Adding skin care to your salon, whether it be full esthetic services or a simple retail product line, can help you attract one of the largest client demographics: baby boomers.
Each day when Americans look at themselves in the mirror, they have to deal with the fact that they are not getting any younger. Aging—in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, and drying skin — is inevitable. And yet—especially for those Americans born between 1946 and 1964 (also known as “baby boomers”) — there’s some consolation in knowing that they are not alone.
Recently, the oldest of the roughly 76 million baby boomers celebrated their 50th birthdays; in fact, a member of the baby-boom generation is turning 50 every seven and a half seconds per day for the next 18 years. More than 10,000 people born 1946-1964 cross over from what is considered a “young” market demographic to the “mature” each day. And many of them have a large disposable income and are able to afford to spend money on improving themselves with skin care services.
These maturing consumers aren’t aging without a fight, however. “The baby boomers are not going to go gently into that good night,” explains Leda Sanford, vice president and publishing director of Age Wave Inc., an Emeryville, Calif.-based research and publishing company that specializes in the demographics of aging. “Boomers are interested in staying young-looking and young- feeling for as long as possible, which means they are a ready market for any product that maintains their youthful appearance — for anything that promises less wrinkles and younger, dewier skin.”
For anyone in the beauty business, this means manifold marketing opportunities when it comes to skin care products and services. The question is, how do you make the most of these opportunities? For many salon owners, the first step is expanding business to include skin care products and services.
The Results Are In ...
Thanks to new technology, addressing boomers’ skin care needs has become much easier. “We’re at an age when things couldn’t be better for us, thanks to more active ingredients,” explains Diana Howard, Ph.D., director of worldwide education for the Los Angeles-based International Dermal (Institute, a post-graduate slim care and body therapy school. The new alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) found in many products today, for example, help clients’ skin look and feel more radian by speeding up the exfoliation of tells. For aging boomers, the new acids offer more than just the “hope-in-a-bottle of yester-year; they provide tangible results.
“As the skin ages, the efficiency of its natural moisturizing factor is decreased due to thickening of the epidermis,” explains Howard. “Years of sun damage, changing hormones, and stress all contribute to the problem—and may also result in deep wrinkles, liver sports, and adult acne.”
Still other skin care products, such as those containing vitamins and enzymes, are becoming increasingly popular with age-conscious consumers. “Studies are starting to show these products’ positive effects on the skin,” reports Howard. “The vitamin E craze is back; bioflavenoids — extracted from citrus fruits and other plants—too, are wonderful for the skin.”
While the FDA prohibits skin care product manufacturers from making specific health claims, many users purport that such plant-derived products help the capillaries bring oxygen and nutrients to the skin. This can be beneficial, since one of the many side effects of aging is slowed blood circulation.
Today’s savvy baby boomers read labels, ask questions, and scrutinize their skin for results. As a result, nail technicians who want to meet these sophisticated clients’ demands need a knowledge of the industry that’s a lot more than just skin deep.
There’s no doubt about it: The more you know about a skin care product, the easier it will be to sell. However, if you don’t have the time or resources to learn all the ins and outs of a product line, hire someone who does. Indeed, a skin care specialist who has spent the time to keep up with the market, undergo training, and earn any required certifications can be worth her weight in gold.
“It helps to bring in someone who really knows the business,” explains Judith Bender, who operates Sensations full-service salon in Broadview Heights, Ohio. “When I wanted to expand my business to include skin care several years ago, I knew I couldn’t do skin products justice by trying to sell them myself, since I already do hair and nails, and manage my salon.”
Since leasing space to licensed esthetician and cosmetologist Carole Potts, Bender has found her existing business and Potts’ Face to Face skin improvement salon (which is set apart from the rest of the business in a separate room) complement each other well. By selling some of Potts’ products in the front of her salon, Bender brings in additional profits. Likewise, Potts periodically makes the rounds in Bender’s salon, offering demonstrations of various skin creams and exfoliators to hair, nail, and tanning clients.
“We work off one another and send our clients to each other,” says Bender. “Good grooming comes up in the conversation with customers all the time — I don’t even have to bring it up. Customers will ask why their skin is breaking out, for example, while getting their hair or nails done. We’ll refer them to the esthetician.”
In fact, manufacturers should play an important role in educating skin care specialists who sell their products. “The manufacturer has got to start the ball rolling by providing good education for the professional so the professional, in turn, doesn’t just do sales hype,” explains Carole Walderman, an international consultant and lecturer on esthetics who is based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “If someone in a salon — in an attempt to sell a product — tells a client that a product does something it can’t actually do, they’ll lose their credibility and the client will end up somewhere else.”
When it comes to education, another thing to keep in mind is that well-educated clients who have more disposable income and understand the benefits of good skin care are typically working people. Explains Howard: “That’s why it’s important to consider the hours you are open — to keep working people’s hours [such as late evenings and weekends].”
If you don’t have the wherewithal to bring an esthetician into your salon, another option is to hire a trained counter person. “You don’t have to have a room for esthetics services if you’re going to just retail skin care products,” explains Walderman. “You do need, however, someone working out front to sell the products.”
But don’t expect your receptionist to do it, Walderman warns: “In most salons, the receptionist is responsible for booking appointments, answering phones, and taking care of customers on their way out. You can’t expect them to sell products on top of that.”
Stocking the Shelves
Before you choose a skin care product line to sell in your salon, you’ve got to know your client. If aging baby boomers are your major target market (and they should be), you need to address their specific concerns. “Boomers want anything that deals with firming, tightening, and line removal,” says Walderman. “At the same time, they want simple treatments that are effective; gone are the days where women of any age would be willing to spend hours on their home beauty regimens.”
Many of today’s sophisticated boomer consumers also look for formulas made without irritating ingredients, such as artificial colors and fragrances. Other common ingredients to avoid, says Howard, include mineral oil (clogs pores), and lanolin (which is comedogenic, meaning it can cause blemishes or breakouts).
If you’re going to sell skin care products, you’ve also got to stand behind them — and make sure the manufacturer does, too. “If you stand behind the product you sell, you’ll have better credibility,” explains Potts. “One reason I chose to sell my particular line of products is that if I have to give someone their money back, the company gives me my money back, too.”
Choosing to work with a manufacturer on the cutting edge, with research facilities and good quality-control testing, is also key to your success in marketing its products. Equally important is the company’s attitude. Asks Walderman: “Will they provide advertising for you? Education? Do they have many back orders? What is their shipping time frame? What sort of product support do they offer? What is their return policy?”
Taking Care of Business
Ann Shackelford had owned various smaller hair salons with nail services over the years until early 1995, when she expanded to include massage, manicures, a separate pedicure room, and a private skin care room. By hiring an esthetician strictly on commission, Shackelford was able to ensure that her clients receive the best service — and results — possible. “I had tried selling skin care products before, but they didn’t really sell until I had an esthetician who believed in the product and could show clients the proper way to use them.”
Rather than going out and looking for more clients, for example, nail technicians might benefit from monitoring their existing clients’ skin changes and providing them products for those changes when they need it. “If you sell a person an AHA product and the client’s skin becomes very dry, then you provide no follow-up, the client will go to a department store — not the salon — and buy something to counteract the dehydration,” says Walderman. “To prevent this, you should tell the client that if they feel any dryness, to please come back because you have just what they need. In the meantime, tell them, ‘This is what I want you to use at home.’ This way, you’re taking care of them.”
Potts keeps tabs on her clients’ skin care needs by marketing to them on a seasonal basis: “I’ll print up a flier on winterizing skin and leave it around the shop or mail it to existing customers,” she explains. The esthetician also advertises in the local newspaper as well as via a local phone-in touch-tone information line, where she offers skin care tips free to callers, then advises them to call her with more questions.
Shackelford, meanwhile, has found that packaging special skin care deals for holidays such as Mother’s Day, for example, is a good marketing strategy to reach existing, as well as new, customers. “We also offer gift certificates, coupons, and discounts,” she says.
Another way to attract new clients is to try offering services to men by sponsoring a men’s day or selling men-only gift certificates. “Even though more and more men are interested in facials and taking care of their skin, they can still be a little intimidated,” says Kile Lee, West Coast educator and representative for Pevonia’s men’s skin care line.
Baby boomers today are finding that not only is good skin care essential to looking good and in presenting themselves in business and social settings, but it’s a matter of good health, too. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, older people who take a range of medications might be at increased risk of developing photosensitivity (an intense skin reaction to sun), for example.
Salons that provide skin care products and services at one convenient location can expect nothing less than glowing results. “It’s a growing market, the buying power is enormous. [Salon owners are] crazy if they don’t get all the information they can about what these would-be clients are interested in,” says Sanford. “And they’re interested in staying young as long as possible.”
Guen Sublette is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach, Calif., who specializes in business trend-tracking.
Skin Care Glossary
Today’s skip care products can read like your grocery stone list, with fruit and plant acids and extracts, as well as vitamins, lipids (fats), oils, and proteins. Some of the more common anti-aging skin cane ingredients are listed here to help you choose the products that will best benefit your clients.
Algae extract: Enhances skin smoothness and reduces fine lines; improves skin firmness and elasticity; soothes.
Allantoin: An active skin protectant, stimulates new and healthy tissue growth, acts as an anti-irritant.
Glycolic acid: Also known as alpha hydroxy acid (AHA); helps skin to renew by increasing the rate of cell proliferation, making it look younger and smoother.
Grape seed extract An antioxidant: helps skin protect itself from environmental stress, thereby preventing premature aging.
Hydrolyzed soy flour: A plant membrane extract; helps firm skin by protecting elastin against enzymatic breakdown.
Lactic acid: Another AHA; derived from honey or molasses, helps increase the rate of cell reproduction.
Oat protein: Reduces the number and depth of wrinkles; provides nutrition, hydration, and tension to skin.
Palmitoyl hydrolized wheat protein: Stimulates skin’s vital cell functions; promotes firmness and tone; moisturizes and protects skin from the environment.
Panthenol: Moisturizes; stimulates cell reproduction, acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Retinyl palmitate: Contains vitamin A for new cell growth and for the health and maintenance of skin cells; helps prevent dry skin and wrinkles.
Glossary Source: Sebastian International Inc.