The Black Traveler's Influence on Beauty


To start off day two at Face & Body Southeast, we put together a panel keynote on the topic “Black Traveler’s Influence on Beauty.” This keynote set to highlight what we are seeing in the industry when looking at spa menus, websites and marketing. Ask yourself what you’re seeing, and if you’re being inclusive for all skin tones. It is estimated that 17% of African Americans travel internationally at least once a year and locally six times a year. With this Rock star panel including Sherrie Tennessee, director Spa SOS, Pamela Springer, founder Global Skin Solutions and Sheretha Bell, VP marketing Atlanta Convention and and Visitors Bureau, we dove further into this topic.

Who is the Black Traveler?

To start the panel, we began by asking who is the black traveler. Tennessee took on this question by explaining, “It was a misconception for a very long time that black people didn’t travel, and then when they did it was a misconception that they didn’t spend money. It’s really important to understand that black people are traveling and it’s important that we, as spa professionals, are looking to experience different cultures and accommodating that. Take in all of this when looking at your business to attract these travelers when they come in.”

What are travelers looking for when they come to Atlanta?

Coming back to Atlanta more specifically, Bell broke down what travelers in Atlanta are really looking for by saying “when it comes to Atlanta, people are coming for a cultural experience, for dining, to visit friends and family and to go shopping. There are similarities and difference when you look at travelers in general; for example, all people are looking for cultural experiences. It does change a bit when you look specifically at the African American traveler though.”

What treatments and wellness services are black travelers looking for in the spa?

Now that we understand who the black traveler is and what they are looking for when visiting, we wanted to hone the panel in on what these travelers are looking for when it comes to the spa. Tennessee explained how “they are really looking for what is catered toward them whether its products or experience, and they look for someone who understand their skin. African American travelers are looking for spa owners that are in their own community as well to support them. They are looking for people who look like them because of a comfort zone aspect of knowing they understand your skin better first hand as well as your experiences.

Springer continued from there furthering the discussion on how important education truly is beyond just the skin color, but the culture of your client as well. She stated “It’s really important to have education for all skin types. It’s important for the client as well as the spa professional to have and advance this education.” Springer continued by dropping some hard facts on how from the 1980s to now, skin of color is dominating the industry. African Americans spend nine times more than the general market on skin care and makeup. Pamela further explained how “it’s critical to educate yourself on all cultures, because as Americans sometimes we have issues because we believe its our way or the highway, and this includes European cultures and Asian cultures to understand what their beliefs are and what they are comfortable with.”

Springer finished this question by stating “Roughly 80% of the world are skin of color—if you tan you are skin of color. I had a class where I asked them multiple questions that would relate to ethnic skin and had them raise their hands if that applied to them. I did this so they could understand what ethnic skin was, because for a long time there was a misconception that ethnic skin was black. “If we understand culture we can become more connected to our clients.”

“It’s all about education. You need to know about your skin and what is best for your skin.” – Pamela Springer.

Where are properties missing the mark when it comes to marketing materials?

It does seem like when we look at marketing materials for high end spas we see a lot of Caucasian women in infinity pools. So, we wanted to see where we are missing the mark as an industry in our marketing materials. Bell started off by explaining how “That is actually an occurrence across all industries to be completely honest. People want to be a part of the tribe, and everyone wants to feel welcome and a part of the group. If your message doesn’t seem right or even your tone seems off, you can really be ostracizing a group of people.” Bell continued to explain that when you look across the board, you have to make sure you do your messaging authentically, and you can’t just do it for the money. “Make sure you listen to what you’re hearing, do the surveys and make sure your marketing materials are speaking to your audience,” Bell finished.

Tennessee jumped in next explaining how “when African American goes to the spa shows, they are not represented. African Americans are not represented when it comes to four and five star locations. Even when it comes to social media, some brands will put a dog up in a fluffy robe before they show the representation of a darker skin tone.” Tennessee explained, diving in deeper to how that does not appeal to her, especially because she is not a dog owner. She wants to see what products or treatments can do on her skin tone, and she cannot experience that from those kinds of social media posts. Tennessee continued by saying “I’m very excited about opening up this conversation and having this platform right now, so I do commend Skin Inc. on that.”

Pamela finished this by agreeing with everything that had been said. She then brought it a step further by saying “color is very important in your marketing. Understand who your client is, and understand what you want to bring to them. Speak to them.” She continued to say it is great to represent and reach out to darker skin tones and all skin tones, but what is really important is educating yourself to understand your client as well as their skin. Springer continued by saying how important it is to make sure your marketing speaks to them.

How can we craft a better service menu to make it more inclusive for darker skin tones?

It’s a fair question to ask whether our menus are moving to all customizeable treatment. However, we couldn’t help but ask what spas can do to be more inclusive for deeper skin tones. Tennessee kicked this off by explaining how sometimes its not about the latest technology, but really bringing it back to the basics and focusing on the education we provide our clients. “If you have an educated client they will come back to you. I would look at a different model when it comes to wellness and asking more of what is this treatment and what can it do for you.

“I believe we do spas wrong. We bring them in for services and then try and educate on the table.” - Sherrie Tennessee

Springer took a slightly different approach, but staying on the education tract Springer explained how “you don’t give the client the chance to tell you what they want, but you educate your client on what their skin needs. You will find clients that want a specific What is your expertise? Pick an area, and become an expert in it to have people come to you for that. Don’t try and be everything.”

What advice you would give to a spa owner of esthetician that wants to make their spa more inclusive?

Bell: “I would say listen to your customers and be upfront, be honest, be trustworthy and be authentic. When you’re really listening to your customer and know what their needs are, it’s that word of mouth, and they will keep coming back.”

Tennessee: “Really ask yourself why. Why is it that you want to bring in this demographic? Does it fit with what your mission is? Be able to have that conversation and share how you know black or brown skin, to show that you are about more than the money.

Springer: “Do your research. Ask yourself what tugs at your heart. What is your passion? Understand who you are before you try and understand someone else.”

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