As any frequent dollar store-goer will be happy to tell you, there are all manner of amazing bargains to be had within the hallowed halls of these blessed establishments. And, there’s also a ton of junk. Whether you have a home based massage business, are in private practice in a rental situation, would like to host a spa oriented party for your friends, or otherwise are looking to partake of spa treatments at home, there are a lot of products available at dollar stores to greatly enhance your offerings and treatments. I’ve been using dollar stores throughout my bodywork career, and have a “tried and true” testimony of the good and the bad, and what works and what doesn’t. Use this guide to navigate the aisles, and save a ton of money.
Traditional bodywork and spa products are notoriously expensive, even when foregoing the off-the-shelf route and purchasing in quanity via industry catalogues, and similar venues. Purchasing massage oils, lotions, scrubs, muscle rubs, and so forth, can really impact your budget and inflate your overhead. Although commercial products are high quality, it is completely unnecessary to compromise your capital, or worse yet, for lack of funds, to forgo quality products or offerings. Below is a list of the best products consistently available at Dollar Tree, and musings and information on how to use them nicely in your treatments.
Olive oil is almost always available. Olive oil is a great choice for massage. It is very rich and thick, and has great “glide” factor. It is lovely plain, but also receives essential oils in an excellent way. It’s also great for herbal infusions. If you perform a lot of massages, you know how quickly you can run out of oil. Spending 8-12 bucks a pop on each bottle doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense, when you can easily create your own indulgent and high quality massage oils for a drastic fraction of the cost.
I have also seen other vegetable, food grade oils at Dollar Tree, like canola, soy. Any food grade oil works for massage oils and carrier oils, but my preference and recommendation from dollar tree offerings is olive oil. If you are set on oils such as jojoba, apricot, or other higher quality oils, dollar tree will not be your choice of venues for oil. Even if you are set on these, it may be worth a dollar investment to try the olive oil, and see how it works for you.
Herbs, teas, and other food items
There are always large plastic bottles of herbs, including ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. These can be used to create herbal oil infusions, which drastically improves and changes the texture and quality of oil, when done correctly.
Herbs can also be used in salt glow mixtures, and sugar and salt scrubs. Another great, consistent dollar store offering is tea. Green tea is almost always available. Green tea infused into olive oil is a perfectly lovely combination. It is also standard within glows and scrubs. Simply open up the tea bag and use the leaves straight. You can grind them in a small processor or coffee grinder for a very fine, powdery texture. Herbal teas like peppermint or chamomile are also a nice score. Any type of tea can be used for oil infusions, or within scrubs. Also, tea bags can be placed over your clients’ eyes (spray the bags with a squirt of water or leave them dry, and snip the string off), as a sort of herbal eye treatment. Green tea, black tea, and chamomile are great choices.
Brown sugar is sometimes available. Brown sugar can be used as the basis of body scrubs. It should be mixed with either some white sugar or salt, to offset its thick texture, and strong smell. White sugar, as well as salt, is sometimes found at the dollar store, but the small size actually makes it more expensive than purchasing it in larger sizes at regular grocery stores, or in bulk.
Sometimes coffee is available, and although I prefer premium whole beans for drinking, the ground variety found in dollar stores works great in scrubs and oil infusions. Just make sure you use fully caffeineated coffee for spa treatments–caffeine is great for skin and quite beneficial when used topically.
Containers: spray bottles, bowls, plastic storage items
Spray bottles are very nice to have on hand for treatments. A mixture of distilled or mineral water, with a little sea breeze, witch hazel, or a few drops of antiseptic-type essential oils can be sprayed on feet, before working on them.
Over the years, I have found all kinds of great little, perfectly sized glass bowls to use in salt glows, mud and herbal wraps, aromatherapy and other treatments. They usually come in a pack of 3 or 4 for $1. I’ve also found pint size, spring clasp mason jars that are great for presenting and selling scrubs. There are also usually sets of 4 plastic containers with lids. These are also great for packaging products to sell. Not only are plastic containers safe in the shower, at 25 cents each, they drastically reduce your production investment.
Plastic wrap is also a great deal at the dollar store. Although the dollar store variety and generic does not compare with the major brands, when used in treatments, that type of quality is unnecessary. Plastic wrap can be wrapped around hands and feet for all types of spa treatments.
Commercial lotions and body products
This area is where you really need to know what works and what doesn’t. In general, any regular lotions, body oils, or scrubs available at the dollar store are going to be inferior, and not indicated for use in massage and spa treatments. The one exception to this are the “body butters.” Although they are usually a generic brand, they are much thicker than regular lotions (but much less thick than name brand, higher quality body butters) and have a pleasant scent, and good glide factor. If used, they should be used only in hand and foot treatments. And, since they come in a jar with a lid, the body butter should be placed in an individual container or bowl to avoid contamination from client to client.
A glance at the ingredients will show that it is far from an ideal, organic product, with mineral oil and artificial colors and fragrances, so that must be taken into consideration. Although almost all of the products I use are completely organic, natural, and homemade, I personally like using these products on the hands and feet, and my clients like them also.
The medicine ailse
The medical ailse is where you will find all sorts of great things for your spa. Quart size cartons of Epsom salts are always available. The generic muscle rub in a tube is one the best I have tried. It is very creamy, and very strong, and a tube lasts forever. Also great, but available less frequently, is a generic version of Icy Hot gel. It is great to use on feet in the summer. There are usually gel based ice packs that are the perfect size for bodywork purposes. The medicine ailse seems to have a lot of turnover and products coming and going quickly, so check it regularly for useful things. I once even found Aura Cacia Lime Essential Oil in this aisle.
In general, the candles, incense, and fragrance oils at the dollar store are inferior. Even of it states “aromatherapy” or “spa” right on the label, you can be sure what it really means is “cheaply scented.” If you are looking for quanity, however, the candles are suitable.
One thing in this area that is a good buy, however, are the usually-available ceramic oil burners-the type that have a space for a tea light candle in the bottom, and a dish area above for oil or fragrance. These are nice to use within aromatherapy treatments.
I recently purchased a few cheesy-looking Dollar Tree brand CDs with ominous titles such as “Serenity” and “Meditation,” and I have to say that they are completely usable as massage music. Although they aren’t my favorites, I find it extremely desirable to have brand new, dependable, non-scratched massage-appropriate CDs readily available.
The dollar store is a great source of hair bands and hairclips. If you do any type of facial treatments, bands are essential for securing your client’s hair away from the face. It is also nice to have a stock of new, unused hair claws, scrunchies, or ties for your clients-you will be asked for them.
In the tool section, there are nice bags of bungie cords that can be used to secure sheets, cushions, and the like while traveling and for outcalls. There are also natural colored, thick canvas, gardening-type tool belts with lots of pockets, which are perfect for use as a lotion holder, and more. I’ve used these at massage events, and it is a great way to manage pens, business cards, cell phones, ear plugs, etc. One more thing in this section are an assortment of small, clip on watches. It’s nice to have a few of these unintrusive timepieces on hand.
So, there you have it. If you are willing to scavenge a bit, it will go a long, long way in saving hundreds of dollars a year.