Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, and more than 3.5 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed in this country each year. In light of the alarming skin cancer rates, sunscreen sales are thriving (product sales approach approximately $1 billion annually, according to IBISWorld, a market research company), which is good news for the future of skin cancer prevention—and the overall health of skin. In addition to skin cancer, exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can contribute to skin damage and premature aging, which makes your spa the perfect setting to help clients gain the education needed to protect themselves from the sun. “Damage from the sun increases the risk of sun spots, lesions, cancer, dryness, wrinkles, and overall aging to the skin and body, so it’s extremely important to always wear sun protection for youthful, glowing skin all year round,” says Ben Johnson, M.D., founder and CEO of Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare.
According to Whitney Johnson, global education developer for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, sun damage doesn’t just occur during summer months or while in direct contact with the sun. UV damage that causes aging of the skin can occur from any exposure to daylight, even through glass, and from fluorescent indoor lights. While some clients might neglect or forget to apply sunscreen during non-summer months, spas are at an advantage to not only provide sunscreen to their clients’ skin during treatments year-round but also to educate them on its importance.
Certain treatments, including facials, microdermabrasion, lasers, and chemical peels, can leave skin vulnerable, exposed, and highly susceptible to sunburns, making sunscreen an essential post-treatment product. “After a treatment, especially if exfoliation is performed, it’s important to protect the skin as well as every day,” says Whitney Johnson. “Around 90 percent of photo aging is preventable, so it makes smart skin sense to wear an SPF daily. As professional skin therapists, it’s part of our job to ensure that clients’ skin is protected to achieve optimum skin health. Even though clients might not apply sun protection as diligently as we would like, by incorporating products, such as an SPF booster that can be mixed with their favorite moisturizer, for example, you can help them understand that using sunscreen doesn’t have to add extra time or effort to their regimen.”
While sunblock can be applied to skin during any service, spas can also offer specific treatments that are designed to repair or calm sun-exposed skin. This is also a great time to educate clients on sun safety. “A complimentary hand massage by the pool using sun protection products or providing free sunscreen applications is another great way to educate clients and boost services and retail revenue,” says Whitney Johnson. At The Spa at Four Seasons Las Vegas, poolside guests can enjoy a Spa Tapas (starting at $40, 10 minutes) hand or foot massage. Chilled scoops of fragrant body butter from FarmHouse Fresh and Pure Fiji are used to keep clients’ skin cool and hydrated. “Most of our guests have already applied their SPF before they’ve made it to the pool, but if they haven’t, we can conclude every session with a mist of Coola organic suncare products,” says spa director Shane Kelly. Also, the spa offers the After Sun Facial ($190, 50 minutes), which helps nourish skin and counteract the drying effects of the desert climate.
Because exposure to UV rays can occur all year, even spas in cold climates can promote sun protection treatments. “A lot of people don’t realize that you still need protection during the winter, and a great example is for those who ski,” says Ben Johnson. “Snow is very much like water in its reflective properties, and clients can actually get a sunburn while skiing. Hiking and snowshoeing are similar in that you’re closer to the sun as well as absorbing the reflections off the snow from the sun. Even days that seem cloudy but have a glare mean that the sun is out, and the rays are coming through the clouds. Sometimes it’s not just the sun, but maybe cold and wind that you need protection from and having an extra layer, such as sunscreen, can help with that.” Remède Spa at St. Regis Aspen (CO) offers the High Altitude Renewal ($185, 60 minutes) facial. This complexion-energizing treatment breathes life back into tired skin and offers protection from the elements. “We don’t let our clients leave a facial without protection,” says spa director Julie Oliff. “All of our spa employees know the importance of wearing sunscreen all year, particularly because of our location in Aspen at 8,000 feet above sea level. When you are that much closer to the sun, it’s important to use sunscreen throughout the winter and summer months to truly protect yourself, especially when skiing or spending time in the mountains.”
In addition to using sunscreen products on clients’ skin during services, Chris Birchby, founder and CEO of Coola, suggests providing customers with complimentary samples following a facial to promote sunscreen use and increase retail sales. Also, hosting skin-aging awareness events can help attract and educate clients on the importance of sun protection. “Use a black light device or skin scanner to show clients underlying UV damage that is yet to surface,” says Whitney Johnson. She also suggests setting up a sun protection station where clients can experience the different solar products on their skin and body prior to leaving the spa. Creative displays and signage can draw clients to the sunscreen area, and Johnson suggests including phrases such as, “The secret is out, solar protection products are the best anti-aging products anyone could have,” “Seeing lines? Did you know that sun protection can minimize collagen breakdown, which reduces lines and sagging skin?” and “Summer, fall, winter, spring—sun protection is not just seasonal, it’s a year-long commitment.”
There are so many sunscreen options on the market today, but not all are created equal, nor do they all offer the same benefits. There are both physical and chemical sunscreens, but physical sunscreens are believed to be more effective and safer on the skin, as they usually contain natural sunscreen actives like titanium oxide and zinc dioxide. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, often contain controversial synthetic ingredients like octinoxate and oxybenzone that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. “Physical sun filters like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do not absorb into the skin but sit on it and reflect light, so light never reaches the skin,” says Harry Fallick, D.O., cofounder of Fallene. “Chemical sun filters absorb into the skin, allow light to enter, and convert light into heat in the skin, causing damage.”
Because of the myriad sunscreen brands and formulas available today, it is important to do your research and carry a line that offers innovative technology, extra skin benefits, and options to accommodate the needs of all clients. “Spas can guide clients into using sunscreen by selecting a product that works for them,” says Ben Johnson. “Some clients prefer to double up and have a sunscreen in addition to their other products while others may just want to simplify and would only be interested in a product that contains sunscreen without an extra step. There’s also the client who doesn’t like the feel of sunscreen and loves using mineral makeup for protection. Having multiple options for clients to fit their needs is important in being able to provide them with the retail service expected in your spa.”
Two-in-one products like Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint, for example, not only contain sunscreen but also act as a primer and foundation, so clients can leave the spa without applying makeup. Similarly, Jane Iredale—The Skincare Makeup Dream Tint provides hydration and coverage to even skintone and creates a soft-focus effect. However, it is important to remember that while moisturizers and cosmetics with sunscreen are a great way to include protection in a daily skincare regimen, they are not as effective as sunblock. “Remind clients that a moisturizer that contains sunscreen is good for everyday use, for example, when going in and out of their car, office building, or home, but when they’re outdoors for longer periods of time, they need something heavier and more substantial,” says Marina Peredo, M.D., F.A.A.D, founder of Marina I. Peredo Dermatology and Spatique Medical Spa (Smithtown, NY).
Aging skin, including wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and dryness, can be caused by exposure to UV rays. Sun damage can also cause skin cancer, which can be deadly, and in turn, increase the chances of developing other cancers, according to Fallick. Therefore, it is critical for you to educate clients on the importance of sun protection. From tinted moisturizers and mineral makeup powders to UV protection drinks that use vibrational frequencies to cancel out UVA and UVB rays and UV-protective clothing, many skincare companies and spas are working hard to ensure clients are aware of the importance of incorporating smart suncare into their daily routines. “Overall it’s vital to know that protecting the skin will keep it from aging quicker and that what you’re using to protect it is just as important,” says Ben Johnson. “Keep clients young and healthy by using the right ingredients for them and their skin.”