• Black Magic: The Key Benefit of Activated Charcoal

    Dr. Diana HowardOver the past few years numerous products have been introduced into both the skin care and health care markets that feature activated charcoal as a main ingredient. As the Vice President of Research and Development at The International Dermal Institute I am often asked, is this just a fad or is there any real science behind this trend? In order to answer this question I need to explain exactly what activated charcoal is and how it works in these types of products.

    Let’s start with the obvious question…What is charcoal? Charcoal may be derived from peat, coal, wood, coconut shells, or petroleum that is burned to form a lightweight mass of carbonaceous charcoal. When we refer to “activated” charcoal it means the charcoal has been reheated, often to extremely high temperatures, which creates thousands of micropores that increase the surface area of the charcoal.

    Adsorption Power

    The activated charcoal, with its increased surface area, can readily adsorb substances onto its surface. This differs from absorption where one substance is incorporated into another; think about a sponge absorbing water—the sponge becomes saturated with the water through and through. In adsorption, molecules adhere just to the surface of the activated charcoal. Suppliers of activated charcoal use special manufacturing techniques that yield highly porous activated charcoals with varying surface areas; it is not uncommon to find that one teaspoon of activated charcoal can have a surface area of as much as 10,000 square feet. That’s a lot of adsorption power!

    While the skin care industry has just seen the merits of activated charcoal, the medical community has known about the adsorption power of charcoal for years. Entire books have been written on the subject of the medical uses of activated charcoal to adsorb toxins or poisons in humans and animals. As a matter of fact, even the Red Colobus monkeys of Zanzibar have learned about the health benefits of using activated charcoal.

    I learned firsthand about the power of charcoal when one of my dogs ate something poisonous and the vet pumped her stomach with activated charcoal to adsorb the toxins; fortunately the activated charcoal along with the adsorbed toxins are readily eliminated through the dogs digestive system. In a similar fashion activated charcoal filters are used to adsorb odorous or colored substances from gases or liquids; a common household example is charcoal water filter often found in refrigerators and freezer ice makers. Bear in mind that once all of the sites on the activated charcoal are filled it’s time to replace your filter.

    Activated Charcoal in Skin Care

    In the skin care industry, cosmetic chemists have found that activated charcoal can readily adsorb oils, toxins and impurities from the skins surface. One of the most effective forms of activated charcoal is Binchotan charcoal derived from Ubame Oak trees from the Kishu region of Japan. Binchotan charcoal is activated by burning oak branches at extremely high temperatures for several days and then rapidly cooling them. It is known as the highest quality activated charcoal and is often used to purify drinking water. Because it is such a clean, odorless charcoal it is also used in high end Japanese restaurants that use charcoal fires in tableside dining.

    In skin care formulations, activated Binchotan charcoal adsorbs oils as well as pollutants and other superficial toxins from the skin’s surface. We know that masques can deliver dramatic benefits to the skin and charcoal masques have gained popularity among consumers, especially those with oily and breakout-prone skin. Combined with other actives, such as keratolytic sulfur, mineral rich volcanic ash, and exfoliating AHAs, one can optimize the results of using a charcoal masque for a wide range of skin care conditions. Rinsing this charcoal formulation from the skin readily removes the adsorbed substances from the skin to help purify, brighten and revitalize any skin condition.

  • Pregnancy Skin Care Dos and Don’ts

    Derm_Headshot28775BB-e1422475470394-150x150The body goes through many changes during pregnancy and the skin is no exception. Skin changes occur in about 90% of pregnant women in one form or another; and Mom-to-be’s will have some pressing skin care questions on ingredients and treatments.

    There are many opinions between doctors and different studies with varying information, so it’s imperative that your clients consult with their physician prior to the use of skin care products and receiving treatments.

    Here are three of the most commonly asked questions by professional skin therapists when it comes to treating pregnant clients.

    1.  Can I use Salicylic Acid? This Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is an excellent exfoliant and can be used to treat acne. In high concentrations it is considered a risk during pregnancy and should be avoided, especially in professional resurfacing. Small percentages used in skin care (for example less than 2% in a wash off) are considered safe.

    2.  What about the use of aromatherapy? It’s recommended to avoid using essential oils during the first trimester. This topic is controversial between practitioners and there are varying opinions to safety, however, it depends on the type of oil and dilution. Usually approved non-toxic blends around 1-2% dilution are considered safe for body massage and skin products. Hydro-essentials, which are water-soluble fractions of the essential oil, are safe as they do not penetrate the blood stream. Your client should consult her doctor before any essential oil use.

    3.  Can I use technology in my treatment room? The use of electrical modalities is not recommended, which includes Galvanic, High Frequency, Microcurrent, Ultrasonic and Laser. Microdermabrasion has mixed expert reviews, with most stating to use with caution. We would not use microdermabrasion over aggravated acne or dilated capillaries. Be mindful when using it on hyperpigmented skin as causing more inflammation can make this condition worse.

    This handy ingredient checklist (below) can help you decipher the dos and don’ts when treating pregnant clients. When in doubt, have your client discuss their skin care options with their OBGYN and/or general physician if they are currently pregnant, nursing or considering pregnancy in the near future. Always work with caution if the client is in her first trimester and/or has had complications with her pregnancy or previous pregnancies. If she opts to avoid certain ingredients and/or products, the best course of action is to honor her choice. What is most important is that we help the new mother achieve her skin care goals safely and effectively.

    Pregnancy Yes and Nos







  • Top 3 Post-Grad Courses Every Skin Therapist Should Take

    Tara - tempOur industry has evolved from the idea of applied beauty to in-depth knowledge of skin, and there are several trends in continuing education that exhibit these changes. We have noticed an abundance of post graduate workshops and seminars that promise profitability, but will they truly deliver? Let’s take a look at three hot skin care classes that can elevate your skill set as a professional skin therapist that will wow your clients, and maybe even a future employer.

    Medical Skin Care

    The medical field is utilizing skin therapists evermore to help improve the health of a patient’s skin pre and post-surgery. Skin treatments are usually offered as part of a package combined with medical procedures; thus making a huge opportunity to grow our skill set and become profitable when working hand in hand with doctors. Sign up for a class that discusses common MediSpa procedures such as injectables, lasers and skin needling and how to navigate the MediSpa environment.

    DERM_IDI_Modalities_31521Advanced Exfoliation

    Are you properly prepared to offer state-of-the-art treatments like hydro-dermabrasion, ultrasound and/or chemical peels? Just because we can use these tools doesn’t mean we understand their full potential. For that reason, education will allow us to learn how to get the most out of our treatments. Take a class that shows you how to apply these advanced exfoliation techniques and how they can be used alone or other with products. Incorporating these advances in exfoliation can help you give express treatments that yield immediate results!

    Oncology Skin Care

    Cancer has long been considered a contraindication for professional treatment—that is until now! It all starts with one question: Do you have any compromised lymph nodes? This question opens up a conversation with a client to let us know how to proceed with the proper modifications. Learn about oncology skin care to understand proper modifications for massage, products to avoid, and how to safely care for an oncology patient. Not only are you performing a beneficial service, but also growing your business at the same time.

    Don’t know where to start? Take a look at IDI’s class offerings (USA) and lectures such as: Medical Skin Care: What Therapists Need To Know; Acids, Peels, and Exfoliants; and Cancer Aware: Client Safety and Lymphedema. No matter where you work or the treatments you offer, it is always important to stay CONNECTED!

  • Follow Your SKINtuition with Annet King

    IDI bug blog

    Are you’re looking for a little push in the right direction in your career, and don’t know where to start? Leave it to our director of global education Annet King to get you moving onward and upward!

    All you have to do is read her monthly column SKINtuition, as seen in Skin Inc. Magazine, to learn expert tips and business advice for all professionals in skin therapy.

    So regardless if you’re a skin care pro out on your own or the proud owner of a skin center, take a moment to check out the latest entries to help take your career and your business to the next level of success.

    annet cropped

    Eat That Procrastination Frog for Better Business

    Sleep Deprivation and Skin

    3 Tools of the Trade Every Skin Pro Needs

    5 Ways to Beat Client Boredom



  • Teen Challenge: Acneic Skin and Hydration

    Heather HickmanThe American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that acne is by far the most common skin complaint amongst those in the 12 to 17 age bracket, affecting all at least occasionally.

    Being prepared to treat teenage clients with acne is high on our radar as Professional Skin Therapists. We are well versed in the key ingredients to combat the contributing factors of an acneic skin condition, and how to effectively explain to our teenage clients, and their parent, how the skin should be treated at home.

    Yet, often the hardest conversation revolves around the use, or lack thereof, of a moisturizer. All too often, our acne and oily prone clients have an innate mistrust of using non-medicated “creams” for fear it will lead to future or prolonged breakouts.

    Dehydrated skin is highly prevalent amongst those with oily or acne prone skin, especially if they have been using harsh over the counter products that may strip the skin of moisture and impair the barrier function. In addition, prescriptive medications such as isotretinoin further exacerbate the dehydration issue, sometime to the extreme.

    Education is a key factor in ensuring a moisturizer is utilized on a daily basis, specifically the ability to explain the difference between a dry and a dehydrated skin, and the need to add moisture, but not oil. And being able to clearly explain that if an oily skin is dehydrated the skin will produce MORE oil to make up for the missing moisture, potentially leading to more breakouts – that revelation works every time!

    Oil-free is the key, but let us not forget the need for the moisturizer to also soothe the skin and calm any irritation either from misuse of product, side effect of medication or inflammation from severe acne.

    Hyaluronic Acid is one of the best ingredients on the market to quickly, effectively and non-aggressively hydrate the skin. The use of Squalane in a moisturizer restores skin suppleness while also helping to prevent future moisture loss. Mild Vitamin B5 derivatives, such as Panthenyl Triacetate will assist in soothing and restoring irritated skin.

    Let’s not forget to join the “moisture movement” the next time we are treating our teenage clients oily or acne skin concerns – they’ll thank you in the long run.

  • Show Some Love for Your Professional Skin Therapist

    Today we show our appreciation to every single professional skin therapist for your dedication to skin health and for your gift of healing through touch.

    Thank you for allowing The International Dermal Institute to help you grow your passion for skin care into a successful career, for without you we would not be here today. We would also like to give a special thanks to our industry partners in hair, makeup and nails for strengthening and solidifying our place in the business community.

    Happy National Beautician’s Day!














  • It’s Ok for Dad to Grow His Mo!

    Even Dads need to be picture perfect for Father’s Day. The question is: Are they “selfie” ready or not? No doubt, Father’s Day is a day where many kids will be posting selfie shots with their fathers, and fathers with their kids; after all, social media rules our world! And fathers of all ages will want to put their best faces forward (like mothers on Mother’s Day) for the digital world to see.

    Dad’s grooming habits have shifted from the back burner and are now commanding a greater deal of focus. Statistics estimate that the size of the global male grooming market will be worth about $21.4 billion in 2016! This, no doubt, includes skin care, hair care and of course, the now trending Beard care. So the next question is: to “grow the Mo” or no?

    For many men, growing a beard is a rite of passage. It should be understood that there is more to growing a beard than putting down the razor. But one, need not shriek back at the thought of Dad growing his beard. With a simple but proper grooming routine, common concerns can be avoided. Here are some basic tips that can help make everyone else, along with Dad, love his Mo.

    1. Itchy skin. An itchy face is often attributed to the growth of the facial hair. Normally, this subsides after about two weeks. If itchiness persists longer than two weeks, it is likely that the skin is tight and dehydrated. Using stripping soaps will dry out the skin and deplete natural oils, leaving it itchy and tight.

    Tip: Use a non-stripping cleansing bar that contains Allantoin to help soothe, Oatmeal to stop itch and Tea Tree to purify both the hair and skin. Wash with cool water – this helps to not only close and constrict the follicles of the hair, but also to calm the skin.

    2. Knots and tangles in the beard. It’s not just the hair on the head that needs attention. When growing a beard, tangles and knots can become quite common. With regular grooming, this can be easily controlled.

    Tip: While the hair is still wet, use a good wide-toothed comb to comb through the hair for less tangles. This also helps to remove any excessive hairs that may be damaged and are at the end of their lifecycle. Do this daily, or as often as you cleanse the beard.

    3. Dry brittle beard. Whatever you rub on the beard, gets onto the skin. As stated earlier, soaps strip the skin, but they also dry out the hair, causing them to become coarse and wiry.

    Tip: Use non-comedogenic products on the hair to condition and soften the hair. For sparser beards, use a lightweight moisturizer that contains Wheat Germ, Vitamin E and Grape Seed.  This will condition and protect the skin. Use a moisturizer with a minimum of SPF15 for protection from UV rays.

    For fuller beards, use a small amount of beard oil. This can also double up as a great shave oil (when ready to shave). Search for products with Soybean and Silicones (Dimethicone) to soften and condition the hair and use it with a brush to help distribute throughout the beard.

    Whether it’s at the beginning growth stages or a full grown beard, these simple grooming practices can help Dads capture the perfect moment this Father’s Day!

  • SPF and Aging

    A good SPF product is a skin care essential, but clients often struggle with finding the right formula. Here is how to help clients choose the perfect SPF products for their skin at every age.

    20’s: Since oil production is still high, skin may be breakout prone. Clients need a daily SPF formula that does not clog follicles or contribute to comedones; and fragrance, color, Isopropyl Myristate, Lanolin and Mineral Oil should all be avoided. Suggest a lightweight SPF that helps combat and treat breakout prone skin and soak up excess oil, and add an eye treatment with SPF to your clients’ regimens to prevent future ultraviolet (UV) damage like crow’s feet.

    30’s: Recommend a tinted moisturizer! Multi benefit, 3-in-1 products with a wash of color, hydration and built-in broad spectrum SPF are ideal. Another option is to customize your clients’ moisturizers by mixing in a SPF booster. Look for the latest Oleosome technology that also acts as an emulsifier and allows for a higher concentration of sunscreen ingredients without the irritation.

    40’s: Signs of aging and hyperpigmentation are more evident in your 40s, so SPF30 or higher will best address firmness, elasticity and age-related triggers like reactive oxygen species (ROS). Clients can layer an age-fighting skin primer with peptides, Pearl Powder and SPF30 to help combat harmful rays while smoothing lines.

    50’s and up: Skin is significantly drier and more sensitive in your 50s, so a chemical SPF might not be an option. Suggest an ultra-sensitive SPF30 that has physical sunscreen ingredients like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, as well as built-in calming complexes to soothe skin. If your clients’ skin is very dry, recommend an appropriate moisturizer under which they can layer SPF.

    This article was originally published on

  • Beauty Sleep – Myth or Truth?

    This topic has always been one of some debate, from a personal perspective it was just one of the many ploys that my mother used to coax me to go to bed when I was a wee one! Today we know more about what actually happens to us when we sleep and the consequences of not getting enough quality shut eye. From credible research that links sleep deprivation to obesity to the abundance of apps that measure how many times we roll over, sleep is a hot topic and big business… Here’s what we know about sleep and the skin, and what happens when you don’t get enough!

    It’s Day Job

    In the daytime, the skin is very active fighting off potential invaders like bacteria and viruses while also neutralizing unstable molecules that cause havoc on cells. These are generated by UV, chemical exposure, smoke, stress, unhealthy diets and pollution. Just another reason why sunscreen is a must and preferably one with built in antioxidant technology. It’s not only you that has to work during the day: your skin has a long list of job responsibilities, too.

    The Night Shift

    At night the skin switches to clean up and repair mode while you rest, new skin cells replace damaged cells and rejuvenation takes place. In fact, cell regeneration increases by double at night and production of collagen also escalates. To help enhance this process, use or prescribe specialized overnight products, specifically those with microencapsulated Retinol and designer peptides that work on repairing skin. As the skin is clean and not in defense mode, it’s more readily able to absorb these helpful ingredients. Most people do best with about 7 hours sleep. Well rested skin looks exactly that — well rested, good tone, plump, fresh, hydrated and bright.

    Burning the Candle

    On the flip side, lack of sleep can be detrimental to both the skin and body. The body uses sleep time for internal housekeeping – processing nutrients, detoxifying, renewing and recharging. If your body is chronically starved for sleep, the effects will eventually become visibly and physically noticeable. Signs like slow healing breakouts or telltale dark circles and puffiness under the eyes are going to give you away, you’ll feel tired and look tired.

    Long Term? Think Zombie Skin!

    Something every party girl needs to know is that when you build up ‘sleep debt’ over time, this has long-term consequences. The aging process will be accelerated and the immune system will be impaired, which means you’ll be more susceptible to skin infections, cold sores maybe even skin cancer. For the body as a whole there are chronic effects like serious health issues, metabolic problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and depression.

    Top Tips For Some Quality Shut Eye

    Ready to change those sleeping habits? Here’s some helpful tips to get you on your way to rest and relaxation:

    •  No caffeinated beverages, tea or coffee after 4 pm (also no sugar at least 2 hours before bed).

    •  Working out after work or doing yoga also really helps not just for the body but for switching off the brain from work.

    •  No phones or bright LED lights next to the bed, or in the room for that matter. Try to black out your room as much as possible or try a sleep masque.

    •  Taking a bath with a blend of relaxing essential oils — the heat from the water soothes muscles, the aromas through you breathing them in will help you to unwind. The best essential oils for sleep are Lavender, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Ylang ylang and Rose.

  • 4 Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Retinoids

    The press is full of the virtues of using retinoids. And rightly so. The scientific data definitely validates them as probably the defining ingredient option of the decade for aging skin concerns. If your clients are using retinoid-based products prescribed by their dermatologist, or recommended by you as a professional skin therapist, it is worth sharing these important tips with them to yield the best results that retinoids can deliver.

    1. Use your retinoid product at night

    Unfortunately Vitamin A ingredients, such as Retinol, are not photo-stable. This means they degrade, or break down, in the presence of ultraviolet light. Not only can this reduce the benefit they will have on your skin, but can increase the free radical load, making skin more sensitive and reactive. So it’s essential to apply after dark and allow the retinoid to work its magic while you sleep.

    2. Introduce the retinoid gradually

    As we age retinoid receptors decline in the skin. But this can be remedied by using the dilutions recommended and building your skin’s tolerance. By applying gradually, you can build up the receptors and you will feel less ‘bite’ or sensitivity as you progress. Applying too much retinoid too quickly risks a dermatitis response that will leave skin very irritated. Use an accompanying buffer cream or your moisturizer to provide a dilution medium.

    3. Moisturize well

    It is not uncommon for skin to experience tightness, dryness or become flaky with retinoid use. The increased rate of skin renewal and desquamation initially causes the Stratum Corneum to thin, although this condition will improve over several weeks. The implications of this are increased dehydration and sensitivity that can make you quite uncomfortable in your own skin. Using a slightly heavier weight moisturizer will compensate for this water loss and ease discomfort, seek your professional skin therapist for a proper prescription.

    4. Always use SPF daily

    While there is a degree of debate on the specific mechanisms of increased photosensitivity with retinoid use, the skin will definitely be more vulnerable to ultraviolet exposure. Don’t worry about the debate, be safe and apply a minimum SPF30 daily and preferably an SPF50. Stop your retinoid at least two weeks before venturing on a sunshine holiday or you will burn faster and be at greater risk of hyperpigmentation issues.

    Taking sensible precautions will ensure you get the best out of your product and maintain your skin health, all while achieving fantastic results.


    Related blog posts:

    Is Microencapsulated Retinol Better Than Ordinary Retinol?

    Dr. Diana on the Benefits of Retinol