What is it about lying in a coffin shaped box while 24 bulbs emit light strong enough to penetrate the subcutaneous layer that is such a hard habit for clients to break? I can sort of understand the beach and pool tanners. At least there you’ll get a bit of scenery and maybe chug a margarita to cool down as you rotate from front to back, like a juicy rotisserie chicken. Tanning beds, however, I don’t get. You just lie there, in pools of sweat, and wonder if you actually locked the door before you climbed into the ultraviolet radiation producing machine. With all the data on the dangers of tanning – like cancer, speeding up the aging process, cancer, hyperpigmentation, cancer – you’d think clients would stop tanning. Well, you’d be wrong.
When I was a new aesthetician, I would be indignant when a client wouldn’t listen when I told them to wear sunscreen or stop tanning. I even went so far as to ask my first manager if I could refuse service to a client because “she won’t listen to what I’m telling her, so I won’t waste my time giving her leather-like skin a facial.” Yeah, I was that obnoxious. Luckily, my boss had a sense of humor and shoved me back into the treatment room. As the years passed and I wasn’t quite so green, I realized something very important. Many clients don’t get facials for the reasons aestheticians give them. Aestheticians look at each facial as an opportunity to improve someone’s skin and homecare regimen. We’re born fixers. Got dark spots? I can lighten it. Got hair? I can take it off. Got a pimple? I can pop it. But, is that what clients want or is that what the aesthetician wants?
I have a few hardcore tanners in my retinue of clients. Their skin is always the same deep, unnatural-looking brown, year-round. The crinkles at the edge of their eyes are deeper than most people their age. Dark spots litter their cheeks and nose and some have had pre-cancerous lesions removed. Those same clients still refuse to wear sunscreen or even try to minimize sun exposure. So, what do you do? Ignore it? Refuse to treat them? Of course not. It’s all about baby steps – lots of frustratingly small baby steps that will hopefully lead your clients where they need to go skin care wise.
The easiest place to start is in the skin analysis. Even if a client has been with me for years, I always go over what I’m seeing as part of the client’s facial. I make product recommendations and I also tell them nothing I do or give them will fix anything until they are committed to use sunscreen and stop tanning. Does this always work? Not if the sunburns and tan lines I continue to see are any indication. With most of my tanners, I simply reiterate each appointment the dangers of tanning without being preachy – baby steps.
Always remember, the appointment is about the client, not you. You have a better chance of convincing them if they continue to visit you, rather than if they storm out angrily because you harped continuously about their tanning habits. Stay strong. One day you’ll push that bottle of SPF 40 toward your tanning client and she will purchase and use it.
Shelly Steadman is a licensed aesthetician and educator with over 11 years’ experience in the skin care industry. After spending the last six years of her career behind a teacher’s podium training new aestheticians, she transitioned back into a treatment room. Steadman is currently working as an aesthetician at artistrySPASALON in the beautiful city of Franklin, Tennessee.