Calling All Spas to a Higher Level of Professionalism
Houston, we have a problem. Within the past two weeks we have had these headlines:
- “What Happened at the Weston MedSpa that Left Rohie Kah Brain Dead?” (Sept. 30) — A woman in Florida went in for Carboxytherapy, a “medical service” that injects carbon dioxide into a patient to improve the appearance of cellulite or stretch marks.
- “2 die and 16 Are Sickened at Spa in Arizona” (Oct. 10) — They were part of a group of about 48 people taking part in a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona.
- “Astoria Spa under fire over ‘fish pedicures” (Oct. 12) — Astoria’s Ritz Nail and Spa in Astoria, Queens New York practiced a “fish pedicure,” where part of the exfoliation process involves fish nibbling on client’s toes, which is considered by many to be unsanitary.
Sadly the term “spa” is in each of these headlines. We can no longer argue the case that these facilities were mis-labeled.
The term spa has become an umbrella term under which many businesses operate. Categories include: resorts and hotels with spas, new age retreats, med spas, mineral springs spas, beauty clinics, integrative wellness centers and others.
The generally accepted definition of spa, as defined by the Global Spa Economy Report (now in wide release and available on the website), states that “spas are establishments that promote wellness through the provision of therapeutic and other professional services aimed at renewing the body, mind, and spirit.” This means that the three places mentioned above would likely consider themselves a spa. In the first case, a health retreat, in the second a med spa, and in the third a day spa.
Even those who have, for years, argued that a spa must have water therapies would not be able to distance themselves totally from the fish pedicure, which originated in a hot spring near Kangal, Turkey. The Garra Rufa fish were well-known there for their benefit in battling skin diseases.
Arguing about labels is not going to be fruitful. We must do much more.
While I have written about this in the past, I would like to emphasize it again: the spa industry must take itself more seriously. Not only should we consider what we do important in terms of contributing to people’s health, transformation, and the prevention of illness in general, but we must also require a higher standard of ourselves, our employees, and all places of business which use the spa label.
Our industry is making a great deal of headway in terms of prevention and providing valuable solutions to lifestyle issues through our emphasis on exercise, healthy nutrition, stress reduction, and education.
Just this past month I attended Dr. Brent Bauer’s (Mayo Clinic) presentation at the ISPA conference on prevention, health and spas; presented Dr. Andrew Weil the 2010 SpaFinder Visionary Award here in NYC for his role in embracing the value of spas for health and well-being; and secured Dr. Ken Pelletier, author of dozens of books including New Medicine as a participant and speaker for the upcoming 2010 Global Spa Summit in May.
No doubt negative headlines sadden us all. And just like hospitals, corporations, government agencies, and the like, which occasionally get bad publicity because of mistakes, poor judgment or worse, we must do everything we can to minimize and ideally eliminate negatives associated with spas. Here are a few things I think we could do in response:
1. Headline science and not sensationalism. We should quit feeding the media stories like massages with snakes, pedicures with fish, or massage oils with diamonds (which even I have written about). Drop the tarot cards and astrology readings. Embrace the many evidenced based modalities that have been shown to produce real benefit (massage, exercise, good nutrition, breath work, meditation, body scrubs, etc).
We should produce a work titled something like, “Spa Treatments: The Science” and give it to every spa professional around the world and make it available to the media and consumers. It should catalog scientific studies which support the spa treatments we advocate in our spas.
2. Insist on transparency. We should encourage consumer input, industry feedback and make good use of shopping services – or establish our own. We must be transparent in our dealings and communications and insist on transparency from others.
3. Adhere strictly to regulations. We should confront and report those who are attempting shortcuts. We need to make certain that we are fully licensed in every aspect and even go beyond the minimums in many cases. That includes licensing for medical spas, licensing for massage therapists and aestheticians, enforcing rules on sanitation, how long you sterilize manicure tools, etc. We must commit to adhering to regulations in full and not be afraid if additional requirements are added.
Finally, I think it is important that every spa and every company in our industry does its part. Some initiatives that are helpful include ISPA’s code of conduct to which spas voluntarily submit, SpaQuality and other organizations who check standards, provide education, assessment, and certification programs, articles in industry spa magazines which showcase best practices, the Green Spa Network’s effort to promote sustainability, and many more.
A few examples from SpaFinder:
- We added and encourage consumer spa reviews to give the consumer a voice in identifying issues that need to be addressed (and we allow the spa manager to respond)
- We do not allow tanning beds to be marketed on Spafinder.com
- We take spas off of our site when we see a pattern of complaints
- We try to educate the industry on such things as the impropriety of writing fake reviews
- We are currently taking extra steps to check out the medical spas listed on our site to make sure they are licensed and give more information about the doctor’s licensing to the consumer
There are more initiatives in the works however after the recent flurry of unfortunate headlines, I think it would be great if we all step-it-up-a-notch. I hope many will join us.