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The Wellness Concept: Beauty Inside Out

Recognizing that beauty is more than skin deep, increasing numbers of salons and spas are embracing the wellness concept for themselves and their clients.

Reiki, acupuncture, nutritional counselling, therapy baths, chiropractic, yoga, exercise classes, breath and movement instruction, aromatherapy, reflexology, cooking classes...oh, yeah, and manicures, pedicures, and haircuts, too. Today’s salon service menu reflects society’s growing belief that health and beauty have more to do with each other than just sharing the same aisle in drug and grocery stores.

Indeed, as holistic and alternative medicine continues to gain acceptance and Americans increasingly understand that their health reflects their diet, exercise habits, and stress levels, salons and day spas are capitalizing on the trends by embracing the wellness concept—the belief that good health stems from social, occupational, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being.

Salon interpretations of the abstract concept range from simple—introducing a holistic, “natural” attitude into a traditional salon’s services and products —to more comprehensive — like day spas that augment their beautifying services with ones like those mentioned above that are intended to impact a person’s health and well-being.

Linda Smith Cohen, wellness consultant and co-founder of the Life Enrichment Network in Bryn Mawr, Pa., views this marriage of salon and wellness services as a natural evolution of attitudes toward health and beauty.

“It is difficult to be beautiful outside if you’re not beautiful inside,” Cohen says. “You can get your hair and nails done and have a pedicure, but when you’re feeling well and complete because you’ve eaten right and exercised and been introspective of your life...there’s a look these people have that makes them very beautiful.”

Increasingly, the beauty industry and practitioners of both traditional and alternative medicine are coming together in recognition of this bond, as witnessed by die increasing number of podiatrists who have nail technicians on-premise, plastic surgeons who have on-staff cosmetologists, and wellness centers that offer massages and body treatments. Likewise, many salons and day spas are incorporating nutrition counseling, acupuncture, yoga, and other health treatments into their salon menu. According to wellness proponents like Cohen, the trend will continue to grow, driven as much by consumers as by industry members themselves.

In Beauty and in Health

The wellness philosophy is very simple,” explains Dr. Anthony J. Bazzan, board-certified in both internal medicine and geriatrics and founder of The Wellness Sciences Institute in Philadelphia. “We’re moving from disease-oriented medicine to wellness-oriented medicine. If you go to a traditional doctor’s office because of high blood pressure, they will treat you for high blood pressure. That’s disease-oriented medicine.

“In my world, which is called functional or integrated medicine, the approach is based on biochemical individuality. That is, no one has the same genes or reactions to something as another person, so we say that coming here with high blood pressure means you and your physiology are out of tune, and you need to readjust to each other through proper nutrition and stop doing things that you shouldn’t be doing. This is very different from just giving you a pill. We’re trying to put together a treatment for the patient, rather than just putting the patient in treatment.

“In 21st century medicine, we understand the body as [an integrated system of J organs that talk to each other,” Dr. Bazzan continues. “Patients don’t need to be sent to this or that specialist. We now know the body is an internet, and everything communicates with everything else. What keeps your brain functioning also goes through your liver, for example. If you support that web — with proper nutrition, exercise, mental clarity, and spirituality — instead of challenging it, you achieve wellness.”

The Wellness Sciences Institute “recognizes that human physiology is a very complex holographic and dynamic system that changes continuously with the interaction between genetics and environment.” Each person’s environment—including diet, workplace, geographic area, and mental and philosophical make-up — must be taken into account in order to properly develop a plan to improve, restore, and maintain health.

And how does this approach to health fit into salons and spas? For The Wellness Sciences Institute, at least, it fits as a 4,500-square-foot facility within Wayne, Pa.-based Toppers Spa’s newest location, slated to open in mid-January. “I believe Toppers represents the natural evolution of the need for inner and outer beauty together,” Dr. Bazzan says. “You can treat the outside, but it won’t work if you’re sick inside, and vice versa. The overall message Toppers gives customers is that health care doesn’t have to be scary.”

Holistic Beauty

Driven by both their customers’ growing interest in wellness as well as their own desire to differentiate their businesses, many salon owners are exploring ways to incorporate wellness services into their business. “The whole wellness subject keeps coming up with people wanting to design new salons or remodel their current location,” says Leslie McGwire of Nailco’s Salon & Spa Design Studio (Farmington Hills, Mich.).

By the same token, McGwire and others point out that very few salons can afford the cost or the space to incorporate a full wellness center. However, Cohen notes that there are many things salons can do to embrace the wellness concept and help educate their clients without necessarily adding wellness services to their salon menu.

“There are many gifted practitioners—nutritionists, personal trainers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc.—who would love more opportunities to speak to people. For salons wanting to get into wellness on a small scale, they could invite practitioners to hold a talk or seminar in their salon, and they could make it a community event,” she says. Salon owners could host these types of seminars weekly or monthly, and promote them to their clientele as well as to the community through free listings in community calendars.

“And you can encourage your service providers to become more educated on these topics and to discuss them with their clients. Awareness of wellness is the first step, and salons could do a lot for their clients by helping them access some of the many articles on the topic,” says Cohen. For example, salons could photocopy articles on wellness topics and create a binder for the salon waiting area, or they could play videos on wellness topics on the salon TV.

The first step, however, is deciding what wellness means to you, your staff, and your clientele, and what offerings and services will best meet the needs of everyone involved while at the same time complementing your existing salon atmosphere and service menu. Here, NAILS talks to four salons about what wellness means to them and how they’ve applied that philosophy in the salon setting.

Clean, Calming, and Environmentally Conscious

As part of its mission statement, Salon 206 in LaPlace, La., tells clients, “Our staff is dedicated to you, our clients, and to helping you make the choice of inner and outer wellness and beauty as a lifestyle choice ...” An Aveda Concept Salon, Salon 206 has incorporated many of Aveda’s philosophies (as well as its product lines) into its services and surroundings with soothing music, videos on environmental issues, and aromatherapy.

It’s in this setting that nail technician Kathy Sutton feels most comfortable. Sutton defines wellness as “looking to the future and the world as a whole and thinking about what we’re making for our children’s futures,” she says. “We believe the future is taken for granted; people are not taking care of themselves and our world.” To her and the rest of the staff, remedying this means using as many all-natural products as possible.

“Of course, when it comes to artificial nails, there’s only so far you can go,” she says, which is why she encourages clients who have both the interest m and the foundation of healthy nails to consider natural nail manicures instead of artificial nails. “About 40% of my clients are natural nail clients, and that number is increasing,” Sutton observes. “I’ve always promoted to people that if they have good natural nails they should cultivate them.

“Sometimes I feel like we as people want things right now instead of being willing to take the time to get things right. To me, wellness means taking better care of yourself, eating right, and using the right measures to care for your body. I’m very strong on educating clients, and when they leave the salon they have the knowledge to care for themselves and their nails in a natural way—to eat right, take vitamins, and lower their stress.”

By the same token, Sutton understands that not all clients want natural nails, so for them she focuses on using as many natural products as possible when it comes to things like cuticle softeners and hand lotions. “I have to be versatile and give people what they want,” she explains. “Regardless of the service, I do whatever I can to make my environment as safe and healthy as possible. I have extremely high standards for sanitation, cleanliness, and ventilation.”

“True Beauty Comes From Within”

At the Tucson, Ariz.-based Gadabout Spas, true beauty arrives “when you feel at peace with who you are, and with life.” According to the chain’s promotional literature, Gadabout provides clients an “environment of balance, relaxation, and well-being. Experience a sense of peace, and through it, the power of beauty. To help achieve this, we offer a holistic approach for your well-being.”

To spa director Jennifer Siegel, this holistic approach includes teaching clients new habits in caring for themselves and their bodies. “We teach how, through the use of body work and treatments and hygiene and personal care, to enhance your standard of living and wellness,” she explains. “The idea is making healthier choices and living to a better quality of life to prevent illness. We see a lot of people doing this through better diet and exercise, and we’ve moved from looking at spa services as being about luxury and pampering to being about wellness.

“Five years ago our focus was on skin care with some pampering,” Siegel explains. “Now we focus on treatments that show results and on training clients to take the service home through retail products and continue to see results. To me, that’s the difference between spa services and wellness services.

“As a spa, we’re offering clients an opportunity to heal from their exposure to an environment that isn’t always healthy,” she adds. “Massages and body treatments are about healthier, natural ways to deal with the world, and then we offer clients products like anti-oxidants to continue the healing.

“We are not a wellness center,” she concludes, “but we take our responsibility to promote wellness very seriously. We only put on our menu services that are effective and use products that contain healthy, natural ingredients.”

Health Is Beautiful

When Noel de Caprio was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, she followed the traditional courses of treatment, including chemotherapy. But she also took the opportunity to examine her lifestyle and how factors like stress and diet impacted her overall health. She quickly embraced wellness as part of her strategy to battle the cancer, and soon realized what tremendous potential it offered even to “healthy” people. When her day spa, the renowned Noelle Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Stamford, Conn., burned down several years later, de Caprio viewed it as an opportunity to incorporate wellness into the day spa. “We transformed our thinking, our knowledge, and our focus to something broader than pampering and beauty — to total wellness,” de Caprio explains in her brochure. “Healing is an essential dement of beauty?

At Noëlle Spa for Beauty and Wellness, de Caprio promises clients they will experience “nurturing, caring people [who] fuel the soul and heal the body, while teaching you a new way of life.”

For de Caprio, wellness represents, in part, a balance between a person and his or her environment. Hence, when designing the layout of the new day spa she used the ancient art of feng shui, the natural science of balance and harmony that guides color choices and furniture placement, among many other things. Additionally, she added Reiki services (a healing technique that balances the body’s energy and reduces stress), healing baths, nutritional counseling, and a psychotherapist as part of the day spa’s offerings. “We do a lot of educational seminars as well,” says Silvia Coppola, nail department manager. “We have an herbalist who does seminars on home remedies, what foods are good to eat in what season, and herbal knowledge. We had an acupuncturist who did seminars on quitting smoking and acupuncture in general.”

Even clients who choose not to avail themselves of those services enjoy the healthy snacks like dried apples and figs, sunflower seeds, and cleansing drinks like hot water with lemon. They also appreciate the 5-10 minute massage that’s part of every shampoo and nail service.

What does wellness mean in Noelle’s nail department? “If a client comes in and wants to grow her natural nails, a part of wellness is to get her to stop biting her nails. Others come in with very dry skin, and we work together to decide the treatments that will best moisturize the skin,” Coppola explains. “I also personally encourage more manicures because they’re more natural. We also have medical whirlpools, aromatherapy oils, and reflexology pedicures.” To Coppola, even the regular manicure client who hasn’t given a thought to wellness benefits from the soothing atmosphere, the hands wrapped in warm towels scented with aromatherapy oils, and the neck massage done while her polish dries.

Wellness and Beauty Become One

In January, Richard Keaveney, president and CEO of Toppers Spa Salons, will open his fifth spa and salon—Toppers Spa, Salon and Wellness center. “This is where die spa business is going,” he says. “I believe there will be more spa and wellness centers in the future than there are spas and salons. While I believe looking good makes you feel good, feeling good makes you look good. Wellness is all about inner health and beauty and will have the same environmental tones as the spa,” he says. “It’s a natural bond Salons have a high-energy environment with trendier music and more creative energy, while spas are quiet, more calming, and services are done behind closed doors. These are two different worlds and provide unique challenges in managing.”

According to Keaveney, Toppers’ new 20,000-square-foot facility will include a wellness center directed by Dr. Bazzan and staffed by physicians and therapists from a variety of disciplines, including a psychiatrist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and a nutritionist.

“We’re seeking to promote wellness, and I keep my definition very simple: the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual aspects,” he continues. “And we’re going to approach them primarily by educating and inviting people into the world of wellness through an active education program. As a spa, salon, and wellness center, we bring all three aspects together.”

The four-floor facility will have one floor devoted to the wellness center as well as a conference area dedicated to daily educational programs on issues such as women’s health, safe sex, stress management, nutrition, and energy. The location also will include a men’s- only spa with a barbershop, a women’s-only spa and salon, and—at the apex of the building — The Oasis Cafe and a wet therapies suite that includes five cabanas that will open to the sky.

In the nail department, Keaveney says they’re incorporating the nail concept with natural products and a selection of manicures and pedicures that promote health and relaxation. For example, with reflexology and spa pedicures, he says, “Your toenails still get clipped and your feet dipped, but we’ve added more time to the massage to promote better circulation. The ladies’ pedicure room also will have a big picture window overlooking our Florentine garden to promote relaxation and encourage meditation.”

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