L.A.s Booming Body Care Needs for Summer 2021 and Beyond

LOS ANGELES — The hub of wellness, where fit and glowing bodies are maintained year-round — has long been a harbinger of approaching beauty trends. The focus now? Body care services.

The category, typically a subset of skin care, is growing in L.A. And those vaccinated, approximately 59 percent of residents as of June 25, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, have been flocking to spas and clinics for body care treatments and procedures — inquiring about enhancing their silhouette shape, skin tightening, texture and addressing discoloration, scarring and unwanted hair.

Sevana Petrosian of SEV Laser Aesthetics has been offering the latter with her thriving laser hair removal business. She’s currently booked four to 20 weeks out; in her original Melrose Place location alone, the first available appointment for a full leg treatment ($150 per session), for instance, isn’t until mid-August.

And that’s with little to no marketing. In fact, while she has a team of two managing the company’s social media, she doesn’t have a marketing department, nor has she ever paid an influencer or celebrity to promote the business.

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“It’s all been word of mouth,” she said.

When she first opened shop in her hometown of Glendale, Calif., in July 2010, her focus was on getting by.

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“I rented a small room from my ex-boyfriend’s mom’s hair salon,” she said of the spot. “I was like, ‘I just need to make my rent. I need to make my car payment. If I can get X amount of clients, I can make enough money to make my rent.’”

Today, she oversees over 400 employees in 24 locations and expects to open 12 more by the end of the year in Fresno, Temecula, Palmdale, Bakersfield, Burlingame, San Diego, as well as New York City’s East Village, SoHo, in Maryland, and other major cities like Atlanta, Chicago and Boston. She’s also looking to expand internationally, with her sights set on London.

She saw success immediately, within just a month of starting. Demand was there: “I opened the doors, and I remember, had my first two clients. It took me 30 minutes to do a laser, and they gave me $400. I really in that very moment, I just saw it. I was like, ‘I can do this. I can really do this.’ I had never made $400 in 30 minutes before, you know?”

At the time, medical spas were just beginning to pop up as alternatives to clinics. More intimate and personal, they brought newness to the laser hair removal industry. What set Petrosian apart was offering a luxury treatment at an affordable price in a boutique-style setting, she said.

“I’ve always made sure that people are getting what they are paying for,” she added. She built close relationships with clients, and as she scaled, she made sure her laser technicians, all registered nurses, had that same approach. “I didn’t want to miss any areas [of the body] or use lower settings. I would learn and study the skin as much as I could so that I could give people the best treatment I could possibly give them.”

She utilizes the industry’s two most popular machines: the Alexandrite (with a wavelength of 755 nm, ideal for lighter skin tones) and the Nd:YAG (wavelength at 1064 nm, for darker skin tones). The pigment in the hair absorbs a pulse of light, destroying the capillary that feeds the follicle. The process is quick, relatively painless, and there’s no need for numbing cream, a standard in the past.

“With our machines, we buy a dimmer, and it’s attached to our laser handle pieces,” said Petrosian. “What it does is it blows cold air, and the cold air kind of takes away the pain.”

Business has been going so well that she plans to open a new location (also on Melrose Place) that specializes in skin treatments, utilizing FDA-cleared Morpheus8, minimally invasive and designed to produce collagen using microneedling, and CoolSculpting (which reportedly eliminates 20 to 25 percent of fat cells) for skin tightening and contouring.

“Clients are asking for it,” she said.

When she started, though the general public was familiar with laser treatments, it was still a fairly new topic, she explained. Now, the consumer is more educated than ever.

“Social media has really helped with that,” she said. “They do their research before they come in.”

At the plastic surgery office of Dr. William Rahal in Beverly Hills, visitors are taking it a step further. They use apps to manually shape their bodies and show him the altered images.

“They’ll be like, ‘This is how I morphed myself. Can you do it?’” said Rahal, who specializes in the “360 lipo and Brazilian butt lift” procedure. He’s booked until May 2022. “Patients are more sophisticated now.”

While the standard BBL, which has been around for about 15 years according to Rahal, removes fat from the tummy and the waist and adds fat to the buttocks, his approach differs.

“What happened with me a couple years ago was that I realized that it just wasn’t the best result, because if you neglect other areas, which are included in the 360 — like the upper back, the middle of the back, some other anatomical areas — if you ignore those areas, it just doesn’t look as balanced,” said Rahal, who uses 3D imaging to scan bodies front and back to provide patients with a more realistic 360-degree image. In the end, the scarring is minimal, there’s a two-week recovery period, and it takes about three months to achieve the final result, he said.

“Some aesthetic standards are kind of ubiquitous,” he said of trends, explaining that above all, women are seeking an hourglass figure. “They’re universal, like a smaller waist and some element of a curve, regardless of age.”

During the pandemic he saw a boom in patients (thanks partly to his presence on Instagram, where he has 735,000 followers) and added an additional four consultations a week, which resulted in a 30 to 40 percent increase in bookings. They have since opened up on weekends to meet the demand and wait times have also increased.

“The body visual has taken on a new meaning, probably over the last five or 10 years,” said Dr. Harold Lancer of Lancer Dermatology in Beverly Hills. With over 40 years of experience and clients that include Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham, he’s booked out four weeks in advance.

“In the last two years, it’s taken on more of a physical importance,” he went on. “The body shape is a huge issue now. In fact, half of the patients I see — if I see probably like 50 patients a day, and let’s say five to 10 of them are new patients, half of them are interested in something having to do from the neck down.”

Outside of body contouring, the number-one issue he’s asked about is color correction, followed by texture, he said, with patients wanting their skin to be a uniform, unblemished, even look. His prices start at around $500.

“The newest things are combination treatments,” he said of innovations. “You have the ultrasound treatments, and so machines that combine multidepth fractionated ultrasound and high-intensity fractionated radio waves like the Accent Prime.”

There are two kinds of clients in the world, he said: “There’s the person who says, ‘I want to look good with my clothing totally on, and therefore I don’t care what’s underneath as long as…I look physically fit.’ And then there are the customers who say, ‘I care what I look like totally nude and scars bother me.’ And the people who care about what they look like totally nude are increasing.”

Bicoastal celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, too, has seen a rise in demand for her services. When she was unable to provide her popular facials due to health guidelines, she shifted her focus on body treatments, like her $325 “Supernova” or $500 “Double Happiness,” made to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. In L.A., where she reopened two months ago, the spa is booked through October. She’s currently hiring.

“We’re seeing people coming in on a monthly basis, as they would for their face, because I guess people are planning to be naked for the summer post-pandemic,” said the aesthetician and skin care brand owner, who treats the likes of Julianne Moore.

“Skin tightening and muscle tightening have been the two major concerns that people want to fix,” she added, noting the use of Emsculpt, a body contouring treatment. “People are really focused on kind of prepping for this, you know, Roaring ’20s idea, being out and about in a big way. People are really focused on results-oriented care for their whole body.”

That’s a relatively new concept in the U.S., said Mila Moursi, one of Hollywood’s most in-demand specialists and owner of the Mila Moursi Skin Care Institute in L.A. She has 40 years of experience in the business, studying skin and chemistry in Paris and London, with clients that include Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Aniston and Charlize Theron.

“Years ago, the body was not taken care of at all in America,” said Moursi, who produces a range of both face and body products as part of her skin care line developed in Paris. “When I used to say body treatments, they said, ‘What’s that?’ They stopped at the face, and I used to say, ‘Wait a minute. Your skin is your largest organ, and it covers your whole body. What makes you think you can only take care of your face?’”

Things have changed. In the U.S. in 2020, body products saw “tremendous growth,” according to Larissa Jensen, vice president of beauty and industry adviser at the NPD Group.

“What’s interesting about body is that, generally speaking, it has had a trend reversal, meaning that, if you look back a couple years ago, body was kind of either flat or in decline,” said Jensen of products sold in upscale channels. “Year-end [2020], body in skin care ended the year with 15 percent growth. This is when skin care was declining 11 percent. So, it’s the one area of the skin care category that actually saw growth in a declined year.”

Body cleansers, exfoliators and creams were the biggest contributors, she added: “Looking at 2021, there’s a very similar type of trend happening…Body is still growing faster than everything else. For the first quarter of 2021, body products grew 51 percent.”

When Moursi had to close her spa for a year because of the pandemic, she focused on her offerings, expanding to new markets. 

“The skin care side of the business just doubled in 2020 versus the prior year, and is on track to do the same this year, aided by explosive growth in the far east from Australia to Hong Kong, where the products had not previously been available prior to the pandemic,” said Curtis Cluff, chief executive officer of WalDin, LLC and Mila Moursi Skin Care.

The spa is now renovated and reopened. Moursi sees regulars, a who’s who of Hollywood (while she doesn’t name names, they’ve referenced her through the years), consistently visiting for personalized body treatments.

“I grew up in the spa from a young age,” chimed in her daughter, Dina, who also manages the business. “And I’ve seen older women that look so much younger than their age. But the point is, when you do take care of yourself, with discipline, you can look more than 20 years younger than you are.”

“You could be 60 and look 45,” said Moursi. “You could be 72, looking like you’re 55. All this is very achievable, but there is no such thing as completely ageless.”

In her treatments, the body is exfoliated, bathed, nourished and sculpted using both manual techniques, like kneading for cellulite and massage for lymphatic drainage, and technologies for non-invasive fat loss. A Vacuodermie and Pressotherapy treatment, for example, starting at $350, targets cellulite and slims the body.

“The value is like a five-mile walk,” said Dina.

Prices start at $165 for a 60 minute massage, and on the higher end, treatments include the “body detox and wellness,” which costs $2,100 for a series of six sessions offering a customized lymphatic drainage massage and the G5 massaging machine to detox, improve circulation, target cellulite and enhance body firmness.

From the start, Moursi has had a holistic approach to body care.

“Beauty to me starts from the inside for your soul, your lifestyle, and then the outside comes second,” she said.

It’s about nutrition, too, eating well and staying active, as well as being “spiritually good,” she added. “And it’s a team effort [with clients] to look good and to feel good. So, we have to do this together.”

Dr. Jennifer Herrmann, a board certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Beverly Hills, agreed.

“We’re not afraid to talk about nutrition today, other supplements and things that can help provide a more holistic skin health picture,” said Herrmann. Her least invasive treatments start at around $300, while lipo starts at $4,500.

“If you do all these treatments, great, but if you don’t have an underlying foundation of health care, you’re not going to get as good of results,” she continued. “You’re not going to maintain those results unless you think about your body as a whole.”

She’s seen a shift in women’s confidence through the years.

“I think a lot of women want to feel good for themselves, not because they want to impress someone else,” she said.

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