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Saturday, 25 November 2006 09:46

Harmonius Balance

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We grapple daily to stay on top of elements that threaten our health and well-being. The need for equilibrium is dire. The concept of a medi-spa is not mysterious in the least. Neither is it new. Indeed, it’s such a natural union of spa and corrective, aesthetic medicine that one wonders why the idea hasn’t hit center stage earlier. In these times, it’s easy to forget that a holistic approach to medicine and well-being has been a long time coming. For quite a while, medical practice has been, for want of a better word, largely conservative, with “alternative” approaches sidelined to the secondary.

However, attitudes have been changing towards something more broad based, embracing traditional cures and principles of well-being along with modern medicine.
In the pursuit of beauty one can become motivated to return to physical, emotional and spiritual balance. Medical skin care practices and traditional skin care practices are frequently seen as the antithesis of one another, and therefore assume that they are incompatible. On the contrary, the two systems for treating skin can work effectively together and do in fact, compliment one another. In fact the original medi-spas were designed to care for patient’s illness and return them to health through the treatment of medical modalities as well as alternative systems. The relationship between these two professions dates back thousands of years. In the beginning, the medi-spa was a place doctors sent their patients to heal and get rejuvenated. Spa may be an acronym of the Latin phrase “sanitas per aquas” (health through waters).

Corrective Aesthetic Medicine
The newly derived medi- spa has clearly taken a name, which historically treats individuals through wellness protocols and attached it to facilities that treat the individual’s physical exterior forfeiting a balance for complete health. Most aestheticians currently working in medi-spas do not administer facials or therapeutic skin massage post surgically. Their primary duty is to offer consults with the physicians, perform skin peels or microdermabrasions, and put patients on home care programs where every product exfoliates.
Having been a practicing aesthetician for more than 28 years in an extremely diverse climate, I’ve had the tremendous opportunity to be witness of both traditional and medical systems of skin care and their effects on the skin. Both are needed for harmonious balance and have much to learn from one another. Yet most medical facilities offering skin care have not integrated the disciplines and modalities of traditional skin care. In Europe, western doctors send their clients to the seaside resorts, and in places like Japan people travel to bath in mineral waters of varying warmth in order to heal their afflictions. Spas served for recuperation of wounded soldiers during war times.
The use of medicinal waters for healing purposes is found in ancient and modern literature such as the 1553 encyclopedia work, De balneis ominia quae extant. In 1220 Pietro da Eboli wrote a poem in hexameters on the medical benefits of different spa waters in the early 13th century. This work was dedicated to Emperor Frederick II. The use of spas for therapeutic means ended up becoming an essential practice amongst the most demanding doctors, who followed Galenic doctrine.

Right Brain –Left Brain
Unfortunately, there is a division between medical skin care procedures and traditional aesthetics. The aesthetic industry is viewed as antiquated, old fashioned, and ineffective. Medical aesthetics is viewed as mechanical and impersonal, treating symptoms rather than the cause. One is the right brain; the other the left. When brought together they serve as a powerful approach to enhancing internal and external beauty.
Everyone wants to be daring, creative, and original. Everyone wants to do things in new ways. But unless we return over and over again to the basics, we will have no chance to truly soar.

Do not forget the root. Without it, we can never issue forth true power. Many aestheticians have abandoned the fundamentals of traditional skin care, for a profession they feel will give them more credibility. This saddens me and illustrates the immediate need for standardization and a revisiting of academic curriculums within the aesthetic schools and postgraduate continuing education programs.

Folklore or Effective
Are these applications merely folklore or do they in fact aid in healing and recovery of skin? Chemical drugs generally have a specific agenda, while skin care products through a complex biochemical process, considers the many facets of skins anatomy and function, and replenishes the body on a cellular level. Both are needed for harmonious balance and have much to learn from one another.
While chemical drugs are actively killing bacteria and viruses as well as eradicating cells and tissue, traditional skin care restores and rebuilds the systems. Non Medical Skin Care products when applied properly do not upset the skin’s innate sense of harmony, so there are little or no side effects. Using traditional skin care products with medical skin care often helps eliminate or lessens the side effects of drug therapy. An example would be Retin-A.
When individuals become overzealous when using chemicals for resurfacing the skin or building collagen we see stratum corneum compromised and diminished. Sebum, which is our skin’s natural antibiotic, needs stratum corneum to adhere to. When stratum corneum is thinned and/or completely diminished stratum granulosum becomes exposed. Sebum cannot attach itself to this layer of skin because it is water-soluble. This could be one of the contributing factors to the rise in bacterial infections on the skin as well as yeast and fungus not to mention compromised blood vessels.
Essential oils and herbal remedies are derived from various parts of plants. Each has its own unique scent and healing properties. With at least 100 different chemical constituents each essential oil and herbal remedy reacts with the body chemistry the way medical drugs do, but slower. Some oils have an affinity to certain parts of the body, which it may sedate or stimulate. The secret lies in their chemical properties, which create formulations similar to pharmaceutical ones with specific chemical properties to treat the condition.

Alternative Therapies
When delving deeper into the concept of physical beauty, we cannot ignore or elude all systems which contribute to healing, such as touch therapy, herbal remedies, nutrition, exercise, acupuncture, visualization and energy work: all of these practices and many others have an intrinsic place in the therapeutic wholeness of skin care.
A woman whom I recently worked with was initially motivated to remove lines from her upper lip but in the process, she discovered that her smoking contributed to the continued persistence of these lines. She gave up smoking; the pursuit of an improved appearance leading her to abandon a habit which was detrimental to her health, and linked to profound inner issues of self-love and nurturance.
Another client, who was overweight, recently divorced, and had low self-esteem, lost weight, became more confident, and began to nurture herself during the treatment process. This inner transformation became quite apparent in her outer appearance. In both instances, the pursuit of a desired external goal, a physical transformation, led to an enhanced sense of self-worth and inner beauty.

Traditional skin care and medical skin care can work compatibly and enhance each other’s effects. When we are able to come together and share our work with each other, then we are in a powerful position to grow far beyond our expectations. It is time to truly nurture our industry in the world of healing to be truly recognized.

Anne Willis has been a contributor to the aesthetic industry since 1976. In the 80s she designed some of the first protocols for cosmetic surgery patients, which were utilized by more than 20 plastic surgeons in South Florida. Willis opened her own Spa in 1986 continuing to treat plastic surgery patients as well as offer holistic facial treatments to the general public. Willis currently travels internationally as a Spa Educator and Consultant. The State Boards of Georgia and North Carolina approve her educational courses for CEU credits. For more information, please call 828-230-5125, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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