Valentine Dream

Chocolate Can Sweeten Your Gift-Certificate Sales

By Meagan Bernabe

Originally published in ASCP's Skin Deep, January/February 2008.

For decades, Valentine’s Day has been an excuse to eat as much chocolate as possible. Americans buy an average of thirty-six million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate per year to celebrate the holiday—then probably spend thirty-six million hours in the gym working it off. This year, however, you can offer your clients a guilt-free way to indulge with chocolate-based skin treatments that will leave them feeling lovable inside and out.

Chocolate has been appreciated throughout history not only for its rich taste, but also for its healing qualities. The Aztecs thought it made them stronger; Europeans and Americans once claimed it cured everything from indolence to impotence. Over the past few decades, however, Americans’ relationship with chocolate grew rather bitter, as popular folklore blamed it as a leading cause of acne.

Fortunately, recent scientific studies have proven not only does chocolate not cause acne, but it actually possesses a number of qualities making it an effective skin care ingredient: antioxidants, which protect the skin from havoc-wreaking free radicals; stimulants such as caffeine and theobromide, which help firm skin by increasing circulation; and mood elevators such as serotonin and phenylethylamine, which are scientifically proven to give us the rosy-cheeked feeling of being in love.

Today there are a number of cocoa-based products and treatments available for the face and body, including masks, scrubs, oils, wraps, and more. Designed for individuals or couples of all skin types, these treatments can be offered singly or in more elaborate treatment packages. You are limited only by your own creativity.

Beautiful Blends

When planning your Valentine’s Day menu, use the same logic you would if you were designing a box of chocolates. An entire box full of orange creams would get a little monotonous; likewise, a lineup of chocolate facial, chocolate massage, and chocolate wrap is unlikely to stir clients’ imaginations. Taking a cue from your local coffee vendor, try a little variety. The smell of chocolate blends well with an extensive variety of scents—think mint, caramel, cherry, orange, and coffee for starters—and cocoa essence can be added to many others to create unique, luscious, and effective skin care combinations. Hazelnut cocoa butter, anyone? Your culinary imagination is the limit.

Another great way to help your clients fall in love with chocolate all over again is to offer gift certificates for a selected combination of treatments. Gift certificates save harried spouses and significant others from having to comprehend the difference between masks and facials, while providing clients with an opportunity to choose full-body treatments based on the overall effect they want. You can even get creative with the gift certificates themselves: get them printed on chocolate bars at Totally Chocolate or see the custom and non-custom chocolate specialty items at Haven’s Candies. Order in plenty of time as custom requests can take up to a month during the busy season before February 14. Don’t forget to give gift-certificate buyers a printed receipt as well as the candy. Looking for more ideas? Take a look at these packages offered by various spas around the world to stimulate your creativity and whet your appetite for fun, seasonal promotions that might live on in your services menu for Mother’s Day and other holidays.


Chocolate and Cherries Pedicure. The Lilac Tree Hotel & Spa, Mackinac Island, Michigan, uses ground Hungarian cocoa combined with organic cherry essence for a $70 whirlpool foot soak, salt scrub, and massage. The treatment is topped off with nail care and the client’s choice of polish. The treatment takes about forty-five minutes.

Chocolate Decadence. The Aquaterre Spa in Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, offers a romantic spa lunch for two, followed by chocolate massages and chocolate body scrubs. The couple then enjoys a chocolate milk bath for two with chocolate martinis and truffles in a granite soaker tub. It’s $360 per couple for two hours.

Chocolate Fondue Massage and Body Wrap. The Santé Wellness Centre in Roatan, Honduras, offers the following two-hour treatment for $125: an invigorating body brushing followed by a Hot Chocolate Body Wash, a Chocolate Mint Total Body Scrub, and a Chocolate Whipped Cream Massage with hot stones. The client’s skin is then treated with a Chocolate Mousse Body Wrap and a Creamy Chocolate Facial Mask. To top it off, guests enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with chocolate biscuits.

Fudge Brownie Facial. EOS Spa & Salon of Los Angeles offers the following eighty-minute treatment for $135: after a thorough cleansing and exfoliation, a thick layer of fudge brownie-scented facial mask is applied and left on for about ten minutes. Next comes a chocolate cream neck-and-shoulder massage, topped off with a mug of hot cocoa.

The Chocolate Treatment. Champagne is an added touch in this package at the Bimasena Spa in Jakarta, Indonesia. Fresh-ground cocoa beans are combined with soothing essential oils to make a lightly exfoliating scrub. After a white chocolate, body-butter massage, the scrub is administered in two applications. The client then bathes in a whirlpool bath bubbling with the bubbly and chocolate-scented soap. The two-and-a-half hour treatment finishes with organic chocolate body lotion and lip balm. It’s $135 per person, or $200 per couple.

The Couples’ Chocolate Retreat. The Wellness Spa in Edmond, Oklahoma, doubles the fun by including a chocolate-mint-oil massage for him. For her it’s a wrap of ground cocoa mixed with vitamin E and grapeseed, almond, and jojoba oils. Next, both clients receive a chocolate hand treatment, hydromassage, and refreshments like a chocolate-and-strawberry-filled crepe and chocolate tea. The hour-long treatment is $129 per couple.

Meagan Bernabe is a food, wine, and travel writer, and editor in Los Angeles. She is currently researching the uses of wine and chocolate in cosmetic treatments and can be reached at


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