Pardon the pun! It takes sense to run a business…and scents are something we’re bombarded with every day. Sometimes it’s a pleasant thing, and sometimes not. Many people are sensitive to fragrances, and in the massage and spa environment, we have to be sensitive to that. Many of us have gotten so used to them, we don’t even notice, but consider this: unless you are using totally unscented products in your everyday life, by the time you’ve washed with soap, applied deodorant, used shampoo and conditioner, put on lotion, nail polish, hair spray, cosmetics…well, that’s a half-dozen smells at least on your body (competing with each other)–and that’s before you’ve even applied perfume or cologne, if you wear it.
Smell is a wonderful thing. It can evoke pleasant memories. The aroma of vegetable soup bubbling on the stove reminds me of my grandmother, who has been gone for a long time. I’d spend my last dime just to taste one more bowl of her soup. I also still have the bottle of perfume that was on her dresser when she died many years ago…it’s just a dime store bottle of something called Floral Bouquet, not an expensive designer brand, but it is sweet-smelling, and occasionally I put a little spritz in the air just to remind me of her.
Certain places have their own unique smell. Chalk has gone by the wayside in a lot of schools now in favor of white boards and digital technology, but I’ve always thought I could be blind-folded and would know that I was in a school by the smell. A mechanic shop has that smell of gasoline, oil and grease. Restaurants have their own smells; McDonald’s has a different smell from the neighborhood Italian restaurant. The beach has that wonderful salty, fresh air that you can smell a few miles before you get there. And nothing smells better to me than breathing in clean, mountain air, smelling the evergreens, and the occasional whiff of wood smoke coming from the chimney of someone’s cabin.
Personally, I love pure essential oils. On the other hand, if I get in close proximity to someone who is drenched in perfume or cologne, it’s enough to send me into an asthma attack. There’s nothing I hate worse than not being able to get away from it–an airplane ride when someone near me on the plane is wearing heavy perfume is enough to make me want to jump out without a parachute! I’m also careful of the cleaning products and personal care products that I use. Being in a closed space with anything that comes in an aerosol can usually just makes me feel like I can’t breathe. I imagine it’s the propellants and chemicals that set me off.
My favorite Soothing Touch product is Narayan Oil. It contains the essential oils of clove, eucalyptus, and peppermint in a sesame oil base. I not only use it for doing deep massage; it smells so stress-relieving to me I often put a little dab on my wrist. But I’m sensitive to the fact that some people suffer from allergies and skin sensitivities, and that not everyone wants to be around fragrance, so I never use scented products of any kind in the treatment room without checking with the client first.
We need to be very cautious in our use of essential oils and products containing them with our massage clients. The intake process should always include questions about any allergies or sensitivities, and the direct question of whether or not it is okay to use oils or scented products with them. We also need to carefully follow guidelines for dilution with carrier oils–and to ascertain that the client has no nut allergies before choosing a carrier or massage oil. You don’t want to send someone into anaphylactic shock by applying anything that contains nut oils. Nuts of all kinds tend to be processed in the same place, on the same machinery, so even though someone’s specific allergy may be to peanuts, the best policy is to avoid applying any nut oil to people with those types of allergies.
We also need to avoid making claims about the benefits of aromatherapy oils. Stating that something has been used as a folk remedy for stress relief is a different thing from promising someone that an oil cures cancer–an experience that I actually had while my husband was going through his cancer treatment–people were suggesting he take frankincense oil internally. Advising clients to take oils internally, or to use them as a treatment for any serious condition, is going outside scope of practice, and downright dangerous. People who are very fair-skinned are often sensitive to oils, so even if they have no allergies, it’s better to err on the side of caution and use sparingly until you ascertain that they’re comfortable with your products.
Scents can be a wonderful thing. But using sense is a necessary part of using them in your business. Even if you’re not in the massage or spa business, keep in mind that not everyone might appreciate that heavy air freshener, scented candles, or other scents if they’re bombarded with it when they enter your business. Less is more, unless you’re running a perfumery, where people know before they enter what they’re letting themselves in for. Use sense when using scents in your business.
Laura Allen, Massage Division Director at Soothing Touch