Google just about any spa topic and the popular search engine will likely direct you to http://spas.about.com/. The website is a great resource for all things spa. I use it all the time to educate myself on spas and to look for trustworthy spa reviews.
That’s why I was thrilled when Anitra Brown, Spa Expert for About.com, agreed to an interview. I wanted to learn more from the writer behind all that great information! In addition to writing for About.com and other publications, Anitra is an esthetician who resides in Cragsmoor, New York.
Here’s what we chatted about:
MM How did you start writing about spas?
AB I’ve been a journalist my entire career, but I started out covering wine and spirits when I lived in New York City. Eventually I moved to the country, went freelance and wrote restaurant reviews and stories about food, farming stories, home and garden. But all my neurons fired when I got a travel assignment from Westchester Magazine to cover six overnight spas within two hours of Westchester. I went to Canyon Ranch and never looked back. I was totally hooked.
MM How did you become About.com’s Spa Expert?
AB I would go regularly to spas.about.com to do research, and noticed when the Guide photo went down and an “apply here” sign went up in late 2003. I was accepted for their unbelievably rigorous application process. You basically have to learn how to use all their tools, write compelling content, and create a sample website — and you’re competing with five other people doing the same thing! It was a lot of work, but it was worth it! Especially since I got the job!
MM What business model does About.com use?
AB About.com is owned by The New York Times Company, and its mission is to deliver high-quality, original content written by an expert you can trust. About.com has nearly 800 Experts covering travel, health, beauty, parenting, cooking, technology, hobbies and so on. We’re there to help consumers get reliable information on just about any topic.
MM What made you decide to become formally educated in skin care?
AB I wanted to develop my expertise, like a restaurant reviewer deciding to go chef school. I spent a lot of time getting spa treatments, and I could tell the difference between the bad, the mediocre and the great treatments. But I wasn’t sure what it took to become that great therapist. I decided the only way to really find out was to become a therapist myself.
I also wanted to find out if what estheticians said was true. You know, “This product will penetrate into your skin and do such and such.”
MM Why did you choose skin care over massage?
AB Esthetician school took 600 hours of training in New York State, compared to 1000 hours for massage therapy! And being an esthetician is easier on your body. Massage therapy can be grueling and has a big drop-out rate. Plus I always loved skin care. I started getting facials at age 24 because my mother always said she wished she had started taking care of her skin at a younger age. But I would still like to get a massage therapy license.
MM Where did you get your esthetician training?
AB Atelier Esthetique in New York City.
MM So did you figure out what it takes to be a great therapist?
AB First, you have to have “the touch”. Some of the girls in my class just pawed at my face like a dog digging in the dirt! You also have to have loving energy and a true a desire to help people. And you have to have the knowledge, technical skill and the commitment to keep learning.
It’s also important to pace yourself and learn how to use your body so you don’t burn out or just go through the motions. A treatment is really a form of living communication between two people, and you have to show up for that.
MM On your blog at About.com, readers comments can sometimes be harsh. It would be natural to take the comments personally, but you seem to take it in stride.
AB Anyone is entitled to disagree with me! I actually love the conversations that get going on my blog And if anything is truly nasty or personal or inappropriate — directed towards me or anyone else — I can always delete it!
MM Your favorite spas of all times?
AB I truly love Canyon Ranch for the breadth, depth, and quality of their talent. There is so much going on there, with their medical emphasis and behavioral health — things you can’t get at other spas. Plus I love to learn and spend a lot of time in the lectures that go on all day. You learn all the latest in wellness from their experts! It’s very stimulating.