When natural and organic personal care companies began adding the word spa to their packaging, some of those who specialize in the spa lifestyle were skeptical. Would people really want to buy a spa-quality facial serum or body butter in the same place where they get their eggs and toilet paper? After all, going to a spa is much more than simply having your face scrubbed and your toenails painted. Spa patrons buy an experience, and usually at a hefty markup.
But these savvy manufacturers had done their research. They saw an opportunity to cater to two sets of shoppers: spa people searching for more natural treatments, and naturals people yearning for more spa treatments. They realized that the answer for both types could be a do-it-yourself organic home spa treatment.
"The trend is definitely going more green in personal care, but that hasn't really happened in the spas. Most people don't have the ability to go into a spa without receiving a treatment that's chemically derived," says Mia DiFrancesco-Licata, organic brand manager for Kiss My Face. The Gardiner, N.Y.-based personal care company debuted its Obsessively Organic spa foot and hand care line last winter.
At the same time, "A lot of things that used to be considered luxury items have become more everyday items. A lot of health food store shoppers are looking for a sense of luxury, of taking care of themselves, but not everyone can afford the time and expense of spending two to three hours at a spa," says Gian Khalsa, owner of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Sunshine Spa, which produces a line of natural spa products.
We asked a pair of aestheticians—Ashley Scroggins of Boulder, Colo.-based natural pharmacy Pharmaca and Johannah Goldstein of Juice Beauty personal care company in San Rafael, Calif. —about how best to do an in-home facial. Both recommended a cleansing, exfoliation and moisturizing ritual.
Begin with a basin of warm water spiked with a few drops of essential oil; Scroggins likes lavender to soothe, or pine or lemon to invigorate. Soak a few kitchen-size towels in the basin and apply them as compresses, three to five times, 10 to 15 seconds a time. "This relaxes the skin and opens the pores," Scroggins says. It also can be less harsh to the skin's capillaries than a traditional spa facial steam.
The next step is to cleanse. Pick a product that suits your skin type and wash twice, Goldstein says. "The first time removes the surface makeup, dirt and debris, and the second time cleans the skin." Scroggins likes to follow this with a mask. "Look for one that's clay-based, which pulls out impurities," she says. Make sure to remove the mask with the damp towels before it's completely dry, or it could soak too much moisture out of the skin.
For exfoliation, Scroggins prefers a scrub, while Goldstein opts for a peel. When choosing scrubs, "avoid anything with nut shells because they can scratch the face," Scroggins says. Instead, look for cornmeal, silica or enzyme-based scrubs, which gently remove dead skin cells. "A peel gets blood flowing to the skin, which is really healthy," Goldstein says. "The blood brings nutrients to the skin, and when it recedes, it draws away toxins."
The final step is moisturizing. Goldstein likes to start with an antioxidant serum, which, because it's not as thick as a moisturizer, penetrates the skin more effectively, delivering more of its anti-aging ingredients. However, she says, it's not a very effective moisturizer except for people with very oily skin. There are a variety of moisturizers your customers can use on top of a serum, or Scroggins says oils are a good choice. "People are scared to use oils because they think it will make their skin greasy or shiny, but if you spread three to four drops of oil onto your hands and pat the oil into your skin, it absorbs completely."
Unless you're blessed with the flexibility of a Cirque du Soleil performer, a massage is one spa experience you can't recreate by yourself at home. But your customers can pamper their bodies in other ways with a variety of natural and organic washes, oils and lotions.
The first step is exfoliation. Scroggins says you can use a body scrub, loofah or a body brush. "No matter what you use, go towards the heart to stimulate circulation and healthy blood flow."
The most common natural and organic scrubs are salt or sugar based. Khalsa of Sunshine Spa, which makes both types of scrubs, says sugar is less drying than salt and doesn't sting newly shaved legs. Brown sugar can also be organic, whereas salt can't be under National Organic Program rules. In addition, "brown sugar creates a fatty acid base that locks moisture into the skin," Khalsa says. Salt has the advantage of pulling impurities out of the skin. Look for salt scrubs mixed with essential oils to counteract the mineral's drying properties.
Next, moisturize the entire body. Oil adds the most moisture, followed by body butter and lotion. Sunshine Spa makes a line of body oils using an Ayurvedic blend of almond, sunflower, safflower, avocado, grapeseed and apricot oils. If you want a less greasy feel, opt for body butter, which has less water than lotion and therefore isn't absorbed as quickly, allowing more moisture to be trapped against the skin. "Body butter is good for really dry spots. It allows you to get your skin back to where you want it, and then you can use a lotion, which doesn't feel as oily as body butter," Scroggins says.
The exfoliating/moisturizing process is key for home waxing, says Janet Chao, marketer for Vancouver, B.C.-based Parissa, which makes natural body waxes. "Exfoliating takes the dead skin cells off and helps the hair poke out, which reduces ingrown hairs," she says. But make sure to wait a day after exfoliating before waxing, or you may end up with red, irritated skin.
For those who cringe at the thought of in-home waxing, consider this: Chao says a box of eyebrow mini-wax strips costs as little as $9. That will buy four to five waxes, compared to a minimum of $15 for one eyebrow wax at a spa. Also, while many conventional waxes contain synthetic ingredients, Parissa's use only gum resin, beeswax, aloe vera and oils such as canola and azulene (naturally derived from chamomile). Chao recommends doing a test patch on your arm or leg before waxing sensitive areas like the face, and following directions. "We include instruc?tions and color photos showing step-by-step techniques, plus we have a hotline for waxing emergencies," she says. "Waxing always sounds worse than it actually is, but you will be completely turned off waxing if you do it wrong."
Hands and feet
Although the hands and feet are often overlooked parts of the body, they're the focus of several new natural spa products.
The Kiss My Face line includes two types of hand creams and a hand lightener, which fades age and sunspots with alpha arbutin, a brightening agent derived from the bearberry plant. DiFrancesco-Licata says alpha arbutin blocks the formation of melanin and helps limit ultraviolet ray exposure. It's considered less toxic than hydroquinone, which is used as a bleach in many conventional hand lighteners. Hydroquinone, which also doubles as a photo developer, has been linked to cancer and is banned in some European countries.
Kiss My Face's foot scrub contains walnut shells, and Nature's Formulary's foot scrub has salt, both considered no-nos for the face. But on the feet, "you need pretty heavy-duty stuff," DiFrancesco-Licata says.
P K Dave, president of Clifton Park, N.Y.-based Nature's Formulary, says adding dosha-based essential oils such as geranium, camphor, peppermint, rose and rosemary to salt and heavier oils like sesame seed, coconut and jojoba creates a scrub that exfoliates and moisturizes in an Ayurvedic way. "When your pitta is out of balance, you have inflammation and dryness in the body. The oils we use are all cooling oils."
Scroggins says to look for foot creams that contain shea butter, which can penetrate the foot's thick skin. "One hundred percent shea butter works really well for cracked heels and cuticles," she says. For the hands, "neem oil is also really good on cuticles—we see a dramatic difference for people who use it on dry and cracked cuticles."
Vicky Uhland is a Lafayette, Colo.-based freelance writer and editor.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 90, 92, 96