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The Physiology of Skin of Color

Written by Christine Heathman, C.M.E., L.M.T.
The Physiology of  Skin of Color

People with skin of color will soon make up the majority of the United States. This will have a significant impact on the practice of professional skin care. Generally, lighter shades of skin have been the dominant skin type in the United States. This is the skin type that the majority of skin care treatments are currently based on. However, these traditional facial, body, and skin care treatments often fail to meet the needs of your clientele who has dramatically changed over the last decade. Darker skin responds differently to chemical and manual therapies than lighter skin. Aestheticians must understand these differences. Inappropriate treatments or products are a recipe for skin disaster; therefore, it is imperative for the skin care professional to understand the physiology, anatomy, and histology relating to all skins of color.

Healthy Skin 360°: 5 Step Cycle to Vibrant, Radiant Skin

How do we achieve healthy skin? Is it just using the right skin care products? Or is it using a sunscreen with a SPF of 30+ every day? It is not quite that easy.
Healthy skin begins with a healthy stratum corneum, the outer most layer of skin that serves as a barrier against desiccation and environmental stressors. The stratum corneum (SC) was once thought to be a layer of biologically inert dead skin cells. However, advancements have demonstrated that it is a biochemically and metabolically active structure. The SC is composed of a discontinuous layer of terminally differentiated keratinocytes, or corneocytes, surrounded by a matrix of lipids.


Minerals are among the most important elements needed by the body. They are directly and indirectly involved in every bodily and skin process. Along with amino acids (protein), minerals are the basic building blocks of every cell in the body. RNA/DNA, the blueprints to each cell, does not function properly without certain minerals. Enzymes will not form nor function properly without the minerals they require to do so. Minerals are also required for the correct composition and ratio of body fluids, the formation of both our blood and our bones and the creation and maintenance of healthy nerve function.


Written by Ivana Veljkovic, PhD

Skin ailments and concerns can be best addressed when underlying cellular functions and processes are understood. Cellular metabolism at the mitochondrial level can tell us much about how skin changes throughout time and when exposed to different conditions, as well as what is affecting our skin and its appearance. Currently, the skin care industry is engaged in research to determine the best ways to harness mitochondrial functions for use in the fight against premature aging and skin cancer, among other concerns.

Corneotherapy: A Sensible Approach to Understanding the Skin

Corneobiology refers to a broad range of experimental studies focused on the anatomy, physiology and biology of the stratum corneum, focused specifically on the horny layer that is very unique to human beings.1 This science encompasses numerous studies that deal with immunology, endocrinology, neurobiology and psychology. Studies as early as 1964 showed that the horny layer membrane was a coherent tissue of cornified cells (corneocytes) and was not as previously depicted "an amorphous filamentous graveyard of degenerated keratinocytes."2

Stem Cells: What and Why

Written by Michael Q. Pugliese, L.E.
Stem Cells: What and Why

Stem cells are special cells in the body that provide a continuous source of new cells. Stem cells have two unique features: they are unspecialized which retains the ability of self-renewal by cell division, almost without limit. They also have the ability to become specific cells of a particular tissue or organ. For example, in the intestine, they constantly replace worn out cells that line the intestinal surface.

There are many types of stem cells but the two basic kinds of stem cells are called embryonic stem cells and somatic stem cells.

Processing Herbs and Herbal Skin Care

Written by Anne C. Willis, L.E., CEO
Processing Herbs and Herbal Skin Care

As we all strive for health and longevity, there is a growing interest towards the use of botanical-based skin care products. Plants historically hold the wisdom of the earth and can unite a generation who suffers from nature deficit disorder, to be a little closer to that which is unaffected by commercialism.
In the 1950s, the introduction of personal care products came on the scene bringing better living through chemistry.

Chirally Correct Skin Care… Or Is It?

While chirality is actually nothing new to science and the pharmaceutical drug industry, it is a relatively new concept to skin care. But what do chirally correct ingredients offer the skin and can they provide real benefits otherwise unmatched?
In 1847, renowned French chemist Louis Pasteur first discovered the concept of chirality as a graduate student while studying two acids in wine. He observed that while the chemical composition of tartrate and paratartrate were identical, their crystals polarized differently.

Nurturing Nature with Science

There is no denying that Mother Nature has provided us a bounty of exquisite ingredients that have many supportive benefits for our skin’s health. But what happens to those ingredients when science enters the picture? Science and nature may be at opposite ends of the spectrum, but when the two merge, how does that impact the effectiveness of a skin care formulation?
It all comes down to how those ingredients are created and what they are partnered with that makes the difference in product performance. In some cases, natural ingredients alone are limited in how they effectively rejuvenate the skin, but when these natural essentials are combined with cosmeceutical ingredients using scientific technology, product efficacy can increase drastically.  
Demand for natural and organic products will never go away – and it should not; nature has a lot to offer the overall health of our skin.

Pale People May Need Vitamin D Supplements

Researchers at the University of Leeds, funded by Cancer Research UK, suggest that people with very pale skin may be unable to spend enough time in the sun to make the amount of vitamin D the body needs - while also avoiding sunburn. The study, published in Cancer Causes and Control*, suggested that melanoma patients may need vitamin D supplements as well. But researchers also noted that sunlight and supplements are not the only factors that can determine the level of vitamin D in a person's body. Some inherited differences in the way people's bodies process vitamin D into the active form also have a strong effect on people's vitamin D levels.

Facts about antioxidants

IFT Member Claudia Fajardo-Lira, PhD, Professor of Food Science and Nutrition at California State University-Northridge, explains the facts about antioxidants:

Q: What are antioxidants?
A: Antioxidants play an important role in overall health. They are natural compounds found in some foods that help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are substances that occur naturally in our bodies but attack the fats, protein and the DNA in our cells, which can cause different types of diseases and accelerate the aging process.

Skin Care and the Hormonal Balance

Understanding hormones and their effect on the skin, from the teenage years to perimenopause and menopause, is challenging for many skin care specialists. Journeying through the roller coaster with many clients can be rough sailing. Understanding the prominent hormones in the body is essential in order to correctly diagnose, treat and prevent hormone related skin conditions. Estrogen and progesterone are the main partners in this delicate balancing act. Designed to work together as a team, when that balance leans more to one direction than the other, a whole host of problems occur.

Hormones and Your Skin

About one hundred years ago humans doubled their life expectancy. This was a monumental feat, given that the number of years the average person was expected to live was a relatively constant number throughout most of human history. Nutrition, modern medicine and technology were mostly responsible for this dramatic change. In 2007, average life expectancy was 80.4 years for women, and 75.3 years for men.1 This gap may be narrowing, but one thing is clear – there is virtually a new population in the human experience, and women are the chief contributors.

Anti Wrinkle Injections Dysport Or Botox - Which One Wins?

When contracting the muscles on their faces after a cosmetic procedure around their eyes, the majority of patients and doctors commented that Dysport (abobotulinumtoxinA) fared better than Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA). However, while facial muscles were at rest there appeared to be no significant difference between the two, scientists from the University of California, San Francisco wrote in Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery.
Even though older Botox is more popular and better known than newer Dysport - Dysport appears to be better at reducing crow's feet.

Understanding... Cells

So let us get started with an apology. If you are like me, your aesthetic schooling never educated you on cells. Mine did not either. Your on-going training has led you more into product knowledge and equipment tools-of-the-trade than pure, raw, deep-down at the root skin chemistry. Imagine applying topical products and using equipment that can electrify, scrape, burn, disintegrate and otherwise damage the cellular structure of the largest organ of the body – the skin. Therefore, I have to assume that the majority of aestheticians have no idea at all about what they are really doing to the skin. So let us change all that starting right now.

The Fundamental Role of the Statum Corneum

The world of professional skin care provides aestheticians numerous tools to assist in the management of photo aging, acne, pigmentation, dry skin, and other epidermal challenges to improve the quality and preserve the integrity of this very complicated immune organ. The cleanser, serums, creams, peels, microdermabrasion, LED, ultrasound, etc., directly impacts the complex and central world of the Stratum Corneum (SC).
How well do you really understand the intricate work of the SC? After all, this is the layer of skin all states in the U.S. use as the measuring stick for our scope of practice licensing. 

Understanding Acids

This informative and timely editorial was written in the spirit of education to provide a basic understanding of AHA acids and for all skin care specialists to use this information as a scientific guide. As a result of this article, information is presented that also represents the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA), the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel), and the skin care industry’s current philosophy on this topic. It is not my intent to act as a representative for the FDA, CIR, or the public.

The Lymphatic System

The human body is an incredibly complex organization of systems. In order for each organ to perform in a structured and synergetic matter, all the components of the body must be functioning properly and healthily. Most people may not know this, but the lymphatic system's irreplaceable function within the human body serves many natural purposes, some of them still being relatively unknown.
The lymphatic system consists of lymphatic channels and an intricate capillary network. The lymph contains a clear fluid known as extra cellular fluid. This liquid closely resembles the blood plasma; however, its consistency is more diluted and adaptable.

What is pH?

pH is an acronym for the “potential of Hydrogen”, or the acid to alkaline ratio existing in all matter, and our 7.365 body pH measurement is the benchmark for measuring our health. The pH scale or chart is typically color coded and ranges from 0 to 14. Anything below 7 is acidic and it compounds itself meaning 10x, 100x, 1000x as it gradually becomes more acidic, and alkaline compounds going up the scale.
For instance, battery acid is dangerous at a 1 pH and calcium is highly alkaline at a 12 pH. Our body should be neutral at 7 pH.

What Aestheticians Should Know About Skin Permeation

Books have been written on skin permeability and obtuse descriptions of the mathematics of permeation and diffusion have been laid before their readers with great erudition. All of this is great if you can understand it, but for the aesthetician struggling with basic mathematics and a limited knowledge of physics, it becomes quite tough. Unfortunately, you cannot get by as an expert in skin care without a really good grasp of this subject, so give this section a good, honest try before you "throw up your hands and run out screaming."

Unlock the Mystery of Chemical Messengers

What I truly love about the skin care profession is not necessarily the “how” of treatments, products, and results; but the “why”. This is probably why I am so passionate about teaching. It is not enough in our business to simply be able to make recommendations and deliver visible results to our client’s skin, if we do not know precisely why we are capable of achieving such results.
As consumers place increasingly more confidence in our hands regarding meeting their skin needs and concerns, our professional responsibility to meet those needs has grown, requiring aestheticians to have a deep understanding of how those concerns even came to be. That being said, one of the most influential contributing factors to the condition of the skin, at many different ages, is fluctuations in hormones.

Reversing Disease

Health, whether good or bad, doesn’t just happen right before the symptom! Poor nutrition over a period of years will develop stages of a disease until a symptom appears and reversal of that disease will require lifestyle changes including improved stages of nutritional intake as well as a detoxification program and hormonal balancing over time.
Heavy metals in the body are believed to cause illnesses such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, circulatory disorders, neuropathies, Alzheimer's disease, ADD, ADHD, Bipolar, Autism, Parkinson's, and atherosclerosis, to name a few. Heavy metals and toxins cannot penetrate a healthy cell membrane produced by a healthy and properly nourished body very easily.

The Evolving Skin Care Industry

Five years after writing my first article on how the digestive system impacts skin, I find that very little has changed in how those of us within the skin industry are educating clients. In fact, I find very little education being done at all, and I wonder why. Do not misunderstand me, please. Most of us do educate about the products and treatments used in client care, but when our clients walk away from us, what understanding does a client have of the nutrition needed for great skin?

Innovative Skin Care Formulations

New ingredients are being introduced into the skin care market everyday and with the market being a multi-billion dollar industry, this phenomenon won’t slow down anytime soon. Having narrowed down the hundreds of ingredients, here are the top ingredients to look for in current skin care formulations.

Peptides are Here to Stay
First and foremost, we must discuss the continued interest of the use of peptides in the industry. Traditional actives formulated in skin care products consist of natural sources such as essential oils, plant-extracts, and vitamins. As helpful as these natural sources can be, they can be limited in their overall effectiveness.

Toxicity - The Growing Problem

As a spa professional, it is important to be aware of the effect toxins have on the skin and the internal system. Being aware will in turn motivate you to become knowledgeable on how to select the right products, equipment, and treatments that can have a positive impact on repairing damage caused by toxin exposure.

Cell Biochemistry: The Blueprint of Ingredient Science

With access to so much information, your client is increasingly placing their faith in real science to ward off the inevitable signs of aging. The uninformed aesthetician or skin care professional therefore needs to understand the importance of communicating hard science and not hard sell to their clients.

Impaired Cellular Function

The cell is the basic unit of life. Healthy cells make up healthy tissue and healthy tissue contributes to healthy skin. At one time, it was believed that aging was an infallible process of life, but recent studies indicate that aging and cellular function are closely related.
Aging manifests on a myriad of levels from single cell to whole animal. Human cells are eukaryotic cells, which mean that they contain a nucleus and membrane bound organelles. The nucleus is the epicenter of the cell because it maintains the DNA, the genetic code for the organism.

Cell Science: The Mighty Mitochondria

SKIN, the largest most complex immune organ of the body, is delicately assembled by millions of independent multifaceted spheres and existing inside these self-contained cells there lives settlements of compatible micro residents cohabiting together in water plasmic freedom. This complicated cellular quilt that protects every inch of the body, shielding against many types of bacterial and viral invaders, has also become the most sought after object of our affection for 21st Century beauty.