Industry News

Your FAQs answered!

September 28, 2012 | 6:44 AM

Considering opening your own spa or skin care center? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, from the minimum equipment and space for a room to choosing a product line. Have a question that isn’t addressed here? Go to and click on Message Board to post your topic!

Q.What is the minimum equipment/space I need for the skin care room?
A. The average treatment room should never be smaller than 10’ by 10,’” says Bonnie Canavino, of Spa Specifics and Red Cherry Labs in Downers Grove, Illinois, because a massage therapist needs room to move and an esthetician needs room for equipment. What type of equipment? “You should provide a basic facial steamer, high frequency machine, hot towel cabi, UV sanitizer, wax system, five-diopter lamp, treatment bed, ergonomic technician chair and possibly hot mitts and a warming blanket for under the body,” explains Canavino. You might also opt to bring in a galvanic unit, LED lighting, and microdermabrasion in the future.

Q. How do I choose a product line?
A. Know your market. You should already know your client demographics, including their age, income, as well as the demographics of your community as a whole. Your climate and geographical region may also be a factor. When you have this information, take a look at your culture, says Canavino. If you plan to be “green,” look for organic lines. If your spa is urban and trendy, find a line with cutting edge technology. And if your spa is suburban or conservative, a cost-effective line is the way to go. Christi Cano, a spa development consultant with Creative Spa Concepts based out of Kauai, Hawaii, advises finding out about training, support and minimum order amounts from the manufacturer, as well as if the line is already carried in nearby spas. But don’t bother buying a warehouse full of products or carrying several lines. “Just choose one and commit to it wholeheartedly,” says Cano.

Q. Which skin care services should I offer?
A. Don’t think you can play it safe by offering just the basics. You also need to offer acne, rosacea and anti-aging treatments at minimum, says Canavino, or you won’t be able to compete. Every employee should be trained in how to do each service the same way. Above all, be flexible. If no one is booking microdermabrasion, transform that room into a massage area, says Cano.

Q.What type of compensation should I offer?
A. Commission should be no higher than 45 percent,” declares Canavino. “Someone with no experience and no clientele should be at fixed dollar amount per hour, and when their services exceed that dollar amount, they can go to 35 percent. As they grow, take them up to 45 percent, based on retention, retail sales and existing services. “When you pay per hour, have a list of tasks for them to perform, like taking care of the relaxation area, working the front desk, cleaning retail shelves, and doing laundry. You want them to build their career and their expertise in customer service and all areas of the spa.”

Q. What kind of questions do I ask potential spa staff?
A. A thorough interviewing process is a must for hiring any type of staff. Consultants advise communicating the culture of the spa to the candidate on the first interview, and finding out about his or her own goals, education and experience. Clearly define the responsibilities and expectations of the position he or she is applying for, as well as how the spa will support them through advanced education or otherwise. For a second interview, says Canavino, ask potential managers how they would handle specific situations and confrontations. Have a potential esthetician perform a service on a staff member, and observe how she communicates with the client. What questions does she ask in the consultation? How does she guide the client through the process? How does she close the sale? How does she ensure that the client returns? Let the candidates know they will be doing this beforehand, so they have time to prepare.

If the candidate makes it to the third and final interview, discuss the employee manual and how they feel about policies and procedures. Don’t rush it, says Canavino. The more you talk to a person, the better understanding you’ll have of whether she’ll fit in your culture. A recent grad may be an easy fit, but you’ll have to provide a broad education program when she joins your staff. Conversely, experienced technicians will need less training, but it’s imperative they work within your culture, not that of their previous employer.

Q. What kind of retail program should I have for skin care?
A. The standard is 10-percent commission on retail sales, says Canavino, or you can do a sliding scale if you want to go higher. To get clients hooked, factor the price of a skin care starter kit into a treatment so clients have something to take home. Educate the esthetician on ways to recommend products so she doesn’t feel like she’s selling, and structure promotions so there is always something new to catch the eye. “Another key is compensating the front desk for retail sales, although the commission might not be as high. Receptionists sell to walk-ins and must close the sale if the esthetician is busy or not willing to sell.”

Q.How often do skin care professionals need continuing education?
A. Education should be ongoing, as things change so rapidly in skin care. The skin care line you carry should have an education program, says Canavino, and there are schools that offer CEU credits, as well as classes at various shows and events. “Get copies of every CEU credit your staff gets and keep it in their files so you know they are all up to date.” Put a certain percentage of their retail or service dollars toward an education account for each employee, or match their education spending dollar for dollar.

Adapted from “The Business of Skin Care,” originally published in Salon Today, September 2007.

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