It is often difficult, as a qualified beauty therapist, to know whether you will be more suited to the salon or the spa environment. It can be dependent on a few factors:
- Skill set and which treatments you may have a preference for.
- Which product knowledge you may have an interest in.
- Personality can also have a key input.
Below I am going to provide you with my own experiences from each environment and hopefully help you to make an informed decision.
The Salon Environment:
- Typically a busy and sociable atmosphere, with lots of rooms and therapists performing a variety of different treatments. You will generally use all of your beauty skills, so if there is a treatment you do not particularly enjoy, you may still be required to perform this.
- A lot more ‘quick treatments’ are called for in a salon such as waxing and nail therapies. This means you may be required to train in treatments such as ‘lycon’ hot waxing, for intimate areas, and possibly the up and coming ‘gel nail’ treatments such as ‘shellac’. Any previous product knowledge in either of these could be a bonus. Laser hair removal treatments are also widely offered in many salons, involving the removal of hair using a laser light - an effective treatment that has been growing in popularity over the past decade.
- In both environments customer service is a key part of the job role, however a salon is a much more communicative atmosphere to work in, particularly due to the treatments you will be doing. Be prepared to chat to your clients as you will rely upon your regulars, so it is essential to build a good relationship with them.
- Within a salon you will most likely have to keep your own room clean and hygienic and may be required to help with laundry etc. This is particularly applicable in smaller businesses where they may not have cleaning staff.
The Spa Environment:
- Generally a much more relaxed and tranquil environment. Very quiet, however still busy with a lot of treatment rooms and therapists.
- You may find in a spa setting that you are either surrounded by a hotel, possibly gym and swimming facilities (which you may have the privilege to use in some work places!)
- You will usually have a different type of clientele as treatments are generally higher priced within a spa. You will find people coming in who live within the local area, as well as people who are treating themselves to a more expensive ‘spa day’ or weekend away. You may not have as many regular clients, however you will get a lot of link selling from the possibility of a gym or hotel next to you.
- You may find within a spa that you specialise in one particular treatment area which can meet your particular preference. Although be prepared to perform more relaxing treatments such as massage and facial treatments. You will also notice more male clients attending a spa, especially if they were recommended to come to you from a gym, so be prepared to perform some deep tissue massage.
- In the spa you may have other speciality treatments performed by other professionals such as Reflexologists, Chiropractors and Chiropodists. A wide range of holistic treatments are more frequently offered, therefore typical product knowledge training could be ‘LaStone therapy’ (a massage using hot stones) and possibly a wider knowledge of aromatherapy products - a popular product range in spas being ‘Aromatherapy Associates’. Water therapies are also associated with this environment, such as ‘floatation tanks’ where the client is levitated in water by powerful jets which gently massage the body.
- Although you will still be required to provide exceptional customer service, your clients will generally be coming to relax in this sort of environment, so this may be suited to someone who is a little less confident in their social skills. Your clients would usually be given a dressing gown and slippers so do not be surprised to see lots of clients walking around looking ready for bed!
- You may be lucky enough to find that in a spa you are not required to help with laundry chores, however the specific water and spa type equipment can easily take just as long to clean.
Similarities between the salon and spa:
- Both environments would usually provide you with a work uniform which you will be required to keep clean, along with your appearance which should be immaculate at all times eg Hair tied back, no jewellery, good hygiene.
- Different safety precautions will apply however must be adhered to in each work place. Particularly with any laser or water treatments, concerning the care and maintenance of the equipment.
- Working hours are generally very similar and as usual you could be required to work bank holidays, weekends and late evenings.
- You will have a manager and occasionally an assistant manager in both environments. Some workplaces adopt a ‘therapist level’ scheme depending on experience.
- I have personally found the pay to be similar in both salon and spa. Although a spa attached to a 5 star hotel in central London, for example, may pay slightly more, commission-schemes on retail products and treatments will vary in every individual workplace. Most places will have both and will inform you of the percentages for each during the interview process.
- You will be responsible for ensuring your clients fill out the relevant consultation cards/forms in both areas. This is particularly important with the more advanced treatments. These must also be stored correctly for client confidentiality.
This is a basic outline of each environment and obviously each work place is slightly different. You may find some businesses will try to adopt both titles, salon and spa. I do feel, however, that there are distinguishable differences between both, and in my opinion it is useful as a therapist, for your own experience and progression, to work in both at some point to have your own opinion. It broadens your knowledge of different treatments and product knowledge, and gives your CV more scope for future employment.