The rise of spas offers new opportunities

Caroline Bradford admits to having “an abnormal love” of cosmetics. She owns about 50 different shades and colors of lipgloss, and the self-confessed beauty junkie can’t walk into any cosmetic store without being drawn to the eye shadows or eyeliners.

So it’s only natural that when Bradford began work as a concierge at Bella Sante spa, she was a natural at welcoming clients who needed some post shopping-spree rehab or damage control for dry winter skin. The once-journalism major gladly abandoned her writing ambitions to eventually become spa director at the Wellesley location of venerable day spa, where she does everything from making sure the hot lavender towels are neatly folded to juggling schedules for the massage therapists.


“My friends have a vision of my job as lying around, getting my nails done all day, but what they don’t see is me lugging out the bags of trash,” says Bradford.

Spas have come a long way since the primitive mineral springs plunges that were healing sanctuaries and social centers. Going to spa is now a lifestyle; a de-stressing journey, or a health-and-wellness experience. The rejuvenating powers of a spa are no longer just for the pampered rich and famous—spas are big business, serving everyone from the preteen prom-goer to the lunch-hour businessman. The spa industry is the fourth largest leisure industry in the United States, generating $9.7 billion in annual revenue, as more and more consumers embrace the spa experience. Job opportunities in the field will grow rapidly, as employment of personal appearance workers is expected to increase by 14 percent to 2016.

“We’re seeing more teens who are starting spa treatments earlier and earlier, to men busily work on their Blackberries before getting facials or massages,” says Bradford.

The Wellesley location serves a lot of fashionable moms, attired in North Face jackets and Sorel winter boots, sophisticated women who know the difference between vitamin C products (for plumper skin) and vitamin A (smoothing the complexion). When Bradford first started in the spa industry six years ago, the clientele wasn’t nearly as informed.


“Magazines, Web sites, and television shows have educated consumers so they ask more questions, and want to know product ingredients, such as whether they’re organic or paraben- free,” says Bradford.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
When someone walks in the door, you never know what kind of day they’re having – the person might be a cancer patient who finds the benefits of massage helpful, to a widow who just needs to connect with someone and have some personal care.
Q: Have you seen the need for pampering go up or down because of the recession?
Instead of going on a vacation, people are looking for ways to relax in their own neighborhood or town. This isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
Q: Your spa offers everything from Blueberry Smoothie Facials to a Pomegranate Peel. Do you try things out before offering them to the public?
Yes, we’ll experience the service ourselves, which can be helpful to work out any kinks. Recently, for example, we tried out a new matte topcoat for manicures, but it took to long to dry, so we decided it wasn’t practical.
Q: What is your own beauty regime like?
In my line of work, it’s important to look good and keep up personal appearances. I never go to bed without washing my face; use a combination of serums, crèmes, and toners, and get regular facials. I make sure my hair is always nicely cut and colored. I practice what I preach.
Q: What’s your final advice to aspiring spa cosmetologists?
This isn’t a 9-5, Monday through Friday job. We are all here until 10 p.m. at night and work on weekends. It’s not a job you should go into if you want to be home at 6 p.m.

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