Expert Advice

Beyond the Standard Touch-Up

Victoria Wurdinger | July 10, 2011 | 6:18 PM

A number of forces are combining to make make-up an important salon addition. Celebrities, with their personal stylists, have made image-seeking a common quest. What’s natural is forever moving up the nation’s shopping list, and as a result, mineral cosmetics are causing more buzz than celebrities-gone-wild.

Then come demographic shifts. The abundance of baby boomers is causing marketers to try harder to meet their needs, and make-up that acts as a skin treatment is satisfying these choosy buyers nicely.

Consumers of all ages are demanding customization and personalization in just about everything—and both are inherent in the selection and application of color cosmetics.

Did we mention compact sizes, less-wasteful packaging and double-duty products? They all appeal to the modern mindsets.

When Trends Converge

Multi-tasking, skin-care functioning and eco-embracing, today’s cosmetics seem to tap just about everything on a woman’s wish list.

Lip plumpers, eye primers, “faux tox,” spot concealers, sun protectors, wrinkle-concealing foundations and lash builders hold promise at every turn. Science is delivering—hope in a bottle is now treatment in a purse-sized, simplified applicator.

Seasonal colors always cause excitement, but lately they’re accompanied by smarter merchandising, such as kits custom-keyed to eye color, lipsticks and glossers in a single wand, and bronzers that act as foundation, shadow and blush. Everywhere you turn, there’s some sort of cosmetic combination that’s just so nifty, a girl’s gotta have it.

As for shade-specific trends, watch for matte foundations to move to the forefront, lips to shift from neutral to reds and smoky eyes to re-emerge as plums, chocolates, burgundies, orchids while earth tones join summer’s ever-present peaches.

With so many innovations driving the category, it’s no surprise that salons owners are finding great new ways to retail cosmetics—moving well beyond the post-service touch-up.

Making Up Options

At Juliana’s Day Spa and Salon in Jonesboro, Arkansas, space didn’t allow a separate cosmetics counter, so owner Julie Johnson found the next best thing: An independent make-up artist who travels.

“You need a make-up artist in the salon; the service is an important part of beauty,” says Johnson. “Our artist is not a department store salesperson; she has a four-year art degree.”

When Johnson’s artist comes in for one of the spa’s popular “Ultimate Pampering Packages,” she brings everything with her in a professional case. She uses a mineral line of cosmetics with natural UV protection, and clients order it from her directly.

Johnson isn’t threatened by the artist’s independence nor worried about lack of control: She says the arrangement gives her the ability to offer an essential service and include it in her packages. She doesn’t have to give up counter space or invest in a huge inventory, but she does get a percentage of her highly motivated artist’s retail sales in return for client access.

“I think people who work for themselves tend to focus more on quality,” says Johnson.

Instead of the standard touch-up or the full make-up application—which fills some clients with trepidation that they’ll be “sold” 30 products at the end—successful salons are using parties and events to make communal cosmetic-play fun.

“Mid-day on Saturday is the best time for our ‘Chosen Woman’ make-up events,” says Marie Harrison, owner of Salon St. Louis “From 1 to 3 p.m., we show off trends and sign up clients for more than a touch-up; it’s a personalized session that addresses a woman’s features, skin-and-eye coloring, lifestyle and fashion preferences.”

Harrison, who has tired of evening events, says though you might think Saturdays are too busy already, they allow for so much more excitement. Her most successful way to promote cosmetic events is through e-mail, she says, and women between 20 and 50 are the most likely to show up.

“I not only have a cosmetics display in the reception area, I also have an application area among the cutting stations so hair clients can see make-up being done,” she adds. “Next, I plan to add self-application stations in the reception area.”

Harrison believes it’s best to have a professional esthetician who is interested in make-up do the consultations; he or she can address every issue from sun protection to brow waxing.

That’s the advantage at Salon Vogue in London, Kentucky, where esthetician and make-up artist Danna Kerschen says she can get things started by offering a complimentary skin analysis. Skin care talk and services allow her to move naturally into discussing cosmetics.

“With mineral make-up, clients can get a make-up application after a facial or microdermabrasion,” she says, noting that in times past, post-facial make-up was a no-no.

“Because I’m an esthetician, I can tell clients how mineral cosmetics treat the skin. They’re great to use after brow waxing, and the pure minerals have no expiration date, so I can tell clients they don’t have to worry about throwing out old cosmetics.”

Different Strokes

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Joelle Ray says despite the hype, she chose a non-mineral cosmetics line. One reason: She had to keep things economical and choose a line that would be appropriate for both her upscale Samuel Cole salon and its younger sister salon, Moxie, which offers high-priced looks “at a price.”

After doing due-diligence by checking out major department stores that “do it right,” she polled her clients and developed the approaches to marketing make-up that suited each salon.

“The one thing my upscale clients said they didn’t like about department store cosmetic counters was the way you are on display to passersby,” says Ray.

“As a result, we positioned our stand-alone stations just off the reception area.”

At Samuel Cole, a $65 application is popular with women who need to look fabulous at black-tie and fundraising events. Everything about the service and the set-up is high glam.

At Moxie, the focus is on fun, and the display is more likely to include items like metallic eyeliner. Teens who get the $45 application lessons are usually paying to learn how to get a certain look, be it Christina Aguilera’s or some other celebrity’s. That means the computer screen has to be near the cosmetics counter, so the make-up artist can check out the music video that her client is referencing online.

“We use the internet a lot at Moxie,” notes Ray. “We never do at Samuel Cole.”

Where the two come together is in the artists’ education. Cross-training allows the make-up artists to be well-rounded enough to move from one salon to the other. Also, they all get their make-up done at the mall regularly, so they can stay up on the competition.

“Having a make-up presence in a hair salon is important because it’s part of people wanting ‘a look,’ however they define it,” says Ray.

“Once, clients saw cut and color as being separate; now they don’t. The same thing is happening with make-up because it’s what creates the signature look women want, “she says. “It helps the clients to see us as ‘stylists’ in the larger sense of the word—the way it’s used to describe celebrity image-makers.”

With more women becoming aware of the role stylists play in celebrity image-making, the more important it will be that salons employ image-makers of their own. Making the cosmetic connection is one of the simplest ways to do it.  


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