In fact, the client intake is one of the single most important components to creating the right treatment plan and avoiding complications in the treatment room. What are the important questions to ask and what information do you need to develop an effective treatment course? Furthermore, how do you broach the tough questions and avoid some common mistakes?
WHY INTAKE FORMS ARE IMPERATIVE
Skin care professionals tend to be empathetic and sometimes the thought of having clients sign, date, and initial several forms feels like an inconvenience. However, going through this process will protect both the professional and the client and even improve the success of their treatment plan.
Professionals must shift their thinking away from seeing the intake process as cumbersome task or an inconvenience to clients and instead recognize it as an opportunity to get to know clients and their skin. It also sets the tone for a good relationship built on open communication. A thorough, complete, and signed form also protects the professional from possible legal action. Though it is not something professionals like to think about happening, if issues occur in the treatment room or during the client's homecare, an intake form that has been signed by the client is an important document that shows the aesthetician was professional and took all the steps and precautions possible
An intake form also conveys to the client the seriousness of the work to be performed and that they are working with a professional. Finally, it opens the door to conversation and delves deeper into important information. It helps to uncover more detailed facts about a client's health history or skin care routine that can greatly impact the treatment.
Do not overlook this very crucial step. In the end, it may prevent potentially disastrous outcomes in the treatment room and will ensure clients achieve the results they are looking for. It is the first step to a successful treatment and overall plan; avoiding it is actually a disservice to the client.
THE ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL EVALUATION AND INTAKE
When the client intake is done correctly, the client will feel that they are in professional hands, that their needs and wants are being heard and honored, and that they are an active participant in their skin health. As such, there are a few things to consider for a successful consultation.
First, be sure the client is a true partner in the process. That means the client must take responsibility for what they do and how they follow instructions. When the professional enrolls them as a partner, they feel they have more ownership in directing their success and, with each partner doing their part, the results are more controlled.
Once the client is on board to serve as a partner in achieving skin health, the next step is to gather a complete skin history. This stage is when the professional gets into the client's health and skin care specifics and where they may identify potential red flags that could impact the treatment path. During the skin history, professionals will want to cover specifics such as: Does the client currently have epilepsy, diabetes, or any other autoimmune disorders? Have they recently undergone cosmetic surgery or laser resurfacing/IPL or received Botox injections, chemical peels, or treatment for skin cancer, dermatitis, or keloid scarring? What, if any, types of medications (including over-the-counter medications) are they taking? Do they have any allergies? Do they smoke, take nutritional supplements, exercise, drink alcohol, or wear contact lenses? Have they had any kind of facial treatment before or have they recently had waxing or electrolysis?
One of the most important questions to ask is, "Is there any information I should know before beginning your treatment?" I like to put this question just before the signature line on the form. It places responsibility back on the client to be forthright and give accurate information.
Answering the above questions will not only impact the course of care offered, but will also help professionals avoid potential complications in the treatment room. Going through the process with new clients also allows professionals to gauge their compliance.
Having clients initial the informed consent may seem redundant at first, but this action further qualifies the client and ensures that they are fully aware of the rejuvenation plan. It informs them of everything that could occur during their treatment and reminds the client of each important point about the treatment. Be sure to read through this section with them and then have them initial each point and sign the bottom. This form will cover important details and ensure the client has acknowledged that they have been given the skin history questionnaire and have answered it thoroughly; there is a potential of an allergic reaction; specific sensations and outcomes are expected with the treatment prescribed for them; they have not been on Accutane, Retin-A, or other actives that could impact the outcome of the treatment; and that they will follow post-care instructions.
These are just a few of the key points to have on an informed consent. Depending on the treatment, it is helpful to provide the client with detailed "for your information" sheets. For instance, if the professional is planning a progressive superficial peel, this document would provide details on what the client may expect in terms of downtime, variety of acids and other active ingredients used, what to expect during the post-care, and what they must avoid following their treatment. This document ensures clients fully understands the service.
It is all too easy for clients to inadvertently miss a step in their post-care regimen. Documenting the instructions will provide an important reference and keep it clear for them. It also protects the professional. Keep in mind, most complications occur after the client has left the facility, and it is usually because of something they have done unintentionally.
Furthermore, documenting receipt of post-care instructions will also show that the professional did their due diligence and will make the client aware of their responsibilities.
THE SKIN EVALUATION
There are numerous ways to conduct a skin evaluation: from face charts and face maps to Wood's lamps and digital analyzers for more detailed documentation. Whichever method is preferred, the professional should be sure it is something they will stay with and that it gives them and the client the information they need to understand skin conditions and map out an appropriate plan.
It is helpful to incorporate multiple senses into the skin assessment: sight (the appearance of the skin), touch (the feel of the skin), and sound (listening to the client). The most important among those senses is listening. Take time to listen to the client to be clear about what they see as issues with their skin. This time is an important piece that often gets missed. Understanding what the client wants to change, why they are seeing a professionals, and how they see their skin will lead the professional in the direction to fulfill the clients' goals, as well as manage expectations and address anything that may impact the treatment outcomes.
During this step, hand the client a hand-held mirror and, standing behind them, follow as the client points out exactly what it is about their skin that bothers them. This action will align expectations for everyone. Following the client's evaluation, conduct a thorough assessment, looking at the skin more closely through a magnifier. At this point, more issues may be uncovered and further discussed. For instance, the client may be pointing to one fine line or a small crevice in the skin on their forehead and completely ignore the imbalance of oils, or dehydration, pigmentation, fragile capillaries, dull skin tone, or uneven texture.
This situation is where the professional's expert eye comes in. Discuss these issues with the client and be sure to document them. Doing so will allow the client to know what to look for in terms of changes in the skin once the work begins. Knowing what details to look for, the client gains confidence and excitement as these issues begin to change or go away.
There is a lot professionals can decipher from the visual assessment, such as how deep a pigmentation issue may be or if the skin is lacking circulation and oxygen. Touch, however, is also imperative for identifying issues such as hydration deficiencies, depending on the skin's buoyancy and moisture content.
BEST PRACTICES FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTAKE
A thorough intake is the foundation to a successful treatment, achieving optimal outcomes, and a happy client. Do not discount the value of this very important piece. As professionals are working through the questions on the skin history, some questions may feel invasive to the client and sharing certain information may be initially uncomfortable. Ease their concerns by letting them know any information they share is completely confidential and is only gathered for their safety and skin health.
If a client is currently under a physician's care, professionals should be sure they work collaboratively with the physician. If the client is noting a long list of medications, it is best not to proceed without a physician's okay. The last thing professionals want is for a particular ingredient or technique to interfere with the client's treatment path. Similarly, if the client is on Accutane or taking antibiotics for acne, it is best to wait until they complete the process before performing a corrective treatment. Finally, beware of individuals who overuse harsh corrective formulas or are excessive with rejuvenation treatments. Allowing the skin time to heal and rebuild between periods of correction is a must to achieving healthy skin. If a client is not compliant with healing and downtime, it may be best not to work with that client.
With the right combination of questions, open dialogue, and thorough skin assessments, professionals are taking the first step to create an ideal path of success for themselves and their clients that leads to a long, happy relationship.
Rhonda Allison, a pioneer in the skin care industry, is the founder and CEO of Rhonda Allison Cosmeceuticals and RA for Men. Allison is also an author and an internationally-known speaker with more than 30 years of aesthetic experience. rhondaallison.com and ramethod.com