Aromatherapy seems to be the current buzzword among clients and industry professionals. But what is its purpose within a business and how can it be incorporated as a feel-good service that can support and heal the skin and body?
This article will attempt to address some of the benefits of aromatherapy, why a professional would want to incorporate it into the spa and when, and safety considerations, required training, product assortment, and marketing.
WHAT IS AROMATHERAPY AND WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS?
The term aromatherapy is relatively new. It was coined by a chemist and perfumer, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, in 1937. Aromatherapy is the use of distilled plant extracts for their aromatic benefits on a physical, mental, and emotional level. Essential oils are the volatile constituents of the plant.
Approximately 25% of all plants can produce an essential oil. Through steam, hydro, expression, or carbon dioxide extraction methods, the plant’s essential oil is produced. The process requires a huge amount of plant material to yield a minute amount of essential oil. For example, it takes 2,000 pounds of lavender to produce one liter of lavender essential oil. It takes 60 rose heads to yield one drop of rose essential oil. This helps to understand why essential oils can be very expensive. They are also extremely potent. In a time when excess is normal, when working with essential oils, less is always more.
When working with the public, it is advisable to err on the side of caution. Always ask any new client if they have allergies to any plants. If they do, never use the essential oil around them (diffusion) or on their skin.
Some clients may not have an allergy but abhor the scent of certain oils – rose and lavender are two controversial oils. One reason for that may be the plethora of poor quality, chemically adulterated oils in the marketplace. Often, when exposed to an authentic oil, clients may be pleasantly surprised.
All essential oils should be avoided by pregnant women during the first trimester. After that, they should be used with caution and in very low doses. Consult with a qualified clinical or holistic aromatherapist prior to incorporating aromatherapy into a treatment protocol.
Do not recommend ingestion of essential oils. This is a very common practice touted on Instagram, Facebook, and more. Daily doses of citrus oils or peppermint essential oil taken in a glass of water are recommended on these websites. Do not encourage this practice. Because essential oils are lighter than water, they sit on top of water and do not adequately mix. That means that a concentration of essential oil can be ingested or caught in the sensitive mucosa of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach, where it can cause a burn. Essential oils are highly concentrated and are not vitamins to be taken prophylactically. Additionally, essential oils are highly chemically complex and, as such, can interact with medications.
Several essential oils are contraindicated for some medical conditions. Again, professionals should work with a qualified clinical or holistic aromatherapist to expand their repertoire of essential oils.
INCORPORATING AROMATHERAPY INTO THE SPA
To set the mood for relaxation, subtle diffusion of essential oils in the client waiting room is a nice touch. Use a diffusor that has a timer and diffuse for no more than 15 minutes per hour. Excessive exposure to essential oils from any source (inhalation, topical application, or ingestion) can tax the liver and kidneys – this is especially important for employees.
Using citrus oils (lemon, lime, bergamot, grapefruit, or any combination) in a diffuser encourages well-being. Diffusing citrus in the retail area can encourage sales.
In the treatment room is where aromatherapy can really shine. For a total body treatment within the facial, an aromatherapy voyage is an excellent way to nurture and pamper a stressed-out client. This involves allowing the client to inhale several essential oil blends and let their body decide which one they need at the time. The professional can select one for the face massage and one for the décolleté and arms.
All facets of the facial can be done incorporating essential oils. From cleansers to masks, adding essential oils will encourage natural healing of the skin, while relaxing and nurturing the whole being.
With all blending, use 0.50% to 1.0% dilution. That is three to six drops total essential oil per ounce of carrier. Never use an essential oil directly on the skin. Not only will this waste the essential oil, but it could damage the client’s skin.
For dry or mature skin, rose, sandalwood, frankincense, jasmine, carrot seed, myrrh, or helichrysum are all excellent choices.
For normal or sensitive skin, rose, chamomile roman, or chamomile blue can produce remarkable results very quickly.
For oily or congested skin, lavender, chamomile blue, geranium, palmarosa, ylang ylang, or patchouli are good choices.
Mixing essential oils with botanical carrier oils can synergistically enhance the blends. Always use cold pressed, organic seed carrier oils. Note that even in the case of almond or macadamia, these oils are derived from the seed and are not, in fact, nuts.
While some professionals might be tempted to buy large quantities of carrier oils for price breaks, keep in mind that many have a limited shelf life. Storing oils under refrigeration and oil blends out of light and heat will help preserve their integrity.
Carrier oils can be quite costly. By adding small amounts of gentle, nourishing oils, such as calendula, meadowfoam, baobob, buriti, sea buckthorn, camellia, or jojoba, at a 5% dilution, their attributes can be derived while still maintaining the spa’s profit margins.
For dry, mature, or sensitive skin, a base mix of apricot kernel with rosehip seed is great on its own. Many aromatherapists use grapeseed, sesame, macadamia, sweet almond, or fractionated coconut oil as a base carrier. Olive oil is not advised due to its heavy scent and texture.
For oily or congested skin, hazelnut oil is a fabulous base. It will not clog pores and absorbs quickly into the skin. Incorporating sea buckthorn or meadowfoam at a 5% dilution can further enhance the blend, as well.
ESSENTIAL OIL ATTRIBUTES
Carrot seed (daucus carota) is excellent for mature skin. It is an anti-inflammatory, a pain and edema reducer, and is anti-spasmodic. Carrot seed stimulates red blood cell production, adding elasticity to the skin. It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and is regenerative for burns and scars. It should be blended with other essential oils, such as frankincense or rose, because its fragrance is not especially pleasant.
Chamomile blue (matricaria recutita) is also known as chamomile german. Its deep blue color results from chamazulene and bisabol. These chemical constituents are helpful for skin issues such as dryness, redness (rosacea), inflammation, or sensitivity. It tones the walls of fine capillaries and its anti-inflammatory, cooling properties make it ideal for muscle aches and pain. It should be used sparingly due to its strong scent.
Chamomile roman (chamaemelum nobile) is a relaxing oil and is an excellent tonic to the central nervous system, assisting with anxiety and insomnia. Its analgesic properties make it ideal for abating muscle pain and spasm. It is excellent for acne and skin eruptions, such as psoriasis or eczema.
Frankincense (boswellia carterii) is produced from the resin of the bark of the tree. There are many different varieties of frankincense, all with slightly different qualities. Overall, frankincense is anti-inflammatory, antiaging, antiseptic, calming, warming, and relaxing. Frankincense is wonderful for mature skin because it is cytophylactic (it encourages cellular regeneration) and is helpful with scars.
Geranium (pelargonium graveolens), another cytophylactic, balances the female hormone system and supports the adrenal glands. It is excellent for congested, oily, or combination skin and is antiseptic and astringent.
Helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) is also known as everlasting immortelle or curry plant. A high level of neryl acetate gives italicum its ability to unlock old injuries and muscular knots. It is strongly anti-inflammatory and analgesic, making it excellent for massage. As a tissue regenerator, it is unparalleled, making it a go-to oil for mature skin, burns, or scars.
Jasmine (jasmine officinalis var. sambac or var. grandiflorum), another cytophylactic, is excellent for improving elasticity of the skin. It is also wonderful for post-natal depression, nervousness, exhaustion, and stress. It is balancing to the hormonal system.
Lavender (lavandula angustifolia), a first aid kit in a bottle, is one of the few essential oils that is safe to apply directly to the skin for burns, bleeding, pimples, fever blisters, or insect bites It is excellent for acne and is helpful for depression, anxiety, palpitations, and ache and pain relief.
Myrrh (commiphera myrrha) is cooling, astringent, cytophylactic, wound healing, and supportive to the body and mind when affected by stress or anxiety. It is antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiaging.
Palmarosa (cymbopogon martini) is antiseptic, cicatrizant (heals incisions), cytophylatic, and tonifying. It has a hydrating effect on the skin, restoring its water balance. It regulates sebum secretions from sebaceous glands and is good for acne and teenage skin.
Patchouli (pogostemon cablin) is cytophylactic, emollient, and fungicidal. Patchouli is also an excellent nervine and tonic to the body. It is grounding and helpful to the mind in overcoming worry and fear.
Rose (rosa damascena) is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, astringent, soothes redness, and is cytophylactic. Rose is the queen of the skin and is psychologically uplifting in times of loss, sorrow, grief, frustration, or disappointment. It is helpful to women in all phases of the reproductive cycle.
Sandalwood (santalum album) is calming and relaxing to the mind and emotions. It gives a sense of peace, is helpful for insomnia, and is excellent for the skin due to its astringent, cytophylactic, anti-inflammatory action.
Ylang ylang (cananga odorata) is anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, euphoric, and calming to the mind and emotions. It is balancing for the male and female hormonal systems and is a sexual tonic. For the skin, it has a balancing effect on sebum secretions, making it perfect for acne prone skin.
CARRIER OIL ATTRIBUTES
Apricot kernel (persea armeniaca) is good for all skin types and absorbs quickly into skin. It is antiaging, nourishing, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, and is high in omega-9 (oleic acid).
Baobob (adansonia digitata) is rich in vitamins A, E, and F and sterols and absorbs quickly into skin and hair. It is excellent for eczema and psoriasis and is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Buriti (maurita flexuosa) is rich in vitamins A and E and has naturally occurring SPF (approximately two to three). Buriti is cytophylactic, excellent for cuts and burns, and promotes scar tissue formation.
Calendula (calendula officinalis) is good for skin regeneration and is anti-inflammatory, cytophylactic, excellent for cuts and burns, and is antifungal.
Camellia (camillia oleiferra or camillia sinesis) is easily absorbed and nourishes the skin. It protects the skin from free radical damage, refines mature skin, and is antiaging, emollient, and vulnerary. Camellia is high in vitamins C and E, minerals, omega-3 (alpha linoleic acid), omega-6 (linoleic or gamma linoleic acid), and omega-9 (oleic acid).
Fractionated coconut (cocos nusifera) is processed so that it stays in a liquid state. Unprocessed coconut oil is solid up to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Coconut oil has a long shelf life and is antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, and cooling.
Grapeseed (vitis vinefera) is moisturizing for all skin types, high in omega-6 (linoleic or gamma linoleic acid), and has a short shelf life of six months.
Hazelnut (corylus avellana) is a dry oil. It is suitable for all skin types and is emollient, astringent, and high in omega-3 (alpha linoleic acid) and omega-9 (oleic acid).
Jojoba (simmondsia chinensis) is a liquid wax, not an oil, and is most like the skin’s own sebum. It contains no triglycerides and, therefore, has a very long shelf life. Adding 5% to a blend can extend its shelf life. It is excellent for all skin types.
Macadamia (macadamia intergrifolia) is emollient and high in omega-9 (oleic acid). It has a long shelf life and good glide.
Meadowfoam (limnanthes alba) is very emollient and antiaging, with a long shelf life. Adding 5% to a blend can extend its shelf life.
Rosehip (rosa mosqueta) is rich in vitamins C and E, minerals, and omega-6 (linoleic or gamma linoleic acid). It is antiaging, emollient, and antioxidant.
Sea buckthorn (hippophae rhammoides) is bright orange in color and high in phytosterols, vitamin E, beta-carotene, antioxidants, and carotenoids. It is a prized skin repairing and conditioning oil. High in the rare omega-7 (palmitoleic acid), it is also excellent for hyperpigmentation and age spots.
Sesame (sesamum indicum) is the oldest known oil dating back 5,000 years. Antiaging, emollient, and suitable for all skin types, it is deeply penetrating to the skin.
Body exfoliation, polishing, or massage can all be enhanced with aromatherapy. Incorporating the same essential oils for the dry, mature, sensitive, or oily skin types can yield superb results. The same dilution rates apply.
Moisturizing and refining skin with the essential oils and carrier oils for dry, mature, or sensitive skin are all excellent choices.
For massage, use of helichrysum, lavender, or chamomile mixed with calendula in a base oil can soothe sore muscles and leave the client feeling relieved and refreshed.
An online search should provide some options for training staff in the basics of aromatherapy. Online courses or in-person training is paramount.
An individual does not have to be a clinical aromatherapist to use some essential oils safely and effectively, but knowing a qualified practitioner is important. This person can provide consultation and allow the professional to carve out a niche for their spa.
Additionally, many clinical aromatherapists can produce products for treatments, as well as at-home products for clients.
Incorporating aromatherapy protocols into a marketing plan is essential to bring clients to the spa. Naming treatments and promoting them through Instagram, Facebook, other social media platforms, and the spa’s website is necessary.
The front desk staff should have a thorough understanding of the treatments so they can make recommendations to potential clients. Nothing is more frustrating than calling a spa and speaking to someone who has no knowledge of the products or services.
There are many additional essential oils and carrier oils that are available to the aesthetician, massage therapist, and spa owner. A strict all-aromatherapy approach is not necessary either, as specific aromatherapy blends can be applied after a more aggressive treatment to soothe skin and spirits.
These are but a few of the more common and effective choices to allow the professional to use their creativity with some enhanced knowledge to expand their repertoire of gentle and effective treatments, gaining a loyal customer base.