woman looking at beauty products


Need a branding boost? Try custom-creating your day spa’s own, signature take-home line.
As spa-goers become increasingly aware of organic and indigenous ingredients, many savvy business owners are turning to expert formulators to help them meet this demand via signature products. Working with local herbalists and manufacturers is an easy and effective way to serve a burgeoning wellness- and green-conscious clientele, and can also complement your existing retail arsenal, as these simple products tend to make compelling gifts and souvenirs. Plus, retailing a range of home products featuring your spa’s name and signature scent sends your branding message out to promote itself, boosting visibility and reinforcing guest loyalty.

“A custom-formulated product allows guests to take their unique experience home and savor it longer as they continue to rejuvenate with products containing wild plants unique to your area,” notes Jennifer Hobson, who handles public relations for New Mexico’s Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa.

According to Hobson, the key to making your unique product stand out lies in using herbs, flowers, and other natural resources that are indigenous to your spa’s area. As you’ll see from DAYSPA’s consultations with spa decision-makers who have been successful with this strategy, mining your own backyard for key ingredients is the first step in creating a signature take-home item that will help get your spa on the map. Each of these pros has added at least one customized signature product to augment its established skincare treatment line(s). —Carrie Borzillo

Ojo Caliente herbs

Desert herbs and mica mined from nearby caves lend Ojo Caliente’s Wild Crafted Body Care distinct flavor.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

When Ojo Caliente owner Jen Scott teamed up with local master herbalist Tomas Enos, owner of Santa Fe-based Milagro Herbs, in January 2011, the team’s primary goal was to capture a “sense of place”—to harness the rich high desert, bottle it up and offer it to spa clients. After several months of trial-and-error formulation, the result was Ojo Wild Crafted Body Care.

“Ojo Signature Body Care was developed to complement the many natural elements that are part of Ojo, including our sacred waters and land,” says Scott. Enos adds, “We used native plants harvested by hand at their optimal time, in a sustainable fashion, with respect to the land.”

The products prominently feature two signature scents: the earthy Ojo Desert Sage and the fresh Ojo Desert Rain. Both have been met with enthusiasm from spa clients, who may first experience the products in treatment rooms, and then make a beeline to Ojo’s gift shop to stock up on take-home product.

Ojo’s custom blends are derived from pure essential oils, wild-crafted herbs and native New Mexican plants, and therapists and gift shop salespeople are trained to inform guests of their healing benefits. For example, Desert Sage’s pine needle oil is an antiseptic, disinfectant and decongestant, and also has antifungal, antiviral and purifying properties, while the sage itself is antibacterial.

“Our goal is to bring a sense of the place of Ojo itself into someone’s home,” Hobson says. “You don’t even have to physically be here—guests can now get the healing properties of Ojo and its high desert environs online!”

Other product line: Sundari


The IO team started their signature line by collaborating with friends who were product formulators.

International Orange
San Francisco

The International Orange (IO) Organic Body products were designed to function as a synergistic system, or as retail and brand manager Leslie Su, puts it, “like yoga for the skin – a daily practice.” The products were created with help from an outside formulator (based in nearby Marin County), along with Julie Elliot, owner of In Fiore, a local skin and body product line very close to the IO team’s heart. The collection launched in May of 2006, and since then, demand has steadily mounted.

The products include Cleanse, a body wash; Anoint, a body oil; Enrich, a body cream; Restore, a hair wash; Nourish, a hair cream; Bathe, a bath soak; and Balance, a deodorant. Featured ingredients include lavender, calendula, white lotus, tuberose petal, seaweed extract, jasmine and jojoba.

“These products are handcrafted from start to finish,” Su says. “They contain only rare organic, wild-crafted and biodynamically farmed ingredients, along with aromatherapy essential oils.

“Each item features a unique blend of three notes: exotic ceremonial flowers, uplifting citruses and healing herbs,” Su explains, adding, “Our IO Anoint and IO Bathe have garnered a firm cult following among our clientele.”

IO’s creative director sought to capture the essence of the spa facility itself when designing IO’s Organic Body packaging. “It’s meant to evoke the same look and feel—minimal in presentation, with lots of white, lending a Spartan feel,” Su says. “We wanted our clients to truly bring the IO experience into their homes.”
Marketing this signature line starts during treatments—two popular IO service offerings utilize them. The spa also sells the line through their own online store, and an external online store, the IO Web Shop.

Other product lines: Arcona, Clarisonic, Dr. Hauschka, In Fiore, IO Organic Body, iS Clinical, PFB Vanish, Preserve Skincare, RGB Cosmetics, SkinCeuticals

Raindance products

Scents of lavender and geranium echo Raindance Spa’s Northern California setting.

Raindance Spa at The Lodge at Sonoma
Sonoma, California

When seeking inspiration for the fragrance foundation of your customized products, try stepping outside and taking a whiff. Last November, doing so helped Raindance Spa director Patricia Field, and Michele Steinert, owner of Sonoma-based Michele’s Apothecary, settle on the aromatic blend of lavender and geranium that characterizes Raindance’s new The Spa Collection line.

“It perfectly captures the indigenous botany of Sonoma County and our ample, local lavender harvest,” Field says. The line includes hair care, body wash, and a travel candle featuring the signature fragrance blend, as well as ingredients such as green tea, sea kelp and chamomile. Ingredients are grown nearby, on Steinert’s organic farm, and Steinert also designed the collection’s attractive, eco-friendly packaging.

Field says that choosing the right partner is key. “We were fortunate to find Steinert—she understands the importance of our philosophy and channeling the aromas and natural healing properties of our region,” she says. The spa worked diligently with Steinert for a couple of months before the products debuted. “Several blends were tried and tested until the perfect formulation was achieved,” Field says.

In addition to being available for use throughout the spa, Raindance Spa products are featured in all Lodge guest rooms. “This brings awareness of a spa on property,” Field says. Many locals and guests from afar continue to request our products again and again,” Field reports. “It reminds them of their time here.”

Other product lines: NuFace, Orly GelFX, SpaRitual, TRUE Mineral Makeup

Carrie Borzillo is a freelance writer and author based in Los Angeles.

Private Practice

Collaborating with local formulators is a lovely way to put a signature stamp on your spa’s offerings, but there are also plenty of reputable private-label manufacturers available to help custom-create your own extended line. DAYSPA recently chatted with some of the top private-labelers in the industry about what they have to offer, and what day spas should consider when shopping for a suitable private-label partner:

DAYSPA: What are the top reasons spa owners might consider going this route?
Mary Swaab, owner of Colorlab Cosmetics: Today’s business model is about exclusivity—consumers increasingly seek opportunities to express their individuality. Your own brand, tailored to your niche market, gives your spa a great competitive advantage.

Barbara Panagos, owner of Brush Up with Barbara/Mineral Mine: Customers are more likely to have faith in a product brand—any brand—that your spa endorses. It’s seen as an original creation of the founder.

Karen Bock, owner of Brushes by Karen and Colorstrokes Cosmetics:
Typically, it’s much less expensive compared to branded lines, and the minimum-order requirements are drastically lower. Private-label lines also force customer loyalty—when your clients fall in love with your products, they can only reorder them from you. With a branded line, they can find it online in the middle of the night!

Debbie Fitzpatrick, president of Botanical Science Technologies: Having great product out there being used by consumers is an integral part of establishing your brand.

Liz Beresford, CEO, Vitelle Labs:
We get a lot of business from savvy professionals who noticed they weren’t getting quite the right results with their current brands, or wanted to follow certain trends or accommodate clients with very specific skincare preferences. You can really work with a private-label manufacturer to achieve particular results.

Cheryl Marcus, director of product development, Grafton: It is not only prestigious to have your own brand but also economically important—private-label markup can range from 500% to 800%.

What should a spa owner look for in a private-label partner?
Beresford: Variety, to give your spa room to grow. We have clients who carry three different lines from us, but their guests would never know, because all feature completely different formulations and packaging.

Bock: Spa owners should do their research and contact several companies. Compare minimums, customer service and product ingredients, and research each company’s ingredients.

When you get started, make sure you know your startup costs. There are often different pricing levels, turnaround times and costs for unprinted goods, as well as printed goods. The beauty is, most companies will let you start small and grow your line in time.

Fitzpatrick: Look for logo design and printing assistance. Spa owners should also know that some support provided for ‘free’ by branded lines, such as training and literature, may not be available or free from a private-label supplier. That’s because branded line unit costs already reflect these marketing efforts..

Gretchen Austom Chevalier, VP of operations, Columbia Cosmetics: Find someone who follows and incorporates the ever-changing trends (paraben-free products, for example). It’s also advisable to work with an over-the-counter (OTC) licensed manufacturer, as it will be able to provide the SPF products that today’s clients demand.

Brenda Gallagher, director of national sales, Your Name Cosmetics: Be sure to look into display options. Attractive merchandising is key to proper sell-through! Also, make sure they offer seasonal launches that are current with trends in the market.

What are the best ways to sell private-label products?
Panagos: Know that you are the brand you offer—at that point the term ‘private label’ no longer applies. You’ll need to support, market and advertise this brand the same as any other.

Fitzpatrick: The ultimate buy-in comes from use. Your staff must become knowledgeable and familiar with the products. They should try them and use them in the back bar. Everyone at your spa must be able to answer questions and provide samples.

Beresford: Since the markup with private-label products is lower, you can pay a higher commission on them—this is a great way to build staff support of this line.

Gallagher: Include a small branded item—a day cream, eye cream or lip gloss—as a take-home gift when clients receive one of your signature services.


Botanical Science Technologies, 800.668.7546
Brushes By Karen, 800.722.0528
Brush Up with Barbara, 800.338.1423
Colorlab Cosmetics, 800.790.2417
Colorstrokes Cosmetics, 800.722.0528
Columbia Cosmetics, 800.824.3328
Cosmetic Solutions, 888.883.0540
Grafton Cosmetics, 800.662.5387
Lady Burd Cosmetics, 800.345.3448
Mineral Mine Cosmetics, 800.338.1423
Vitelle Labs, 877.902.2332
Your Name Cosmetics, 800.221.3071

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