. “Try offering a special, such as a massage and a salt scrub.
“Be sure to publicize your new services on your advertisements, your website, your Facebook page and any other venues you use,” Allen adds.
“When performing wet-room techniques, the client is often asked to shower before receiving the finishing treatment,” says Shea, adding, “This introduces an unknown factor into the treatment time, as the client may linger in the shower while the therapist waits to finish the treatment.”
Therefore, therapists should plan approximately an hour-and-a-half for a specialized treatment, says Bonnie Annis, owner of L’Moor, an Ontario, Canada-based distributor of Moor Spa products, who offers the following example of a body wrap performed in a dry room:
“First, the massage table will be prepared with a layer of sheets, towels and a plastic wrap, in the order they will be removed. The process of a body wrap has a few simple steps, beginning with exfoliation,” she says. “An exfoliation can be carried out with either a salt glow, a cream-based scrub or by dry-brushing. After exfoliation, warm gel-based body mask is applied, and then the client is cocooned in the plastic for approximately 20 minutes.”
During this time, therapists can perform scalp or facial massage or reiki.
“When removing the wrap, the client is undraped in sections and the mask is removed with warm, moist towels. Once the wrap is fully removed, a light effleurage massage is performed with a lotion,” says Annis. “It’s comfortable for the client, as they don’t have to interrupt the process to go to the shower.
“We teach a body-wrapping protocol such that the client doesn’t even have to turn over, which allows for a heightened state of relaxation,” she adds.
To be competent in anything you do requires practice. Perfecting wet-room techniques without wet-room equipment is no different, according to Baltz.
“If you have no experience, don’t do the treatments,” he says. “You need to practice to get your own rhythm—and I don’t believe [massage therapists] should do anything we don’t receive ourselves, so we need to know the experience the client will be getting.”
Basic massage training forms the foundation for your practice, but additional education improves your skills.
“Sometimes people think 100 hours [of massage training] makes you an expert, but a massage therapist who wants to offer spa treatments should have attended supervised hands-on workshops that discuss theory, scientific benefits, ingredients, contraindications and indications, information on setting up and the supplies needed,” says Brinsko. “The workshops should include demonstrations and practice sessions.”
Depending on your treatment-room setup, there are a few potential drawbacks to offering wet-room treatments in a dry room, Shea explains.
“The biggest issue is if the room has carpet compared to tile or laminate,” she says. “Salt scrubs are oil-based and have a tendency to flake, which can be difficult to remove from carpet.
“This issue can be avoided by using a body polish in carpeted treatment rooms,” she says. “One other potential drawback is the increased laundering necessary for all the towels and sheets used during dry-room therapies.”
However, Shea says therapists can minimize the linens used during a treatment by learning proper spa protocols.
Therapists should also take care when choosing products to avoid staining linens. “Muds that have a deeper red clay base are horrible to wash out,” says Blevins.
Wet-room treatments vary in cost, depending on the massage establishment, locale, market and duration of the session, according to Shea. But, for example, a massage therapist could charge between $40 (for a 30-minute foot scrub) and $100 (for a 60-minute combination treatment of massage with a body scrub).
Massage therapists can also think of offering spa-type treatments with a retail opportunity in mind. For instance, during a specialized treatment, Baltz may use an organic or lavish foot balm for which he does not charge extra.
“If the client likes the product, she may end up buying it for home use,” he says, adding that clients derive a physiological benefit from treatments that involve a quality product. “All the products I work with are sold only to professionals. Clients can’t buy them at the local drug store,” he says.
A New Dimension
Undoubtedly, adding wet-room treatments to a therapist’s practice will enhance his service menu, and it will bring additional benefits.
“Offering body wraps will increase revenue for therapists, and will allow them to offer a wider assortment of services to clients,” Annis says. “Probably one of the most overlooked benefits to therapists, though, is performing a wrap protocol is less physically demanding, which will go a long way to extending their career lifespan.”
Judicious product choice and use, good organizational skills and hands-on workshops could perfect your wet-room techniques in a dry room and, in the process, add another dimension to your practice.
About the Author
Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Educational Retreats: Get Rest, Adventure & CE Hours.”