As aestheticians, we must understand that we do not treat skin conditions. Skin conditions are treated by those with an M.D. after their name. As skin care professionals, it is our job to enhance the health of the skin with our products and services. In order to do this, what we do in the treatment room is all about the customer and their emotions. We are taught in aesthetics school that our emotions are to be checked at the door.
Let us talk turkey though and bring to light the honest reality of the situation. Our profession has progressed. As have our knowledge, expertise, products, ingredients, and results – improving the health of the skin and, in turn, the condition of our client’s skin. Gone are the days when facial treatments were simply a pampering experience that gave our customers an hour to be massaged, manipulated, hydrated, and cleansed. Today, over 90 percent of facial customers seek visible results in their skin care treatments. They want results and they want them now! Not only do our customers want visible results, they want answers – answers to their greatest skin concerns and answers as to how to treat their skin conditions. Rarely does a week or a day go by that I do not have a customer in my clinic who is desperate for my staff’s professional expertise and knowledge to guide them through professional treatment products and options to improve acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, eczema, keratosis pilaris, elastosis, or manifestations that have resulted from illness, medications, or poor treatment outcomes. The fact of the matter: aestheticians have become the go-to professional for improving skin conditions.
I feel that this position is truly an honor. Multiple times over the years, I have stated the elite position that aestheticians have. We work on the largest organ of the human body and have the ability to change the way people look and feel about themselves – that is one very powerful position! Our customers come to us seeking assistance in their appearance and entrusting that we meet their needs and expectations.
But this powerful position comes with some lofty demands. There are emotions entrenched in our daily work – both our customers’ emotions and our personal emotions. We entered this profession because of our desire and passion to help others. Many of you may have chosen this profession because of personal experiences with skin conditions that made such an enormous impact on your own life, that you committed yourself to finding a solution and preventing others from having to endure similar experiences. Indeed, the emotional magnitude associated with anything that affects our appearance is huge!
Emotions Brought to The Table
Are you a parent whose teenage child is ridiculed at school because of their acne or a child who refuses to attend extracurricular functions or school events and finds it more comforting to hide in their room and exclude themselves from social involvement? Perhaps you have a close friend who suffers from pigmentation and scarring left from years of teenage acne or know an adult who had perfect skin as a youth and now struggles with acne!
Are you a woman who developed such severe pigment during pregnancy that you never, ever, ever leave the house without wearing foundation, even to go to the mail box? Does your spouse live with stage two or three rosacea and every day deals with the ruddy, red skin coloration and the unsaid question of “have you been drinking?” Or perhaps years of fun in the sun have left you looking years beyond your actual age.
All these situations are heartbreaking to the individual who lives with them every day. They catch the glimpses and stares, and they constantly compare themselves to others around them who are fortunate enough to be blessed with youthful, healthy skin. The emotions connoted to these situations are inexplicable. Until you yourself have walked in their shoes, you cannot possibly understand their daily torment. In the greater scheme of things, it may seem quite insignificant to one who does not or has not experienced such skin conditions, but imagine for just one moment that you awake one day to a condition that becomes the first thing people see when they look at you and perhaps a defining characteristic – “Hey, you know who I am talking about, the woman with brown patches on her cheek.”
We can help these people, not simply by our products and services, but by our skill and ability to connect the emotions to the treatment options to the outcomes. The final result will be improved, healthier skin on the outside and a confident, healthier customer on the inside.
Your consultation process is an initial critical component to the treatment process. You are not simply providing treatments and products for such customers; you sort of become their skin care “partner” or “coach.” In reality, this applies to every single customer. If customers do not commit to working with us to achieve their skin care goals, then we certainly cannot do it on our own. If a customer were to invest time and money on a treatment to improve pigmentation and cell turnover, but then go lie in the sun, clearly the efforts are fruitless. It takes two.
So, back to the consultation. Be sure to allow for adequate consultation time. Listen to your customers. Make sure you become aware of the impact and daily effect that their skin condition has on them personally. Be sure to acquire all of the background information and history of the development of the condition.
- How long have they had the condition?
- Can they identify what caused it?
- What things have they done in the past for treatment?
- What are they currently doing to improve it?
- Are they under a physician’s supervision?
Acquiring every bit of information that you can will most certainly aid you in the treatment process. Once you have completed an extensive intake process, let them know they are not alone. This is the first step in minimizing the emotional impact. Clearly, they know there are others who may have similar situations, but at the moment none of that matters. When a customer is struggling with their appearance, they feel as though they are the only one in the world and are alone. By acknowledging the commonality of their condition, they begin to entrust in you that there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
As the consolation process comes to an end, it is critical to identify realistic expectations. Before determining any treatment protocols or making a single product recommendation, you absolutely must have realistic expectations. If you miss this step, you may very well be setting your customer up for greater disappointment and yourself up for losing a customer. I like to under promise and over deliver; it is a good business tactic that makes everyone happy!
Finally, ensure that there are treatment options and very carefully outline each one. Remember, making monumental improvements in the appearance of the skin requires time, effort, commitment, and diligence on the art of both the aesthetician and customer.
Emotions Left on The Table
I have a degree in psychology, and someone once suggested that was quite the waste of time. I do not think so. I use what I learned every single day dealing with customers, coworkers, my own emotions, and life in general! Every day our customers unload their emotions, concerns, and appearance into our hands, then ask of us to make it all better…it is a little like skin therapy!
The important thing is that we have the ability to recognize this. We entered this profession because we want to help others because we are “people people,” and because we are caregivers and healers. However, along with that comes a load of emotional responsibility. In order to be good at what we do and to be good for our loved ones and families, we have to be good to ourselves.
Recognize the magnitude of the emotion that you endure and accept on a daily basis, then also recognize the necessity to leave it where it belongs…with its owner. At the end of the day, take a look back at the effect you had on others – the changes that you made, the emotional uplifting you provided. Do not ever take your customers’ emotional struggles home with you. Hey, we all have enough of our own stuff with which to deal! Focus on the positive, focus on success, and focus on the exhilarating emotion of helping another person look better and feel better about themselves, because that is what we do!
Michelle D’Allaird is a New York State licensed aesthetician and International CIDESCO Diplomat. She is the owner of the Aesthetic Science Institute aesthetic schools in Syracuse and Latham, N.Y. She is a consultant and educator for international cosmetic companies around the world. D’Allaird is a contributing author to major industry trade magazines, as well as a host and speaker for International Congress of Esthetics & Spa conferences in Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Long Beach. She is also a co-author of Salon Fundamentals aesthetic textbook. Her expertise lies in education and curriculum development for aesthetic, medical, and laser courses.