Exfoliation, when practiced properly and with care, is not dangerous. However, in this high tech, fast-paced, I-want-it-and-want-it-now-culture, clients have a tendency to self-diagnose and self-treat without adequate knowledge or the proper respect for the potential risks. The Internet is full of misnomers, store shelves are lined with products touting their ingredients, and savvy ad agencies are paid high dollars to put together creative marketing campaigns that assure consumers they too can have the fresh face of an 18-year-old if only they use this cream or that mask. This is where you come in, because when this cream and that mask don't render the desired result, they eventually seek professional care at your competent hands.
Exfoliation is one of the most useful and beneficial tools you have in your professional skin care bag. However, your responsibility is to be educated, confident in your knowledge, and proceed with care. Despite the fact that it was a challenge to find contributors for this issue, I believe the information provided bears out the precise reason it was an important topic to cover. As you read through each of the articles in this issue, you will see that there are varying thoughts on the matter. The most controversial topic seems to be combining or "stacking" exfoliation treatments. Some suggest that using a combination of methods is most effective, while others believe that you shouldn't use multiple methods at all. Among the advocates of combining methods, you will find some who believe you start with mechanical exfoliation followed by chemical exfoliation and then others suggest that chemical should precede mechanical. As each of the feature contributors point out it isn't just a matter of the treatment you perform on the client in your chair that day, but all that they have done before, including at home care!
So with all these varying thoughts, where does that leave you? How should you proceed? Again, I say education is the key. First, know the skin inside and out down to the tiniest organelle. Despite what many may believe, skin care is a serious profession. Gone are the days of the fluff and puff beauty parlor, where high society ladies came to luxuriate and be pampered. As a skin care therapist today, you are working with active ingredients and have the potential to affect living tissue. You need to have a firm understanding not only of the skin and all its functions, but also how a person's health affects which treatments and ingredients you can utilize on their skin.
Most of you are familiar with the anthem from the movie Field of Dreams, "if you build it they will come." Let's twist that theme to fit the aesthetic industry, "if you respect your profession, they will follow." When you begin to lead and impart your knowledge, they will no longer come to you and tell you what treatment they want any sooner than they would walk into their doctor's office and tell her what tests to perform or prescription including the dosage and duration to write. Instead they will start to see you as an expert in your field. They will schedule their appointment, arrive promptly, and listen intently as you go through a thorough consultation and analysis eagerly awaiting your recommendation for both the professional protocol you will perform and the at home regimen they are to follow in between appointments. Don't you love my perfect world scenario? It is easier said than done, I agree. But it is not an impossible goal. Many skin care therapists have achieved this level of respect and as a professional you can too.
Begin with you, first look in the mirror at your own skin and appearance. If you were a potential client, would you have confidence in the image looking back at you or would you think she doesn't seem to care for her own skin, how can she care for mine? Then consider how much time you devote to continuing education annually. Do you space it out and take classes or read books to enhance your knowledge regularly, or do you attend one conference or class per year and only if someone else is paying the bill? How many journals do you read each month? Are you a member of an association; if you are, how active are you? If you've been practicing for a decade or more, how many new therapists have you mentored? The more you invest in yourself, the more others will invest in you.
Our intent with this feature, even the art, was to impress upon you the many opportunities that exist for exfoliation to cross the boundary and become dangerous. Certainly no one would intentionally use a steel wire brush on their skin. However, the vanity that drives us will prompt them to use scrubs and at-home microdermabrasion kits, along with anything else they can get their hands on to get rid of the lines and wrinkles, real or perceived. Additionally, they will come to you and ask you to perform even more aggressive treatments when they don't see results on their own. Educate them; help them set realistic, achievable goals; and carefully remind them that aging begins at birth. Aging is our purpose, and yes we want to do so gracefully. So, for your more mature clients, help them diminish the signs of aging that they have from years of abusing their skin, and for your younger clients teach them to practice good habits now to delay the process as long as possible.