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Monday, 02 March 2020 08:38

What’s Your Type? An overview of spa varieties and their function

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As modern society embraces this new day and age, cultural encouragement to engage in wellness as a lifestyle is at an all-time high. Clients, guests, and patrons alike are fully able to receive a multitude of services in a myriad of spas while perpetuating an industry of exceedingly innovative and talented professionals.

What a time to be alive.


A worthwhile treatment at any spa is time and money well spent for a client. Investing in the venture is the first decision, but for a professional deciding what kind of spa to run can pose as the real challenge. Factors for selecting an ideal spa business include budget, location, and the consideration of specific or particular needs. This article will review spa facility types and business models, any of which can be a combination of categories.




Express and Bar


   Increasingly, consumers are opting for maintenance and care in the spa sector as an overall lifestyle approach to health and wellness. This contrasts with the idea of spa treatments serving exclusively as a luxury. Express concepts and facial bars are a burgeoning market that appeals to busy clients and the budget conscious. Usually offering extended hours and capable of performing most aesthetic treatments, these facilities provide a pamper-esque environment, while conducting services on an open floor plan. Half an hour of a zen skin treatment during lunch, after the gym, or before heading home from work is a practical approach to incorporating spa services into everyday life.




A rapidly growing spa platform comes in the form of mobile services. From spa parties to in-home facials and massages, the opportunity to have licensed professionals on-demand is now as easy as scheduling it on an app. Mobile spa provider range from private practices to corporate organizers. Some of these companies also offer equipment and supply rental, such as facial or massage tables with linens.


Membership Franchise


   Membership franchises are branded businesses offering spa services with the added incentive of optional membership. The benefit of this model is affordability, accessibility, and consistency. Memberships keep clients accountable to receiving regularly scheduled treatments. Lower rates on services (around one dollar per minute on average) and appointments made quickly with online booking are incentives. Memberships have locations that extend across a franchise network, which can be regional, nationwide, or global. Most companies keep client portfolios on file electronically so that all locations have access to the same information. This facilitates an easier intake for aesthetic professionals and massage therapists while enabling expedited check –outs for front desk staff, easing the transaction of each visit on all sides. With standardized training for professionals, every spa menu is alike and each client receives the same treatment protocols.  


Club Spa and Fitness


   Health clubs and gyms commonly offer spa services with menus complementing the specific needs of athletes. Spray-tan applications are frequently available alongside deep tissue work, body treatments, and temperature-oriented amenities like hydrotherapy. These are largely membership-based businesses; however, most open their spa appointments to non-members. A spa service can also include a day-of pass to the fitness center or aquatic area in addition to locker room privileges.


Training Schools


   To support the growth of the industry and the advancement of future professionals, some spa-goers choose to schedule local student services. Services are supervised by licensed and vested instructors. Reduced pricing helps compensate for occasional misunderstandings, slips, and misses. Every professional begins their career behind a training table but student services are not necessarily subpar. It is common for students to graduate with clientele, especially when licensed in another spa related field and working toward an additional certification.




Day Spas


   The classic day spa is a true beacon of relaxation and wellness. A day spa menu has endless possibilities and spans the entire industry. Successful as a stand-alone or incorporated into a number of business models, these spas are capable of exceeding expectations at any given opportunity. Basic spa services commonly offered, include facial and aesthetic services, like facial and body waxing, eyebrow and eyelash tinting, and eyelash extensions with makeup services and tutorials. Advanced services, such as microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, microneedling, modular current, and frequencies are also common. Light emitting diodes (LED) and laser work, like intense pulsed light (IPL) are found in day spas, as well.


For the body, a multitude of massage applications can be providing to clients, including Swedish, Thai, Shiatsu, deep tissue, phenomenal touch, reflexology, and rolfing – depending on professional technique and certifications. Of course, full-body scrubs and wraps, along with back and intimate area facials, are common day spa treatments. Vacuum and current contour sculpting services are increasingly becoming popular, as well.


Amenities or features in day spas can include seasonal treatments, dry saunas, steam rooms, salt caves, crystal parlors, hydrotherapy related pools, liquid isolation or float chambers, and dry flotation. There are virtually no limitations on the creative treatments and services offered by day spas around the world and can be a good business model for skin care professionals to consider.


Salon Spas


   A salon spa can be convenient while simultaneously relaxing. Providing a variety of offerings in-house benefits an overall experience, while contributing to a one-stop-shop approach. Traditional spa services, enhanced scalp treatments, spa samplings, miniatures, add-ons and upgrades during hair, eyelash, or nail services create opportunity. The same professional may provide all services or any number of other professionals may work on a single client. Dependent upon licensure and state regulation, there are endless options to what a salon spa can offer on its menu.


Single Professional


   A good option for a studio or solo professional can often be found in a private location or as a room, suite, or booth rental. Rental areas are commonly found within salons, gyms, homes, and wellness malls. Mobile services are often available. Single professionals maintain their creative and logistical freedoms over operational hours, products, supplies, budget, protocols, and menu offerings. This business model is perfect for skin care professionals who are just starting out in the business or need more flexible hours.




   A retreat is an individual or group spa immersion. Disconnection from the outside world is prioritized to enhance healing, perspective, and overall well-being. Gentle physical activity combined with mental and treatment-oriented therapies are a highlighted approach. Retreats function similarly to a day spa and bootcamp hybrid. Featuring concentrated applications in a relaxing environment lends itself to a saturation of bliss. Hosting or creating a retreat-like atmosphere can be a beneficial business for skin care professionals looking to boost income.


Resort and Destination


   A resort spa is a facility located on a resort property or inside a hotel, while a destination spa could be a separate business anywhere, including within a resort, hotel, casino, boat, or ship. Excluding most boat or ship-oriented spas, resort and destination spas are usually open to both guests and the general public. Menus can be theme-oriented, elevating a geographic experience, such as mountain, desert, jungle, or beach, depending on the location.


Hot or Natural Springs and Bathhouses


   Most attribute the concept and widespread popularity of bathhouses to the ancient Romans. Thermaes or bathhouses were structures built on hot springs where patrons engaged with hydro and temperature-oriented skin and body treatments. Thermae resembled modern-day spas by featuring gymnasiums and rooms for relaxation. Due to the extent of the Roman Empire, the ruins of Roman bathhouses have been found throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.


   Hot springs are found in nature and are often left unaltered in their natural state. Depending on the location, some have been groomed, landscaped, or structured for use. Natural springs are similar to hot springs but do not necessarily have the geothermal heated element of hot springs. A variety of minerals from the earth can be present in the waters, which benefits the skin and organically enhances these naturally occurring terra spas.


Bathhouses are man-made mimics of hot and natural springs and usually incorporate steaming, dry sauna, cold pool plunges, and jetted soaking tubs. Culturally specific bathhouses can be found in the forms of Banya, Hammam, Sento, or Jjimjilbang.  


Homeopathic and Ayurvedic Approaches


  A holistic approach puts emphasis on treating with entirety, focusing on both external and internal applications, including social and emotional aspects. Natural muds, salts, clays, and marine ingredients are utilized along with herbal therapies. Ayurvedic and homeopathic approaches have similar yet distinct qualities.

Ayurveda or “knowledge of life” relates to the traditional Hindu system of whole body medicine, developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. Homeopathy or “similar science” is a medical practice that originates from 18th Century Germany and is structured around the belief that the body can heal itself utilizing small amounts of plants and minerals. Energy work may also be present in these approaches to full body wellness. Homeopathy and Ayurveda are holistic applications that can be singular or combined within therapies, medical facilities, or natural spa practices.






   Medical spas and clinical spas are where technology meets aesthetic. The non-invasive medical aesthetics industry will soon reach a value of $10 billion. Growing demand for these types of services is globally present. A medical spa, depending on state regulations, typically has a resident physician or nurse on staff to oversee or provide treatments. These facilities can also be incorporated into a plastic surgeon practice. Medical and clinical laser work, lift and sculpting, injectables, fillers, deep level peels, and extractions, along with oxygen treatments and intravenous infusions, are now readily available to a wide market. Paramedical aestheticians who have received additional certifications can often be found practicing in a medical or clinical environment. Some medical spas also feature chiropractic professionals for hip and spinal adjustments. Medical spas are a great option for skin care professionals who have the correct licensure and can utilize their skills to create a booming business.




   Dental spas prioritize the client experience and differentiate from other dental practices by offering a de-escalated and calming atmosphere. This enhanced approach focuses on the element of relaxation by incorporating soothing music, aromatherapy, steam towels, and comfortable chairs. It is especially suitable for clients who experience distress in dental offices.




   Rehabilitation spas are often private or exclusive on-site spas which combine emotional and mental therapies performed by or under licensed healthcare professionals. Reiki, massage, sound therapies, and deep relaxation techniques emphasize healing to help rebuild and refresh a system that has been depleted through a variety of circumstances. These facilities sometimes offer weekend and retreat-style visits in addition to longer on-site stays.


Aesthetic Advocacy and Consultation Services


   Aesthetic advocacy and consultation services find the most ideal professional or physician for a client’s needs and pair them together, while protecting the interests of all parties involved. It is the customization of a medical spa or plastic surgeon visit with added protection. While physicians and professionals are often accomplished in multiple techniques and applications, some are highly skilled in a specific area of expertise. Advocacy professionals do not adhere to a one-size-fits-all mentality. As with any skillset, some professionals have a gift for achieving better than average results in a specific procedure or treatment. An advocacy professional is an aesthetic matchmaker who has a proven track record working with top-tier professionals. Using these services for more invasive or advanced spa services can help reduce the risk of error and malpractice while providing some peace of mind.




   Ready, set, spa. Bootcamps are designed to support aggressive approaches to yield immediate results over a shorter time period. Two of the primary bootcamp routes are:

  • a series of strategic treatments with shorter intervals between applications. Descaling facial or body acne, special event preparation, and recovery services are often accomplished with a bootcamp timeline. Concentrated approaches with products, equipment, or tools is common.
  • a full body, overall detoxification or enhancement utilizing physical and fitness oriented activities, such as yoga, pilates, or intense workouts combined with spa services




   Pop-up spas are temporary physical or digital marketplaces for promotional purposes used by spas, salons, online professionals, and product brands. Offering complimentary or discounted treatments generates interest. They can serve as a launch for new products or to help with moving out existing inventory. A pop-up can also provide feedback to research and development teams for previous or future releases. Skin care professionals should consider utilizing the pop-up spa model during tradeshows and community events to put their business on the map.


Spas for Children


   Perfect for birthday parties and celebrations, spas that cater to children can increasingly be found, especially in larger metropolises. While most spas for children include adult accommodations alongside treatments, some exclusively cater to young clients. Child-sized treatment tables and chairs are enhanced by lively music and colorful atmospheres. Skin care professionals should consider adding youth treatments to their menu if they see an increase in inquiry by clients. Spas for children often feature licensed professionals who have completed specialized training or certification and have undergone extensive background checks. Parental or guardian accompaniment is required.


Pet Spas


   Addressing the specific grooming and wellness needs of a furry companion has never been as accessible as it is today. Pet spas vary in service menus but common treatments include “paw-dicures,” facials for tear stains, and full coat care, along with treatments for alleviating dry snouts and feet. Overnight stays and veterinarian care is often available in addition to treatments.






   Of all the spas, the most impactful is a home spa. It is widely accepted amongst wellness-based industries that homecare constitutes 80% of results. Similar to any investment, the optimization of hair, skin, and body endeavors requires additional engagement, which usually manifests in the form of retail purchases. Daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly commitments are required for optimal performance. Providing homecare options to clients in a retail area makes for a good way to boost sales and retail. By giving the client the option to maintain their skin while not in the spa, skin care professionals boost their business, but also their bottom line.


Booking Tips  


   With a seemingly endless variety of options, the greatest resource for information is the internet. Skin care professionals should make sure their spa business had an online presence, whether through social media or a webpage. Remember that clients will research a facility and read the available menu descriptions prior to booking.


   Remind clients that when making an appointment for any type of spa service online, note that it could require several minutes of active scheduling. For a first-time visit, clients should provide a credit card to hold the appointment time, while also being asked a series of questions regarding potential contraindications or special needs. Recommend to clients to book group treatments one month to two weeks in advance if possible.


   At any facility, proper spa etiquette will always serve an individual or a group’s best interests. Consider adding signage that reminds clients to turn cellular phones on silent and remove all jewelry. Children and pets not receiving services should not be brought to the spa. Being mindfully aware of these gestures will enhance the overall experience for both clients and spa staff.


All these spa options are readily available for clients to enjoy and for skin care professionals to consider utilizing. While exploring options for what kind of spa business a skin care professional wishes to open, consider the needs of clients, location, treatment options, scope of practice, and what the intention of the spa is. With all this in mind, there are innumerable combinations and spa business model options to explore and skin care professionals should research and examine each one equally to discover what fits their methods best.



As a licensed cosmetologist and licensed aesthetician, Jennifer Foster is a vested industry professional. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia and currently living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she has a wide spectrum of experience which has provided her with a wealth of industry knowledge. Foster is employed by Aesthetic Consulting Group and is an education specialist representing Éminence Organic Skin Care.

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