Let There Be Light

Lighting can set a mood. It can create warmth where there is none, define certain areas in open spaces without the need for walls and brighten an area that misses out on natural light. Knowing how to achieve certain effects can be confusing, however, given the myriad of options available today. How does one decide what types of light to purchase, how many and where they should be positioned?

One of the major factors within the beauty industry today is achieving the best illumination possible in the facial treatment zones, which often need to be different from the lighting effects in the retail and reception areas. Lighting can be as complicated and as diverse as the imagination.

Lighting is one of the most effective forms of controlling an environment or creating a mood, atmosphere or experience. A dull and uninteresting room or space can take on a completely different feel with the correct lighting. Lighting comes in either natural or artificial varieties, and is required for both functional and aesthetic purposes.

Color rendition and lux level (the color and brightness levels) are two of the main considerations that come into play when choosing lighting. Color renditions run on a scale from one to five, with one being softer light or low-voltage downlights, and five being fluorescent lights or tri-phosphor lights, which are slightly similar to a metal halide that is very bright and takes some time to come on.

The following issues are worth considering when selecting lights for particular areas.

Reception and product display area

Strong lighting should be used here. This could be combined with less intensive lighting, as most spas’ reception areas are located near the front of the facility, where natural light from the street can be utilized during the day and stronger lights can be turned on at night.

Be very careful which lights are used in display areas. You do not want a light that washes out the color and marketing imagery of your products and merchandising. Therefore, something similar to a mixture of downlights—say, 30–70% metal halide or similar—could be used. Ensure that the light source is not too close to product displays, thus causing items to heat up. Similarly, if you intend on backlighting a shelf, make sure that there is suitable ventilation for the heat to escape.

Main corridors and nonessential areas

Softer lighting can be used here. This type of lighting also is ideal for creating different effects, such as washing the main walls as a point of interest by placing it on the side of the corridor rather than down the middle. Also make sure that these lights can be placed on dimmer switches so that you can change the mood of the space. This also would help to accentuate any bright colors used in the spa. For example, a blue wall where the light hits it will appear to be a slightly lighter shade of blue. In shadow it might look almost navy or black.

Facial and treatment areas

These obviously are two of a spa’s most important areas in which to use the correct lighting. It should achieve the following:

  • The right color of light is most important so that the client does not choose a service, such as a formal makeup, which, once outside on the street, looks completely different from what it did while in the spa.
  • The lighting should not be too hot. You do not want a light that makes therapists feel as though they have been under a tanning lamp all day.
  • Lights must be directional, so that you end up illuminating the client’s face—not the back of their head or, even worse, the floor.
  • Finally, the lights need to be banked onto groups of switches so that when the spa is only half-full, you can turn off some of them, which saves on operating costs.

A mixture of downlights and metal halides is the most effective; ideally, two downlights with one metal halide. They sit at both ends of the color rendition scale, and although one is very bright light, the other is very adjustable, so you are able to achieve illumination that makes for a noninvasive environment while still providing therapists with an excellent light source to make their work easier.

Another type of lighting that could be utilized is uplighting. This allows for a main light source to be shone up onto the ceiling from either a pelmet or bulkhead. Here, the light shines up and then reflects back down. The advantage is that it normally can be hidden, but be aware that this is best achieved by a lighting engineer or specialist who can help you to determine how bright you will require it to be, how many lights should be used and how the placement should work in conjunction with the ceiling height.

Back-of-house areas

These areas include storerooms, preparation areas, offices, laundry rooms and staff lounges. Here, long-lasting, highly functional lights should be used—fluorescent lights are recommended. These are good, but should not necessarily be in full view of clients, as they will divert their attention from the overall ambiance you have achieved with the rest of the lighting in the spa.

Also ensure that these lights can be switched off when the rooms are not in use. This not only will save on power, but also will prolong the life span of the lamps and fittings.

Feature lights

These types of lights play one main role—aesthetics. They are designed to create a feature or experience, and can be used to tie an overall concept together. Feature lights can be wall lights, floor uplights, wall washers and many other options. Pendant lights—either single or grouped—or even chandeliers can be very interesting. Fiber-optic lights can be used in tight spaces, as they can stretch into and fit where other lights often cannot. Quite often, feature lights can be left on, even after the spa closes at night, to capture the attention of passersby. They are ideal for use with timers so that if you leave them on as a feature, they will turn off when the streets become quiet.

Light variations available include:

  • Downlights; both low voltage and 240V
  • General low voltage and metal halide
  • Spot and floodlights
  • Pendants and wall lights
  • Track
  • Waterproof and exterior
  • Fluorescent, normal globes and compact fluorescent

Downlights. Downlights, or low-voltage lights, probably are the most well-known and commonly used variety. They come in a range of watts (brightness/strength)—from 20–50 watts or greater. This type of light is normally a halogen lamp that can be dimmed and even comes in 240 volts—eliminating the need for the transformers that are required with low-voltage options. These lights are appropriate for general spaces, reception and waiting areas, corridors, treatment rooms, some wet areas, and changing rooms.

IP ratings. This is a rating that clarifies how well a light will stand up to water. Basically, the higher the rating, the more waterproof the fitting. Generally, a light fitting with an IP of 55 or greater is suitable for common areas where moisture will be present. IP 65 is perfect for areas where water might be washed physically over the fitting, such as the floor of a wet room where a lot of mopping might occur, as these lights have a complete rubber gasket seal that prevents moisture from entering the fitting.

Metal halide. These lights produce an extremely bright illumination, and often can take some time to come on and reach their full brightness. The fitting is commonly larger in size than that of a normal downlight—140 mm x 230 mm x 160 mm. They can be dimmed; however, this will be reflected in the cost. This type of light is perfect for main display areas, as well as makeup, manicure and pedicure, and hair areas, as it produces illumination that seems as bright as day.

Fluorescent and compact fluorescent. These lights require minimal energy to run the fitting and, therefore, are cheaper to use. They also last for an extremely long period of time, thus providing yet another cost savings. The problem with these lights is that they are unattractive and can cause some people to feel ill because they vibrate, or shimmer, as they do not have a filament—only gas. One of their greatest advantages is that, with the right quantity and when correctly positioned, no “shadowing” should occur. This makes them wonderful for storerooms, preparation areas, offices and administration rooms.

Controlling systems. Even though light switches continue to be used, more computerized, or smart systems, are being implemented in most facilities. Here, the lighting even can be integrated into the sound system. Rather than having standard switches and dimmer controls, a series of grouped switches can operate a range of room functions, thereby allowing for the creation of various moods. You simply can hit one button and all the lights will dim to a preset level. Similarly, you can hit one switch to turn on four or five groups of lights. The options for “all off” or “all on” modes also are available, so that when you leave at night, one switch turns the entire spa off, eliminating the possibility of leaving lights on after hours. These systems are available from most commercial electrical suppliers and feature a variety of additional options, such as security cameras, so that you can monitor the spa from home.

Final note

When selecting a light or fitting, the most important thing to look for is quality. Make sure that all parts—including the lamp, transformer and control gear—comply with U.S. standards and are made from quality materials. Some fittings can discolor and burn out. Talk with your spa architect or a lighting supplier about these issues.

Editor’s note: This article originally was published in the July/August 2006 issue of Professional Beauty Magazine and was reprinted with permission.

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