Just about anyone under the sun—literally—can be prone to hyperpigmentation, those dark patches of skin formed by an overproduction of melanin. The sources of these unsightly spots—triggered by UV rays from past or present exposure—are many. Anything from hormonal changes to skin inflammation to adverse reactions to facial peels and other chemicals can cause them. Though harmless, hyperpigmentation ranks as a legitimate and growing concern among clients. If not on equal par, it is a close second to wrinkles, according to most estheticians.
Luckily, thanks to advances in skin science, treatment for the condition has come a long way, and clinical brightening services and products that garner “results, not fluff” are not only finding their way into spas but are also becoming essential menu items, says Tina Zillmann, esthetician and founder of Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts and Skin Rejuvenation Clinique (San Antonio, TX). “With baby boomers jumping on the rejuvenation revolution, it is so important to have these treatments for clients. Even skin looks prettier.”
In the past, chemical ingredients such as hydroquinone and mercury chloride were used to lighten dark spots, but negative side effects, such as onchronosis (tissue death), contact dermatitis, and possible cancer risks, have led manufacturers to investigate safer alternatives. Today’s market offers more natural and plant-based ingredients that center on inhibiting the transfer of pigment and fighting free-radical damage to the skin—often combined in potent cocktails. “When you mix three natural ingredients, sometimes the results are better than one chemical agent,” says Janna Ronert, CEO of IMAGE Skincare. Dermalogica, for example, uses 12 botanicals and peptides, including the synthesized oligopeptide-34, across the ChromaWhite TRx line. “Together the ingredients address multiple triggers and causes of pigmentation versus one ingredient affecting a single aspect of the process,” says Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica.
Other brightening trends? According to Karen Asquith, national director of education for G.M. Collin Skincare, many of the up-and-coming ingredients that have been clinically proven to produce results are tyrosinase inhibitors, such as brassica napus extract, glabridin, oligopeptide-34 and tetrahydrocurcumin, all of which target the enzyme which catalyzes melanin production.
Getting guests to sample products on a complimentary or low-cost basis is another way spas can win over new skin-brightening clients. At SKIN. Aesthetics and Skintherapy, located in Joelle’s Salon (Harrisburg, PA), owner and esthetician Cindy Sisto starts off consultations with a free 30-day skincare kit. “Before hyper- pigmentation, there are usually other issues or concerns: wrinkles, acne, lines between the brows,” she says. “Once the skin is clear—and those results alone are usually enough to get them back—then you can dig deeper.” Sisto draws up an individual plan tailored to each client, which, depending on the case, could include cleansing, hydroabrasion, galvanic penetrating serums, hyaluronic acid, LED light therapy, and microcurrent. “Then you can get them started on the homecare to maintain the results.”
Skin & Body Spa’s owner and esthetician Melissa Gaffney puts the word out about her brightening services by holding open houses twice a year. “I create a beautiful event, with gourmet food and beverages, complimentary skin analyses, mini treatments, discounts, and raffles,” she says.
Even so, all the work of brightening treatments could go undone, if education doesn’t come into play, or if products are used incorrectly, inconsistently, or without an SPF. “You have to teach the client how they got the spots, how to get rid of them, and how to prevent more from forming,” says Ronert, who recommends handing out lists of dos and don’ts. Sometimes, first and foremost, a simple attitude check is in order. “I ask all my clients who come in for consultations, if they’re willing to give up sunbathing or tanning beds,” says Sisto.“If they say no, then I say, ‘So much for all this,’ because nothing is going to help if they don’t.”—Lisa Cheng
Shining a Light on Skin
Though a flawless, even-toned complexion may seem like a universally desirable trait, skin brightening isn’t for every spa-goer. On the subject of contraindications, “it depends on what medications clients are taking,” says King. “Certain ingredients, like vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid), exfoliating agents, or salicylic acid could be contraindicted for people who are taking isotretinoin or are pregnant.”
Education is crucial not only in providing quality client care but also in successfully promoting the products and services. Having expertise on your subject—and demonstrating genuine concern—gains customer trust and repeat business. “For us, the consultation is key,” says Melissa Gaffney, esthetician and owner of the Skin & Body Spa (Nashua, NH). “When performing our skin analysis at the beginning of any treatment, we ask exploratory questions to discover our guests’ concerns.” Mylene Nine, spa and skin manager of About Faces (Baltimore) goes as far as getting the estheticians to try out the products and treatments so they can convincingly speak about skin lightening from their own experiences.