T.O.M. is based on the principal theory that oxidation – the cascading influence of free radicals – is at the root of all disease. It is a lifestyle approach to wellness that gives spa professionals a singular viewpoint from which to look at any skin disorder, including cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, and be able to stop the oxidative processes involved, reduce, or eliminate inflammation and its damaging effects, and improve the appearance of skin as it normalizes. In addition, and just as importantly, you will be able to help your clients find and remove oxidizing influences from their life-style, and to develop habits and practices to protect themselves from oxidation.
Why a New Perspective is Necessary
As mentioned, most spa practices are based on addressing “symptoms.” In this case, symptoms are immediate appearance issues by and large, and the approaches to these issues can be radical and damaging in the long term.
A chemical peel produces radiant, young skin, but does so by removing the protective layer of dead cells to reveal cells that are not yet ready for exposure to the environment. Peels are preferred by clients who want to see immediate, significant change, but they are purposefully damaging and oxidizing to the skin, which eventually leads to permanent damage. In the short run, the skin must be carefully protected after the procedure and the client looks pretty nasty for a few days.
As we see the incidence of skin disorders and visual aging increasing, and as our clients all clamor for real answers to their concerns, the new cause-based perspective of Total Oxidation Management is beginning to change everything.
Oxidation is Not a New Concept
Antioxidants – which fight oxidation – have been a part of skin care and medicine for decades. Dr. Linus Pauling linked vitamin C to the possibility of cancer prevention nearly 60 years ago. Research has continued to discover that oxidation and its partner, inflammation, appear to be directly or indirectly linked to every disease and disorder of the body.
The Oxidation-Inflammation Cascade is gaining broad acceptance in medical research as studies show how the body responds to injuries, infections, and disease. The Cascade summarizes my position, supported by decades of research and clinical science, that oxidation is the catalyst to free radical production, which leads to inflammation and ultimately disease and damage. This places oxidation management squarely at the center of both treatment and prevention.
Most spa professionals know that free radicals are involved in skin problems and aging, but might be unaware of how oxidation and inflammation occur in the body and why. This knowledge is key to your understanding of the benefits of T.O.M. and your ability to offer your clients the real value solutions for which they are looking to you.
Oxidation and Inflammation: Necessary Evils
Both oxidation and inflammation serve purposes within the skin and the body, or they wouldn’t exist. The body isn’t perfect, however, and its methods for fighting disease and protecting itself from its environment can be extremely damaging.
Think about a truck climbing a hill, pumping out exhaust. Most of us know that the exhaust and its side effects and byproducts are extremely harmful, and we would prefer a different mode of propulsion; but right now, the truck needs to burn gas and produce exhaust to run. So can we say exhaust is a good thing? No, but we can say that it is “necessary.”
When the body is involved in healing, free radicals become necessary even though they can generate damage. Inflammation is used to speed healing and fight infection by producing heat and increasing blood flow, which both alerts the immune system and transports cells that fight the invader or injury. But inflammation, especially when repeated or chronic, will cause severe damage as well as helping to promote further oxidation, leading to visual aging, severe skin conditions, and damage to cell DNA.
T.O.M.’s goal is to determine when oxidation, free radicals, and inflammation are necessary and when they are not, then: minimize oxidation when necessary, as well as its byproducts (free radicals and inflammation); and prevent and stop oxidation that is not necessary. This cascading effect points to the need to stop or manage oxidation and prevent its recurrence on a continuous basis.
Recognizing Oxidation on the Skin
You can’t see oxidation happen on the body, but you can see its effects. In many cases, you already know what the oxidizing factor is when you see a problem. Deep creases around the lips and eyes can mean your client smokes. Chemicals in smoke combine with oxygen on the skin to form free radicals. Heavy freckling or dark spots on normally exposed skin means time in the sun. Spots in less normally exposed skin means LOTS of time in the sun or tanning-bed use – another cancer-causing issue in the news.
You can help your clients understand oxidation, inflammation and the damage they cause by talking to them about things they readily recognize, such as sunburn. Sunburn is a progressive condition that starts with the release of heat into the skin by radicalized molecules, but cascades into a deeper, broader burn with continued exposure or if the burn is not treated to stop the process. As the combination of sun, moisture, and skin cooks, free radicals continue to form new free radicals, increasing the depth and physical area, as well as the severity of the damage. Aloe vera is a popular sunburn remedy because of its pain-relieving properties, but it does little to stop the burn. On the other hand, vitamins C and E – two of nature’s best antioxidants – have been shown in clinical studies to bring the progress of sunburn to a halt. You don’t have to give your clients a lesson in molecular biology for them to get the point that their battle is with oxidation, but if they know that you have an understanding of the processes that occur to cause damage, they will look to you as their authority on what to do about it.
The simple fact is that every condition you see on the skin from simple visual aging to dry skin to rashes to cancer have oxidation at their base. Knowing that and providing services and treatment products to address it is half of your challenge – and your opportunity.
Seek and Destroy
You also need to know where and how to look for oxidizers and catalysts, which can be eliminated from both your spa and your clients’ everyday environment or, alternatively, from which you can help to protect your clients’ skin.
In my classes and seminars, I use visual demonstrations to show professionals that Oxidizers and catalysts are surprisingly prevalent. In fact, they consist of the sun (catalyst), the earth, air, and water.
Most often these factors work in concert. For instance, over 70 percent of U.S. households have tap water that is hard. The water contains dissolved mineral solids – primarily calcium and magnesium, but sometimes iron, copper, lead, and others. While hard water is considered safe to drink, every time you bathe, or shampoo your hair, these minerals settle onto the skin, scalp, and hair, and much of them remain, coating surfaces, clogging follicles, and create a ready environment for oxidation. Add chlorine – which is found in all drinking water – and these minerals begin to oxidize, drying and damaging skin cells, discoloring hair, and irritating existing problem conditions as well as beginning the potentially devastating cascade of free radicals.
Chlorine is an oxidizer of major cause because we are constantly exposed to it, day after day, year after year. Most people are surprised to discover that tap water can contain several times the amount of chlorine used in swimming pools – imagine what your skin and hair would be like if you swam every day! Plus, I am convinced research will confirm that higher amounts of chlorine are contributing to disease both inside and outside our bodies.
Advise your clients about environmental factors such as sun, smoking, exposure to cleaning products, protecting themselves from cold, dry air, wind, etc. You can even show your clients what they are up against.
You can purchase an over-the-counter test kit from your local pool supply store to test your spa water or your clients’ water for chlorine. When you add a few drops of the special chemical to water, it turns yellow. The stronger the color, the more chlorine.
Some oxidizing factors can be eliminated. In your spa, you can dechlorinate your water for certain uses (in pedicure baths, for instance). Consider whether steam, sauna, and hot tub baths are necessary. These are oxidizing environments where the combined affects of heat and water; plus chlorine can be more damaging than beneficial to the skin.
Removing oxidizers, or preventing the combination of oxidizers with catalysts, would be the ideal solution, but, in the end, air, water, and sunlight are “necessary” to live.
T.O.M. is a Two-Pronged Wellness Approach
Total Oxidation Management is a single perspective focused on reducing the effects of oxidation on the body with a two-pronged approach. We just discussed the first part of the approach: Finding and eliminating oxidizers and catalysts. Because we can only go so far in that direction, your real challenge is the other side of T.O.M.: Stopping or managing oxidation.
In biological terms, stopping Oxidation essentially means stabilizing free radicals by balancing their electrical charge. When radicalized atoms are “neutralized” in this fashion, the oxidation cascade stops. In practical terms, you need to provide services and add steps to your protocols that both address the client’s existing oxidation issues (manifesting as skin problems or disease) and manage oxidation – and often inflammation – caused by certain spa services.
It is very easy to know if the antioxidant in your product is active. A simple test you can do involves cutting an apple in half and coating one of the halves with the antioxidant product you use. Let both halves sit out or put them under heat and then compare. If the product-coated side is turning toward brown (as the other half surely has), your product is not active – and therefore will not work.
You can also test your product on the water you tested for chlorine. Put a tiny amount of your product in the yellow water or into another clear container and pour the discolored water in. If the chemical color doesn’t disappear instantly upon contact with your antioxidant product, your product is not active – and will not work.
Knowing how to test your products allows you to ensure that the products you use and send home with your clients are, in fact, active and working. Naturally based products containing active vitamin C can do amazing things with every kind of skin disorder, and this is where you reach a new level of treatment and care for your clients.
T.O.M. is a Lifestyle Approach
There are spa services that are always going to be in demand and clients who want to see results now! Wherever possible, you should guide your client toward a long-term view of skin wellness, because it is a lifelong challenge.
If you do treatments such as waxing, scrubs, or peels, you can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation through the use of active vitamin C. You can aid healing after surgery or other procedures that produce inflammation, swelling, or potential scarring with vitamin C and E. You can reduce the chance for infection of exposed or broken skin with antibacterial agents such as zinc.
These are body-friendly, wellness ingredients that have therapeutic benefits and will result in both more successful treatments and services, and a client who looks better going out the door. In fact, these well-studied, clinically proven ingredients are your tools to improve the appearance of skin affected by virtually any condition from acne to rosacea to eczema, even skin cancer, and provide benefits that go beyond anything you or your client have ever experienced.
You can sell products that are formulated with the correct form and percentages of active antioxidants and other beneficial natural ingredients while avoiding harsh emulsifiers, preservatives, and fragrances. If you can help your clients see that just a couple minutes of care, twice a day will not just make their skin look better today, but be better for years to come, you have laid the groundwork for a lifestyle of skin wellness that can protect them from severe problem conditions, repair existing damage, and possibly head off disease down the road.
Clients are becoming more aware and value oriented these days. You, as a spa professional, now have the opportunity and the challenge to become essential to your clients’ wellness and central to their lives – as much as their doctor or dentist. By making T.O.M. the basis of your thinking – by recognizing and targeting oxidation in all of your services, recommendations, and advice – you will have, and offer to your clients, a valuable new perspective that can literally save their skin, and maybe, their life.