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What your spa esthetician really thinks

What's Really Going On at the Spa

Set aside a few minutes to read this excellent article from New York magazine. It's a thorough, unblinking look into the reality of the spa and salon business, from the amount of money that workers make to the what they really think while they're waxing off your hair.

For instance, the writer interviews her facialist, Francesca Kim, who reveals the pay structure at her employer, a Manhattan spa:

In her current gig, she began at an hourly rate of $10 to $12 — the industry maximum, she tells me — plus commission for each treatment she does for a client. But without notice, the owners started removing the hourly rate from treatment slots. Sometimes the commission was 40 percent of the treatment price, sometimes 25 percent. It varies irregularly, though the more expensive the procedure, the lower her cut (tips make up 20 percent of her income).

I don't know about you, but this is absolutely fascinating to me. I've long wondered about the wages at spas, opting to over-tip for even the least expensive services. Now I'm glad that I've been doing so, and I'm thinking I should probably amp it up a few bucks more. But that's just one aspect of this story. Be sure to check out these poll results, which are equally intriguing.

Join The Conversation
terrywagner123 terrywagner123 9 years
Sounds like a crazy business, but, people want massages, etc. I never thought about what they get paid, but, $10 an hour sucks for that kind of hard work, wish I had a friend that did facials, I just paid $120 for one and I know the materials were not that expensive and they wanted to book me for the next month, telling me how I was going to love the results, well, sorry, but, I don't have that kind of money, this was a birthday present to myself and a once a year thing at that price. Think I'll go somewhere else next time.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
Wow, Giggle, you got some funky feet or what?! :)
lotuslight lotuslight 9 years
Thanks Bella, I get that a lot. I also have the busiest, most steady and stable massage practice that I know about in my area...and I've only been at it for 7 months. The rates pan out, and i get to help people who can't otherwise afford it!
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
I feel uncomfortable with people touching my feet—not so much because I'm squeamish, but because I feel for anyone touching my feet unless I know they're getting all the money for doing so!
lil11ro lil11ro 9 years
i've been doing massage for 7 years and facials etc for 3 years. every place pays differntly. some give you no commission from the price of the treatment and an hourly rate plus the tip which some people dont leave because they think they are paying enough for the treatment. spending your day in such a physical job an hourly pay of $10 is not nearly enough. some places will pay you a percentage of the treatment cost and no hourly pay... so if the person doesnt show or you have no treatment booked you get no pay. tipping is mostly how we make money. and for most of us this is our profession so we are professional which means we are not thinking how you have too much acne or should have shaved before you came. dont think everyone of us is like that. we pay a lot for massage and facial school for careers that sometimes do not last due to getting hurt or wearing our bodies out. also most of us work with no benefits health etc. and i agree with bella sugar lotuslight needs to change her prices unless she has her practice in a middle of no where town she is selling herslef way short. also working for yourself you have other expenses rent etc so you arent really keeping all the money.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
Lotuslight, you charge only $35/hr? You gotta raise your rates — that's what I've paid for student massages!
lotuslight lotuslight 9 years
I'm a massage therapist with my own business. This article really reinforced to me why I don't work at a spa! The clientèle may be more steady at a spa, you might make more in tips, etc. But, it's grueling, often underpaid, and you're under someone else's thumb in a flighty business. I charge 35/hr at my office (lowest price for a massage I've ever found), and of course, I get to keep all of it. I usually get tipped, too (even though I don't expect it). I have minimal expenses, i.e.: rent, oil, sheets, laundry for sheets, copies for client intake forms and SOAP charts, etc. All is in, though, it's a million times better to be your own boss and not work in a Spa--and I make more than I would otherwise, and get to charge clients less, enabling people in tighter incomes to enjoy the benefits of massage.
karisaamy karisaamy 9 years
We have 3 massage therapists here at my work - they get $28/ hour of massage time, then if someone doesn't show up they get nothing for their time. They also don't get benefits because they can't work 30 hours a week it is just too demanding physically.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
From what I understand most estheticians are paid in one of two ways. The first method is renting a space at a salon. This means that you keep all the money that you make but pay the salon a predetermined fee. The second way that is used sometime is them paying a % of their earnings to the salon. I know that in cosmetology school when I've done facials and waxing I'm more focused on what I am doing than the condition of the person's face. I do not judge people for the amount of facial hair or the condition of their skin, usually it's beyond their control.
Angelica Angelica 9 years
I try my hardest to pretend the person doing my nails or waxing me is thinking about anything other than what they are doing. Grooming another person is just uncomfortable.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
“ A story about a friend who thought she might have herpes.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat??!!
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Do you think it’s okay to talk on your cell phone while you’re at a nail salon? Ummm I never thought it was...
Mikaela81 Mikaela81 9 years
I also forgot, making friends in the rest of the industry... you "trade" services, hairdressers trade you hair cuts for brow waxes and nail techs with maniacures, etc... Seriously, it's great!
Mikaela81 Mikaela81 9 years
My sister an I are both estheticians, and trust me... you don't make SQUAT! We still maintain our licenses, but no longer work in the industry except at home. This woman sounds like she makes out really well compared to what we did,I don't even know how we managed. The tippers were the saving grace, seriously. The whole thing is hilarious, and you don't want to know what they are thinking while working on you, trust me! All I can say is that getting licensed is the best money a true beauty junkie can spend. The time it takes and the ammount it costs is nothing compared with actually having an education in skincare, the whole sale cost you get on all products from Davines haricare to Dermalogica to all the nail products you could ever want and being able to perform all services either on yourself or in our very lucky case, having a sister that does it too - you will NEVER have to pay again for a bikini or brow wax or spray tan ever again in your life. Totally worth it. Plus we always have the option of doing it again professionally if we want to.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Interesitng info...I always wondered what they made too.
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