A Clean Slate

THE SCIENCE BEHIND TODAY'S PROFESSIONAL skincare products is key for skincare results that keep clients coming back. One crucial skin treatment that has been used for centuries, dating back to the days of Cleopatra, is exfoliation. This procedure produces immediate results by using several different types of organic enzymes, beads and droplets, fruit and vegetable extracts, and/or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA). This combination can be safely used on most skin types on both the face and body, resulting in increased skincare benefits for your clients. As an added bonus for clients, most of the products used in the treatments smell great. Scents can range from essences of fresh licorice to pumpkin pie, creating a pleasurable experience for your clients while also sloughing away micro-damaged dead skin, turning over healthy cells, and increasing internal lipids that combat aging skin with collagen-building and antioxidant-protection capabilities.

Simply put, layers of corneocytes (flaky cells found on the surface) are tightly and stably bound to each other to form the membrane barrier known as the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of this complex immune organ. This thin but extremely tough barrier protects us against unwanted invaders that contribute to aging, acne, and pigmentation and is constantly in need of exfoliation to perform at its best. The skin sheds a layer each day, and seasonal changes increase the need for exfoliation. This, in turn, drives the demand for exfoliation treatments in your spa.

To understand why this layer of skin is in need of professional exfoliation treatments, you and your team are obligated, for the sake of your clients, to understand the dynamics of the skin, which is made up of both corneocytes and keratinocytes (the host cells). The structure of this defensive skin wall also includes well-built and strong protein "bricks," which are actually dead cells of the stratum corneum embedded in a matrix of intracellular lipid bi-layers. These bi-layers are the "mortar," holding the entire structure together. The corneocytes are flat pancake-like protein structures originating from keratinocytes. Due to the strong corneocyte barrier of these interlinking cells, the skin will become dehydrated, flaky, itchy, discolored, irritated, aged, and prone to cellulite if not properly exfoliated. It will also impede the ability of active ingredients to penetrate the skin.

The most commonly known exfoliators are enzymes, which gently and effectively digest proteins from the surface of the skin. They are considered a catalyst, meaning they cause a chemical reaction. Think of enzymes as tiny "Pac-men" eating the dead skin cells away and allowing new skin to emerge. The skin is immediately softer, smoother, and more hydrated. Enzymes can be effortlessly manipulated onto the skin, removed easily, and mixed with other products such as exfoliant beads. Because of their divisibility, pre-mixed enzyme masks allow the esthetician to be creative. For example, pumpkin, and pomegranate enzymes are great for fall exfoliation promotional packages to combat dry and irritated skin because they are packed with potent antioxidants and boost the moisture factor—a critical element once the weather turns cooler.

Seasonal exfoliation promotions are great opportunities to book additional treatments. Incorporating exfoliation products into your treatments can be a tremendous asset to your bottom-line profit because these products are great as an add-on service. In addition, an enzyme mask or exfoliant product containing beads can be sold to clients to use in between professional treatments, thus increasing retail sales. If your spa offers cellulite treatments, exfoliating your clients prior to the treatments will increase the penetration of cellulite-reducing products, thereby increasing clinical results. If you already offer cellulite massage treatments, an additional add-on of an exfoliation massage will increase not only the treatment results but also the profitability of this therapy.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) provide a more clinical approach to exfoliation and have more biological action than the aforementioned enzymes. AHAs have been substantiated as safe and effective for photo-aged skin, acne, and pigmentation. Many of these organic substances are commonly referred to as fruit acids. The most familiar of these exfoliants are glycolic acid, which is a constituent of sugar cane juice; lactic acid, which is produced by the microorganism lactobacillus (responsible for the taste and odor of sour milk); malic acid, which is isolated from unripened apples; tartaric acid, which is from grapes; and citric acid, which is isolated from lemon juice. These organic exfoliant acids have a variety of different actions on the skin depending on their pH and concentration and appear to have multiple actions on the stratum corneum. In the last 20 years, these compounds have been used successfully in the treatment and prevention of dry, aging, acneic, and sagging skin on both the face and body. For example, lactic acid has been established as a great body peel, decreasing the thickness of the stratum corneum and increasing the flexibility of the skin. It is a fantastic weapon against aging.

There are a variety of treatment modalities for each skin type and color, and many of these acids can complement enzyme and manual exfoliation. Incorporating AHAs into your menu is a guaranteed way to increase profitability. Because formulas of these diverse exfoliators range greatly, be sure to purchase AHA compounds from a reputable company that provides education and offers advice on creating new treatment modalities that suit your spa's menu and mission statement.

Offering such a range of these organic exfoliators makes sound business sense, as you can create different menu add-ons for acne, photo aging, and pigmentation. Exfoliants are cost effective, easy to apply, and are effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles, controlling and clearing acne, and managing pigmentation. But just as importantly, exfoliants increase profitability because they work. If you have not yet looked at offering exfoliation treatments, consider the demand of new treatments from your clients and how exfoliation can be a profitable add-on without the costly investment.

Christine Heathman is a Licensed Master Esthetician (LME) and the CEO, creator, and educational director of GlyMed Plus Purely Professional Skin Care. She has practiced clinical esthetics for more than 30 years and is the author of several medical/esthetic manuals and winner of several industry awards. For more information, visit www.glymedplus.com.