As the beauty industry pivots to include more wellness-inspired offerings for consumers, CBD-infused products have become one of the biggest trends in the category. Boutique luxury brand OTO has developed a range of premium products formulated with CBD for the skin and body, as well as lifestyle and wellness products like a pillow mist designed to aid sleep. The brand recently announced an entry into the professional beauty space with the development of CIBTAC-accredited CBD spa experiences. The Coniston Hotel in Yorkshire has become the first partner to offer the treatments at its Nàdarra day spa. Luxury Briefing speaks with OTO’s newly appointed head of spa, Helen Cain, to find out more.

Can you briefly tell us about your professional experience and how it has led you to where you are today?

I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for 25 years within the Virgin brand. I spent 14 years at Virgin Atlantic, starting as an inflight beauty therapist. I was then with Virgin Limited Edition for 11 years as the group spa manager, responsible for the six spas within the portfolio. Moving into the commercial hospitality industry, my last role was group spa manager for the Harbour Hotel Group. All of my management roles have been start-up roles, which has given me diverse experience and a real understanding of the operational side of professional beauty. With this experience, I felt I had a good understanding of the industry and was confident that I could lead OTO into the spa world.

Helen Cain, OTO Head of Spa
What was the initial thinking behind OTO?

OTO was created to provide ethical and results-driven CBD products and to encourage people to try the range through education on the use of CBD. The founders of OTO used CBD in their everyday lives and realised how cluttered the space was, with very little understanding amongst consumers. So, intensive research was needed before the first product was created.

Why is CBD becoming so prevalent in the beauty space?

People are moving towards a less-is-more culture with the use of products and time is sparse. I believe we all want to treat as many conditions as we can with this philosophy and CBD continues to deliver results – from aiding anxiety to better sleep, through to pain management and skin conditions. In many areas, the combination of being able to achieve this is appealing to more and more consumers. From a spa perspective, there is still much to learn, and combining the relaxation of a spa day with the benefits of CBD will evolve wellness and traditional spa together.

Who is the OTO customer and how do you communicate with them?

We appeal to a wide audience. This is becoming more apparent as we are released from the restrictions of the pandemic and everyone seeks support with anxiety and lack of sleep, for instance. We also have a huge following from leaders in the wellness space.

OTO has built a community and we communicate with them through our online platform ‘find your space’, which is a digital platform hosting various podcasts and live events to bring everyone together. We also host virtual one-on-one consultations that are tailored to the needs of the client.

Are there any challenges that are specific to the CBD sector of the beauty industry?

Education! There’s a lack of understanding of how CBD works and interacts within the body. Most spas that are using CBD oils for massage therapy at the moment are mixing it themselves and do not have a pre-blend to work with. Some therapists are nervous about using CBD oil frequently in treatments.

CBD helps to promote homeostasis – or balance – in the body. It also helps regulate physiological functions like pain, inflammation, sleep, mood, stress, and anxiety, to name just a few.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve received in your career?

Everything will always still be there in the morning so working longer hours and on days off doesn’t really move you forward that much.

What motivated your recent expansion into the professional beauty category with the introduction of an accredited training programme for spa therapists?

Having been an operator and knowing the lack of education within this space, I needed to make sure therapists were confident in using and delivering the experiences but also being able to communicate with a wide range of clients that have a varied understanding of CBD.

There is no doubting the remarkable effects of OTO strength CBD; bringing the body to harmony and delivering incredible results. In a time when consumers are looking for a moment of calm, we wanted to develop a range of industry-first, full-CBD sensory experiences with a fully accredited course that allows therapists to master the treatment protocols, as well as further their understanding of CBD and how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system.

What do you see as the beauty industry’s biggest challenge?

As we move forward from the last 18 months, the biggest challenge will be the client’s expectations. Regular massage will not be enough and people will be looking for an elevated experience, both physically and psychologically. Leaders in the industry are already making these changes. Collaborations within the industry are becoming commonplace to bring traditional spa and wellness together. The therapist will want to do something different too and be part of something much more than massage after massage. The biggest problem is students wanting to train as a therapist through college – there is a perception that it’s a difficult role with mainly back-to-back massage appointments and low pay. This is really a concern in the industry.

In what ways did the pandemic affect OTO and how is the business adapting?

It made huge differences and the whole concept pivoted to online retail. This has been successful with us launching our best-selling product, the sleep drops, through the first lockdown! We have recently launched into Asia with a big bang and continue to grow.

What’s next for OTO?

We are growing every day with so much opportunity on the landscape. As the hospitality and retail industries reopen, we are looking forward to hosting retreats, events and growing the brand to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to try it.