Scent is a hot commodity right now. In fact, the fragrance business is a $6-billion industry in the United States alone, according to The Fragrance Foundation. And today, fragrance is not just about perfume and eau de toilette. Now there’s an abundance of scented lotions, body gels, cuticle oils, and more. The list is endless.

True, the science of aromatherapy, in which essential oils ranging from peppermint to lavender are used for their powerful healing benefits, has been around for centuries, but only until recently has the public been so smell happy over fragrance that isn’t necessarily used for its curing effects.

Today, everywhere we turn—our home, our car, our work, etc.—scents are seducing the nose. And if you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to each in on the trend. You salon can appeal to your client’s sense of smell not just through services, but also through retail items and whiffs of fragrance dispersed throughout the salon. Not only will it give clients something new to look forward to, you’ll also be able to charge them a few more dollars for the sensory experience.

Scents and Sensibility

Smell is a powerful thing. In fact, mothers can recognize their babies by smell, and newborns recognize their mothers in the same way. Smells also have an uncanny ability to move us. How many times have you smelled popcorn and thought of sitting back at a movie theater watching the latest flick?

“The same part of our brain that controls mood and emotion handles our sense of smell,” says Theresa Molnar, director of the Olfactory Research Fund in New York City. “Research shows that memories elicited by odors have strong emotional qualities.”

That’s precisely why a particular perfume or a long-forgotten scent can instantly conjure up scenes and emotions from the past—the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven can take you back to the time when you were a little girl visiting your grandmother, for instance.

All the scents you take in first make their way through the nose, which is almost like a huge cave built to smell, moisten, and filter the air you breathe. As you breathe in, the air enters through your nostrils, which contain cilia—tiny little hairs that act as a filter. After passing the nasal cavity, the air passes on to the olfactory bulb. There, the smells are recognized because each smell molecule fits into a nerve cell like a lock and key. Then the cells send signals along your olfactory nerve to the brain. At the brain, the signals are interpreted as the fragrant bouquet of flowers or those rotten eggs sitting on your table.

Keeping the Client in Mind

In today’s fast-paced world, more and more people are finding that it’s vital to create sensory environments involving human elements—smell being one of them.

“People are looking for things to calm them and make them feel good,” says Dixie Eklund, vice president of sales for FPO (Farmington Hills, Mich.). “If you can’t take a two-week vacation, then there’s nothing like a relaxing hand massage.”

That’s way smell is so important. With the whiff of a scent a person considers appealing, she might be taken back to another time and place.

“Smells have the potential to elevate our mood and contribute to our wellbeing,” Molnar says.

Today, many manufacturers are getting in on the action and offering a variety of products for us in the salon. According to Tony Cuccio of Star Nail Products and Cuccio Naturale (Valencia, Calif.), these new offerings make perfect sense in today’s quest for a spa-like atmosphere.

“Women don’t want to come in for just a manicure,” Cuccio says. “Scented products enhance the spa atmosphere and change a salons’ perception.”

And Cuccio has put his opinions on smell to good use. His Cuccio Naturale line includes several scented products including Apple Alpha Hydroxy Fruit Acid Cuticle Cream, Mango Hand Peel, and Lavender Environmental Hand Protection Lotion.

“Fragrance preference is such an individual thing,” Eklund says. “The smell of vanilla can remind one person of mom’s fresh-baked cookies and another of a nasty medicine they had to take as a child.

“Salons that latch on to the concept of customizing the salon experience for their customers will really thrive.”

A salon Filled with Fragrance

If you aren’t using some sort of fragrance either in your services or simply throughout your salon, you should reconsider. You can add a simple pot of simmering potpourri, light some incense or a candle, and you’re set.

“Having some sort of scent in a salon masks the odors that are associated with it and can be deterring to clients,” says Dennis Ling, CEO of Estelina’s Pedicure Products Co. (Westlake Village, Calif.) “If you’ve been working at a salon for a while, then you get used to the odors, but hour clients don’t.”

One salon that has taken the whole concept of all-over fragrance is l.a. vie I’ orange in Los Angeles. In fact, the name is a dead giveaway as to what fragrance fills the salon. Upon walking into the salon, clients are immediately enveloped in its signature spicy orange fragrance. Owner Kelly Brown says she chose orange as the salon’s signature scent for its calming effect and medicinal properties. “People who come into our salon feeling stressed leave feeling uplifted,” she says. The scent is not only emitted through essential oils and candles. Brown also uses orange in the water that clients sip, as well as in the treatments used on them.

Another salon that takes the scented room approach a bit further is The Upper Hand, which has two locales in Houston. Owner Rachel Gower attracts clients by placing diffusers with essential oils in the salon. “The diffusers are the number-one thing that attracts people to our salon.” says Gower, a strict believer in fragrance.

She believes that fragrance creates a memory for her clients. When a client leaves the salon, that whiff of fragrance, whether it is peach, peppermint, or vanilla, will stay with her. And the next time she comes across that same fragrance, she’ll think of the salon. “You want to have some sort of scent associated with your salon,” Gower says.

Gower also sells various scented products, ranging from candles and incense to body lotion and soap. She makes sure to incorporate several of her retail items into her services, and even customizes products for clients. So if someone is in the mood for, say, vanilla, she’ll add a few drops of essential oil to an exfoliating treatment.

Giving clients that extra attention helps when it comes time to selling them a product. And this tactic has worked for Gower. Retail sales account for about 20% of her salon’s profit, which is a high percentage for a nail salon.

Using Scent in Services

Rosemary Weiner, owner of The Brass Rose Spa & Salon in Blairstown, N.J., also uses lots of scent—especially in her services. One of her most popular treatments is the Coconut Cream Pedicure, which incorporates a rich coconut and peppermint cream. “This service makes clients feel like they’re on a tropical retreat,” Weiner says.

She says that without the scent, the service would just be another typical pedicure. “People are in the pampering mood now, and they’re going back to things that are all natural,” Weiner says.

Diana Bonn of Color Classiques in Muncie, Ind., has an interesting approach to scent-hot mitts. With every service, Bonn includes scented hot mitts, which come in warm smells such as people, cinnamon, clover, and nutmeg. Bonn heats the mitts for approximately two to four minutes in the microwave and places the wax-dipped hands (with plastic bags) in the mitts for about 10-15 minutes. “The clients are awed by the wax dip and the mitts,” she says. “They remember.”

Not only that, Bonn also has a “lotion bar” where clients can choose from more than 20 different varieties of professional scented lotions. And she’s taking the scent thing a step further.

Bonn is currently experimenting with a new line of body lotions, body washed, sea salts, and loaves of soap. Her plan, she says, is to have sea salts in different scents around the salon so clients can scoop the product up themselves. And she plans to have body wash available at the sink so clients can wash their hands (each washes her hands two times during a service).

Bonn says she’s gotten into the whole scent thing because fragrance is the future. “Any manicure or pedicure can be made special by just using a scent,” she says.

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