Written by Rachael Pontillo, A.A.D.P C.H.C., B.S., L.E.

The spa and wellness industries are at an all-time high since businesses are now able to reach millions of potential clients at little to no cost with social media campaigns. With the click of a mouse, a consumer can learn about the amazing experience her favorite celebrity had using a far-infrared sauna; watch a video about manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) or self-massage on YouTube; or view a Facebook post about how her friend was able to fit into pre-pregnancy skinny jeans after having a body wrap.

This influx of information has generated so much buzz that many aestheticians and spa owners are now receiving calls from potential clients asking for treatments outside of their typical service menu. This information overload has created the perfect opportunity for aestheticians and spa owners to expand their menus with intriguing new offerings and nourish client relationships with a more extensive consultation about these methods.

right-detoxWhy Detox?
Detoxification, sometimes referred to as internal cleansing, is the process of removing toxins from the body. It can be achieved through cleansing diets and supplements, salt baths, body wraps, and so on. These different techniques are designed to assist the body's natural process of removing toxic buildup through the liver, kidneys, lungs, lymphatic system and skin.1 You may wonder why these practices are appropriate for a spa at all since they have so much to do with the body's internal systems. It all comes down to the skin; along with the liver, kidneys, lungs and colon, the skin is a detoxifying organ. It is also the largest organ of the human body, which means that it is the largest detoxifying organ of the body as well.
The skin is a window into the state of the internal organs and systems. Holistic practitioners of ancient mind-body-
spirit healing systems, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), consider the skin to be an important tool for diagnosis. Different areas of the face correspond to different organs and systems of the body on the inside. Therefore, the location of acne, rosacea, melasma, eczema, and puffiness or dark circles under the eyes can serve as important clues to reveal a person's overall health.
These modalities, in addition to other holistic mindsets, believe that skin conditions only appear when there is blockage or stagnation in a particular organ, system or pathway in the body; these blockages are almost always caused by built-up toxins. Clearing up the toxins on the inside by using a detoxification method will subsequently clear up the skin on the outside.
Aestheticians and other spa therapists work directly with the skin and can provide services that keep the skin's detoxification channels clear. They can also perform certain treatments to help break up and dislodge toxins that are stored in the subcutaneous fat cells directly below the dermis so that they can be eliminated. While this can have a positive effect on the appearance of the skin on the body, the reduction of toxins can also improve symptoms on the face.
While many detoxification practices can be seemingly integrated into an existing spa environment, others must be performed by professionals who are certified or licensed in specific modalities such as acupuncture, yoga and nutrition. This also offers a great opportunity to expand referral partnerships and cross promotional efforts within the community.

Detoxification Treatments in the Spa
Adding detoxification treatments in the spa can be as simple as sending aestheticians to a continuing education course to learn acupressure or MLD techniques, or as complex as placing saunas, steam rooms, salt rooms, or juice bars in the spa. Many detoxification treatments can be performed by aestheticians in the spa with minimal equipment and training.

left-wrapBody Wraps
There are two main categories of body wraps – wraps that are meant to draw toxins out of the skin and those that are meant to push toxins into the lymphatic system to be filtered and eliminated through the internal organs. Both are indicated for detoxification and inch loss and often sold in a series of three or six weekly wraps with monthly maintenance wraps recommended. Dry brushes, creams and mineral supplements are commonly retailed home care items.
The first type of wrap is often referred to as a mineral detoxification body wrap. This wrap utilizes bandages that are soaked with a mineral-rich solution and used to wrap the client's entire body from head to toe. The client's measurements are taken prior to the process. The bandages are applied alone or following a dry brushing2 and application of a seaweed or clay body mask. Plastic bags may also be attached to the client's hands and feet to collect the toxins that are released through the hands and feet while the client moves continuously for an hour on the treadmill, elliptical, or other light cardiovascular machine. The idea is that the minerals in the bandages draw the toxins out of the body and into the bandages themselves while excess toxins drain through the hands and feet. This drainage is stimulated by the compression of the bandages and the client's movement while wrapped. After the hour is up, the client is unwrapped and told to shower immediately (to avoid reabsorption of the toxins) and then their measurements are taken again. Inch loss is almost always seen following a treatment.
The second most common type of wrap is also a compression wrap, but instead of aiming to draw toxins out through the skin, its purpose is to force toxins deeper into the lymphatic system to be filtered and eliminated. This wrap begins in a similar way – the client's measurements are taken and a thorough dry brushing or other type of exfoliation of the skin is performed. However, instead of a mineral-rich seaweed or clay mask, a solution or cream containing ingredients known to stimulate both blood and lymphatic circulation (such as cassia and niacin) is applied. Instead of using bandages, these wraps utilize plastic wrap which forms a non-permeable covering that forces everything inside while also generating heat. The combination of heat, compression and ingredients in the cream helps dislodge the subcutaneous
toxins and forces them into the lymphatic flow. The client is covered and left wrapped for an hour, then the plastic is cut off and the client is remeasured. While dehydration is not as much of a factor here since there is no fluid loss during the treatment, clients still need to drink large amounts of water and be encouraged to exercise after this wrap to continue to stimulate lymphatic flow.

An ancient Asian art of healing, acupressure aims to restore and maintain balance in the body's energetic pathways (known as meridians) and at its energetic centers (chakras and chi/tsubo points). In every ancient healing art that comes from Asia, whether it is TCM, Ayurveda or shiatsu, the flow of chi (also known as prana or life-force energy) is absolutely crucial to one's overall level of health and wellness. If chi is stagnant, or if toxins accumulate at these various points, then disease occurs. By stimulating various points along the meridians, balance can be restored. Acupressure has close ties to acupuncture, but instead of using fine needles to stimulate and adjust the flow of energy, the practitioner applies targeted pressure to these various points in order to help the body heal itself and achieve specific health goals. By stimulating the various internal organs with acupressure on the face during a facial, the aesthetician can help the body heal its own skin condition by tending to the internal cause.
Acupressure is an ideal practice for aestheticians. There are many continuing education courses offered at schools and conferences on the topic that teach very specific protocols, addressing points on the face, head, neck, shoulders and even ears – all well within an aesthetician's scope of practice. Massage therapists can perform acupressure on the entire body, but a client can still benefit solely from the facial protocols. These protocols are effective enough to promote relaxation, aid in the body's own detoxification efforts, and contribute to overall wellness without negative side effects. Contraindications are very few, compared to other methods of detoxification.
Acupressure can be included as an add-on service to any existing facial offering, offered as a stand-alone service, or substituted in lieu of a traditional facial massage on clients with rosacea, inflamed acne, or skin that is otherwise too sensitive for friction.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a massage technique that, like acupressure, can be performed by a massage therapist on the entire body, or by an aesthetician on the face, head, neck and shoulders. It uses light pressure and circular motions to stimulate the lymph nodes and promote peristalsis (expanding and contracting motions) in the lymph vessels so that they can effectively carry waste through the body to be filtered and eliminated.
Improper diet and lifestyle choices, such as eating too many processed foods, dehydration, and lack of exercise can cause peristalsis to slow down, preventing proper lymphatic drainage. While MLD is not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, it can help release buildup of lymph in certain areas and promote healthy drainage. MLD has many direct skin benefits3 which make it an ideal spa offering. It can improve many chronic skin conditions such as scleroderma and acne, and it has been known to promote the healing of wounds and burns and improves the appearance of old scars. MLD may also strengthen the immune system as part of detoxification treatment. The minimization or reduction of stretch marks and the relief of eye area puffiness are other benefits. Lastly, MLD can also be used to accelerate healing after
cosmetic surgery. Similar to acupressure, it is important to note that there are many continuing education courses for MLD. There are also stand-alone training and certification courses in this practice.sauna

For more than 2,000 years, the idea of inducing heaving sweating to detoxify and purify the mind and body while promoting health has been practiced in Scandinavian, Native American, Baltic and Eastern European cultures. While technology has brought this concept well beyond the traditional sweat lodge, the idea is the same. A person goes into a small room with no ventilation that is heated to over 150 to 180 degrees for a small period of time (no more than 20 minutes is recommended) and sweats profusely. Today's saunas offer options like added steam, aromatherapy and far-infrared heat.
Sweating is how the body detoxifies through the skin. Due to modern conveniences like air conditioning and antiperspirant, people do not sweat as regularly as the body needs to in order to properly remove toxins via the skin. Regular saunas can help fight toxins and incorporating the sauna into a spa protocol is ideal since sauna activity should be monitored for safety.
Traditional saunas are adequate for promoting detoxification, but spas might consider adding a low-EMF (electromagnetic field) emitting far-infrared sauna because it boasts better results in less time and requires a lower temperature (approximately 110 degrees). Far-infrared saunas also heat up instantly which is a benefit that traditional saunas do not have. Traditional saunas often require 30 to 45 minutes to heat up. The benefits of saunas include flushing toxins out of the body through the skin, promoting physical and emotional relaxation, relieving aches and pains, and increasing blood and lymph circulation.
Saunas come in many shapes and sizes, but they are still large pieces of equipment that take up space. There are other downsides, including energy costs, potential safety and sanitation issues, contraindications, and the need to carefully monitor the proper use of the equipment.

Halotherapy, also known as salt therapy, is a holistic practice that is gaining in popularity. This form of therapy incorporates the benefits of natural mineral-rich salts into the spa for detoxifying and therapeutic effects. The effects are simulated using salt rooms (walls, ceilings and floors are coated with mineral salts), salt cocoons (resembling a tanning bed), salt inhalers, and machines called halogenerators (infuses the air with dry saline).4 The salty environment in these rooms, or pieces of equipment, creates a healthy negative ion charge in the particles, which are inhaled into the body and absorbed into the skin. These live particles work throughout the body to expel mucus and push out toxins.
The salt has a natural antibacterial effect as well, which makes halotherapy ideal for clients with acne and other inflammatory skin conditions. The humid, mineral-infused air also promotes total relaxation and stress relief.
Halotherapy is very safe, with little to no contraindications. While the equipment does come with the downsides of size, maintenance issues, and energy costs, there are also opportunities for retail sales with miniature salt inhalers and salt lamps. Another benefit for spas is that this trend is just starting to gain momentum and there is not a lot of competition. This is a great way for a spa to really stand out among others.

Bringing Nutrition into the Spa
While spa therapies and tools help promote detoxification, there is no more powerful tool than proper nutrition. Without it, no measures taken to detoxify the body and improve the skin are sustainable. Fresh, whole, primarily plant-based foods provide everything the body needs in order to digest them and absorb nutrients. They provide bioavailable vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins and antioxidants second to none. They also provide hydration, enzymes and fiber which are all necessary for proper digestion, absorption and elimination. Unlike processed, packaged and fast foods, the body recognizes everything about these foods and knows exactly how to use them. Since processed foods are mostly made of chemicals foreign to the human body, they contain very little actual food value and accumulate as toxins in the body. If a client continues to add new toxins at every meal, it does not matter how many toxins are removed with a detoxification treatment. The importance of a healthy diet cannot be stressed enough.
As a consequence of many websites, books and holistic practitioners linking proper nutrition to detoxification and healthy skin, numerous spas and wellness centers are responding by adding juice bars, smoothie bars, and health food cafes. These are all great, but it is not necessary to add a juice bar or café to a spa, especially if it is not possible. There are easy steps that can be taken to add a little nutrition into the spa, and these little steps can set a big, positive example for clients.

Here are some great, simple ways to add nutrition to the spa:

  1. Serve detoxification tea in the waiting area. Steep fresh lemon slices, ginger and turmeric in a carafe of hot water for 20 minutes. Remove the lemon, ginger and turmeric and keep the tea warm. Serve the tea plain or with raw, local honey or stevia extract.
  2. Offer fresh fruit. Cut everything up ahead of time and keep it refrigerated, rather than letting it sit out all day on a platter looking unappetizing. Have a receptionist offer small plates of fresh fruit to waiting clients.
  3. Smoothie or juicing classes. Partner with a local holistic health coach, nutritionist or chef and offer a class or workshop to clients at the spa on how to choose the best fruits and vegetables for beautiful skin.
    Personalization is a huge trend these days and certain skin conditions can be remedied by specific foods. This is a great opportunity to offer a series of classes.

yogaA Little Help from Your Friends
Other than adding new treatments, pieces of equipment, and classes or workshops to the spa, the detoxification craze is also a great way to form new referral partnerships in the health and wellness community. Due to the recent and ongoing success the wellness industry is experiencing businesses that many people have never heard of before are starting to pop up, and not just in cities but also in small towns as well. Health and wellness practitioners love sharing their work. They are passionate about helping people live healthier, more proactive and happier lives, and they are ready and willing to form referral relationships and participate in cross-promotional efforts to get the word out about what they do. Many of these holistic practitioners specialize in detoxification and offer treatments and knowledge that cannot be found in a spa.

Look for the following potential referral partners in your local area:

  • Yoga Studios and Instructors – Certain styles of yoga such as hot yoga, Bikram and Kundalini are known to help the body detoxify.
  • Gyms and Health Clubs – Along with proper nutrition, adequate exercise is a must for the body to be able to detoxify.
  • Health Coaches and Nutritionists – Holistic health coaches and nutritionists are certified professionals who work with clients one on one, as well as teach classes and lead groups in person and online. Many health coaches specialize in detoxification and lead group classes that can last weeks. Aestheticians and health coaches or nutritionists can collaborate to create a customized detoxification program that includes nutrition, supplements, support and complementary spa services.
  • Juice and Smoothie Bars – Many people who frequent these establishments are health-minded and have detoxification on the brain. Owners are often happy to provide samples to clients and teach juicing and smoothie-making classes.
  • Health Food and/or Vitamin Stores – Nutriceuticals (supplements that benefit the skin from the inside out) such as collagen, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and probiotics are very popular, with many being sold only at high-end boutique vitamin stores and health food stores. These stores also carry an abundant amount of different structured detoxification supplements and cleanses. Some spas are not comfortable retailing internal supplements, so a referral relationship with a health food or vitamin store is a great way to help create detoxification programs that include supplements. It is important to note that just because a supplement is sold at a health food store does not mean it is good for every client. Make sure your clients talk to a specialist so they can gather more information before purchasing supplements.
  • Acupuncturist – As mentioned earlier, acupuncture is similar to acupressure in that it stimulates specific points along the pathways of the body to trigger a specific outcome over time. Acupuncturists are believers in detoxification and can help acupressure-practicing aestheticians create facial protocols targeted for detoxification. They might also offer detox services like cupping (applying glass bulbs with suction to various areas of the body to see where imbalance or accumulation of toxins are) or gua sha (using a scraping friction to move toxins through the body) which would be complementary to detoxification spa services. Be sure to work with a licensed acupuncturist to find out which services would be beneficial to your business.
  • Ayurvedic Practitioner – Ayurveda is gaining in popularity, possibly more than any other healing modality. Ayurvedic practitioners consider detoxification of all tissues, organs and systems of the body to be top priority. An Ayurvedic practitioner and aesthetician can work together to create custom herbal teas, masks, toners and massage oils to accompany spa treatments and Ayurvedic lifestyle plans.
  • Homeopathic or Naturopathic Doctor – These are doctors with additional training in herbalism and other natural mind-body healing systems. While many detoxification methods are safe for the general public, others are best done with supervision. Most western medical doctors have not been trained in detoxification, but holistic doctors, such as homeopaths and naturopaths, can offer reliable and credible expertise on the subject, especially when it comes to herbs, supplements, and any side effects that a client might experience.

Detoxification is Not Just a New Fad
For thousands of years detoxification has been around, and it is here to stay. Whether it makes the most sense to incorporate simple facial add-on services like acupressure or MLD, build a juice bar or salt room in the spa, or simply create referral partnerships with every holistic detoxification practitioner in town, adding detoxification to the spa is a great way to serve clients, stand out, and increase profits.


  1. Pontillo, Rachael. "Love Your Skin, Love Yourself: Achieve Beauty, Health, and Vitality from the Inside Out and Outside In." Wanaque, NJ: Sennin Group, 2013. Print.
  2. Pontillo, Rachael. "The Detox Toolbox: Dry Brushing." Holistically Haute with Rachael Pontillo. Holistically Haute, LLC, 3 June 2011. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
  3. MLD UK. "What Is MLD." Therapy-MLD UK. MLD UK, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
  4. Pontillo, Rachael. "Halotherapy: Health Benefits from Salt." Holistically Haute with Rachael Pontillo. Holistically Haute, LLC, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

rachael pontilloRachael Pontillo is an award willing AADP board certified holistic health practitioner, licensed aesthetician, published author, and public speaker. She is the author of the new book "Love Your Skin, Love Yourself," and currently works in private practice as a health and image coach. Pontillo is the founder and author of the popular website and blog Holistically Haute™ and is also a featured writer in several leading health and beauty publications. Pontillo also holds a position as skin care expert and speaker for NeoCell™.


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