The buzz words in the spa industry are sustainability and holistic, customers demand I and spas are responding to their concerns, writes Victoria Burrows.

People around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the health impacts of what they are putting in and on their bodies. They are also showing more concern for the environment, and are supporting brands that are as environmentally and socially responsible as possible. This demand for more sustainable products is increasingly evident in spas, where customers expect a holistic attitude to wellness.

After all, what we put on our skin is not just physical, but emotional, says Dr Gautham Shetty, Ayurvedic Doctor at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru.

“We have a direct physical and emotional relationship with cosmetics,” he says, “as we wear them daily on our skin. More and more guests are aware of the side effects of synthetic or artificial chemicals; using organic and herb-based cosmetics is the natural way.”

The products used in the Landaa Giraavaru spa are organic, as are the medicines at the Ayurvedic counter.

Professional beauty care company Sothys also focuses on the natural, having planted a 4-hectare Organic Beauty Garden in Auriac, France, and including more natural ingredients in their products – what they describe as “green chemistry”.

“We put much effort in green chemistry, natural assets, and patented natural ingredients,” says Hilda Kwok, brand manager, Sothys, Hong Kong region. “In our latest products, we have focused our research on natural ingredients: saffron flower polyphenols and quercetin dimer of the sophora flower are the active ingredients. Using natural and/ or organic ingredients is a worldwide trend in the cosmetics industry.

“Nowadays, as more people become aware of the negative effects of using chemical ingredients, they chose safer and higher quality products over products containing ingredients that destroy the environment. Thanks to innovative technology in the laboratory, scientists can draw from the heart of nature to discover the best potential of natural ingredients.”

While most spas and spa products companies state that quality is most important, they agree that giving customers an experience of the local can be beneficial.

“Guests like to have a distinctive experience with local flavour,” says Dr Shetty. “It is also beneficial to spas as they are then able to identify themselves as unique among their competitors.”

The organic coconut oil that is used extensively in many of the Landaa Giraavaru spa therapies is locally procured. It is also sold at the spa for guests who would like to take the oil back home with them.

Sothys also provides some local appeal in its products.

“We believe that the most important criteria for spa guests are professionalism, quality products and a good brand reputation, rather than just looking for ‘local’ appeal. However, if the spa provides effective products that also have some local appeal, then this can add a distinctive feature, and may be more interesting to guests. Because of this, we developed a body care series called Hanakasumi with the theme of cherry blossom and lotus, and the luxury La Crème 128 treatment which contains the exclusive ingredient from Les Jardins Sothys, called Sothys Rose.”

There is also a move in the cosmetics and spa industry towards sustainable and recyclable packaging. Companies are reducing the size and weight of packaging components, with Sothys, for example, having recently reduced their packaging components from 93g to 78g. Companies are also using more recyclable materials, such as recyclable cellophane, PMMA, PET, PETG, wood and paper. Wood, cardboard and paper are increasingly sourced from sustainably managed forests.

The move to natural, organic ingredients and sustainable packaging doesn’t only boost health, help the planet and please customers, but it can also be good for business.

“A brand is more than a name – it’s the sum of a consumer’s experiences with a recognisable product – and it’s powerful,” says Dr Shetty. “Being recognised as an organic brand will give authenticity and good will to the product, which may result in increased revenue. Organic products are more acceptable to guests as they will likely be aware that there is less chance of adverse reactions and no possibility of toxicity. Guest experience and will be enhanced through the use of natural and organic products.”

Of course, using natural, organic or sustainable ingredients and packaging is likely to increase the cost of the production process, but many brands believe it is worth it.

“It is a business ethic and our social responsibility,” says Kwok. “Sothys emphasises the safety and efficacy of our products, as well as their sensorial quality. We keep our promise by providing effective products while respecting nature. Sustainable development is crucial if we are to balance social, economic, environmental and resource needs, both for the present and future generations.”