Before you spa: What every consumer should know

I am fortunate to work in the glamorous world of beauty and spa. My executive management experience in the Luxury Spa, Dermatologic and Medical Spa industry has shaped my undying love for massages, skincare, make-up, wellness and beauty. I am often asked: don’t you love what you do? The answer is- of course! I love working in an environment drenched with aromatherapy, soothing music and lovely people.

Inevitably, the next question that I am often asked is: Do you get massages and facials every week? The answer is not quite weekly, yet I do have the privilege of experiencing an array of treatments on a frequent basis. One of the many perks of my job requires me to serve as the test bunny for new treatments and/or as the model for newly hired Estheticians and/or Therapists. Over the years I have hired hundreds of Estheticians, Massage Therapists, Nail Technicians and Hair Stylists. I have mastered a rigorous interview process, which has enabled me to work with world class therapists and weed out those who are second-rate. The following tips will equip you with the knowledge and questions to ensure you are selecting the top professional to service your wellness and beauty needs.

Medical Spa Treatments

When considering a non-invasive cosmetic procedure such as Microdermabrasion, a chemical peel, dermaplaning or a device utilizing a light source such as LED (light emitting diodes), it is critical to ask your Esthetician an array of questions before proceeding with your procedure of choice. Choosing to augment your skin care regime with advanced treatments can reap benefits and results that your standard facial cannot produce; however it is important to select an Esthetician with formal advanced training with solid credentials. Do not be afraid to ask where your Esthetician received her basic and advanced training and do not be afraid to ask how many procedures he/she has performed to date. As the trend of non-invasive procedures unfold; credible and nationally accredited schools have emerged with high educational standards to ensure the standard of care is met. The consumer should be aware that product sponsored 1-day courses are offered to perform high-level chemical peels and this simply is not enough. The Esthetician should be able to produce credentials from a Nationally Accredited School and ideally the Esthetician should hold the credential of a Master Esthetic license.

If you are sensitive to pain or discomfort it is also important to discuss this with your Esthetician. Most procedures today require little to no downtime with minimal pain. You do not want to conduct an important business meeting or attend a black-tie affair with peeling, flaking skin. Ask your esthetician about the downtime and schedule your plans accordingly.

Traditional Spa Services and Luxury Spa Therapies

‘Experience’ is the key word. Yes it is important to inquire of the therapist’s work experience- yet I am alluding to your experience as the guest. Each visit to the spa should be a journey into a world of relaxation and you should leave with your senses awakened and alive. Establishing a connection with your therapist is the key to ultimate rejuvenation. This is why it is important to spend sufficient time with your service provider during the consultation process. Most professionals aim to please so do not hesitate to be vocal and to clearly express your needs or concerns.

If possible, before proceeding with a specialty service such as a shiatsu or deep tissue massage, it is important to ask the receptionist for the levels of training and licensure required by the establishment. For example, in the state of California, most four or five-star spas will only employ Holistic Health Practitioners (HHP’s). HHP’s are nationally certified and receive over 1000 hours of training. Their training entails in-depth knowledge of anatomy as well as holistic and alternative approaches to wellness and health. Conversely, in the State of California, Massage technicians receive as little as 200 hours of training and this certification should arguably allow the therapist to perform basic Swedish Massage at best.

The same can be said for standard services such as waxing. Intimate body parts such as under arms, legs and bikini should only be waxed by the best of the best. Often times, each spa has one or more waxing specialists with a passion for removing hair. Yes, this is important to note because not all Estheticians enjoy the art of waxing. You deserve to have an expert who is fast, accurate and thorough.

Do Your Homework

Remember, your spa experience isn’t just about being pampered – although that is an important piece of the pie – it’s also about wellness. In some aspects, booking an appointment for a new service or with a new spa practitioner should be approached the same way you would schedule an appointment for a new medical treatment or with a new doctor. Do your homework. Ask friends, family and co-workers for referrals. Check credentials. Research the procedure. And run for the hills if your service provider doesn’t take time for a consultation before jumping into the procedure. By neglecting the consultation they’re missing out on pertinent information regarding your skin type, injuries, sensitivities, etc. and not giving you an opportunity to ask questions.

This brings me to my final point. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Any credible spa should be ready and willing to give you the reassurance you need to make a safe and healthy decision for your body.

Jessica Wadley has been coaching salon/spa and medical professionals to build their businesses and advance their careers for over a decade. She is one of the country’s most innovative spa industry leaders and was a driving force behind one of the most successful medical spas, La Jolla Spa MD, where she was Chief Operating Officer. She is currently Vice President of the Bellus Academy of Beauty and Spa in Poway, CA which received the 2008 National School of the Year Award for its superior spa and salon curriculum and advanced training courses such as California’s first Master Esthetics Program.

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