The Magic of Makeup

In the eternal quest for beauty, American women spend about $100 a month on cosmetics, according to a YWCA survey. Todd Hewitt, senior spa director at the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, which brings in about $2,000 a month in cosmetics sales, says that if they’re not spending that money at your spa, they’re going to spend it somewhere else.

Hewitt worked with Michael Marcus, CEO of Michael Marcus Cosmetics, who designed bento-box style tester units for the women’s locker room. The bento boxes include sample blush, eye shadow, and lipstick, as well as disposable applicators and sponges. Once clients have applied the cosmetics in the locker room and experienced how the makeup looks and feels on their skin, they are likely to purchase the products in the spa, says Marcus. “Everyone has a tendency to forget that there is value in cosmetics,” he says. “When I had my own spa, our retail sales far outweighed our services. We made it a priority—when women were coming out of a treatment or getting their hair done, we offered complimentary touch-ups.”

“Complimentary” and “touch-up” are key words. Airbrushed makeup is perfect for photo shoots and formal events, but most women don’t want a full-on makeover following a facial. Plus, after a 60- or 90-minute treatment, most spa guests don’t have time to stick around for another hour. But if the esthetician or retail attendant doesn’t dust powder on the guest or apply lip-gloss, she’s likely to do it herself once she gets to her car. “Instead of focusing on ‘pageantry makeup,’ say, ‘Hey, let’s put on lipstick,’ or ‘Let’s just do your eyes really fast,’” says Marcus. “Focus on quick and easy things that will then translate into sales in that arena. You have five minutes to show them how they can improve on what they are currently doing.” A great way to do this? Train the front desk attendant to offer a five-minute touch-up to every guest who schedules a facial or an eyebrow wax.

Beyond the front desk, spas should think outside of the box. “Spas can sell a cute bag that includes blotting paper, setting powder lipstick, and gloss,” says Kate McCarthy, national makeup artist and brand manager for glominerals. Another tool McCarthy suggests: a free 30-minute consultation where guests buy two or three of the products. Or spas can charge a $20 sitting fee, which can then be applied to the cosmetics purchase. “Sometimes I’ll throw in a beauty bag makeover for free,” she says. “Charge $75 for a makeup application, and they can bring in their makeup bag. We’ll go through it and tell them what to keep and what to get rid of. Market it as your personal makeup guru.”

Put cosmetics application services on your spa menu, advertise that the spa has a makeup artist, and know your clientele, says Christine Mariconti, spa director at the Spa at Cranwell (Lenox, MA). “Our clients are less interested in the smoky evening eye, but they all want to be color matched, so we do free color matching anytime. Or we’ll advertise a free half-hour consultation using Jane Iredale products, which translates to cosmetics sales every 30 minutes.”

The biggest mistake spas make is not putting the products on guests’ skin, according to spa directors and cosmetics educators. In addition to offering wedding or special-event makeup and color consultation services on the menu, you should incorporate cosmetics at the end of each treatment, approaching the application itself as a continuation of skincare. “All estheticians have a responsibility to make sure their customers are wearing makeup that’s good for their skin,” says Shawn Towne, global educator for Jane Iredale – The Skincare Makeup.

You need to communicate the message that cosmetics, like the rest of treatments on the menu, are healing and good for the skin, not just a vanity. Mineral makeup contains titanium and zinc oxide, which both provide sun protection against UVA and UVB rays. Zinc, an antioxidant, helps protect skin against free-radical damage. Many formulas contain other antioxidants, such as green tea extracts and vitamin C , that sit on the surface of the skin, protecting it from the elements and providing soothing, calming benefits, as well. Additionally, mineral makeup is oil-free and doesn’t support bacteria growth, which is good news for acne-prone clients. It’s also safe to use on sensitive skin, because it doesn’t contain perfumes and chemical dyes.

If a guest is hesitant about wearing makeup after a treatment, estheticians should be able to explain the anti-aging and sun-protection benefits, says Robin McGee, president of Osmosis Skincare. “The makeup is extending the benefits of the treatment,” she says. “You can say, ‘Let me just dust half your face so you can see how it feels and how it makes your skin look. If you’re uncomfortable with that, here’s the great news: it washes right off.’”

Outside of the treatment room, special events are a great way to introduce guests to cosmetics in the spa and also educate them about the skincare benefits, says RAW Salon & Spa (Burlington, WI) owner Andrea Brewer. The spa hosted an Osmosis Skincare pre-launch, which included complimentary makeup applications for all attendees and a presentation about the products and ingredients. “It was an event to educate our guests about why the makeup would coincide with their skincare,” she says. The pre-launch event paid off, bringing in about $3,000 in sales.

McGee suggests doing a foundation color match event. “I’m a big believer in side-by-side looks,” she says. Apply pressed power to half the face, and use a liquid foundation or sheer tint on the other half. “Let the person see how their skin changes. Do they like the dewiness or the matte finish?” This works with color, too: Do a nighttime smoky eye on one and a more neutral everyday look on the other eye. “When you engage the customer in showing them the different looks, often times they will buy both,” says McGee.

Other ideas? Consider a get-out-of-the-rut event, using cosmetics to show spa guests that natural-looking makeup highlights their best features. Another popular option is a makeup tips event. “The more education you put into your makeup applications, and the more you let the customers experience the different looks, the more loyal clientele you develop,” says McGee. 

The cosmetics area itself should look inviting, too, with displays in a visible and well-lit mirrored area that guests see as soon as they enter. “The big liability I see is so often the spa or salon will have the makeup buried in a back room or in a dark corner where you can’t do a good makeup application,” says Towne.

Keep tester units clean and well stocked, with inventory to match. “You can have a brand new tester unit, but if half the product is missing, or half is used and cracking, customers are going to be put off and not want to touch it,” says Towne. Also, encourage spa staff to invite customers to sit down for a quick touch-up. Talk about the cosmetics. Otherwise guests may not pay attention to them.

Robin Dunivin, spa director at the Spa at  the Resort at Pelican Hill (Newport Beach, CA), says the spa always features an elegant cosmetic display in its retail boutique with makeup showcased on chargers and risers, and decorative vases to hold brushes. (Plus, the retail attendant is trained to do consultations and apply the makeup). “The display is quite beautiful, and it matches the rest of the boutique,” she says.

McGee suggests setting up the cosmetics area like a boudoir so women can sit down and apply makeup. Fashion the boudoir so it fits the spa’s esthetics: vintage, sleek and modern, or shabby chic. “Everyone loves the experience of sitting at a boudoir with a mirror and feeling really beautiful,” she says. “Also set out wipes, sponges, and applicators. The more you can make the customer feel like it’s okay to touch and play with the makeup, the better.” And once they’ve tried out the cosmetics and put it on their skin, it’s as good as sold.