Hot topic

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Waxing is back in the spotlight this year, as salons and spas are beginning to see more potential in this key to client loyalty. It brings in a significant percentage of business for most salons, yet often gets the least love. Clients see it as a necessary evil and for therapists it’s a quick-turnaround service.

However, waxing is also the treatment that clients are most likely to recommend to a friend, with 68% saying they’d spread the word if they find a great waxer, according to a recent Babtac survey of 2,000 salon clients. This, coupled with its potential for regular repeat business, makes waxing a powerful tool for growth. Smart salons and spas are wising up its potential and putting the treat back into wax treatments by adding in steps to address the skin as well as the hair, or introducing extra touches to give a sense of luxury.

“It’s still a bread-and-butter treatment; most salons tell us it’s between 30% and 40% of their business,” says Annette Close, general manager for waxing brand Australian Bodycare. “But over the year’s it’s become slapdash with a lot of salons just getting clients in and out as fast as possible.”

However, this year we’re seeing a backlash against putting waxing on the back burner. When Emma Williams left her role as national health and beauty manager at Virgin Active to run Nottingham salon Joshua Tree salon in April she outlined plans to make the salon a “centre of excellence” for waxing, switching from a generic brand to specialist Outback Organics and training the therapists in advanced techniques. “It makes up 30% of business so it didn’t make sense that we weren’t using a specialist product,” she says. “We have amazing waxing therapists so I want us to become known as the place to go for waxing in the area.”

And it’s not just salons taking waxing seriously. Resense Spas, which has 26 sites worldwide, is rolling out a programme of surprise add-ons such as a collagen face mask applied before a leg wax, to give clients a reason to come back regularly. “In city spas, maintenance is a large part of revenue because there are a lot of local guests so it makes sense from a commercial perspective,” says Resense managing director Kasha Shillington, adding that the move away from clients wanting long, indulgent treatments has also prompted this focus on upscaling maintenance services. Meanwhile, specialist waxing salons are working on ways to add a new dimension to the old favourite. “As people get used to regular waxes they start wanting more. They start thinking how can I enhance my pubic area to manage pigmentation or give it a lifting effect,” says Cynthia Chua, chief executive of salon chain Ministry of Waxing, which has branches worldwide including three in London. “So we started looking at it like a face and considering rejuvenation, brightening and moisturising based on what the customer wanted.” This summer, the brand is working on a night mask to firm skin in the pubic area, plus a whitening wax that addresses pigmentation as it removes hair.

About face

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Waxperts director and head trainer Trish O’Brien trains salons to book 45 minutes to an hour for any Brazilian or Hollywood wax appointment, so they have time to treat the skin too. However, she says she would draw the line at the kinds of skin lightening treatments proposed by Ministry of Waxing. “People aren’t asking for it here yet; it’s more for towns like LA at the moment,” she says. “We’ve looked into it because whenever there’s talk of something being the next big thing we investigate it but it’s too risky. If it’s not done properly you can get bleached patches that look like vitiligo.”

Rebecca Dowdeswell, who uses Perron Rigot waxes in her Nottingham salon NKD agrees, adding, “treatments such as ‘Vajacials’ are not necessary if a good brand of wax is used, the therapist has been trained in the most up-to-date techniques and is giving the client full aftercare advice.” While most salons limit the skincare element of the treatment to the pre-wax oil and post-wax lotion, getting clients to care for the treated skin as they would if they’d had a facial is still high on the agenda. Ally Avery, training manager for London’s Strip Wax Bar salons, tells her therapists to explain to clients that any treated skin needs nourishing, no matter where it is. “You put make-up on your face and expose it to pollution so you cleanse, tone and moisturise, whereas people come have all their hairs ripped out then they’ll go home and doing nothing,” she says. “I explain that, be it legs, face or bikini, if you’re doing something to the skin on a regular basis, you have to really nourish it afterwards.

Waxing can actually improve the tone and texture of your skin if you’re using the right aftercare products.” Jack Dunn, who runs Jack Dunn Male Grooming salon in London and is also Perron Rigot’s brand specialist, says clients are coming round to the idea of better homecare to prolong the effects of a wax. “Recently I’ve seen a huge increase in the number of clients looking for products that can extend their period of being hair free and purchasing more retail products designed to minimise hair regrowth,” he says.

Touch of lux;e

Picture credit: Strip Wax Bar

For many, approaching waxing as you would a relaxing treatment like a facial is less about correcting problems in the skin and more about making the treatment as comfortable and luxurious as possible, so clients leave feeling relaxed rather than ravaged. “Nobody’s going to think ‘I’ve got a leg wax this afternoon, I can’t wait’, but if you add in a foot and leg massage as you apply the oil at the end, that’ll be the bit that sticks in their mind as they leave, so they’re more likely to come back,” says Close.

She says adding extra touches like these has become more important than ever as waxing formulations improve and the hair removal itself gets quicker to do: “With our hygienic waxing system, for example, if you’re getting a half-leg wax, it can be done in four or five minutes and if people are paying £20 but only spending 10 minutes in the salon, the value for money seems worse to them.” She suggests adding value with a really thorough consultation and cleanse beforehand then a massage at the end.

Similarly, Andy Rouillard, owner of Axiom men’s grooming salon and wax academy, and head trainer for Outback Organics, suggests finishing an eyebrow wax with a pressure-point massage around the eyes, forehead and cheekbones to refresh the senses. “Extractions and high frequency are also optional extras to add to a waxing menu, and when combined with a hydrating or lightening mask can become a standalone treatment for hair removal regulars,” he adds.

Speed freaks

Picture credit: Ministry of Waxing

However, many waxing specialists also warn against adding too many steps into what most clients view as a quick-fix service treatment. “Usually our clients are going shopping or straight for lunch afterwards so they don't want all that; just a good wax with no gimmicks,” says Dowdeswell.

Waxxxpress director Lilianne Caron goes one step further and suggests the best way to keep clients loyal is to actually cut down the time they spend with you. She recommends express waxes where two therapists work on one client; for example, one doing facial waxing while the second starts on the legs. “Appointing just one therapist to the job of ‘express waxer’ means they can float around the salon, potentially take walk in clients, and pop in and out of the treatment rooms assisting the other therapists if and when needed,” she adds. “This is a life saver when it comes to getting customers in and out the door as quick as possible.”

If you provide a professional treatment, using superior wax and giving great aftercare but don't want to put off clients with the extra time or cost involved in added extras, it may be enough to spell out to them what makes you better than the cut-price salon down the road, adds Caron. “Tell customers what products you use, why you use them and what benefits they are getting buy choosing your service over another salon,” she says. “You don’t want them thinking they can get the exact same treatment anywhere else.”

Salon System educator Lisa Stone also suggests that obvious visual actions, such as testing the temperature of wax in front of clients to reassure them it won’t burn, will give them more faith in your professionalism. “It’s also imperative to learn the correct terminology and anatomy of the genital area to give a professional impression - use of slang words is a no-no,” she adds.

Getting personal

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Personalising treatments is another way to display expertise and you can do that through choice of wax. “We’ve use a really broad range at Strip,” says Avery. “So we tailor treatments via consultation and really looking at the skin. For example, I’d use Lycon’s lavender hot wax on clients with sensitive skin or someone who’s recently shaved and knocked their hair cycle out of sync because it can pick up even the tiniest of hairs. The Manifico wax is really strong, so I’d use that on redheads or anyone with strong hair, and there’s one with virgin olive oil, which is great for dry skin types.”

And Strip Wax Bars are not alone in tailoring the wax to suit the client. A recent survey by Grafton International, which distributes GiGi and Clean + Easy waxes, found 44% of salon owners agreed it was important to understand each customer’s skin and hair type before a wax and 66% heated more than one wax at a time in the salon.

At Ministry of Waxing, personalisation also comes in the form of diagnosing clients’ treatment anxieties. “We have three factors: the shy factor, the fear factor and the pain factor,” says the group’s creative director Jerry de Souza. “If you’re shy, we give you Bach flower remedies, for the fear factor the girls will walk you through step by step what will happen and for pain we have a squeezy toy.” Whether you add an element of theatre, turn waxing into a luxe experience, or simply spell out what makes you special, giving a renewed focus to this salon staple could be instrumental in finding new clients and keeping existing ones loyal as the market develops.