Internal Beauty

Despite its message to clients to slow down and adopt a more leisurely pace, the spa industry is faced with the daunting and contrary task of fulfilling the expectations of spa-goers who crave instant gratification. Although there is no magical quick-fix beauty pill, supplements and vitamins are emerging as a viable way to treat the skin from within.

According to Dee Deluca-Mattos, vice president of Avancé and president of the Medical Spa Society, supplements and vitamins are hardly new. What is new, however, are their delivery systems, which are much more effective than ever before. "Supplements, vitamins, and, in particular, enzymes play a significant role in wellness services today," says Deluca-Mattos. Although the industry has traditionally focused on topical applications to treat the skin, in recent years, there has been a shift in thinking. "In order for the skin to look and feel its best, it needs to be treated both internally and externally," says Janet Ralston, vice president of marketing for Prothera, a nutraceutical manufacturer. "Supplements help repair and nourish all elements relating to the skin, including collagen, structure, and resilience. This comprehensive approach is a great addition to common external applications that often have a narrow focus on only one component of the skin."

It's common knowledge that a variety of factors play a role in determining healthy skin. "A poor diet and the lack of essential nutrients contribute to many types of skin problems, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and more," says Josh Bowman, director of research and development at The M'lis Company. As a result, oral supplements have emerged as an ideal complement to topical solutions when developing skincare regimes.

Supplements in the Spa

The long-term health benefits that supplements offer are becoming increasingly apparent. "As the general population becomes more educated on the importance of dietary supplements, there will be a greater demand for them from healthcare professionals," says Ralston. "At this stage, it is important for spas to keep up with this evolving trend and integrate supplements into their practices."

With a primary focus on wellness and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, spas are well positioned to tap into the supplement and vitamin market. "The current and predicted trend for spas and beauty centers is to truly make a difference in people's lives," says Bowman. "This has evolved from simple pampering and beauty treatments to total programs that improve the way individuals eat, how they manage stress, and their overall health. Vitamins and supplements certainly play a role in this, as it is very difficult to achieve one hundred percent nutrition and avoid harmful additives and chemicals in the diet in today's society." As a result, spa-goers are looking to preventative treatments and programs in increasing numbers. "Spas that provide treatment-specific supplements to their clients elevate their credibility as a wellness center," says James Beck, president of Mountain View Labs, LLC, manufacturer of Trielements nutritional supplements. In addition, they benefit from creating a new source of retail revenue.

There's also the opportunity to private label. "An increasing number of spas are using private labeling to gain customer loyalty and long-term business," says Ralston. "Customers are given a sense of confidence when they use a supplement distributed from those same professionals they know and trust."

Supplemental Skincare
Supplemental Skincare

New and Noteworthy

Today, a growing number of skincare companies are utilizing supplements to treat the skin. Many focus on common skincare concerns, such as acne, cellulite, wrinkles, and more. Some of the most popular and effective supplements include alpha lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q10, fish oil, grapeseed extract, gamma tocopherol, green tea extract, hyaluronic acid, and lycopene. Fish oil, in particular, has received a fair amount of attention in regards to promoting healthy skin. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it is reputed for its numerous health benefits, such as strengthening hair and nails, supporting the immune system, and regulating inflammation.

Howard Murad, M.D., founder of Murad, considers formulas that improve the cell membrane and promote hydration within the cell and connective tissue as being the biggest trend in supplements today. Another growing trend relates to metabolism. "As individuals begin to recognize how foods and supplements affect their blood sugar, they can gain control of their health in ways never before seen," says Bowman. "The glycemic index/load quantitates a numerical value to how a specific food or supplement drops or raises blood glucose levels. This affects everyone and particularly those looking to maintain a healthy weight, sustain energy levels, and prevent blood sugar imbalances specific to diabetes or hypoglycemia, as well as help those with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia toward wellness."

As in any treatment, spa-goers are seeking tangible results. "Marketing trends indicate that consumers are looking for supplements that have a measurable effect on the skin," says Jan Marini, founder of Jan Marini Skin Research. "This probably reflects society's attraction toward products that provide results with very little commitment from the user." There's no denying that supplements provide an easy fix—it's simple enough to pop a pill. However, the question of quickness is another thing.

The Lowdown on Supplements

According to Ralston, there is a misconception that supplements produce immediate results, when in fact, the benefits are actually long-term and don't happen overnight. This in itself can be advantageous to the spa industry in that supplements are designed to be used regularly, making them a boon to retail sales. Another common misconception is that they are unsafe and unregulated. According to Beck, their safety record is actually better than that of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and even foods. "The fact is, they are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission as well as government agencies in all fifty states," says Beck. "The FDA has regulatory authority under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, a 1994 amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that was passed by unanimous consent in both the House and Senate."

Another thing to keep in mind is that all supplements are not created equal. "People often believe all supplements are the same, so they opt for the cheapest brand," says Ralston. "However, supplements can vary greatly in quality, potency, and formulation." Bowman points to three factors that need to be considered: quality, the natural source of the raw material; synergy, the harmony between ingredients; and utility, the breakdown, absorption, and assimilation of ingredients.

"In order for supplements to be most effective, you can't focus on just one nutrient," says Ralston. "Supplements are designed to work with one another to provide a comprehensive treatment. Each nutrient can be complemented and/or enhanced with a specific combination of other nutrients. The effectiveness and requirement of each supplement varies from person to person."

According to Deluca-Mattos, many people mistakenly believe enzymes, supplements, and vitamins are a cure for poor eating habits. "All successful wellness programs begin with proper diet, hydration, and exercise," she says. "Supplements, vitamins, and enzymes aid a well-running system to achieve maximum potential."—Heather Mikesell

Photography done by Steve Giralt.