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Selling the Traveler's Treatment

Christine Spehar July 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Traveling is one of life’s most rewarding experiences—new adventures await at every destination. Skin, however, doesn’t always seem to comply with the jovial mood a good trip can bring. It’s often finicky, reacting to a new climate in the most unexpected and downright inconvenient ways. As a skin care professional, it’s your job to help your clients’ skin look beautiful, no matter where their travels take them.

Marketing travelers’ skin care doesn’t have to be complicated—facials, wraps and peels for vacationers can be devised from options already on the spa menu. In the summer months, when vacationing increases, take advantage of your clients’ urge to explore by offering skin therapies to match their escapades. Once you learn how to address common complexion problems experienced on the road or in the air, you’ll be able to help any jet-setter—from mountain trekker to museum hopper—look great.

Airplane air

Anyone who has ever flown knows that airplane air is dehydrating and irritating to the epidermis, resulting in flaky, dull-looking skin. Kirsten Marcotte, a former flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and the owner of the Boulder, Colorado-based esthetic company Skinsations, suggests offering travelers a better skin care option than the bar soap they typically use when trying to pack light.

“The biggest problem with skin care for travelers is being diligent about using a good line of products. They commonly use the soap in the shower to wash their faces, because they’re tired or didn’t pack anything else,” says Marcotte. “The problem with using bar soap is that it has a pH balance of 9.5–10.5. However, it’s important to use a product that has a pH balance of less than the skin’s pH of 4.5–6.8.” In the spa, she recommends offering travel-size bottles or packs of skin care treatments that clients can purchase before their trips. This will increase sales revenue, as well as generate client trust and loyalty.

Because the air on planes is so dry, it also is important to use the right kind of moisturizer, especially one that does not contain humectants. “When used in the right environment, humectants work wonderfully. But they require moisture, and if there is none in the air, they take it from the skin. This is an obvious issue on airplanes because there is no moisture in the air,” says Victoria L. Rayner, the founder of the Center for Appearance & Esteem in San Francisco and the Institute for Career Advancement in Washington, D.C., which provide esthetic training and esthetician licensing preparation. If a client does not have oily skin, recommend that they use an occlusive product that will seal in moisture while on the plane or in a dry environment. “An oil-based product is best in this situation,” Rayner notes.

Harsh conditions

The wind, sun and dry air found at high altitudes are skin’s most feared enemies. Unfortunately, they are unavoidable components of almost any adventurous outdoor vacation. The key to combating dehydrated skin is moisture—inside and out. In addition to advising your client to drink plenty of water before, during and after a trip, suggest a heavier moisturizer. Lisa Sloat, the owner of Louisville, Colorado-based Face-to-Face Skin Care, recommends a “hydrating mask during the trip, if it’s possible.” Upon return, a “moisturizing facial, followed by a series of chemical peels several weeks later, will renew the skin’s appearance,” she adds.

Marcotte also advocates focusing on moisturizing treatments. “Before or after a trip to a dry climate, add a hydrating mask with paraffin on top for deep penetration at the end of the facial,” she says. This will help prepare the client’s skin for a harsh environment and make it less vulnerable to damage, in addition to repairing the harm that already was done.

Sun exposure

Although there’s nothing like relaxing in the sun to ease stress, the damaging solar effects cause wrinkles, sunspots and even melanoma. Remind clients that 80% of all sun damage is inflicted by age 18, while brown pigmentation and wrinkles don’t appear until after age 30. Before a beach vacation, advise your clients to drink water, wear sun block and “resist the urge to pick at those large flakes of peeling skin on their shoulders and face if they do get burned,” says Sloat. This will damage the skin further by preventing it from healing completely.

Be aware that the sun’s strength can be magnified by the surroundings. “Elevation increases the intensity of the sun’s rays by 4–8%. Also, if you’re spending a significant amount of time on concrete or in water, the reflection off these surfaces will increase sun damage as well,” reminds Rayner. Be sure to carry a variety of sunscreens in your retail area, including a water-resistant product and a noncomedogenic option for sensitive skin.

Finally, save any abrasive exfoliation for the client’s return. “I would not advise any radical treatment, such as chemical peels or microdermabrasion, immediately before traveling to a sunny climate. It would be contraindicative because you don’t want to expose fresh, new skin to the sun,” says Marcotte. After returning from the beach, Sloat recommends a “chemical peel for any signs of sun damage weeks later.”

Pollutants and toxins

Another risk to skin is exposure to pollutants and toxins—especially if your client is indulging in a big-city excursion. In these situations, products and treatments that contain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, will help rid the complexion of toxins and fight the onslaught of free radicals that dwell in pollution and chemicals. Advise clients to try to “stay away from the smoking areas of restaurants, and curb alcohol consumption by ordering a glass of water after each alcoholic drink,” says Sloat. When offering treatments to an urban traveler, be sure to highlight those that “feed the skin topically with vitamins and antioxidants,” says Marcotte, such as an anti-aging facial with vitamins B and C to combat photodamage and toxins. 

Keeping things fresh

Above all, remember that when travelers return home, their main priorities are relaxing and restoring a sense of normalcy and balance into their lives. “A facial suited for the client’s skin type and needs is an excellent way to revitalize after a trip,” says Sloat. “Offer a series of lunchtime peels at a discount for frequent travelers. This will help freshen the skin in between trips.”

Marcotte envisions a post-travel spa treatment that meets the skin’s every need. “I would provide a facial, including a good exfoliation with a lemon scrub, followed by a papaya pineapple enzyme peel to slough off dead skin cells. Then, after a nice, relaxing massage, I would apply a deep hydrating mask and a topical vitamin C moisturizer, which is a great way to nourish freshly exfoliated skin,” she says.

Travelers’ treatments can be incorporated quickly into your spa’s list of options without you having to change your entire menu. Get to know your clients, and find out their travel plans. Then make sure that you carry products that match their skin types and destinations. When they return, offer them a treatment to help their skin return to its normal equilibrium. Suddenly, the lazy summer months will become your busiest time of the year.