The aesthetics and spa industry has been growing steadily and is projected to continue its growth at a faster than average rate over the next seven years, according to the United States Department of Labor.1 This increase is seen across spa modalities, as well, both on the medical and holistic ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. With changes in the industry due to the internet (YouTube and Instagram tutorials and increased online availability of formerly professional-only products), it is more important now, more than ever, for aestheticians and spas to find ways to stand out. Offering custom blended skin care is one way to do that.
- Custom blended skin care is legal in most states. There is a huge cloud of misinformation about offering handmade or custom skin care in your spa or as a solo practitioner, and many aestheticians worry that they’ll risk fines or losing their license if they offer it. The fact is that it is legal to offer custom blended skin care in most states. However, aestheticians need to understand and abide by local, state, and federal regulations regarding the licensure, manufacture, storage, and dispensing of custom products.
- Keep terminology strictly cosmetic. Aestheticians must stay within the definition of cosmetics when educating clients, as well as marketing and selling products and services. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”2 Anything claiming to alter or affect the structure or function of the skin (or any part of the body) quickly puts a professional at risk of stepping out of scope. When custom formulating, it is imperative that the aesthetician does not make any claims that could be considered drug or health claims or that could be misconstrued as practicing medicine or acting as a compound pharmacist without a license.
- Custom blended skin care does not always have to be made from scratch. Many spa suppliers offer pre-made bases that can be easily and quickly adapted to meet the needs of different aromatic preferences and skin types. These bases come already preserved and can be stored the same way any other backbar or retail products are stored. They can be modified quickly both for treatment room use and retail sales.
- Custom blended skin care can be made from scratch. Some formulations are more complex and require more ingredients and technique, while others are very simple and quick to make. Anhydrous and dry products, such as cleansing grains, certain exfoliants, herbal and clay masks, cleansing oils, oil serums, and facial balms, are some examples. The raw materials for these products have a long shelf life when stored properly and can be made preservative-free.
- Custom blended skin care may require separate insurance. Not all practice liability insurance companies cover custom blending as a service or handmade/custom blended skin care products (this is often the case with private label products, too). However, there are several product liability insurance companies who do. It is important to discuss plans with your current provider to assess coverage and obtain additional coverage if needed.
- Custom blended skin care creates great profit margins. Since custom skin care must be purchased from a single source and is considered a service rather than just a product, it has a greater perceived value to the client. Be sure to include the cost of labor in the pricing and mark the products up according to market and demographics.
- Custom blended skin care adds another billable service to the spa’s menu. For a truly custom experience, a thorough consultation is needed. This is something that can be set as a separate menu option or bundled together with additional services to include products. So, in addition to being able to charge more for products, spas can also charge more for both initial consultations and follow up and re-formulation consultations.
- Custom blend clients are loyal and produce quality referrals. The fact that custom blend skin care clients can only get their products from the person who made them translates to instant loyalty. Products can be further customized to meet a client’s changing needs according to season, as the skin improves, and if preferences change. Every visit strengthens the client-professional relationship, which leads to more and higher quality word-of-mouth referrals.
- Custom blend can expand business and brand recognition beyond the treatment room. The ability for professionals to meet with clients virtually through video conferencing can open a whole new revenue stream without dramatically increasing overhead costs. Aestheticians can meet with clients virtually for consultations and follow ups and can send products by mail. This allows aestheticians to continue to meet the needs of clients who have moved and who are restricted by busy schedules or mobility issues, as well as those who are not local.
- Custom blended skin care is professional skin care. So many aestheticians get caught up in the notion of professional products, but the truth is that professional does not always translate to quality. A high-quality, custom blended product made with concentrated ingredients, specifically targeted to a client’s independent needs, will always produce amazing results. The perception of professional really has to do with the knowledge of the professional delivering the results – not so much with the product itself.
It all comes down to the fact that an aesthetician who has the knowledge to customize skin care formulations to meet the needs of individual clients will always stand out as a true skin care innovator and expert. All it takes is the right continuing education and legal due diligence. The ability to offer something that cannot be bought on Amazon or easily copied on YouTube is how to truly stand out and thrive in the current and projected future of this industry.
1 “Skincare Specialists: Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Apr 2019. www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/skincare-specialists.htm.
2 “Cosmetics & U.S. Law.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. www.fda.gov/cosmetics/cosmetics-laws-regulations/cosmetics-us-law.
Rachael Pontillo is a holistic skin care innovator, author, and educator. She is the best-selling author of the book “Love Your Skin, Love Yourself” and co-author of “The Sauce Code.” She is a functional nutrition practitioner, AADP and IAHC board-certified international health coach, licensed aesthetician, and natural skin care formulator and educator. She is the president and co-founder of the Nutritional Aesthetics Alliance, the creator of the popular skin care and healthy lifestyle blog, Holistically Haute, as well as the much-loved online course, Create Your Skincare. She is an avid herbalist, skin care ingredient connoisseur, and lifelong learner.