Recipe for Success

Recipe for Success

Hopefully at some point in your life you’ll have experienced a treatment with the ultimate wow factor. One that you wish would never end but oh look, here’s a beautiful herbal tea to soften the blow that it has. It also won’t surprise you that the treatment in question wouldn’t have just been whipped up in a week. “For me it can be anything from six weeks to six months depending on the project and depth of research,” explains Denise Leicester, founder of iLa Spa and iLa apothecary. “When I created our Tibetan treatments, I spent six months researching Tibetan massage [Ku Nye], then from here I worked on the oils to complement it, along with crystals, music, the incense burned in the room and even a Tibetan welcome. It’s always about a journey that starts with intention.”

Naturally not all treatments will take half a year to come to fruition, if you just want to tweak your mani-pedi offerings, it will be a simpler affair but that doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade the experience. “The winning trick to all treatment design is the attention to detail and that includes considering every element that is incorporated into it,” says Sara Young, spa operations manager at The Spa at South Lodge. “A large consideration at the moment is about having a certain level of customisation in the treatment so that a guest feels that they have had a unique and exclusive experience. It’s also key to consider their comfort, be it the temperature in the room to the comfort of the treatment couch or seating area itself.” Whether it’s providing blankets and cushions during pedi’s or giving clients a variety of moisturiser options when you massage their fingers and toes depending on their mood (uplifting, relaxing, calming etc), it’s a way of showing your clients that you want them to get the most out of their moments of self-care. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a spa owner or a self-employed therapist - everyone can create a treatment that gives clients the same wow factor you’d want to experience. Here’s what else you need to know to nail it…


A new product or range is a great launchpad for a treatment but even then it can be tricky mustering up ideas. At Sensory Retreats, who create treatments for some of the top spas in the world and work with over 2000 accounts in the UK, it can be a collaborative process. “We take inspiration from the therapists we work with and it’s this melting pot of ideas and our own experiences that often brings to the forefront an exciting new ingredient or a new technique which has a sense of excitement around it,” says Clare Anderson, founder of Sensory Retreats. “Once inspiration has stuck, we then create a mood board, research the best ingredients or products and silent brainstorm which often brings in magical new innovations by chance as this time to be quiet and really think is hugely valuable to the creative process. The next step is to gather our team of therapists together to discuss and refine.

Not everyone has a team on hand but asking for advice from others or simply talking to friends and peers about their favourite treatments and why might give you the inspiration to tailor your treatment.


Your clients are a vital part of the picture too. “They will guide you,” says Sinéad de hÓra, founder of Treatment Creations that works with high-end spas and brands to hone their treatments and philosophy. “Be observant as to what they want, what products they are buying, how often they visit you and the time in which they visit – you can create so many treatments around their needs.”

This information will also determine how long the treatment needs to be which is something else to bear in mind. “While we know that longer treatments can be more fulfilling for the client, we appreciate that it’s hard work commercially for the therapist, salon or spa so quite often we will create a range of treatments around the same theme but for different lengths of time. It also means that the treatment is instantly recognisable wherever the client may be,” continues Anderson. Additionally, if there is an ‘express’ version or paired-back option, it leaves the door open for those not only with a shorter time scale but a stricter budget.


Once you’ve got the concept cracked, think of your treatment like a book with a beginning, middle and end. This will not only help you with structure, but it will take your client on an all-round journey. “At the beginning the guests need to feel relaxed so that could be with a ‘welcome touch’ signature series of body stretches or perhaps warm towels to clean the feet,” continues Sara. “The middle section of the story is the ‘treatment’ itself and this is where you want to pick out those key ‘wow’ elements that are your USP – that could be a specific massage technique in a facial or the use of certain added tools like a rose quartz roller or derma globes. Then at the end of the treatment you need clients to leave with an exquisite memory to keep. This can be a herbal tea delivered to the treatment room or a product recommendation specifically for their needs.”

Think of every treatment as a 360 approach and ensure you tick off all wellbeing aspects of mind, body and soul. When de hÓra worked with the brand Kalmar Lifestyle on creating a menu of treatments they had to be aligned with the four collections of products that fell under ‘Peace’, ‘Love’, ‘Calm’ and ‘Joy’. “The brand is based on awakening your senses so when I created the Joy treatment it starts with the lights dim and as the treatment continues, the room becomes brighter and by the end of the treatment the lights will be on to reflect how the clients energy should be at the end. The treatment consists of stimulating movements, like dance and yoga, on the treatment couch to awaken joy within and the Joy products are infused with Bergamot and Lemon – ingredients that naturally boost your energy and improve your mood,” she explains. “To continue the clients experience, in this instance, cooling and awakening drinks are offered.”


Touch is the first thing that springs to mind when you think about treatments but like the above proves, there needs to be more to your story than just a hands-on approach. “At ESPA we consider all of the senses when creating treatments including sight, sound, smell, taste and touch,” explains Nicola Baillie, head of education at ESPA. “The lighting and using crystals as well as music, singing bowls and cymbals. For the smell we assess what products we will use, for taste there are pre and post refreshments and nutritional advice if we are working on a wellness programme. Touch focuses on the precise massage movements and the techniques the guest will experience. How you stimulate each of the senses will differ with every treatment you create but it’s so important as this is how you add an extra dimension to the experience.”

Not sure where to start? Sara Young suggests threading a theme or concept through each aspect of the client’s time with you. “At South Lodge our signature scent is jasmine – you smell it in the spa before you have your treatment and it’s taken all the way through to the bespoke jasmine tea that you receive at the end,” she says.

And while you might not be a dancer, think about the choreography of your treatment. At LUSH spas, each treatment has its own soundtrack that’s been designed so that the music mirrors the therapist’s moves. It makes it even more of an immersive in-sync service. “Sound has a profound effect on relaxing our body and mind and in our iLa treatments we always use music in 432 megahertz,” explains Denise Leicester. “Regular music has a frequency of around 440 but in ancient times it was always 432 which has resonance with the earth. It’s also been found that just 10 minutes of listening to music at this frequency lowers the sympathetic nervous system.” Responsible for those fight or flight anxieties, it means you truly have the power to de-stress your clients.

One thing you don’t want to do is create a treatment that clashes with your environment though, so if your spa or salon is high energy in an urban environment, reflect that in your menu. “Offering a 90-minute grounding treatment would be a contradiction to your brand message,” says de hÓra.


There are no written rules as to when you should add a new treatment to your line-up – you might want to do a yearly review of what’s popular and what’s not, you may choose to change your offerings on a seasonal basis or you could be guided by the brands that you stock. Creating a new treatment with the launch of a new product or range that you’re introducing can whip up excitement in and out of the treatment room. Keep an eye on new techniques and trends in the industry too. If everyone is talking about facial massage, make sure you’re up to date on the new moves and tools so you can give your client what they want.

That said, don’t just rip up your existing menu for the sake of it. “I try to keep away from adding in new treatments every quarter or month as it means forcing the natural treatment creativity,” advises Young. “Also, depending on the size of your spa or salon, if you have a large team, you need to ensure they are fully trained and if you’re updating treatments all the time, you risk losing high levels of the quality.”


However long you’ve been working on a treatment, the proof is in the pudding, which is why it needs vigorous testing and if you have a team, they need extensive training. “We often design and launch treatments using only a few members of the team so we can see how successful it is before training everyone. We also do several checks on each team member to make sure they’ve grasped the entire concept behind the treatment and are delivering it correctly,” continues Young. “This is integral, especially if you have two guests booked in for the same treatment as you need to ensure they have the same experience which can only be the case if there is consistency between therapists.”

De hÓra is in agreement and often suggests regular mystery shopping to maintain high standards from the therapists because let’s face it, it’s you (or your team) that will determine the success of the treatment. “At the end of the day the love from the therapist is the only thing that matters. There is nothing like a treatment when you know your therapist connects with the brand message, adores the products they’re using and genuinely loves what they do. Once you find that therapist, never let them go!” Satisfying to perform and satisfying to your clients, if you’ve created a treatment that ticks both boxes, you’ve managed to find the winning formula.

Treatment No No's

  • Don’t make it too complicated or too far removed. It will feel confusing and rushed for whoever is experiencing it.
  • Take enough time between treatments so you’re not rushing to get the room ready and clock watching your client. You don’t want them to feel like they’re on a conveyor belt.
  • Ensure your team is fully immersed in what you want your clients to experience and that they enjoy the treatment too. If they don’t have any passion and are simply ‘going through the motions’ the client will sense it.
  • Listen to feedback and always make sure the therapists can perform atmospheric tweaks at the clients request whether it’s room temperature, lighting or choice/volume of music.

Please note

As we are sure you are aware any new treatment will need to take into account current Covid restrictions. Some suggestions in this article may not currently be possible – please refer to the Government Guidelines for further information.