Exfoliation has been used since ancient times, through different cultures. Indians used spices to exfoliate their body, while the Polynesians used seashells. Other indigenous cultures used grain meals, dried herbs, and plants. Exfoliation smoothes and softens the skin by sloughing off the uppermost dead layer of the skin. By removing the dead layer of skin, products can work more effectively and the skin functions better. Normal skin cells divide, moving to the surface every 28 days. By working with the body and having clients receive a body exfoliation, it assists with detoxification, improves product performance, and is excellent for the skin. Ideally, body exfoliation or skin brushing should be done weekly. There are various types of exfoliation that can be offered at the spa:
- dry skin brushing
- loofah and gloves
- salt glow and sugar scrubs
Skin brushing is one of the simplest of all spa exfoliation treatments that a therapist can give. Traditionally, the Scandinavians practiced a daily ritual of taking a brush and gently brushing their skin. Before brushing your hair or teeth in the morning, brush your skin using a soft, dry, skin brush, preferably with natural bristles. This daily ritual is invigorating and will stimulate the lymphatic system.
As a spa treatment, this will be an excellent opportunity to educate the client to the importance of skin brushing and how it can be done daily at home. Encourage the guest to become involved with a home maintenance program and to purchase a natural bristle brush. Or offer a gift with purchase and with the service, the guest receives their own brush, which in turn will give them the confidence that the brush hasn't been used on any other clients. Plus, guests like having something to go home with and every time they use that item they will think of the wonderful experience they had at your spa. This gentle reminder will hopefully give them the desire to want to rebook and revisit the spa. If you are reusing the brushes make sure you clean them with soap and water after each use, then soak them in bleach or EPA/hospital grade disinfectant for 20 minutes; or follow the manufacturers instructions to properly disinfect the brush between uses.
For therapists giving a dry brush service, always work towards the heart and where possible follow the direction of lymph flow with your strokes. Use brisk strokes and have them overlap slightly and with the other hand follow the brush in a rhythmic motion. Which ever hand that you write with, hold the brush with that same hand. Follow with other hand as you will have more control. This rhythm should be gentle stroke with the brush followed by effleurage strokes with the other hand. This is a more nurturing style and pressure can be used on more callused areas of the body such as the bottoms of feet, knees, and elbows. Using two brushes – while for some might seem better, quicker, and receive more results – is in fact counter productive as it may be uncomfortable and hurt the guest. Less is more with this exfoliation. The therapist does not want to bruise or scrape the client's skin or apply too much pressure, which can cause capillaries to break.
For additional benefits, offer aroma-dry brushing therapy. Have three essential oils and have the client choose their favorite. Essential oils that would be good to have available would be ones that increase circulation such as juniper, geranium, ginger, lavender, and rosemary. Apply it to the bristles of the brushes and start brushing that dead skin away. Remember to start with the feet and work towards the heart. Have the client turn over and repeat the application on their other side. When working on the abdomen, work in clockwise motion and very gentle as clients may be ticklish or sensitive.
Wet scrubs with a loofah or exfoliating gloves is considered a mechanical exfoliation that can be used with our without the loofah or gloves. This treatment is different from the dry body brushing as it is performed wet and the client will experience erythema. This erythema or pinkness on the skin is a good indication of increased circulation.
- The therapist will want to prepare the treatment table with a towel under the client for extra absorption of the water.
- The loofah or gloves will be dampened and have a body gel cleanser available.
- Heat the skin by applying hot towel compresses over the area you are going to start working. In most cases it will be the feet and legs. Place warm towels over both legs and press down firmly. Remove towels.
- Apply a body gel cleanser in the loofah or gloves and start to effleurage and exfoliate towards the heart. Again, work with one loofah/glove and have the other hand free to keep contact with the client, working up the body following the glove.
- This will ensure client comfort and not overexfoliation and irritation to skin.
- Once the skin is pink, place a warm towel over the feet and legs to remove excess cleanser and apply a dry, warm towel.
Continue to abdomen, hands, and arms and have client turn over and repeat process.
The goal of this service is for exfoliation, but ensure that the client is warm and do not let them get chilled. Additional, hydration can follow with an application of a body moisturizer.
Salt glows or sugar scrubs are another form of a mechanical exfoliation. Make sure that all the salt or sugar is removed from the body before continuing onto further treatments as to not cause irritation. Choosing salt over another ingredient is key in detoxification treatments. Salt is preferred for the male guests as they enjoy a more vigorous exfoliation. If your female guest has recently shaved, salt will irritate and not feel good. In that case, offer another exfoliation service such as a sugar scrub. Dead sea salt is a great choice for this service as it will give additional benefits beyond just exfoliation.
Gommage style treatments use sloughing off creams or masks that are applied to the skin and allowed to dry slightly before buffing off, using a rolling method of your hands. This treatment leaves the skin beautifully smooth and fine. It can be used as a singular treatment as it acts as a mask and exfoliant all in one. It can be time consuming when removing, but also can be seen as a time saver for clients who need to be in and out in a short. Apply the gommage with a large body brush in firm, upward, long strokes covering the entire body but avoiding the breast area. Once the mask has dried, remove by sloughing off and laying warm, wet towels onto the client to remove excess. This can be followed by body moisturizer, gel, or oil to hydrate the skin again. The therapist should take special consideration since the gommage is messy and to try to keep it on the towels so the floor isn't covered in product.
Machines are excellent to use when you don't want the mess that a scrub or polish can sometimes leave behind. Using machines gives you the opportunity to introduce equipment to a hesitant client unsure about having a service on their face. The choices include a rotary brush, microdermabrasion, and now the very popular ultrasound spatula.
Exfoliation has come a long way and does more than just slough off dead skin. For savvy aestheticians who want to offer a very effective exfoliation service that will treat unwanted hyperpigmentation, peels for the body are the answer. It is well known that chemical peels on the face are extremely effective in reducing hyperpigmentation but clients now want to remove sun damage from their hands, arms, décolleté, and even legs. Body chemical peels may be a slightly stronger concentration than chemical peels used for the face, because body chemical peels are intended to treat areas of skin more resistant to treatment. Proper knowledge of the manufacturer's protocols are needed when working with chemical peels and always have the client fill out a history form prior to any service. Body peels are most effective when sold in a series.
Body peels are not just for hyperpigmentation according to Krista Bourne, aesthetician and aesthetics education director for Epionce Skin Care. Bourne recommends doing a thorough analysis of the body and to look for Keratosis Pilaris. A large percentage of individuals, more women than men, suffer from a benign genetic condition called Keratosis Pilaris (KP). KP is characterized by small, skin colored-to-reddish, rough bumps that appear on the cheeks (on children and pre-teens), on the back of upper arms, and/or on the back of thighs and buttocks. It is caused by hyperkeratinization (excess keratin) which forms a plug in the hair follicle. There are actually three different forms of KP, including Keratosis Pilaris Rubra (red, inflamed bumps), Keratosis Pilaris Alba (rough bumps with no irritation), and Keratosis Pilaris Rubra Faceii (red, rash-like bumps on the face). KP may sometimes be confused with folliculitis, which is an inflamed infection of the hair follicle caused by staphylococcus bacteria. If you feel your client may have folliculitis and not KP, keep within your scope of practice as an aesthetician and refer to a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
Generally, KP is more of a cosmetic nuisance, but it can be treated with regular gentle exfoliation treatments to help improve the appearance. Effective professional treatments with ingredients to combat KP is with a combination of beta hydroxy acids and alpha hydroxy acids. After cleansing the skin twice using a gel cleanser and a soft brush, apply one to three layers of your favorite peel. The very last step is to apply sunscreen, formulated with micronized zinc oxide for UVA/UVB protection.
Bourne recommends that the client take care of their skin at home, with products that help reduce redness and inflammation, smooth skin texture, and keep the pores clean, along with a barrier repair product that helps balance the lipid ratios in the stratum corneum. Excellent ingredients to look for in retail products are formulated with salicylic and azelaic acids, a great mixture of antioxidants including date palm extract and rose hips, and barrier strengthening ingredients such as meadowfoam, flax, and avocado. A series is recommended for better results, coupled with a good home care regimen.
Exfoliation of the skin of the body is an important therapy offered at spas. By removing the dead cell buildup and prepping the skin, it will prepare the body for additional services. It is an excellent opportunity to teach clients about how the skin cells divide, and if they wish to work with their body, the client needs to have a professional body exfoliating treatment at least every 28 days. Body exfoliation is easy, enjoyable, and effective for clients and profitable for the spa.