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  • don’t get burned

    Hate jury-duty? Cringe when you watch “Judge Judy”? Then do us all a favor and go easy on exfoliation, or you could end up in court.

    What you need to know right now: the majority of litigious action—i.e., getting sued—taken against skin therapists involves over-exfoliation of the client’s skin. Beware! It’s better to do too little than too much.

    How can you tell if you’re overexfoliating? Screaming could be a clue. But seriously, if the client’s skin turns blood-red, or she complains of intense or persistent stinging, you’re overexfoliating. And if the client’s skin peels afterward, you’ve crossed the line. This could be dangerous for the client’s skin, and also could potentially trigger legal action.

    A slight tingling during exfoliation is probably okay, but it should be mild, and should pass quickly. If your client expresses ANY significant discomfort, remove the exfoliant immediately and apply a soothing agent (gentle cleanser followed by a cold towel). Even if the product is not damaging the client’s skin from a technical or clinical standpoint, why take the chance? And why annoy your client? Remove the product, and switch to something gentler immediately, to demonstrate your care and concern for your client.

    The best approach to dealing with overexfoliation, however, is prevention. This means asking lifestyle questions, and doing a patch-test as a precaution. FaceMapping is your best friend when it comes to preventing problems before they happen. And remember these key-words: CHECKING, QUESTIONING, READING.

    Here’s a brief checklist to get you started:

    Does the client have allergies, cold, runny nose? Constant nose-blowing can leave the tender nostril and upper lip area chapped and raw—do not exfoliate this area under these conditions.

    Freshly waxed? Don’t exfoliate. Same for a sunburn. Allow at least 48 hours for skin to stabilize.

    Ask about medications, especially for drugs like Isotretinoin (previously known as Accutane) and generic versions of this acne prescription. These medications treat acne by speeding up cell turnover, which is turn makes skin more reactive to exfoliation. Typically, allow 6 months after the completion of these medications prior to exfoliation.

    For medically prescribed topical products including Retin-A Micro, Differin, Ziana Gel, Atralin, Avita, Refissa and others, wait at least 2 to 4 weeks after the medication cycle is complete before exfoliating.

    Frappaholic client? High caffeine intake (diet pills as well as coffee) can make skin reactive to exfoliants.

    Ditto for low-fat diets, frequent air travel in dehydrating plane cabins and use of alkaline soaps: all diminish the skin’s protective acidic lipid layer.

    Question the client thoroughly about professional resurfacing procedures such as chemical peels, laser facials, microdermabrasion. Also get details of the client’s at-home exfoliation habits, such as aggressive scrubs, strips, pads, etc. Factor these into your choice of exfoliation product and method.

    Bear in mind that the standard patch-test—applying product behind the ear, waiting ten minutes—may not be an accurate measurement of how the exfoliant will react with the more compromised skin on the client’s face and chest.

    If you have doubts, get a note from the client’s doctor. Don’t feel strange about asking for this.

    Three other tips:

    Never leave the room when exfoliating. Think of exfoliation as an open flame, a burning candle. There is risk. You need to be present to step in at any moment.

    And, remind your client that AHAs and other exfoliation techniques can leave skin more vulnerable to UV damage. Be sure that your client is fully on-board with sun protection!

    And protect yourself with constant education, especially when it comes to precise and impactful procedures such as exfoliations. Learn—and don’t burn!

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