Using AI for an esthetics business can provide various benefits, from enhancing customer experience to streamlining operations and improving marketing efforts. In this episode of ASCP Esty Talk, Maggie and Ella discuss ways AI can be incorporated into an esthetics business.
ASCP Esty Talk with Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman
Produced by Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) for licensed estheticians, ASCP Esty Talk is a weekly podcast hosted by Maggie Staszcuk and Ella Cressman. We see your passion, innovation, and hard work and are here to support you by providing a platform for networking, advocacy, camaraderie, and education. We aim to inspire you to ask the right questions, find your motivation, and give you the courage to have the professional skin care career you desire.
About Ella Cressman:
Ella Cressman is a licensed esthetician, certified organic formulator, business owner, and absolute ingredient junkie! As an educator, she enjoys empowering other estheticians and industry professionals to understand skin care from an ingredient standpoint rather than a product-specific view.
She has spent many hours researching ingredients, understanding how and where they are sourced, as well as phytochemistry, histological access, and complementary compounds for intentional skin benefits. In addition to running a skin care practice, Cressman founded a comprehensive consulting group, the HHP Collective, and has consulted for several skin care lines, including several successful CBD brands.
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About Maggie Staszcuk:
Maggie has been a licensed esthetician since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Stephens College. She has worked in the spa and med-spa industry and served as an esthetics instructor and a director of education for one of the largest schools in Colorado before coming to ASCP as the Advanced Modality Specialist.
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0:02:03.3 Ella Cressman: Hello, and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk. I'm Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician, certified organic skincare formulator, international educator, and content contributor for Associated Skincare Professionals.
0:02:15.6 Maggie Staszcuk: I am Maggie Staszcuk, licensed esthetician, and ASCP's Education Program manager.
0:02:20.5 EC: We have a shoutout, Greg Richa. He is an esthetician, and I've been watching him since he was in school on social media only, big ____. And what I find super impressive about him is the way he's establishing himself online, his online presence. It's no secret that that is not a strength of mine, as far as sharing content or things like that online. But when I'm watching him, I'm thinking, "Oh, this is really cool, this is really brave. He's sharing skin tips and such, and I think that's a smart thing to do." It also got me thinking about other estheticians, be them established like our generation, who maybe aren't so accustomed to using social media like the younger generations, or a brand new esthetician, and where do they start out? Right?
0:03:09.2 MS: Totally.
0:03:11.5 EC: So that being said, and I know it's something that a lot of people are talking about right now, some things we've talked about a lot is AI, and exploring AI and how that could help someone build that following or help your aesthetic practice.
0:03:27.5 EC: So let's talk about it. AI is everywhere, it stands for "artificial intelligence," really, and believe it or not, it's something that we use every day. In fact, some are touting it as, "AI is the gold rush that is sweeping the globe as far as investors are concerned." In fact, Mark Cuban even said, "The world's first trillionaires are going to come from somebody who masters AI." There is a lot of different applications for this, there's a lot of different ways to use this. Let me ask you this, Maggie, thinking of a way that you might have used AI, have you ever been on a website and that ChatBot pops up?
0:04:03.2 MS: Oh, totally.
0:04:04.5 EC: And for me, I'm old school, I want to talk to somebody on the phone, I'm looking for the phone number and it says, "Contact us," and this chat box pops up and then you type in your question. At that time, you're interacting with somebody who's most likely AI. Interesting. Other ways is you might be seeing this, you might be targeted this way when you're scrolling through social media or any of your habits, there's a lot of application use or ways to use it. But today, I think what we should do is focus on using AI for aesthetic businesses because there's a lot of potential for us as well. Let's talk about various benefits, whether it's enhancing your customer experience, to streamlining operations, and even improving marketing efforts. Here are some ways that AI can be incorporated into an aesthetic business. We'll start with appointment scheduling. We talked in our Recession podcast a few weeks back about being smarter and working smarter. So with appointment scheduling, there is AI software or it can be intermixed into the software that you have that is going to help clients book online and it's integrated into your systems. They'll consider your availability, the services and so on. So this might be very well one that you're already using and don't even know about it.
0:05:26.5 MS: Yeah, another one is inventory management. AI can optimize inventory management by predicting demand, suggesting restocking levels, and this reduces wastage and ensures products are available when needed.
0:05:40.3 EC: I think this is an important one, especially when you're starting business and you are managing those ebbs and flows, the seasonal popularity of different things for different reasons, like hydrators in the winter or different types of SPF in the summer, I think that's a really good one.
0:05:58.0 MS: Yeah, the other thing that comes to mind for me just with inventory in general and retailing is those websites that have quizzes for the consumer. And it goes along with predicting demand, but also providing insight to the consumer who is attempting to purchase online.
0:06:13.3 EC: What about customer service? So you're a one-man shop or a two-man shop, and this is happening to me a lot lately, I'll be in my back office like working on a project or I'll be with a client and the phone is ringing and I don't ever make it in time. And yeah, people still do call. The other thing is like the software I use for scheduling and such, it's so, so, so basic, and the only reason I haven't switched is because it's a lot, it's a lot, it's cumbersome, basically. But the use of chatbots for an aesthetic business, like a virtual assistant, so this would be able to get back to customers quicker, especially some of their inquiries. And you can see there is one for text even, a lot of people like to do business via text, so there is AI integrations for like these chat box for that. So it could really free up the human staff for more complex tasks like inventory management.
0:07:10.4 MS: Yeah, totally. And I think a lot of these scheduling softwares that are becoming available really for all industries but also aesthetic industries have, like you've been talking about, these chat bots to answer FAQs or even to assistant scheduling online. Another one, data analysis. AI can analyze customer data to identify things like trends, preferences, and areas for improvement, and this information can guide decision-making and business strategies.
0:07:39.8 EC: This is important, this goes back to like what services are most popular. I mean, it's not that hard to figure out, but having that data really helps drive decisions supported. And the only thing I want to add to this is giving the data collection enough time to really have trend reports, like your business trends specifically.
0:08:03.7 MS: Yeah, totally. I think that people are using this kind of thing every day within their business, but they're not thinking about it in terms of, "This is AI."
0:08:12.2 EC: Right, yeah, so this is awareness too, for sure. It was really interesting because on that data analysis, and I think if I had ordered, remember? Instagram sucker to targeted ads. Oops. They find me, they hunt me down and I buy. So I bought these gummy vitamins, like thyroid support or something like I didn't need. And I get email after, "Hey, it's time to reup." And, "You should be running out pretty soon, when are you going to place your next order?" And this is something you could implement or even it could be part of your software now, "Time to make another appointment," because those are different call to actions that you can have.
0:08:51.9 MS: Totally. Call to action, that's a good word. And also in that same line, like, "We saw you purchase this, you may also like this." "We saw you booked this add-on or... You may also like this procedure too."
0:09:05.6 EC: Yes. Or it's wintertime, "You had this in the summer, now you need this in the winter," or whatever.
0:09:12.3 MS: Totally.
0:09:13.6 EC: Another way that it's used is for feedback and reviews. Have you had those emails where people are saying, "Hey, how did you like your... " I took my nieces and nephews to a virtual arcade?
0:09:25.2 MS: Oh, interesting.
0:09:25.8 EC: It was so funny, I have a video, I'll show you. But they had those Oculus-looking eye things on and they were all just kind of flailing their arms around in a white room, but they thought they were inside of a castle, apparently, a video for when they're in high school. But immediately after, I got, "Hey, can you review us? Thanks for coming in. Can you review us?" And I'm like, "That's really a good idea, to gather those types of reviews for an aesthetic practice because that increases your street cred."
0:09:55.0 MS: Totally. Predictive analytics. AI can predict peak times for appointments, and this is allowing businesses to allocate resources efficiently, optimize staffing.
0:10:07.4 EC: I think that's great for big businesses. For a solopreneur or even somebody who has a smaller type, this helps navigate your schedule.
0:10:19.5 MS: Totally. Yes, that's a very good point. I certainly can see this with like your larger franchises, they maybe have multiple locations or multiple estheticians, but yeah, you can certainly take advantage of this for the solo esthetician too.
0:10:34.3 EC: Absolutely, because you won't be wasting time. I've had people call, they're like, "I'm not busy in the mornings, I'm freaking out." And I'm like, "Do your taxes or do your laundry or catch up, make your marketing... Or you know what? Go to the grocery store, whatever, use that time wisely." But we schedule these or we make our availability so that... I mean when I first started out, I was available from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM five days a week. Now I've shortened that because of my own mental health, but having something like this would have been really helpful because I mean I was borderline burnout, we talked about that before, too. So having something like this would have been great. One thing that I think AI... I mean it's used all the time, but a really cool way for estheticians specifically to use AI is for marketing and social media.
0:11:27.5 EC: And this goes back to our shoutout with Greg Richa because of what he is doing. I want to talk a little bit about some of the capabilities, but let's first talk about AI generally speaking. So AI can analyze customer behavior and preferences, and you can see this. So you're going to run an ad on Instagram, you can go in and make certain preferences because you want to target a demographic or a zip code or something. And then you can automate posts. A lot of times, they will provide different analytics about, "You should try this time or do so many of these or you've heard of pay per click ads." Which is all great and a way to help maintain an active online presence, which is cool. Another way to do that, though, but what are you posting about? And oftentimes, I think that can be really challenging on gathering information to post.
0:12:21.1 EC: So one of the tools that I thought was really cool is ChatGPT, and that's a company, or any type of AI. ChatGPT stands for chat-generated pretrained transformer. And what that is is a large language model-based chat box. But what this is is, you can type in a question, you can be very specific, and it responds back. This is where some of the college students are getting in trouble, by using services like this to write papers and such because there's definitely a tone to it. But there's other companies like ChatGPT, Jasper, for example, that require a subscription. And then there's more specifics you can get into. Like you can put a brand voice so it would write content with your brand in your tone, the way that you write. But this will be a way to say, "Hey, what is trending right now? What are people looking up for antiaging?" Let's just say. And it'll write you out a list, "Here's the ingredients they're curious about. Here is the types of services that they're curious about." And from that, you can create a schedule because this is what people are looking for. So then when you write your content underneath your post, you have this language, your videos are popping up, and voila, it's like SEO.
0:13:41.5 MS: Yeah, it's informing you on what's trending, basically.
0:13:45.4 EC: And then you're able to write to that trend.
0:13:48.3 MS: Yeah.
0:13:49.1 EC: So it'll pull your stuff. So when they're... Like my feed, my algorithms target me obviously with gummy vitamin supplements, among other things. But for people who are looking up "antiaging," this is part of that social media algorithm that you can pop into. So this has the potential, especially for those to change a lot for the professional.
0:14:09.5 MS: You mentioned people using this to potentially write their papers for school, not recommended, but training and education is also where AI is maybe being used. So AI-powered platforms can provide online training modules for estheticians to maybe enhance their skills and stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques. And I think we're going to dive into AI and aesthetics here just a little more, but there is a well-known company who has come out to say that they are using AI to write and inform their training module for training on aesthetics.
0:14:46.6 EC: I understand that because of the way that it can pull certain things. So it's pulling... It's almost like it's gone out to the interwebs and said, "This curriculum and that curriculum and this one over there, this is the cadence at which they do their curriculum." So now we're going to take that information and we're going to plug in these specifics. So these specifics come from east, west, north, south. Right? So they're taking all these different areas of information, learning styles, how to write these curriculums, and then putting the content into that cadence, building them on a ton of other people who've done it and have these proven methods, so it can work. But here's the thing, AI is not a human, it does mess up, and so you have to make sure whether you're using it to write a curriculum, whether you're using it to write blog posts, which is a great idea, by the way. However you're using it, you need to check it, you can't put all your trust into any of these things.
0:15:50.7 MS: Yeah, entirely. AI is lacking actual experience. Right? And so, like you said, it's funneling all of its information from all corners of the web. And what's the one thing that you learn going to school for however many years is, Don't trust everything on the internet.
0:16:09.8 EC: Or that you don't know everything as an esthetician either. [chuckle]
0:16:13.3 MS: That's true, that's true, but as an esthetician, if you're going to go to AI to write your curriculum or to check your knowledge, let's say. I mean, you should come at it as you are the expert. AI is not.
0:16:27.7 EC: Hold that thought, we'll be right back.
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0:17:32.4 EC: Okay, here we go. Let's get back to the podcast. So I was playing with this because I just think it's fun. So I was playing with it in two different... I think three different formats because there's another one, there's another AI chat feature, I don't know the right words, I'm an esthetician, I'm really good at it, but this technology stuff. But it's like you're talking to another human. So I was asking about some personal stuff for my mom because she's got early dementia. So I was asking, "What am I supposed to do?" And it was talking back to me with feeling. It was not... It didn't feel computer-generated, it felt like I was texting a friend, it was really cool. So then I went to these other ones because that was way more conversational, and I said, "I want to find studies... "
0:18:17.8 EC: I don't remember the exact ingredient, but let's just say "THD." "I want to find studies on the efficacy of THD, the skin benefits." Right? And it pulls up, I don't know, maybe five paragraphs, and each paragraph is an intro and an outro, and three of them were like some benefits. And then beneath it, it had references. I'm like, "Get out, this is awesome! What?" Because I do a lot of research and I have to refer back, I have to cite everything that I write from, and so I dig. The process of digging for those studies is cumbersome. You have to search for them, you have to know what to search for, you have to read them in their entirety because it may or may not ____ what you're wanting to say or you have to understand them. And the language is hard.
0:19:02.5 EC: So here we have the summary in plain language and these links so you can cite back. And I'm like, "Oh, my gosh, this is so cool. What a revolutionary thing for estheticians who want to learn more." Or any kind of profession, really. So I click the link and it was like "brightening benefits of THD," for example. I click the link and it was not, it was not, it was not. The link was not... They were not the right links, it was to a different study. So I copied the name of the study and I put it in a PubMed. Didn't come up. So then I put it into Google because sometimes it'll be in different journals or whatnot, and it didn't come up.
0:19:39.3 MS: That's interesting.
0:19:41.7 EC: Yeah.
0:19:42.3 MS: So I wonder what that disconnect was.
0:19:44.2 EC: A glitch.
0:19:44.9 MS: Yeah.
0:19:45.8 EC: Yeah. Glitch happens, I guess. That being said, I asked AI some other ways that it could help esthetic businesses. And here's where I think they got it wrong. The first one was skin analysis. I don't think AI skin... And maybe not, maybe there's just different tools, and maybe it's just what I've seen so far. But the skin analysis AI, whether it's a test. Now, you've seen those like online skin tests.
0:20:13.8 MS: Yes.
0:20:14.0 EC: Or are they going to take a picture and analyze different skin conditions? Or do like a live camera feed? Whatever that is. Their intention is to help estheticians analyze the skin better or for being able to recommend different home care as like an automated thing. But I don't think that you can really track that from a device.
0:20:40.7 MS: No, I totally agree with you. And when you first said skin analysis, I had a hard time comprehending how that would be possible because for me, as an esthetician, hands-on touching, feeling, and seeing, how can AI, whatever it is, look at a picture that's been taken... Even those devices, which are very, very effective, I will say, that can look with blue light and assess different conditions on the skin, that's only half of the puzzle. It's the esthetician who then needs to further analyze and look and feel and do all of the things to say what's truly happening on that client's skin.
0:21:26.8 EC: Consultation. What's the health history? What's their lifestyle like? I agree a 100%. Here's the other thing that they said, "antiaging solutions." So some esthetic businesses offer AI power tools for assessing and addressing signs of aging. It includes texture analysis, personalized antiaging routines and more. Nah, I don't think so, I think... I don't, I just don't. I think this is like... Come on now, like you were just saying, there's so much more that goes into it. I doubt it, I just don't think so. I think maybe I'm wrong, but there are things like the reveal, and there are wood lamps and there are different types of things that will help, but never are you going to get the same professional opinion from a machine.
0:22:15.5 MS: Correct.
0:22:16.4 EC: From a device.
0:22:17.0 MS: I totally agree, that is only one small tool that an esthetician can use.
0:22:25.0 EC: So what are your thoughts on virtual consultations then?
0:22:27.5 MS: Okay, so I think it... I'm glad you brought this up. When I think of virtual consultation, I'm thinking about those online quizzes where someone goes in, says all these things that are happening with their skin, past, present, da-da-da-da. And then the virtual esthetician says, "Here's what you need to treat your skin, achieve your goals." And I take those quizzes all the time because I just can't say no to a quiz. But I'm always disappointed by the results, and I always go back and retake the quiz with different answers. But I never get the outcome that I know is right for my skin. When you think about those quizzes and especially when it comes to selling product too, it would make sense that a quiz asks, "Are you oily? Are you acne-prone? Da-da-da-da." And then, "Here's your outcome, you need our full acne line." But when we as estheticians consult and analyze and have that one-on-one conversation with a client who is talking about their oil production and why that might be happening or why they might be breaking out, we're never going to say, "Here's the complete acne line. And good luck." Right?
0:23:44.6 MS: Yeah.
0:23:44.7 EC: You told me you need... Well, and the other thing is the people who are answering those quizzes are not trained professionals, so they're going, "Oh, yeah, it's oily." But just like you said, there's another reason why. What products are you using that might be making it oily or dry? Your skin is dry, but you're using a drying agent. That's the thing, I don't know that AI could do personal recommendations either, which I think is so funny. AI, artificial intelligence offering personalized recommendations using algorithms. So these algorithms analyze their preferences, their skin type and their concerns, and from that is where they suggest personalized, eye roll, skincare regimens and treatment paths. It's meant to enhance their experience and to build loyalty, that's what the AI says, but I just don't... I don't know, but maybe I'm just the type of person who likes to talk on the phone too, and doesn't want to chat on a bot.
0:24:43.1 MS: Yeah, I agree with you.
0:24:45.4 EC: Irregardless, when implementing AI into your aesthetic business, it's important to really understand, What are your business goals? What are your customer needs? And is this right? So while AI can bring a lot of benefits, it's also important to maintain balance between technology and the personal touch. And that's really the reason that a lot of clients seek out aesthetic services in the first place. So choose solutions that align with your business philosophies, your business practices, and consider testing the waters with a few AI integrations before jumping all the way in.
0:25:17.6 EC: Now, listeners, we really want to hear from you, what are your thoughts on AI? Will you be using it in your practice? And if so, how? Be sure to let us know. Comment on our social media posts or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to know all the details. In the meantime, thank you for listening to ASCP Esty Talk. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Maggie or myself or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes and stay tuned for the next episode of ASCP Esty Talk.