Tuesday, 20 August 2019 09:48

Here’s the Scrub: Educating Clients on Proper Exfoliation

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Exfoliation is a hot topic across treatment rooms, social media, beauty bloggers, and magazine articles. But clients are getting mixed messages about what exfoliants to use and the correct way to exfoliate. The job of the aesthetician is to educate clients about the correct way to use exfoliants to assist the skin without breaking down the delicate barrier.


The goal of this article is to help the licensed professional educate clients about the differences in exfoliation, the different types of exfoliants clients should and should not be using, and the danger of over exfoliation.



Part of being an aesthetician is retail and this important step starts with the client consultation, which gets the client talking about themselves and their main skin concerns. During the consultation, clients should reveal their skin struggles and what they want to achieve with help from the professional. Listening to their needs and understanding their current at-home regimen is crucial to designing which products they will be taking home.


Many first-time clients are either over exfoliating their skin or their exfoliation step is non-existent. Hearing these words from a client is the perfect time to start their skin education class. Clients are thrilled to learn about exfoliation because everything they read or watch is sending mixed messages that ultimately confuses them. The professional’s expertise and understanding of skin is exactly what they need to hear to get them on the right path to healthy skin.



It is easy to sneak in a little bit of skin 101 to wow clients. Most aestheticians explain each step of the facial; for example, “I’m going to cleanse your face with X product.” To take it a step further, educate the client about the benefits of that specific cleanser and why it was selected for their skin. For example, “Today I’m going to cleanse you with X cleanser. This cleanser works to clean dirt and oil from your skin’s surface. X cleanser will gently remove dirt and oil without stripping your skin, which creates the dryness you mentioned is currently a concern. X cleanser would be a great alternative cleanser to Z product that you’re currently using because it does not use ABC ingredient, which is known to remove excess oil from the skin and tends to leave skin feeling dry.”


Doing this teaches the client why they need the product chosen and how it will help their skin. At the end of the facial, reiterate why it is recommended to them.


Next, educate clients about exfoliation. This can be done during their enzyme and steaming process. First, explain basic information about the epidermis and dermis. Then, explain cell renewal and how the cells transform to their programmed cell death in the epidermis. Be sure to explain to clients how smart the skin is, how it naturally exfoliates, and how the exfoliation step assists with removing the dead skin cells so the skin may function properly.


Tell clients that while most cells are naturally exfoliated off, they can get stuck on the skin’s surface, like leaves piling up on the sidewalk in fall. The exfoliant acts like a broom and brushes away the unwanted dead skin cells, leaving healthy skin. It is fun to watch the lightbulb turn on in their brains as they understand this important function of their skin.


Aestheticians know that if they do not exfoliate, the epidermal barrier can become thick, dull, and grey. Finding creative ways to educate clients in a way they can understand is key. Now that the client has a basic understanding of how the skin works, when he or she goes home, they can apply this new knowledge to their homecare regimen.



Aestheticians need to be aware of the different types of exfoliants and how to educate clients to correctly use each one. To keep things simple, put the exfoliants in three categories: scrubs, enzymes and peels, and mechanical exfoliants.


Personally, I do not recommend scrubs to clients because experience has taught me clients tend to over scrub, creating dry or dehydrated skin. This is a vicious cycle for buying over-the-counter products because once the client dries out their skin, they go buy a moisturizer they believe will fix their dry skin; however, often, that product then causes acne. The client turns to a stronger exfoliant, which makes their skin worse and this horrible cycle continues. Only until a professional steps in to help the client with education and offering up products will their skin begin to heal.


If you like scrubs and your clients do too, make sure it is gentle. Scrubs should be used twice a week. Explain to clients twice daily exfoliation is too aggressive for the skin and will worsen their skin condition.


Enzymes and mild at-home alpha hydroxy acid exfoliants are a preferred method of exfoliation. They have enough active ingredients to help the clients achieve healthy, glowing skin, yet a low enough percentage so that they cannot overuse the exfoliant and harm their skin. These products are often easy to retail, because clients like the idea of easy exfoliation and these products can be quickly applied or left on for five to 10 minutes.


As a tip, tell clients to leave their exfoliant on in the shower. Explain to wash their face first, apply their exfoliant, and rinse it off at the end of their shower. This allows the product five to 10 minutes to work and the client is happy because their routine is simplified. Aestheticians know most clients are lazy at night and skip their exfoliation step regularly because they are too tired to go back and forth to the bathroom to rinse off the exfoliant after 10 minutes. Teaching clients to exfoliate in the shower will keep exfoliants flying off retail shelves on a regular basis.


Lastly, mechanical exfoliants have both benefits and drawbacks. I do not recommend mechanical exfoliants to clients because many of them over exfoliate or exfoliate too frequently. Mechanical scrubbing brushes can hold bacteria and worsen acne, unless properly sanitized; however, most clients do not have the right sanitation products in their homes. Even dermarollers can hold bacteria; if a client goes too deep and bleeds, they are transferring bacteria to the rest of their face.


To be safe, I typically suggest to clients to avoid any exfoliant tool and stick to the ones that will not harm their skin.



The media loves to promote exfoliation and many over-the-counter products contain scrubs or some sort of exfoliant in them. These products are telling the buyer to exfoliate twice a day, every single day. When these clients come into the treatment room, their skin is usually extremely dry, suffering from acne with large comedones, and sensitized.


Manufacturers use these claims to get clients to keep spending money. Many over-the-counter products are harmful to the skin and do not give consumers the results they desire. This forces consumers on a vicious cycle of over buying and overusing harmful products that are damaging their skin.


Twice daily skin exfoliation means clients are breaking down their stratum corneum layer and pulling sebum from the sebaceous glands. This breakdown of the stratum corneum leads to microtears in the epidermis, resulting in dermal damage. Another major problem with twice daily exfoliation is that the skin cannot hold onto moisture because of the underlying damage, leading it to become dry or dehydrated.


Applying a heavier moisturizer will not help the client because both oil and water content in the skin has been removed. When this is happening, the skin is in fight-or-flight mode, busy repairing the stratum corneum, and it cannot stay hydrated.


Professionals need to understand what is happening to clients in order to properly educate them to stop doing harm and damage to their skin. Not only are these clients lacking oil and moisture, but if damage gets to the dermis, this will speed up the aging process and cause irreversible damage.


The best way to help these clients to repair their skin is to toss out every harmful product they are using and help them start over with their skin routine. Provide them with gentle, hydrating products to repair their skin over the next four to six weeks. Education is key because these clients need to understand the damage created from using twice daily exfoliation products for several months or even years.



It is essential to know the difference between skin types in order to be able to find the best exfoliant for each client’s skin.


Oily skin clients that do not suffer from acne can use mild scrubs, enzymes, or peels two to three times a week. They may enjoy a gentle gommage that has a slight exfoliant yet does not need to be scrubbed into the skin. Alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids also work great because they tighten the pores, control oil, and reduce inflammation in the skin.


Acne clients should use alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids about three times a week. The same products can be recommended as with oily skin types; however, beware if a client is dry and suffering from acne; avoid beta hydroxy acids and some alpha hydroxy acids to prevent over drying their skin. Recommend an enzyme exfoliant because they tend to be gentle, yet effective, in controlling oil, tightening pores, and preventing dry skin.


Dry skin clients should use enzymes and possibly a mild alpha hydroxy acid in the summer months. Enzymes are perfect for dry skin types because they do not strip the skin – they repair and hydrate. Avoid scrubs so clients do not cause microtears to their epidermis. For dry skin clients, recommend exfoliation one to two times a week; this will help with dry, flaky skin, especially in the winter months.


Sensitized skin clients should stick to enzymes. Often, these clients have a ruddy appearance and even a gentle cleanser can turn them pink. Be as gentle as possible but remember sensitized skin types need to exfoliate and care for their skin like any other skin types. Avoid scrubs and peels on these clients to avoid excess redness leading to increased skin sensitivity.


While these are good basic guidelines, there are, of course, many more varieties of skin types within each category. Use your best judgement. This goes back to the client consultation form and listening to the client at the beginning of each facial. Even with regular clients, do a quick check while performing a skin analysis before starting their facial. Ask questions about products that have changed since their last treatment and how they are doing on their current products.


Another great tip is, while scanning a client’s charts, review their previous products purchased before they come into the treatment room. This helps to remember what products they are currently using, what products they are low on and will need to grab after their facial, and what questions to ask the client during the skin analysis. Do not forget to listen! The client will describe what they need and what they are looking for.


Putting clients’ needs first when they walk in the door is the first step to helping them achieve healthy skin. Listening well, education, and guiding clients to the right exfoliants is essential.


Exfoliation can be great when done correctly, but it can also be damaging when performed incorrectly. If just starting out as a new aesthetician, join a Facebook group and ask questions. Get to know the spa’s product representative and learn from them. Schedule a Skype meeting or phone call and ask the representative questions about exfoliants and tips on how to educate clients. Schedule a time with management or ask a seasoned aesthetician for help. Showing a true interest in your work and in your clients will help you help them.


Samantha DenchSamantha Dench is a 16-year licensed aesthetician, owner of Skin Deep, author, and speaker. Her passion stems beyond treating the skin to include utilizing internal health to achieve healthy skin for clients by finding the root of the problem. Dench loves to educate groups of women and share her knowledge and passion for skin. She loves to share her book to help women take control of their skin. Dench is a single mom of three and loves to cook, bake, and find creative ways to find healthy alternatives to her favorite dishes.

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