Salons and Millennials: The Missing Ingredient – PART 1

Fifteen to twenty-five years ago, the buzz word in our industry was “Baby Boomers.” Marketing efforts emphasized how we needed to market our services to this segment of the population. I remember taking countless workshops on how to develop specific treatments and service menus to ensure that the Baby Boomer generation’s health and beauty needs were being properly addressed in our industry. Millennials who were born in the 1980’s have also been taught that our industry’s lead consumers are Baby Boomers. While Baby Boomers are still a huge part of the target market we serve in our salons, the new buzz word that has been…well, buzzing for a while, is “millennials”. But we have been so conditioned to target Baby Boomers, that millennials are still an untapped segment of the population by salons and spas, and marketing efforts to attract this generation have not been completely successful because we just don’t know how to address their needs.

Salons and spas need to understand the psycho-social attributes of millennials if they want to be successful at targeting this generation. Millennials, or Gen Yers, are simply different. Born approximately between 1980 and 2000, they can be characterized by very specific traits, which must be carefully considered when offering services, products and the space where they will experience these services and products.

Dubbed as Generation “Me”, millennials are highly confident and tolerant, while also demonstrating a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. They feel special because their parents have instilled in them that they are vital to our world – that they were born for and with a purpose. They have been celebrated and praised; therefore, millennials expect to receive frequent positive feedback. They are assertive. They believe they are “right”. They crave attention.

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Salon: Use words in your marketing campaigns that allude to being special and how they can conquer the world with great skin. Your customer service must be impeccable. 

However, millennials are also a highly protected generation, having been coined the “Peter Pan” Generation. They have grown up in a world where there have been increased safety measures (school lock downs, warning labels, safety laws). They don’t like to deal with unpleasantness because their parents have advocated on their behalf throughout their lives. This, along with financial uncertainty, has caused a tendency in millennials to delay certain rites of passage into adulthood like living with their parents for a longer period of time and delaying age of marriage and having children. Emerging adulthood has been established now at 25 years of age.

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Salon: Emphasize on their need for safety by promoting your salon’s sanitary and safety procedures. Produce videos on your sanitation/sterilization processes or how main supplies are actually disposable rather than re-usable.  

Honesty gives us all a sense of protection. Millennials, in particular, highly value transparency – that is, open, genuine, truthful, authentic and honest relationships with everyone, be it their employers, their service providers, their family members, their peers and the products they buy.

Millennials have accumulated more debt (student loans) than any other generation prior, and experienced firsthand a global financial crisis and the highest unemployment rates in US history – second only to the Great Depression. And, considering that data from a 2014 study of US Millennials, which revealed that over 56% of that group considers themselves as part of the working class, and that only nearly 35% consider themselves in the middle class, transparency seems to be the most powerful motivating factor for millennials as consumers of goods and services – not money. Millennials are loyal to brands that they feel convey authenticity, trustworthiness and reliability and are willing to pay a premium for that trust, even if they can’t afford it.

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Salon: Along with providing more affordable services, provide a service menu with very clear pricing parameters and add-on’s. Once in the room, don’t offer an add-on without providing the additional cost to the final bill ahead of time. No one likes it and millennials much less. Learn your ingredients well and make sure that when you say whether or not a product contains XYZ ingredient, that this is actually accurate for the entire line(s). Millennials will research everything you tell them and will question you. Besides, transparency transcends space and time.

Millennials feel the pressure to succeed at all costs. As children, they had tight schedules with structured activities (school, sports, arts, socials with friends). This generation has had more hours of homework and less free time than all previous generations. What Baby Boomers and Generation Xers once enjoyed – spontaneous play in the rain, makeshift hero capes with towels and houses on a tree with bed sheets – millennials have not experienced.  They are multitaskers and have a hard time handling free time. They can juggle many responsibilities at once, but they are also easily distracted with social media, not to mention texting. They take on a lot, and then expect others to be flexible with them when there is a scheduling conflict.

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Salon: Flexibility is difficult to provide when we are in the business of scheduled services. However, providing other conveniences and trusted services and products to millennials will prove effective in having them develop brand loyalty toward your business.  Additionally, as professionals, we were trained to serve the Baby Boomer generation who didn’t even imagine what the internet could do. We need to serve millennials differently. Salon services need to be cut shorter and/or allow time for millennials to check their cellphones. Relaxation has another meaning to them. And if this idea makes you cringe, perhaps your marketing campaigns could address the effects of radiation and gravity on the skin.Read these article from Skin Inc: Tech neck, cellphones, and selfies.
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Eight tips from your aesthetician before you go to the spa

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1) Make sure you arrive on time.  Plan for bad traffic or weather and make sure you know the location before you head to the spa, salon or clinic. Arriving 5-10 minutes early will allow you to fill out forms as needed and settle (relax) before your appointment.

2) If you are not able to make it, follow the salon’s cancellation policy.  It is a courtesy to the salon, the therapist performing the service and prospective clients who may have wanted the same time slot.  Cancelling 24 hours before the appointment is the general rule, but sometimes other arrangements are expected (sparties, concierge services, etc), and the salon will let you know.  If the salon charges a fee for missed appointments, they are legally able to do so.

3) Make sure that you have reviewed the salon or spa’s website to learn about all the offerings and programs that may benefit you, and of course, all their policies. If the salon has multiple employees, they might not remember to ask you if you are interested in the Loyalty Program or Referral Program, for example. And they might have specific policies for different services.

4) Feel free to ask questions about the treatment prior to the appointment. There have been times when clients receive a treatment under an assumption which led to some expectations, and these were not met because the service was completely different from what they thought.

5) Be prepared to be “present” for your appointment. That means that your appointment is your “ME TIME”.  Shut your cell phone off and don’t plan to rush your way out. If you’re not sure about the time frame a specific treatment will take, make sure to call the salon in advance to inquire.

6) If you made an appointment for a body reatment, take a shower before you arrive to your appointment. Some people exude more body odor than others. While therapists are trained to work with everyone, there are times when body odor makes it difficult to perform the treatment or concentrate, leaving the client with a less than desirable spa or salon experience.

7) Know that you can speak up about what you want and need. Communicate with your therapist about what is happening for you before, during and after treatment. Sometimes, people shy away from communicating for fear of hurting the therapist’s feelings. Nothing can be more rewarding to your therapist than receiving HONEST feedback about your experience. It’s the only way he/she can grow in their career.

8) Tips are not mandatory, but a 15-20% gratuity is customary. Most therapists and technicians, like waiters, make their living from tips. You can leave the tip in cash in the room before you leave, or you can leave it at the front desk with an envelope. If more than one therapist worked with you, leave separate tips.  Tips in cash are preferred, but it’s OK to add them to the credit card.  If this is the case, feel free to ask the receptionist or spa coordinator if your therapist will receive her tip. There have been times when the receptionist is not paying close attention or is multi-tasking and tips are not properly recorded, leaving the therapist without her tip.

Intimate Skin Bleaching

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When I tell friends that I offer Intimate Skin Bleaching as one of my state-of-the-art services, I get several reactions: most people don’t know what it is and I need to explain; or I get a disgusted look followed by “why would anyone do THAT?”; or I get the naughty look followed by “Oh, really?”  I have been asked to write a blog about it because people are really curious about what this service really entails and also to dispel some myths.

Intimate Skin Bleaching as the term implies, is skin bleaching of intimate areas, namely the vulva (the outer vaginal area) and anus – sometimes the nipples as well, but it really encompasses all areas a person might consider intimate: underarms, under the breasts, and also testicular and groin areas.  It has been considered a niche service for the adult entertainment industry and gay community.

History:

The first people to try Intimate Skin Bleaching – specifically anal bleaching – were the women and men in the adult entertainment industry in order to make their private parts look better on camera.  With the advent of HD (high definition) TV, the demand for this treatment among this group of people has dramatically increased.

Mainstream Hollywood film stars soon adopted this treatment once nudity became more prevalent in movies.   But what caused intimate skin bleaching to go mainstream in society was the introduction of Brazilian waxing.  As more people discover Brazilian waxing, the more they need to pay attention to how they look once the hair is removed.  Brazilian waxing is a waxing technique where all pubic hair is removed, leaving the area completely hairless.  Seeing their pubic skin uncovered for the first time, and noticing the  skin’s discoloration (which is common and normal), many women – and sometimes men – feel the need that this area needs to match the color of the rest of their skin.

Causes:

Identify the cause of discoloration first.  Discoloration of the anal and vaginal areas can be caused by aging, hormonal changes from pregnancy, infections and medical conditions such as Contact Dermatitis and Syphilis.  A thorough consultation to determine the contraindications is necessary. So if you have this procedure performed and your skincare professional doesn’t do a consultation related specifically to the areas to be bleached, this is probably not the place you want to get this treatment done. Always consult a doctor before requesting a bleaching procedure if you suspect that the discoloration is due to health issues.

The use of G-strings, not only makes the rectal opening more visible, hence the need for some women to bleach the anal area, but the actual use of G-strings causes the anal (and vaginal) area to become darker with the rubbing of the material (usually nylon) against the skin, causing laceration or burning of the skin.  So, women who are frequent users of G-strings tend to have darker anal and vaginal areas.

In general, anything that produces heat, inflammation, laceration, and friction may cause hyperpigmentation, also known as Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH).

How does it work:

Melanin, a chemical naturally produced by our bodies, darkens skin color as a natural protectant from the sun. The more melanin produced, the darker the skin.

In order to achieve lasting lightening, you cannot just whiten or “bleach” the top layer of skin as it will eventually slough off and expose the layers of natural (darker) skin below. Ingredients such as Azelaic Acid, Lactic Acid,  Retonic Acid, Salycylic Acid and Pyruvic Acid, gently lighten the skin and reduce the activity of Tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for skin darkening) in the lower layers of the skin.  Soothing anti-oxidant agents such as Vitamin C, Bearberry extract, Licorice extract and Mulberry extract provide a gentle moisturizing treatment to protect, while continuing to lighten the skin.  As newer skin comes to the surface, you see a lighter skin tone that blends with the natural skin tone.

NOTE: Bleaching agents temporarily lighten skin color, but exposure to ultra violet rays may re-oxidize the skin, creating a darker appearance than before. This is a simplified reason why most skin bleaching or fading products warn against exposure to sunlight immediately after application.

Risks

Don’t settle for the cheapest intimate skin bleaching procedure.  Because intimate skin bleaching is rising in popularity, expect a lot of skin care businesses to offer such procedure. Don’t compromise quality with price.

The next thing you need to consider is the ingredient to be used during the intimate skin bleaching procedure. Don’t use products containing hydroquinone.  Products that contain hydroquinone are believed to be linked with negative side effects such as liver damage, thyroid problems and cancer. Prolonged use of hydroquinone can thicken collagen fibers, resulting in a spotty skin appearance and can cause a scary skin disease called ochronosis.

Mercury is another toxic ingredient.  Most people don’t stop to think about what’s in their skincare products before applying it on their skin.  Mercury inhibits the skin’s production of melanin, lightening the skin area where it is applied. While mercury is not permitted in cosmetics made in the United States and Europe, beware of purchases made online (Amazon or eBay) or the origin of the product.  Long term mercury use strips skin of its natural pigment. Prolonged exposure can cause cancer, mercury poisoning, liver or kidney failure.

Also consider the risks after your procedure is done. If you are like most people seeking this service, you probably seek this treatment to look good for your sexual partner. Sex comes after intimate skin bleaching. Please be aware that this procedure DOES and WILL make you more susceptible to STDs and HV infection during the course of treatment.

Types of Intimate Skin Bleaching: Laser and Cryogenic Intimate Skin Bleaching are light-based and extreme cold treatments, and are by far the most expensive methods of Intimate Skin Bleaching – but also the easiest way to see instant results.  However, it can be painful – with pain ranging from being repeatedly slapped with a rubber band for several minutes at a time to pain that requires local anesthetic for weeks.  It can also cause irritation, blistering or peeling, may leave scars and results are not always consistent.

Spa-Based Skin Lightening: Most places offer this treatment for $100-150 and you must purchase a bleaching solution to use at home. The whole in-spa process takes about 20 minutes.  Depending on how dark your skin is, you may need to reapply a number of times to see results. Some people recommend treatments for at least eight weeks.

DIY (Do-it-yourself): There are various products in the market that people can use to bleach their intimate areas at home.  Most of them are more or less effective, however, beware of their ingredients even if they claim that dangerous ingredients such as hydroquinone are safe. Also beware of products you purchase online. Some of them are not European or American products, which makes you vulnerable to very dangerous ingredients. 

How is Intimate Skin Bleaching at Bella Dermis different?

We distinguish ourselves by applying the Three “P’s” that will define your Intimate Skin Bleaching experience: privacy, price, and professionalism.

  • Privacy -the anal, testicular and vaginal areas are probably the most private of any area.  Because of this, many people shy away from having someone else work with this sensitive region.  I treat these areas, and your reactions, with great respect and confidentiality. I never share my clients information or lifestyle choices.
  • Price – Spa-based intimate skin bleaching treatments often cost more than $150 per visit, and it’s the norm to visit a spa 6 or 7 times over the course of treatment, not to mention any “maintenance” treatments in the future.  We offer a more affordable health-conscious solution to intimate discoloration.  I believe that certain services should be easily accessible to everyone.
  • Professionalism – While we will never encourage anyone’s self-esteem – even more so women’s – we also understand that for many people, this procedure makes them feel sexier and more confident.  Therefore, we provide Intimate Skin Bleaching in a non-judgmental, empathic, professional and confidential manner. As a Certified Sexuality and Health Educator and Certified HIV Test Counselor, I place emphasis on confidentiality, empathy and non-judgment.