Is Your Spa Walking The Talk?
A spa is a sacred space. It is a destination for health, restoration, celebration and moments of peace. Over the course of a 17 year career as a Spa Director, I also began to appreciate spa as a lifestyle, one that can be cultivated through the education that can come from a spa experience.
My education unfolded gradually. One of my favorite aspects of my job was checking in guests, inviting them to slow down and enjoy some personal time of deep rest and relaxation. When they emerged from a treatment, faces aglow, I felt privileged knowing I was a part of creating a transformational and healing experience for someone. I loved smelling the fresh scents of the products that were used on their skin as they walked out. And, when I had the opportunity, I loved educating them on those products, where they come from, who made them, the ingredients that smelled so good and why they were good for their skin and overall wellbeing.
So imagine my disillusionment when I first discovered that harmful ingredients were lurking in these very products I endorsed wholeheartedly. It was 15 years ago, and it was a jarring realization that ultimately led to the birth of Beauty Heroes. But, that’s later. It took me over a decade to unravel and make sense of the confusing world of cosmetic ingredients.
15 years ago, the internet wasn’t what it is today, so my ingredient education was a gradual revelation. And, beauty was a completely different space. Green beauty was very niche and not commercially accepted, and Indie Beauty was entirely upstaged by the slick marketing of ubiquitous mass beauty. Until then, I thought that all the beautifully scented, seemingly natural ingredients we were massaging into our guests were good for us, and the reality was that they weren’t.
When books like Not Just A Pretty Face by Stacy Malkan (2007) and No More Dirty Looks by Siobahn O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt (2010) and Look Great, Live Green by Deborah Burnes (2009) came out, they sat on my desk next to a cosmetics dictionary that I would reference daily, as I vetted new products that were sent to me to test for the spa. The vast majority of the products were full of ingredients that were considered toxic by my trusted beauty tomes. My decision-making process was simple and unapologetic: I wasn’t going to accept any products that contained these ingredients. It seemed like common sense. Once I learned that an ingredient was definitively unhealthy, we stopped using that ingredient in our spa. I didn’t want it on my skin, and I certainly wasn’t going to expose my clients or my staff to them. The hard part was getting reliable and accurate information.
As more ingredient intelligence became available, I would press product companies on their ingredients. Looking back now, I remember several instances when a company told me the ingredients in their products were completely safe, and they weren’t. But that was years ago. These days ingredient information is available, and anyone worth their salt in the spa or beauty industry knows that ingredients have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, autoimmune disorders, neurotoxicity and can be bio accumulative.
But we still find these same ingredients in spas, salons, doctor’s offices and other places of health and well-being. One of the reasons for this is that product companies are really good at persuading spa and salon owners and managers that harmful ingredients are, indeed, safe. I know, it happened to me. But the other reason I’ve often heard is that spas and salons knowingly continuing to use products containing harmful ingredients because they are just giving their customers ‘what they want.’ I’ve heard repeatedly from professionals that they carry an organic or green line, for their ‘organic customers’, but the that the rest of their clientele really want to see results. So there you have it, it’s all the consumer’s fault that they are getting health-harming ingredients scrubbed, rubbed and steamed into their pores.
It’s no surprise that I take issue with this approach, but here’s why. First off, healthy beauty delivers visible results on the skin. You can read more about the benefits of botanicals in our ingredient intel, review triple blind studies conducted or just look at the gorgeous women who are resigned to healthy beauty, with some excellent examples right in our brand ambassador community. Organic, plant based botanical beauty also delivers health benefits, making your skin healthier, reducing stress, calming skin conditions and so much more.
Secondly, it is health professional’s place to educate their customer and deliver results in a more than safe, but healthy way. I speak from experience when I say that you can run a thriving, luxurious, results oriented, successful spa or salon without using products with toxic ingredients. This is true now more than ever.
But, the fact remains that the ball is in the consumer (that’s you) court, which means that as a spa-goer, you need to ask for what you want. If you want a wholly healthy spa experience, it means you’re going to have to ask questions about ingredients when you’re making your next spa appointment. Here are a few questions you may want to ask next time you book a spa treatment:
- Does your spa have an ingredient standard for the products you use in your treatments?
- What product or product line do you use in that treatment?
- Do you have any treatment lines that you can be certain are free from toxic cosmetic ingredients?
- What products do your therapists use in a standard massage? Can I bring my own massage oil?
I used to be shy about this type of thing, thinking I was putting the therapist out, or causing a commotion. But I have evolved and am now completely comfortable asking these questions knowing that I’m not doing anything but taking care of my health, and in turn theirs. Remember, they are absorbing the same ingredients that they would put on your body through their own healing hands. I know that I’ve opened the eyes to many therapists just by advocating for my own health. And maybe, if the customer keeps asking for what they want, healthy beauty is what we’ll get. Until then, consider being your own Beauty Hero because smart is beautiful.