Reading Your Clients: Body Mapping

by Annet King

Walt Whitman wrote, “I sing the body electric,” and he was literally right. The body constantly fires out an electromagnetic charge that may be measured by a variety of scientific devices. And in addition, the body speaks in other ways, sending thousands of messages simultaneously, both subtle and overt.

Our task as skin therapists is to train ourselves to perceive and interpret these messages and to master the art and science of client reading and Body MappingSM. We do this by looking, listening, asking, touching and recording. We use our ears, eyes, our fingertips, and our intuition to do it. Of course every professional treatment begins with an in-depth consultation that will not only reveal any contraindications to your planned course of treatment, but will also give you a glimpse into the client’s current regimen and expectations. Creating the ultimate personalized experience requires attention to the finer details of “who is inside the skin and what do they really need from me?”

Our entire skin constantly broadcasts our current state, reflecting external conditions as well as our own interior “weather.” We all are familiar with reading facial expressions, but the body develops its own vernacular as well. Posture, gesture and gait are the first things to read about the client’s body. If she sits with legs and arms tightly crossed, she may be anxious, angry, or simply cold. A jiggling foot signals anxiety. Does she slump or slouch as she stands, or does she square her shoulders and lift her chest?

Listen and watch her body language as she answers questions about her lifestyle, stress levels, sleep patterns and overall health. Then, look for corresponding cues when your client is on your table. Our natural modesty creates some level of tension, but pay attention to her breathing – is it shallow and from the chest, or abdominal and becoming slower with relaxation? A client slipping into slumber during the treatment may indicate sleep-deprivation or exhaustion; but eyes wide open and a very tight scalp may also indicate the same! Form your picture of the client’s overall condition and well-being based upon as many kinds of data (verbal, tactile, visual) as possible.

Body Mapping requires observing the skin on the body as a series of zones, as well as a collective whole. Incorrect product choices, environmental trauma, over-processed diet, chronic stress, and resulting poor elimination can all manifest as different challenges on the skin. While giving your client a treatment, observe and feel their skin while questioning her about what you observe. Extremely dry, itchy, sensitive skin on the legs and arms can be caused by high foam surfactants, artificial fragrance in body products coupled with low humidity levels in winter and further exacerbated by pantyhose. Sporadic breakouts or rashes on the back and chest may indicate high stress levels, detoxification diets, or trapped cells and sweat from synthetic fibers in gym clothes. A sedentary lifestyle, sluggish circulation, refined foods and too much soda will result in spongy tissues, stagnant lymph and cellulite.

As your client dresses, chart your findings and observations on your body map. Use these notes as the basis for prescriptive product recommendation, any diet and lifestyle advice, and as a basis of comparison for her follow up treatment visit.

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Reading Your Clients: Body Mapping