Start with the necessities. Lists are a great place to start. Each piece of equipment listed could feature an entire article, so I will help bring to light questions and answers you want to think about when it comes to almost all equipment needs. The end result – you will be a wiser, wittier, savvier, son-of-a-spa-professional. Remember please, this is generalized.
The Must-Have List
- Ultraviolet sterile cab – Sanitation and safety are always the first priority.
- Dip tray – Refer to the first item.
- Autoclave – Not mandatory in all states, but a plus.
- Table – I like hydraulic. And electric. And manuals. They all have their place. Also, it is a table. Until I own a brothel, it will remain a table as opposed to a bed. Bring on the debate, fellow licensed massage therapists!
- Steamer – I know professionals who do not use steam, but I consider it a very important part to circulation, disincrustation, and the client experience. Consumers slap product on at home; vapor is a whole other game. Be the professional. Save a face. Get a steamer.
- Magnifying lamp – Minimum 5x diopter lense. These little babies come in light-emitting diode (LED) and a lovely little piece you can wear on your head. Mobil business? How vogue!
- Hot towel cabinet – This is my go-to for all feel-good moments. Might I point out why you would want a double unit (upper and lower): so you can use moist heat and dry heat items separate. Ever put a rice and herb neck pillow in with your hot towels? The end is not pretty. Trust me.
The Depends-Where-You-Are-and-What-You-Need List
- Microdermabrasion – I love my United States-made machine of magic and joy. My manufacturer is family owned and operated and I absolutely adore them! They stand behind me on everything and call to check in regularly. I think this is a debatable service that will never go out of style, but I stand by it.
- Digital imaging – Before and after photographs make clients look good and if you have a medical spa, you really should have one.
- Table warmer – I happen to operate in a ski-resort town and there are some very cold clients who cannot wait to relax.
- Brushes, galvanic, tesla, and so on – I say go handheld/cordless. I love the aesthetic of a simple room with only the necessary equipment out. I think clients do, too. Part of relaxation is uncluttering for you and your client.
- Intense pulse light and laser – There are many on the market so do your research. These wonderful machines can be very expensive. Do not buy it unless you know you can use it. Consider buying used, or know the seller and manufacturer.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) – My surprise equipment. This equipment records the hearts electrical activity. It is trending to have these in public places. I am not a paranoid person, but if you have clients doing contrast baths, saunas, steam, and so on, this might be a piece that lets you relax a little more, knowing that people are safer. It might also be the law at some point. A little overzealous to some, but dare I say applicable to our profession.
The List of Questions to Ask
Personally, I believe you get what you pay for. Spend money upfront and invest in quality equipment that you know the location made, the manufacturer, or distributor. Form relationships that will last your career. These are advantageous to your practice and the business for which you work. I know all my sales representatives, owners, and distributors on a first name basis. They want you to be successful, so embrace them! You never know what will come up. Be aware of what country in which your equipment is manufactured. Do they provide fair wages? What warranty is provided? Is it from the manufacturer and supplier or just one or the other? Are there fees for retroactive updates on software (think digital imaging or lasers)? Updates are not always free. Make no assumptions and always ask questions. If you believe in always buying the least expensive product on the market, reflect on this: When will it break on you? Why will it break? What is the defect? In my experience, inexpensive equipment has its time and place, like in a private practice start-up where you do not have $1,000 for a quality vaporizer, but you have $300 to get you through the first few years.
A few considerations to ask in materials, as with a treatment table, is: Are they hydraulic, electric, or manual adjustment? What are they made of? Are they renewable resources like bamboo, steel, or aluminum? What impact does the equipment purchased have on clients and the environment? Will you easily be moving due to expansion or your lease being up? Some things do not move easily. Torque and unnecessary moving is going to shorten the lifespan. Everything needs to be considered. Consider what equipment is a fad. Also understand that there is a big difference between trends and fads. Trending is what is rising in our current industry/market. A fad is a temporary, but dramatic, inflation in service, product or equipment. Trends build an industry; fads come and go with temporary influence on an industry. Unless your business plan is to constantly evolve with fad treatments and services, avoid the equipment that goes with them. Like the reputation of the manufacturer, your reputation and image is connected to what you use. You want equipment that stands the test of time, year in and year out. Find companies that provide a lifetime warranty or guarantee. Because those companies are looking to make a customer for life, reward them. I believe they earn and deserve our respect and patronage. Did I start my business with top of the line products? No. I learned quickly when my $300 steamer kicked the can after only a year that something had to change. Now my Cadillac of steamers keeps humming and running without a glitch, year after year, and my sweetheart of a sales representative still calls to check in. Invest in your equipment and it will serve you well. At one point, in the growing pains of my career, I confused innovation with fads. There are mobile and hand-held devices coming out every other week, changing the way our industry moves and grooves. Use them! Play with them! A great place to learn about new products is at tradeshows. Ask questions. Give feedback. We shape our industry as the professionals who use these tools. A lot of these products are designed for ease of use and transportability. Not convinced of a new release? Give it a couple months and revisit it. You will be surprised how you feel with a fresh perspective. Last, remember that nobody will treat your equipment with the tender love and care as you. I personally like equipment that is virtually indestructible or has a pretty high tolerance for use and abuse, within reason. Should you be able to go sky-diving with your steamer? No. Get knocked around a little in the treatment room? Most definitely. Do not expect your staff to be bulls in a china shop, but remember they did not buy the equipment and do not cringe every time it bumps into something.
Make the right choice and take as much consideration in what equipment goes into your practice as what products you put on your perfectly professional face. Be the crème de la crème and do your research. Take pride in your equipment. Keep it clean. Do not forget to add your new favorite toy to your insurance and have fun! These are not only the tools of our trade, they are our weapons for fighting a very important war. Your mission: to make your clients feel and look their best. Good luck and happy hunting!
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