If you feel like you are seeing the word “wellness” everywhere these days, you are not alone. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness economy is valued at $4.2T and growing at a rate faster than the global economy — 6.4 percent annually vs. 3.6 percent.  While, in many ways, this is great news — more people have access to the resources and information necessary to improve longevity and truly thrive — on the other hand, the noise created by this influx is pushing some consumers into “analysis paralysis,” and preventing them from stepping into the action necessary to create positive change in their lives. 

My entire career has been focused on serving others, and working in spa and wellness in my job at Rancho Valencia allows me to share the gift of a healthy lifestyle with others. I still remember my “aha” moment with wellness years ago — I simply started running.  Your “aha” moment can be something as simple as deciding to run two miles a day, practicing meditation, changing one thing in your diet, or any wellness goal that guides you toward better mental and physical health.  

When my first “aha” moment occurred, I felt like I had discovered this magical secret that I wanted to share with the world. The secret is that the steps don’t have to be big — one change at a time points you in the right direction.

With the boom in the wellness industry has come a corresponding increase in consumer confusion about the right choice for them. Sadly, there is now a term called “well-washing,” which refers to marketing a product, service, or facility with a wellness orientation when there is no science behind it. Consumers are drawn to these slick marketing ploys without the resources to determine the efficacy or appropriateness of the solution for their unique needs. 

There are many conversations happening in our industry about integrity in messaging, but creating educated consumers is equally important. Below are my top tips for determining if a wellness solution is worth pursuing.

Look for licensed practitioners

Each country and state has different regulations around wellness practitioners (massage therapists, estheticians, acupuncturists, naturopaths, personal trainers, etc.) When making my own selections, I look for:

  • Valid Practitioner License – many states require these to be posted in the treatment rooms but most states also have online databases where you can verify their license.
  • Additional Education or certifications – I like to ask what additional modalities they have been trained in. For example, a massage therapist may also be trained in manual lymph drainage, trigger point, myofascial, Ayurveda, clinical aromatherapy, etc. This demonstrates a strong aptitude for science, and a large toolkit to be able to customize to my needs. Many spas will drive retail product sales over the real talent, or lack thereof, of their team.  You don’t want product sales to be the greatest talent of your practitioner.
  • Certifications –  advanced level certifications, such as CIDESCO for esthetics,  ASTECC for massage, and Yoga Alliance for yoga instructors require an ample number of additional hours and experience, and ensure you will be working with a master in their craft. 
Courtesy of Rancho Valencia

Choose the right products

This is one of the most important areas for consumers to educate themselves in. Personal care and skincare are the largest sectors in the wellness industry, and therefore they’re also where most of the “noise” is. I frequently hear false claims from well-intentioned salespeople who have zero background in the science of the product. I take my responsibility in vetting the products we sell at my own workplace seriously, but I want consumers to have the same ability to make informed decisions. 

I will always ask the following questions:

  • What is the full ingredient list (not just the active ingredients)?  

Ideally, the product is free from parabens, which can cause skin inflammation, and contribute to early signs of aging (counterintuitive to most skincare goals), and the most toxic chemicals such as:

  • Phthalates
  • Benzoyl Peroxide
  • Sulfates
  • Propylene Glycol/PEGs
  • Mineral Oils/ Petrolatum/ Denatured Alcohol
  • Synthetic Colors, Dyes, and Fragrances
  • Formaldehyde/Formaldehyde Releasing Ingredients
  • Triclosan
  • Hydroquinone
  • Chemical Sunscreen
  • Can you show me independent clinical trials?
  • Do you have your own lab? 

Some skincare lines add their active ingredients to a base made by another company, and have little idea what is in that base formula.  It is important for the manufacturer to guarantee the entire product is toxic-free. 

  • Who is your chemist and what is that person’s background?

This question should not catch them off-guard. The best lines are proud of this, are constantly innovating, and will be excited to share. 

  • Are your products tested by a third party?

Testing by both an independent lab and regular internal testing is preferred. 

  • How are the ingredients processed?

Cold or cool processing is preferred when possible to maintain the efficacy of the active ingredients. 

  • Where are the ingredients sourced?

Wildcrafted methods are preferred, for maximum efficacy of the ingredients, but organic is at least acceptable to ensure that no chemicals were used in the manufacturing process. This is also a good question to ask to determine how much they know about the quality, integrity, and sustainability of the entire supply chain. 

  • My greatest skincare concerns are X, Y, Z. 

Ask them to explain to you how the active ingredients address this need and the exact

biomechanism creating the efficacy. 


  • Valid Facility License – besides ensuring a certain level of professionalism, this also ensures that health and sanitation standards are met and inspected on a regular basis.
  • Specialties – it is important to know your main wellness goals to determine if that is the best facility to meet your needs. Some facilities are better suited than others for fitness, nutrition, western medicine, mind-body therapies, outdoor activities, cuisine, hydrotherapy, community, etc.
  • Accolades and verification by independent parties – rating systems such as Forbes Travel Guide are starting to include criteria on level of practitioner expertise, and more subjective aspects such as emotional engagement and ability to impress each individual guest. 

Wellness is all about growth and transformation. We are in our infancy as a formal industry, and there will be growing pains. The above tools should help you navigate your endless wellness resources, but trust your intuition above all. That gut feeling will lead you to your personal wellness “aha” moment.


  • Kristi Dickinson

    Director of Spa & Wellness

    Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

    Kristi Dickinson is an innovative spa and wellness professional with extensive knowledge and skills. She brings more than a decade of spa experience to Rancho Valencia. Over the years, Kristi has sat on the board of directors of the Advanced Spa Therapy Education & Certification Council, owned and operated True Potential Spa & Wellness Consulting, and served as Spa Director for fellow Relais & Châteaux property Mayflower Grace, The Golden Door Spa at The Peaks Resort, and Montage Deer Valley. Dickinson is the architect of Rancho Valencia's The Wellness Collective and works personally with each guest and member to realize their true potential as they embark on their journey of wellness.