Heaven Scent: Incorporating Essential Oils into the Spa Experience
by Trish Green
B.Ed. D. Hom (Pract) BFRP, C.A.H.P, Cidesco Exthetician
Trish Green, president of Eve Taylor North America, has been an educator for 40 years. She is an international speaker, educating aestheticians across the United States and Canada. As a CIDESCO aesthetician and a homeopath, she specializes in the wellness approach in her aesthetic practice, offering a unique approach to the treatment of clients in the spa
From the moment a client enters the spa to the moment they leave, everything they experience becomes part of their overall experience – and these days, experience is everything. Often overlooked, scent can play a vital role in creating a sensory wellness experience for each client, and incorporating essential oils effectively is key in doing so.
Mental health is one of the most talked about concerns in Western medicine, alternative medicine, and in many aspects of the spa wellness industry. The ongoing change in daily life due to geo-political uncertainty, digital overload, the rising cost of living, demanding jobs, longer commutes, and family responsibilities has a far-reaching affect on mental health and it shows in many ways.
The question is, are spas embracing this rapidly growing trend and meeting the needs of clients? Clients are in more need of stress relief than ever before. Stand out from competitors and build client loyalty by going the extra mile to provide small and simple complementary stress relief solutions in every service. Build a unique brand for business, wow customers, and, in turn, create client loyalty and increasing referrals, through offering aromatherapy in different customized options for existing treatments; adding new treatments that take less time and, therefore, cost less; and having retail options available for at-home wellness.
The Essential Experience
Introducing wellness programs and exploring new possibilities and treatments to include in a service menu can be overwhelming. Creating custom spa experiences can help simplify this.
“Six in 10 millennials would rather spend their money on experiences than material things,” says Steve Chohen, vice president of MMGY Global.
He says, “Make your spa experiences memorable. Move your aromatherapy from the backseat menu item to the front seat of your spa experiences, with the guest as the driver. Addressing stress relief, insomnia, depression, pain, and other physical and mental issues with blends of essential oils capitalizes on what the technology-driven guests wants and what they need.”
Consider the fact that aromatherapy is an established science, studied around the world and accepted by the medical profession. It can be used in many ways in many different treatments to include all members of the spa team. Whether it is the application of essential oils in a facial, a massage, or simply diffusing a suitable blend of oils in the treatment room to uplift or sedate the client’s mood, all these things help professionals to connect to clients on a deeper level and increase their well-being. They will be aware of how different and relaxed they feel, which will build customer loyalty and they will be sure to tell their friends.
When a client enters the spa for relaxation and to get away from the rush of everyday life, they have certain expectations. There is an ambiance that is created within the spa – the soft and relaxing music, the visually-pleasing décor, and the cozy treatment rooms. And, perhaps above all else, there is the spa smell – the luxurious, gentle scent of essential oils that lulls clients into that wonderful state of calm and relaxation that greets them as they enter the treatment room. How can each spa achieve this amazing ambience?
One option is to place a diffusor in the reception area, with a well-selected blend that all customers will enjoy. The customer immediately starts to relax, making the most of his or her spa visit. If not well versed in aromatherapy, choose something preblended for this purpose. Selecting only a single essential oil for this purpose is not advisable, as it will only be therapeutic for a few and not everyone. Also, remember to choose wisely, avoiding choosing oils based off personal preference. Think of clients’ age and gender and base the choice on that. Men and women prefer different things, as do millennials compared to mature clientele. Everyone experiences stress in different ways. Above all, select a quality essential oil – clients deserve it.
The fact that essential oils can penetrate the skin is indisputable. They are known to carry or enhance the absorption of other compounds or ingredients into the skin. Research demonstrates that following topical application, essential oils are found in the blood stream within two hours and eliminated in the urine within five hours.
Anna Herman, a noted researcher in this field, quoted in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, says, “After application to the skin, essential oils and their components are rapidly metabolized, not accumulated in the organism, and are fast excreted. That strongly suggests they can be used as safe penetration enhancers.”
Essential oils do this so well that the pharmacology industry is studying them as a method of transdermal drug delivery and, in fact, essential oils and their constituents have been widely investigated for delivery of both hydrophilic and lipophilic products.
Anna Herman from her research states that there is only a small minority of molecules with specific physio-chemical properties that can actually cross the skin sufficiently to reach subdermal tissue and the circulatory system – essential oils and their active constituents being one of them. She found four possible mechanisms of action from the reduction of the desmosomal connections, modification and interaction of the protein in the intercellular domain and natural compounds such as the terpene group, common to many essential oils creating a disruption of the highly ordered intercellular lipid structure between the corneocytes of the stratum corneum making this layer temporarily permeable at the point of application to the skin.
This science can also be applied to improve the outcome of clients’ skin care regimens. Many current serums, such as vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and peptide solutions, are all water-based. The stratum corneum is lipid-based, which prevents the penetration of toxins into the skin and water loss (TEWL), leaving the question of how these water-based products can penetrate through this lipid barrier. Based on research, the answer is now clear. By adding an essential oil-based serum to a treatment – and the client’s homecare, in conjunction with water-based serums – the overall penetration value of skin care products can be enhanced.
Professionals must remember, essential oils do not like electrical currents – it will change their chemistry. Therefore, all essential serums are used post machinery. Post peel and post microdermabrasion, these essential serums are even more rapidly absorbed, restoring barrier function, calming inflammation, increasing hydration, reducing pigment, and enhancing the action of lift and firm peptides. Application is simple and requires only a few drops post treatment. Post treatment, apply water-based serums and, then, place lipid serums over the top (only a few drops are required). Complete the treatment with the appropriate cream.
For those who choose not to apply essential oils to the skin, they can also be used as part of the wellness journey in the facial treatment room. Present the client with a choice of blends and create a sensory journey. Have three options available to smell: a blend that has a citrus base (clean and uplifting); a blend that is softly floral (balancing and calming); and a blend that has a deep woody base (relaxing and grounding).
Allow the client to smell each one and have them select the item for inclusion in treatment. One option is to take the blend to the treatment room and turn on the diffusor while the client fills in the intake form. Add a few drops to the unit, turn it on about five to 10 minutes before the service, and close the door. The client will then receive the instant desired effect as they enter the room. Turn the unit off about five minutes into the treatment. Another option is to incorporate the blend into the treatment. If the client chose a blend that is suitable for use in skin care, once he or she is on the bed, add a few drops to the finger pads and hold the oil over his or her nose. Instruct the client to take three deep, relaxing breaths. Move the fingers to their temples, massage gently, and complete by moving up into the scalp. Using the pads of the fingers and small deep circular movements, gently massage the scalp, finishing by stroking through the hair, before placing the headband to begin the treatment. A third option is to include a few drops of the chosen blend into a facial massage product or mask.
“Research demonstrates that following topical application, essential oils are found in the blood stream within two hours and eliminated in the urine within five hours.”
A Hint Of Hydrolats
Another great way to enhance a facial is with aromatherapy hydrolats, also known as floral waters. They are the by-product of essential oil distillation and retain many of the properties of the essential oil. Hydrosols are safe for all clients, have a softer smell than essential oils, and are therapeutic and versatile. Possible scents include chamomile, rose, lavender, orange, and peppermint. They can be used in many ways, including: in place of a regular toner; sprayed onto toweling or bedding; added in a small amount to rinse water for aromatic sponges; spritzed onto hot towels to smell aromatic; placed in a steaming device to create aromatic steam (follow manufacturer’s guidelines); added (a few millilitres) to customize peel of masks; spritzed onto a cotton disk to create a hydrolat eye compress; or used to dampen facial gauze.
Sensational Scalp Massage
Another way to incorporate aromatherapy into the spa is scalp massage. When the scalp is stimulated, research has shown that scalp massage can increase certain chemicals in the body, including endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals can help put clients in a better mood, reduce stress, and create an environment for relaxation.
Standing behind the seated client, professionals can begin with an inhalation of essential oils, having given the client several to choose from to suit their mood. Add several drops to the finger pads, hold the oil over the client’s nose, and have the client breath in deeply. Then, begin the treatment, including the scalp, neck, and shoulders. This can be used in various ways, from a few minutes, complementary, to a 15-minute add-on to a service. A full champissage treatment is 45 minutes and does require further education, but can be a wonderfully relaxing option for any service menu. Include a few drops of the chosen oil in the massage cream.
Consider offering a relaxing, therapeutic, detoxifying foot soak. Simply add the appropriate essential oils to a therapeutic mix of sea salt and epsom salts. Offer a choice of three soaks for treatment. Store them in clear jars (pasta jars are excellent as they have a rubber seal on the inside and, being glass, clients can see the salts, which look bright, colorful, and inviting. Options to have on hand might include: a lavender-based blend (using purple or blue food coloring, for relaxation); a lemongrass blend (colored yellow, for a stimulating vibe); and an herbal blend (colored green, for detoxifying).
To use them, simply add a couple of tablespoons to the soak. Add the same blend of essential oils to the massage cream or create a sea salt or sugar scrub for exfoliation.
According to theory, the reflexologist’s application of pressure to feet, hands, or ears sends a calming message from the peripheral nerves in these extremities to the central nervous system, which in turn signals the body to adjust the tension level. This enhances overall relaxation, brings internal organs and their systems into a state of optimum functioning, and increases blood supply (which brings additional oxygen and nutrients to cells and enhances waste removal). It positively affects the circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, immune, and neuropeptide systems in the body.
This wonderfully relaxing treatment does require more formal training. A two-day class will give the basics, sufficient for adding a 15-minute add-on to a menu. To offer reflexology as a full service, full training must be completed. Inquire with a local professional association.
Mood, Mind, And Massage
This offers a great opportunity to offer a massage-style treatment, with a shorter treatment time and reduced cost for the client. Or, it can be added to a body treatment as is, customizing accordingly. The treatment should take about 40 minutes. As mentioned above, complete the sensory journey with a selection of the appropriate blend for treatment. Start the treatment with deep breathing and inhalation. Continue to include a massage of the face, neck, and shoulders, moving around the body to complete hands and lower arm to the elbow and feet to the knees. Finish the treatment with a relaxing back massage. Customize the whole treatment further to include face drainage and 15-minute reflexology. Further body treatment options are to add an aromatherapy upgrade to a massage to help the client relax, detoxify, or uplift. If offering body exfoliation, simply customize a scrub with an oil of the client’s choice.
In any type of wellbeing treatment, knowing each client’s needs and responding accordingly is essential. Remember, it is not about personal preference, wants, or needs. It is about the client and ensuring that they can feel relaxed, disconnected, rejuvenated, and restored – mind and body.