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Clearing the air: scent and spa


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The human sense of smell is profound. Not that long ago, the olfactory system was subject to a very different cornacoupia than we have available to us today. We are bombarded with scent, be it thru perfumes in our toiletries, in our home cleaning products, while we window shop in stores or boutiques and even when we step into a crowded room. Unless we are outdoors with the wind, we rarely encounter “clean” air.

In massage therapy and alternative health and wellness, the old notion of climatology as a backhanded form of racism has been transformed into a ban on perfume. It’s not necessarily unjustified in many cases and perhaps most cases. But it’s there nonetheless.

200 plus years ago, people lived on farms. Animals provided locomotion alongside new industrialized marvels like trains, belching smoke as they carved new infrastructure into the landscape.

Tobacco smoke was common and adopted by many. Tobacco smoke also served to temper the more unpleasant smells picked up during the day. Think about what those ‘other’ unpleasant aromas more than likely were for a moment…and then look at the number of tobacco scents available on the market. I’ve typically seen it paired with leather. Cologne and perfume, incense and candles, oils for home fragrance are the common products that cater to this aesthetic.

Which brings us to flowers and nosegays and what passed for perfume.

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Animal by products provided the basis for the majority of perfumes in the middle ages. During outbreaks of the Black Death – Plague, people began the custom of using nosegays to disguise the smells of death that were everywhere. The idea of luxury and wealth insulating the upper classes from the common people becomes a frayed thread, challenged by the absence of a history of scent in the middle ages.

In the spa where I currently work, we are not allowed to wear perfume. Period. Regardless of job description or role. Period. This rule is designed for client comfort. We do offer scented products but we do not burn candles or use even so much as a scented air freshener anywhere other than the bathrooms. On that note, have a look at these product gems:

Poo pourri

Renova

Which brings us round about to the subject of progress, climatology, pseudoscience, consumerism, design and environmental issues. Also known as conspiracy theory central: the home of Marxism in action as the witty occasionally deign to call it.

With so many unsavory scents bombarding us daily, many spas incorporate the absence of olfactory stimulation to soothe their guests. In our modern era, we all have personalized scent and internalized it. In choosing our favorite shampoo and body products down to our favorite laundry detergent, we create a synthesis of fragrance that can be called a signature. Our pets recognize it and follow it home and so do adults and children, although we don’t always say so if the smell is unpleasant.

Offering guests the absence of smell can be quite an unexpected change of pace from those spas that do utilize it.

Not all spas have the luxury of utilizing scent as a strategic endeavor. It’s my experience that aromatherapy treatments in theory require the absence of competing scents to be most effective and that this is the key selling point of scent in the modern era.

Spa layout and design should be a factor when making a decision to utilize scents and fragrance. How close are your treatment rooms to the lobby? How long are the hallways your guests use? Where are the bathrooms located? Do you have set rooms for aromatherapy purposes or not and are diffusers incorporated into each aromatherapy service? Does your spa offer hydrotherapy and so on? If your running a diffuser in the lobby and it permeates the treatment rooms, your losing money by diluting the quality of services and so on.

Suffice it to say, scent and it’s absence have value. How we interpret those facts and package them for clients remains an art.

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