The New Face of Aging

The unrelenting pressure on women to stay young is ironically ageless and no different now than it was in my mother's day. When women of past generations hit "a certain age," their only recourse was a scalpel. Surgery at any time is radical, though sometimes necessary. Fortunately, thanks to technology, there are many non-invasive alternatives that are astonishingly effective. Today's cutting-edge technologies, now without the sharp edge of a surgeon's knife, are reaping many spas results that turn up sales and turn back the clock for their clients.

Today's anti-aging clients are often women in their 30s and 40s looking to preserve their looks.
Today's anti-aging clients are often women in their 30s and 40s looking to preserve their looks.

"Most women want to fight the signs of aging in private so they can maintain the image of growing old gracefully to the rest of the world," says Maureen Schumacher, spa director of the Aqua Star Spa at The Beverly Hilton (Beverly Hills, CA). "So offering anti-aging services in a spa setting instead of a doctor's office is a valuable part of any spa menu."

Business is Baby-Booming

Given that baby boomers (born from 1944 to 1964) number more than 78 million in the U.S. and make up more than 25 percent of the population, it isn't much of a stretch to expect them to want anti-aging treatments. But boomers are a demanding lot, and they know the difference between results and rhetoric—and they know what they want when it comes to anti-aging services.

"With all of the advanced technologies available in both products and equipment, anti-aging services should address multiple issues including thorough and deep cleansing, exfoliation, intensive treatment masks, and product infusions," says Lisa Henry-Jacobs, senior spa consultant for Blu Spas/Collier and Collier in Erie, CO. "Each treatment should be customized for each individual client's needs. The word 'aging' means something different to everyone. Texture, tone, clarity, fine lines, and wrinkles are the most common complaints. A good anti-aging treatment will be capable of addressing all of these things."

"For many guests, it is the number-one reason they come to the spa—they want to look and feel ten years younger," says Lorraine Park, vice president of spas for Remington Hotels. "These services let the public know you are serious about the menu you offer and that your team is educated in more than just feel-good and pampering types of treatments. It brings a level of expertise to the playing field."

Beyond the Boomer

Nowadays, demand for anti-aging services is crossing all generations. Spa-goers in their 40s are looking for epidermal tune-ups, Gen Xers in their 30s hope to keep their complexions in shape, and even Generations Y, Z, and I in their 20s and teens are starting anti-aging regimes early. Could it be that anti-aging treatments aren't only for the aging?

"These days, anti-aging services are being booked by women in their 20s who feel that it is never too soon to address the issue of aging," says Schumacher. "We see basically two groups—the ones in their 30s who want to preserve the look that they have and the 40-to 50-year-old baby boomers who want to slow down the aging process," adds Park. "The most important thing is not to over-promise and under-deliver. That is why the descriptions within our brochure are so important. We use terms like 'minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.' We do not use terms like 'anti-aging.'"

Marketing Tips

Desiree Dosanjh, spa director of the Alluvian Spa (Greenwood, MS), says her target market is everyone. "We market to younger women as a preventative measure, and we market to older clientele as a corrective measure," she says. WTS International spa consultant and operator Holli Beckwith says her market is everyone except teens for age management services. "You should state the effects and benefits in a clear, simple message," she says. "You can be cute with Fountain-of-Youth-type promos, but a direct approach to this serious skincare issue is best. Education is a good marketing tool, either at the time of the treatment or enhanced with guest events."

Many anti-aging treatments, while gentle and cumulative, can sometimes give dramatic results, and word-of-mouth is still your most effective promotion. "Our philosophy is that it's never too late to start making a difference," says Schumacher. "We had one guest in her late 50s who never had a facial and had been going through a rough time with the loss of her husband. We performed a galvanic microcurrent facial on her. When we showed her the results in the mirror, she was so astonished she started crying and told us that she had forgotten all about the young woman looking back at her in the mirror. Reactions and results like that are rare, but they are the best form of marketing—the very next day, her best friend came in for the same facial."

Beckwith also advises that spas market anti-aging services to men and put head-to-toe anti-aging services on their spa menus. "An anti-aging service should entail treatment of the face, décolleté, and hands," says Dosanjh. "It is also important not to forget the skin everywhere else on the body. We offer anti-aging peels for the arms, legs, feet and back, as well."

Technology Tips

Advances in technology have created some excellent non-invasive treatments that can entice clients to visit your spa for anti-aging services. "Clients can now experience a multitude of technologies like microcurrent, ultrasonic infusion, ultrasonic exfoliation, and even LED in one single treatment," says Henry-Jacobs. "These technologies can dramatically improve the appearance of the skin in a single treatment, and they have significant anti-aging benefits in a series of treatments. This is important because many clients would prefer not to go under the knife and are unaware that these non-invasive technologies can produce significant improvements for far less investment."

As these treatments and their efficacy become widely reported, the demand and ultimate boost to your business can be significant. "Anti-aging services make up at least 50 percent of the facial and body work requested in our spas," says Tina Berger of WTS. If you take into account that the average cost of a photo-facial, for example, runs anywhere from $100 to $300, and multiple sessions are suggested for the best results, the impact on your business can be significant. "Anti-aging services are most effective when booked in a series, and knowing that these services are much more effective when performed over multiple sessions, the delivery of results wins you loyal patrons," says Schumacher.

Even resort customers, who traditionally avoid more aggressive treatments, are enjoying less invasive technology-driven services. Taking into consideration proper sequencing and sensitivity to post-treatment recommendations, resort spas can help guests book anti-aging packages. "Because non-invasive technology is so effective and clients see and feel significant, immediate results, they are more likely to return for additional treatments during their stay. Additionally, guests receiving a traditional facial can be offered upgrade services to enhance the benefits of the service." An eye-lift treatment, product infusion, or ultrasonic exfoliation, for example, adds no additional time to the treatment but can add $50 to $150 to the cost of the service. The result sends clients home looking rested, renewed, and searching for ways to continue the results at home.

When it comes to age-management menus, treating diverse skin conditions has become easier as manufacturers build condition-specific programs into their equipment. "We offer several different types of anti-aging services to combat the different signs of aging, from peels to microdermabrasion to galvanic microcurrent to the use of specifically formulated products," says Schumacher. "It is up to us to determine the best plan for that individual and customize and personalize their treatments."

Traditional microdermabrasion is still a popular choice for evening the pigmentation and softening the texture of the skin. "A newer alternative, called vibradermabrasion, uses stainless-steel paddles and 600 MHz of vibration instead of traditional abrasive crystals to remove up to 80 percent of the stratum corneum (the rough outermost layer of the skin) with minimal trauma to the epidermis," says Darlene Davison, spa director at The Ritz-Carlton Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota (FL). "This method can be more comfortable for the client, and it stimulates new cell growth and collagen production. Clients love the instant, significant improvement in the appearance of their complexion."

Look for new microdermabrasion systems that can be upgraded to double-duty status, allowing delivery of treatments to two clients at the same time. These simple "plug & play" add-on modules can add another service (photo-treatments for pigmentation issues) for as little as $750 or as many as three services (skin rejuvenation electrodes, neck-lifting treatments, and photo-light treatments) to your menu. The end result can rival the results had with traditional surgery, rendering a more natural, fresh look rather than obvious manipulation of the facial skin and musculature.

Taking It Home

Though you don't expect your estheticians to be magicians, please encourage them to share some of their hard-learned secrets, particularly in the treatment room. "The techs have the experience to educate clients, and that is the best way to sell retail products for homecare," says Davison.

Schumacher makes a sensible analogy: "The retail side of anti-aging services is not a hard sell—usually if guests like the results they have achieved and would like to continue to see those results improve over time, it is essential that they follow up with homecare," she says. "Be sure to tell your clients that while the spa can deliver the best facial ever, if they don't care for their skin through a daily regimen, the results they want cannot be achieved."

Because our society doesn't embrace growing older with grace, the ongoing demand for anything that belies Mother Nature will continue. With that in mind, encourage clients to take time to care for their treasured parts and protect those precious lines that show they have lived, loved, and laughed. "Our age should not define us, it should be celebrated as the wisdom that we bring to the table," says Park. I think these words inspire us all to be wise. —Polly Johnson

Polly Johnson is CEO of corporate accounts for SpaEquip, a full-service provider of spa equipment and supplies to resort, destination, and day spas across the country. Visit for more information or email [email protected].