If you own a spa or medical spa and you haven't heard of Amazon Professional Beauty, then you should definitely read on! Without many people taking notice, during the summer of 2017, Amazon drastically changed how it sells beauty brands to their millions of online shoppers.

According to Kiri Masters of Forbes, Amazon no longer requires beauty brands to go through a strict approval process before being allowed to list on the site. Now, brands apply to be sold under one of three categories: luxury beauty, professional beauty, and indie beauty, once approved.

This means, as spa professionals, we now have another major online retail outlet to compete with in terms of how we stay competitive in terms of sales of professional-grade skin care products.

The "professional beauty" category actually includes products that are sold at medical spas, day spas, salons and doctor's offices, which has many positive and negative consequences for these brands but mostly negative consequences for professional skin care practitioners/facilities.

In essence, Amazon Professional Beauty allows for your customers to skip the visit to the dermatologist or esthetician and have professional grade products delivered right to their doors without a consultation or skin analysis.

Masters reports that beauty brands are more and more interested in partnering with Amazon because their products will be "gated" and ineligible to be sold by other third parties or unauthorized sellers once they are part of the Amazon Professional Beauty family.

This is a huge perk for beauty brands who spend countless hours and dollars trying to eliminate unauthorized, diverted sales of their products on Amazon.

Many prominent beauty brands have even hired attorneys and detectives to mitigate the online sale of products that are expired, discontinued and existing in outdated packaging. So, it seems fair that beauty brands will partner with the online giant to help them with this ongoing battle.

Clearly, not only will beauty brands gain a substantial amount of protection, they will also have the potential for exponential growth with the exposure that Amazon can offer. After all, Amazon boasts 100 million Prime customers and counting.

But here's the rub: Amazon will benefit these beauty brands at the cost of smaller retailers like your spa, salon or medical spa, in many cases. According to Maya Stanton of American Spa, Amazon Professional Beauty wants to bring "esthetician-level care to the masses...as a one stop shop for skincare products that normally come courtesy of a dermatologist."

Amazon customers can search for professional skin care products by "brand, skin type, or concern" and even get skin care advice from the site.

This scenario begs several questions: how will Amazon cut into the sales of skin care products at your spa? Does this mark the end of the coveted client-esthetician relationship and the beginning of the virtual takeover of the ever important in-person skin care consultation? How will clients be protected from purchasing and using professional skin care products that are unsuited/dangerous for their skin?

For starters, be on the lookout for decreasing sales at your spa or salon if the products that you carry are also available on Amazon. Not only can clients receive a slight discount, but in many cases, they can also get free shipping as well. They may feel it's better to order their skin care products at the same time that they order their pet food or household supplies, skipping the checkout line at your spa altogether.

In this day in age, people are busy and all about the one-stop shopping experience. It's optimal to carry brands in your spa and med spa that are not available online, but in the case that you cannot switch, then be sure to offer online sales of your products on your own website.

Furthermore, ask your product vendors if they will partner with you to provide a link from your website to theirs so that your clients can shop online 24 hours a day and you will still receive your royalties and payouts. You must protect your revenue from product sales.

It's only fair that your spa receive credit for sales when you are keeping an inventory of products, using them in your treatments and advising clients on how to use them.

The other strategy for reclaiming your retail sales at your spa or medical spa is to position yourself as an expert. Whether you are a solo esthetician or a large medical spa operation with nurses and doctors, it's important that your clients know that you are the most qualified individual(s) to advise them on skin care recommendations.

Be sure to display the degrees and licenses of your staff in the spa and on your website. Communicate your commitment to ongoing education and training. In summary, do everything you can to illustrate that you and your staff are properly trained and accredited beauty professionals. Don't forget, our clients are constantly enticed by faux-fessionals such as celebrities and "influencers" who boast about the "life changing" benefits of products that they are paid to sponsor.

Clients hear this information and rush to Amazon immediately to add products to their cart based on the recommendation of biased and unprofessional sources. It's your responsibility to share your qualifications so that your clients know the difference between a legitimate skin care specialist and a faker.

Moreover, the Amazon model, like many other online shopping platforms, collects and displays user ratings. Online shoppers use this as the ultimate measurement when making a decision to purchase a product or not.

As helpful as these peer reviews can be, it cannot be the definitive deciding factor for our clients when making serious decisions about their professional skin care regimens. Be sure to provide your clients with complimentary, in-person consultations and skin analyses at your spa.

There is no replacement for a one-on-one, professional skin analysis and treatment plan. No amount of four and five star product reviews should ever trump the value of expert and legitimate skin care advice communicated by a trained professional.

Lastly, beware of clients at your spa and medical spa shopping for professional- and medical-grade products online that could compromise or injure their skin. It's amazing what is available on the internet if you search long enough: prescription medications from foreign countries, mysterious bottles of acid for administering chemical peels and second-hand medical equipment.

Our clients are not only skipping over our shelves for professional grade cleansers, serums and SPFs, they are also seeking to skip the spa visit altogether and treat themselves at home! If you're like me, having spent years in the treatment room performing professional skin care treatments on clients, you have likely had clients inquire about the name or source of a product or piece of equipment in your room.

It's always a shock that clients feel that they could (or should) attempt to purchase a microdermabrasion machine or chemical peel solution thinking that they could administer these treatments on themselves or others without the slightest bit of professional training! However, we know it's happening all of the time.

Whether clients admit it or not, they feel that they are qualified to treat themselves to professional services at home under the false assumption that it will save them time and money. Look for signs of damaged and overprocessed skin when your clients come in to your spa or med spa. Have frank and honest discussions about their homecare routines and be sure to educate them about the safety and efficacy of in-spa treatments performed by trained experts.

As spa practitioners, we need to be aware of the new ways that professional skin care products are sold online. Being armed with this information will better help us to protect our sales and the integrity and safety of our clients' skin and body health.

As long as we know how professional beauty products are sold online, we can modify our actions to ensure that we protect our clients as well as our bottom line.