People want to relax, feel good and be pampered—which is reflected by the ongoing growth of the spa industry.
With a revenue of more than $16.3 billion and 179 million spa visits in 2015, according to the International Spa Association, spa business remains strong; in fact, the consistent growth experienced over the last five years clearly shows that the spa experience is in demand.
Tap into Demand
Massage therapists can tap into that demand by offering spa services and enhancements in addition to the massage modalities we already offer. Incorporating spa services into a menu of services is easier than it seems.
You can add full-body exfoliating treatments, detoxifying muds and a variety of wraps to your menu without the need for a Vichy room or even a shower.
Knowing how scrubs, muds and wraps can be performed in a dry room will open a whole new world of opportunities for your practice. You will increase revenue while giving your hands, forearms and elbows a needed break. Spa therapies improve your clients’ experience by providing services they thought they could only get in an exclusive—and expensive—resort spa.
So, what is standing in our way of offering these services? Not knowing how to perform them may be the short answer, but let’s examine a few other reasons we may be avoiding offering spa treatments and enhancements:
“It’s not therapeutic.” As a massage therapy instructor, I often heard students say, “I don’t want to work in a spa; I want to do therapeutic work.”
I must admit, I was guilty of the same bias early in my career—but as my experience grew, I came to understand that one of the greatest impacts we have on the body is through the nervous system.
Real healing occurs when the nervous system is operating in the parasympathetic mode. When we can get the nervous system to switch from fight-or-flight mode (sympathetic response) to rest-and-digest mode (parasympathetic), we have profoundly affected our client’s health and ability to heal, in a positive way.
Spa services have a beneficial effect on the muscular, circulatory and integumentary systems; also, they are incredibly effective in triggering the nervous system into parasympathetic mode.
“I don’t have a shower.” The key to using spa therapies in your private practice is understanding how to best integrate the products and methods in a dry room. To perform these services, all you need is a hot towel cabi, a mixing bowl, towels, Mylar or plastic sheeting and, of course, product. These items are easily obtained through most massage or spa product websites and catalogs. Many scrubs and even body wraps are now formulated to be used in a dry room.
“I don’t know what type of services I can offer and what products I will need.” Spa products run the gamut, from exotic to homemade. To help you understand how these services can work for you and your clients, we will explore the different types of products, application principles and services.
Fango, Scrubs and Wraps
Fango is an Italian word that is used interchangeably for mud and clay. Europeans have used fango for centuries to soothe aching muscles and ease inflammatory diseases and disorders. Humic acid, found in moor mud, is used in Chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. The Bible, Talmud and Holy Koran have all referenced the curative benefits of mud and clay.
The types of fango used for spa treatments typically come from three places: hot springs, lakes and the ocean.
Hot springs create fango with a high mineral content. Lake mud and clay are often used medicinally and can tone and tighten the skin. Sea-sourced fango has been used for centuries to ease skin conditions.
While their origins may be the same, mud and clay can affect the body differently. Muds have hydrating, analgesic and purifying properties, whereas clay can have a more stimulating and drying effect on the skin. Both have a warming and relaxing effect.
Applying mud to the entire body can be a messy affair. In a dry room, we can use it locally, thereby minimizing cleanup while still allowing our clients to experience its health benefits.
To add this as an enhancement to your massage, simply warm the mud or clay in a hot towel cabi and apply to localized areas. Wrap in plastic or Mylar, then a warm, dry towel. Continue with your massage. Then return to the area, removing the mud or clay with a hot, moist towel, and finish with massage work on the area.
Suggested enhancements and services:
Mud or Clay Mask for the Feet or Back
Therapeutic Mud Wrap for Sore Muscles
As we age, our skin sloughs off dead skin cells at a slower rate. This makes our skin appear older and inhibits its ability to breathe. Since the skin is our largest organ of elimination, dead skin cells act as a barrier to both the removal of waste products and absorption of nutrients.
Lotion and oil application is more effective when the skin has been regularly exfoliated, because layers of dead skin are no longer preventing its absorption into the deeper levels of skin.
Benefits of exfoliation include:
1) Increased circulation. The friction created by dry brushing or scrub application brings superficial blood flow to the skin, creating a healthy glow. When working in the direction of lymph flow, we can also increase efficiency in the lymph system.
2) Sedation and stimulation. When a scrub is performed vigorously, it will stimulate the nervous system, while a slower application has a sedative effect.
Types of Scrubs
The two basic types of scrubs are made with sugar or salt. Each has differing therapeutic properties and considerations for use in dry rooms.
Salt has a higher nutritional content including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. It is also drying to the skin, whereas sugar is more of a humectant, meaning it imparts moisture.
Salt has larger granules, which makes it more abrasive than sugar; salt also does not break down as readily as sugar. Organic cane sugar contains calcium and magnesium and is high in glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid that encourages the regeneration of skin cells.
The most common types of dry brushes are mitt, bristle and loofa style brushes. All-natural options include jute, coconut and agave. Synthetic brushes can be used but are sometimes irritating to the skin.
Because salt does not break down, it is not the best option for use in a dry room. Sugar works better, especially if you combine it with enough lotion to create a paste-like consistency.
This helps the sugar adhere to the skin so there is less of it falling off the body—and onto the floor. The sugar will melt when it comes in contact with a hot, moist towel, making the removal process even cleaner.
Working with a dry brush is the easiest option, but doesn’t have the nutritional components contained in salt and sugar.
Suggested enhancements and services:
Foot and Back Scrubs
Full Body Scrubs
Pre-Massage Lymphatic Dry Brushing
Full-body wraps can be classified as detoxifying or hydrating. In each case, heat is used to encourage perspiration and speed the elimination of metabolic waste as well as the absorption of product.
The heat used is produced from the client’s own body heat and is aided by a table warmer and the cocooning nature of the wrap.
Typically, an exfoliation is performed immediately prior to a wrap to allow for better absorption of whatever product is to be applied. Depending on the desired effect, wraps can utilize a range of products including mud, sugar or salt scrubs, algae and shea butter.
Detoxifying wraps have long been marketed as having weight-loss or slimming effects. While this is more hype than reality, wraps can aid the functioning of the lymph system. Most of the detoxification actually stems from the increase of perspiration due to heat.
This perspiration speeds the elimination of metabolic waste. The addition of essential oils such as citrus, rosemary or juniper can aid in that process.
Wraps can leave the skin feeling incredibly hydrated, especially when coupled with an exfoliating treatment. After the exfoliation, we can use a thicker, more hydrating product like shea butter prior to wrapping the client. As the client’s body temperature rises within the wrap, the product melts and is more readily absorbed.
Performing these services in a dry room requires little more than the addition of spa plastic wrap and a thermal blanket. Some considerations include having an awareness of the client’s tolerance to heat and having water and a cool towel available.
You can also perform neck, shoulder and face work while the guest is in the wrap. When you unwrap the guest, she will feel cooler and be perspiring. Have a warm, damp towel available to remove the perspiration.
Suggested enhancements and services:
Citrus Sugar/Salt Scrub and Wrap
Hydrating Shea Butter Wrap
Juniper Wrap for Muscle Recovery
Spa Services are New and Interesting
The addition of spa techniques to your spa services menu will revitalize your practice while providing clients with new and interesting therapeutic services. We, as individual providers, can offer high-quality spa services without having access to showers, soaking tubs or Vichy rooms.
The market for these services is robust and continues to grow. Some of our clients may not have had a scrub or a wrap or have even heard of dry brushing—so you have the opportunity to educate clients about the health benefits, recuperative effects and therapeutic nature of spa treatments.
For clients who are already receiving similar treatments in resort spas, you can provide these services less expensively and closer to home.
Maggie Adams specializes in online massage education, signature service creation and expert training for therapists and spa product lines. As owner of Inspired Spa Solutions she creates signature services for five-star spas, day spas and for companies.