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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?


It is not yester year when skin care consisted of cleansers, toners and moisturizers. It is much different today, and turning away from what is ultimately going to have a large impact in this industry is not good business. Putting it on the back burner till another time, may leave you wishing you had begun long ago to understand the importance of nutrition in skin care.
Upon publication of my article in 2002, I received many e-mails from those in the industry but many more from the public, wanting to know more about the process known as glycation that contributes to wrinkling and sagging of the skin. This glycation that occurs in the body from a process caused by too many wrong dietary choices, has not only a detrimental effect on the skin, but can cause many problems in the body as well. As aestheticians, we are concerned mainly about the skin as it pertains to what is seen on the outside, but should we consider more?
My concern is this: If we do not understand how this organ is affected by daily dietary choices, then how can we deliver our best work? We ultimately will lose clients; nothing affects the skin more, other than a skilled plastic surgeon, than the food choices clients make daily. Even in the case of the plastic surgeon, his mastery with facial surgery can be enhanced when his clients are taught how to keep the skin from glycation through proper nutritional choices. As aestheticians, how many of us think about approaching plastic surgeons for a position that would entail enhancing the results of their work through nutritional education for their clients? If surgeons’ clients could be taught how to keep that new face lift from sagging and wrinkling after spending thousands to achieve a younger look, I would think that the surgeon and indeed the client would benefit from such a service during post-operative care.
The impact of how the nutrients from our food choices are digested and ultimately delivered to the cells and body during the process of digestion determines our state of health. This includes the skin. Eating a diet high in white anything, as in processed foods, potato chips, cookies, baked potatoes, candy, or even white breads or pastas, impacts not only the body but the skin. What occurs is a process known as inflammation. In fact many feel this inflammation as shoes get tighter or a waist band needs to be loosened. This occurs in every cell and affects every organ. In fact, inflammation is a contributing factor in most major diseases today including diabetes, cancer, and you bet… obesity.

utrition and Inflammation Within
Beautiful skin: that catch phrase you hear everywhere, and often see in plastic surgery, dermatology, or spa ads. It often states, “beautiful skin… from within.” Many times, when I delve deeper into that ad, or call, I find that what they are selling are supplements. It’s a wise addition to every skin program. However, I wonder how much time is spent in truly educating that client about the choices she makes daily in her foods. This is important because the internal impact from her dietary choices will ultimately be seen externally in many different ways, one of them being wrinkling. I believe too many of us do not consider education about nutrition important.However, if dietary choices are causing inflammation and glycation, we have a situation as skin professionals, where we are treating problems topically that should and could be tackled at the source. In other words, prevent the inflammation internally (cellular level) through proper nutritional choices, before it occurs and is seen externally (skin), or it becomes more difficult to treat.
Within is often overused. It is not just how well our products are working topically; It means that we must affect deep within the dermis, within each cell, nutrient rich cellular replication, so that when those cells come to the surface, they contribute to a more youthful appearance. We in fact need to teach our clients, through nutritional education, how to keep that wrinkling and sagging from occurring at the point of origin deep in the cell, so that our products do the very best they can for the client.
The choices in lifestyle, as well as dietary choices the client makes, ultimately impact her skin for months, and even years later. Helping clients understand the impact these choices will have on skin, will give them a sense of being in control of the results.

Moving On to Do More
Again, with every dietary choice made, we either contribute to healthy cellular division or one that is compromised. A topical cream or treatment can stimulate cellular exfoliation, or collagen, but the desired effect will be far superior if that client understands how excess circulating sugar (bad), or antioxidants(good), impact that skin from within, through nutritional choices. Achieving that goal is something every aesthetician who is concerned with client retention should understand, for it is the point of difference. It is that edge that separates us within the industry into either looking at the skin topically or understanding what is going on from within.
Go beyond what you have learned about treatments and products, and seek out the courses about nutrition so that you can better affect the health of not just the skin, but the body as well, for the body will go along for the ride; a ride to better health, that occurs through understanding the skin as an organ. Making a difference in the skin of the client through understanding nutrition is a choice to make a difference in the body. That is because what is seen on the skin (inflammation, glycation, hyperpigmentation, even wrinkling), is often what is occurring on a much deeper level within other organs of the body. In other words, healthy skin, healthy body.

Looking at an Age Old Problem in a Different Light
Hyperpigmentation, that unsightly browning seen in the epidermis, began long ago. We know one contributing factor is the sun, which by the way, is an inflammatory response topically! We know how quickly our clients want results when it comes to those unsightly brown spots. Pointing out to the client how she is contributing to this process of hyperpigmentation by causing an inflammatory response within the body from her dietary choices gives her the tools necessary to make correct food choices. There is less need for stronger products because tackling a problem at the source makes it easier to resolve. In fact, along with the clients’ sunscreen, we can often get great results using milder products along with nutritional advice to prevent the process that creates the hyperpigmentation in the first place. That is a recipe for less stress for us and great results for the client.
When we sell clients procedures that cost hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars, we must ask ourselves if there is something else we need to be doing to give our clients the best in care. That something is not just knowledge; it is understanding. When they walk out of that treatment room, we want them to leave with something different that sets us apart from others out there. It is one thing to share knowledge, but another entirely for that knowledge to be understood. I find that people often know (knowledge) what to do, but often are not sure of how to apply that knowledge for results once they leave (understand).

Follow up and Understanding
How many of us simply sell a treatment package, allow a client to leave with hundreds of dollars in products and never see that client again? What have we sent the client home with that would have her returning for more? In fact, are the treatments or products even working as they should for that client, for if our products do not give her satisfaction, she will have many other choices.
Consider also, if clients do not realize the impact nutritional choices have on skin, some may begin to complain that products are not working. They may circumvent all the good that the treatments and products may be trying to accomplish due to wrong choices in foods. Consider this one fact: The blood can only hold a few teaspoons of “sugar” at a time. This includes potatoes, rice, and of course that all delicious candy bar. A little fact here is that a potato will send more circulating sugar into the body as it is digested than an Almond Joy bar and that is because that candy bar has almonds. Almonds contain the good fats that help to slow the digestion of the sugar which allows a lower glycemic response in the body. This is good, but a better option would be eating the almonds alone. Remember that when there is excess circulating sugar, there is more inflammation, which means more insulin is secreted by the pancreas. How that impacts us as aestheticians is that when excess circulating sugar does occur through diet, the response by the body is an attack on the collagen and elastin in the skin and that causes wrinkles and sagging.

A New “Age” for Skin
Some of us may wonder how we can speak to the needs of the skin concerning nutrition, when it is such a vast unknown area to many. Our licenses say aestheticians, not dieticians. Yet, years ago, supplements came into play within the skin care industry. I remember being overwhelmed trying to decide which ones to buy or advise my clients on. Some of you may feel that same sense of …where to begin and what to learn? There are so many supplements at the trade shows. Many of us have money tied up in supplements that no one buys, because we do know of the importance (knowledge) but we do not understand how to apply it. In fact, how many of you have moved away from this important component in skin care altogether?
Supplements are just what they are…a supplement …. to our diet! We were designed to obtain our nutrition from foods as they are digested. What we all have in common is the digestive system. Unless we have been altered through surgery, that system responsible for our health, the health of all our organs, skin included, works the same for all of us. Understanding how that system works, learning how food choices impact this system and ultimately the skin, makes a lot more sense than trying to decipher what nutritional supplements to sell, to correct a skin problem that may or may not be helped by a supplement we know little about.
I can hear it now. ‘As an aesthetician, why should this concern me?’ The statistics out there point to a huge flood into the marketplace of people in their 60s (baby boomers) that have made the rounds of treatments, have dozens of products lining their shelves, and have had enough of skin care 101. Many of those treatments and products may or may not have worked well and with age many are now wondering what to do. This well-educated client is now even realizing that less is more… less products, less treatments. Where does that leave us, or the client? The skin is now sagging and more wrinkled than ever before. With all the new information out there about nutrition’s impact on skin, the educated client knows there is a piece of the puzzle missing. Where will that person go for answers? Why not go to us?
Let’s realize that our client’s concern is skin. Skin is an organ of the body, and what is put into that body affects that skin both inside and out. This fact alone is enough for those that work within our industry that truly care about delivering the best in skin care, to move toward the education needed to better serve clients, or those clients may be lost to a more educated aesthetician.
Be the face of the changing skin care professional whether you work in a spa, for yourself, or a doctor. An aesthetician who is not only the best in providing treatments and products, but one that truly educates the client to understanding that the way to beautiful skin on the outside does come from understanding how the body works within. You will not only change your client’s skin, you will see a change in the health of the client as well, and that is a feeling unlike any other.

Norma Jean, N.D., is an author, aesthetician, and educator in the field of nutrition and wellness. A cosmetology teacher and aesthetician for over 38 years, she entered into the field of nutrition after realizing there was a direct influence from diet in the skin of her clients. What followed were years of study toward her degree in Bachelor of Holistic Nutrition, and finally an N.D. degree. Her focus is to raise the bar for those in the field of aesthetics. To incorporate into their practice, more education about the roll that nutrition plays in the short and long term so that information further impacts the skin and health of the client for the better. In a way that most do not even realize until they follow what she teaches, she lives with what many strive to do in later years and that is, making a difference in the lives of others. She is available at her studio or at your location to help those in the industry with how to incorporate this knowledge into their practice. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 570-275-6604.

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