This is the difference between a skin therapist who, as part of an overall professional practice, recommends products for a client's at-home regimen, versus a salesperson who simply sells frocks, blueberry muffins, or cellphones. To treat someone's skin, and to provide that person with the knowledge and products to correctly treat their own skin, you have to touch them — really touch them.
A big part of skin analysis is problem-solving. This begins with powers of observation. Some of these powers are purely empirical, based upon how the client answers questions, combined with the tangible and visible evidence present in the actual skin itself (hot spots indicating inflammation, grittiness indicating milia, or excessive oiliness suggesting possible blockage and congestion, for example). And, some of this observation process is more intuitive, having to do with sensing what is happening with the client on an energetic level. Different people place differing degrees of emphasis in these areas. I believe that the truly skilled practitioner calls upon both faculties, applying hard science as well as a subtler sensibility.
Chinese Facial Diagnosis is a discipline that I believe can be vastly informative for the skin therapist to study. This nuanced, centuries-old practice associates zones of the face with internal organs, the "weather" going on in those organs, and in turn associates those organs with specific emotions. It's not as much of a leap as you may think. For instance, you may have a client whose ears feel hot as you do a manual skin exam, and who may have a rapid pulse, rapid heartbeat, or seem stressed. The same client has to jump up in the middle of the treatment session and use the restroom. These seemingly disparate conditions and behaviors may be related, according to the Chinese system, as the ears correlate to the kidneys, and the kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear. The "fight-or-flight" mechanism known as the sympathetic nervous system — including the need to void the bladder suddenly and frequently — may be on overdrive, and may suggest soothing, sedative treatments and calming ingredients are indicated.
As with all esoteric systems, there is the risk of applying the interpretation too casually. I will say that the tradition of Chinese Facial Diagnosis is complex, and really represents a lifetime of study. For this reason, I don't recommend spouting off little bits and pieces you've learned, as you learn them, to your clients. Instead, I encourage skin therapists to learn as much as they can, apply what they can silently, and continue to explore these ideas and other examination tools and techniques to constantly expand their own level of education.
In the most practical terms, a strong skin analysis technique empowers the professional skin therapist like nothing else; it establishes your professional authority from the get-go. I feel that this is so important because it instills confidence in both therapist and client. The client comes to us for our expertise. Clients do not want us to be tentative — they want to be given a clear, strong picture of where they are and what to do about it!
Feeling empowered in your skin care analysis also enables you to take steps to further your business. For instance, I'm all in favor these days of bringing skin care service out of the treatment room and into the front of the house. A "micro-treatment" on the spot may be given to a walk-in as a powerful way to establish a relationship. This sort of service may literally be a "spot" treatment (i.e. taking care of a nasty blemish, which has cropped up on the chin of someone who's too busy to make an appointment in advance). A thorough, efficient exam and analysis empowers the skin therapist to diagnose the problem and address it within 10 minutes of the person crossing the threshold, and in those few moments, you may have established a loyal new client.
And, our expertise in skin analysis also gives us a painless and completely legitimate inroad to securing a retail sale. Although skin therapists generally are not especially aggressive sales people, I honestly don't believe that this process is mercenary in any sense. It is therapeutic. If I examine and analyze a client's skin, and determine they are blocking their follicles by removing their make-up with mineral oil, then dehydrating their skin by washing with a perfumed bar soap — what good is my expertise if the client returns home to these bad habits? My duty as a professional is to offer healthful alternatives that will deliver desirable results, such as a botanical-based, pre-cleanse solvent and a gentle, hydrating, acid-balanced, liquid cleanser.
Skin analysis is critical, crucial, fascinating, and key to our practice. Speaking as someone who has been a skin therapist for my entire career, I almost feel as though I've been reading other people's mail for the past 30 years. This is the contemporary Allureof the blog. Every skin has its story — it's a living diary. When someone comes to you as a professional, you're logging onto their running journal, spoken in skin.