• The Power of Touch

    We all know it feels good, but there is an increasing amount of scientific evidence backing the beneficial effects of touch therapy. Whether it is massage, targeted therapy or simply holding hands, supportive touch is perhaps the only truly universal method of delivering positive effects to our bodies. But how does this work?

    If we begin on the outside- with our largest organ – we can begin to understand how a friendly touch can yield such positive feelings. The skin is a highly complex, multi-functional organ that is laden with receptors that send messages all over our body and directly to our brain. These receptors receive messages about pressure, temperature, friction, pain, even the slightest tickle. These messages are then relayed through bundles of nerves to our brain. The brain releases more chemicals into our bloodstream that result in the warm, friendly and soothing feelings. In particular, research has shown that touch has the power of reducing the stress hormone known as cortisol. In an age where we are constantly stressing out over traffic, family, economy and personal matters, it is no surprise that cortisol levels may be at an all time high. Although an important hormone for certain activities, it is just as important to reduce these cortisol levels. In addition to reducing stress, the power of touch also floods our bodies with the ‘feel-good’ hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that promotes feelings of trust, bonding and love. Therapeutic massage has been shown to increase oxytocin levels in both children and adults. In the brain, this is compounded with more messages that stimulate a reward pathway, resulting in a biological foundation for human connection via the act of touch.

    So whether you are touching sweethearts or singles this Valentine’s day, remember that the powerful and rewarding human touch can go beyond skin deep. Need a refresher on your technique? Advanced Face Massage may be just what you need to reinvigorate your power of touch!

  • Dr. Diana Howard’s Visit to the Middle East!

    Last week I had the distinct pleasure of being an invited lecturer at the 2nd annual Middle East Congress in Dubai. And what an event it was! Perhaps more important than the event itself (and all of the fabulous information that was shared with the attendees) was the impression that they made on me. What a wonderful group of skin therapists! We had male and female guests from UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and Iran. These countries are very different from where many of us reside, yet I couldn’t help but notice they had the same questions, issues and dreams about their businesses as their skin therapist counterparts from around the world.

    I was especially impressed with the group of 65 (primarily women) from Pakistan. At first it was their colorful, traditional Salwar kameez attire that caught my attention! Then, upon speaking with many of them individually, I was taken not only by their dedication and commitment to our industry, but their personal stories of how skin care transcends beyond the business and helps make a difference in others’ lives.

    This concept resonated with me because in my 31 years in this industry, I know all too well that it’s not the scientific lectures or the products that I help to develop that gives me a sense of personal satisfaction. Rather, it’s the one-on-one moments where skin therapists convey to me how Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute have helped them in their professional businesses. It has helped them to be more successful, and in many instances their success has ensured that they can put food on their family’s table and pay for their children’s education. When I hear how many of these women themselves are now committed to helping others in their community, it gives me great pride to be part of this industry.

    In particular, one delightful woman stands out in my mind. Ms. Nighat Misbah is a successful business woman responsible for 30 skin treatment centers in Pakistan, and she has also dedicated herself to a cause that is incomprehensible to most of us. In Pakistan, many women are subject to having acid thrown in their faces, or being doused in kerosene and set afire, if they scorn their boyfriends/husbands or bring shame to their family. This horrific crime leaves these women disfigured and scarred for life. Ms. Misbah has joined forces with her sister to form the Depilex Smileagain Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps these victims with the medical recovery process, then helps train these women in a trade or skill, empowering them on the journey of rebuilding their lives. Ms. Misbah is using her career as a professional skin therapist to give a hand up to women who are desperately in need. The work and help that this organization provides is nothing short of heroic and today they have successfully helped over 400 women! I urge you to look at their website:

    I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony of the title of my presentation at this Congress: Zero to Hero. I talked about how there are heroes amongst us and that heroes take all shapes and forms, including education and products that raised the bar in an industry such as ours. Ms. Misbah is truly a hero to many, and I applaud her for her amazing work with women in her country. It also reminds me that each and every one of us can make a difference. At Dermalogica, the campaign with joinFITE is a simple way that all of us can give a hand up to women worldwide. The amazing thing is that it’s at no cost to you! Simply encourage clients who purchase joinFITE products to log on to and enter the unique code, found on the product package. Once your clients unlock the code, Dermalogica donates the funds on their behalf. It couldn’t be any simpler, and yet it can make a difference for a woman entrepreneur, who just needs a helping hand.

    I look forward to my return visit to the Middle East, and maybe even a visit to Pakistan to see my new friends.

  • Roses are Red… and Great for Your Skin!

    I have a favorite cream colored, climbing rose in my garden that, last summer so generous in its bounty, gave me three rounds of fresh scented blooms and many evenings of pleasure seated beneath it engrossed in a good book. The fragrance of Rose evokes images of warm summer days in English country gardens, but this beautiful flower holds more great benefits than just its fragrance.

    The 17th-century English physician Culpeper wrote that red roses strengthen the heart. He may have been referring to a physical action, but anyone who has inhaled fresh roses or their essential oil knows the aroma strengthens the heart spiritually and emotionally as well. Used in medicines, for perfume and in culinary creations, the rose holds many talents but not least in its long standing respected use in skin care products.

    Both the flower and the hip provide an excellent source of Vitamin C, Beta Carotene and Lycopene, all of which are important antioxidants to fight aging and regenerate healthy skin cells. Rich in essential fatty acids, this lightweight oil also helps to restore an impaired skin barrier caused by aging, stress, incorrect product use and dry environments. Historically reported to be used for skin healing, eczema and scarring, Rose Hip contains natural Retinoic Acid constituents that will again stimulate repair and regeneration. Best applied overnight in a pre-blended serum, a dry and itchy skin will be left feeling soft and luminous by morning. The benefits of the humble rose date back many hundreds of years. Long may it continue to soothe our senses and repair and rejuvenate our skins, giving us such joy in our gardens.

  • Show the Love for Valentine’s Day

    Heather HickmanWhether you have already been stung by cupid, are still waiting for the first arrow to strike, or have spent the past year plotting the demise of that pesky cherub, there is no escaping the fact that it’s nearly Valentine’s Day.

    I’m a big fan of the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day. On February 14th it is only the women that give gifts (traditionally chocolate) and then on March 14th there is “White Day” where the men give more impressive gifts like, ooh, I don’t know… Louis Vuitton bags and Gucci shoes… genius, right?

    Anyhow, I digress… regardless of your feelings on the matter, Valentine’s Day is BIG business, over $15 billion last year in the US alone, and my assumption is that you would like a piece of the heart shaped pie, yes?

    Yet, much like the rules of dating, there are rules for Valentine’s Day promotions:

    Rule 1: Remember your brand
    When planning any type of promotion or event, you must start by ensuring you do not deviate too far from your brand image. It can be tempting to go overboard with hearts and candy, but remember the best way to sustain business is not to position yourself as a “pampering treat,” but rather a health conscious necessity. Keep it simple and keep it branded!

    Rule 2: Think big picture
    Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for treatment promotions to gain new clients, but the key is to retain them. Look at introducing treatment promotions for February that have an incentive attached to rebook for a follow up treatment in March.


    Rule 3: Climb outside of the box
    Gift Certificate promotions are great, but maybe it’s time to get a little more creative to stand out from the crowd? How about a couple’s workshop on foot or shoulder massage techniques? Charge a workshop fee that is redeemable against product purchases or treatment bookings made on the night of the event, (remember, you need to gain AND retain them).

    Rule 4: Don’t discriminate
    The singletons need love too… target your single clients through direct email and your social media outlets and encourage them to bring an unattached friend to your “Single and Sensational” event. Incorporate skin lessons and short targeted treatments like eye rescue or lip renewal. Don’t forget to make it fun; maybe have some music, a healthy cocktail (remember your brand) and a goodie bag with an incentive to come back and book a full treatment with you.

    Rule 5: Share the love!
    Valentine’s Day is all about showing some love, so how about sharing it? Charge a registration fee for any event or promotion you introduce this month and donate the proceeds to your favorite non-profit organization; embedded generosity goes a long way… even with that persistent cupid!

  • Falling in Love Again

    Annet King

    Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been out and about sharing with the media, fellow skin therapists, undergraduates and our own incredible instructors. Throughout all of these interactions we have chatted about the magnificent organ that is the skin, the literal “handmade craft” that is skin care and the potent, emotional and physical connection we have through touch. All great stuff!  As a (somewhat bizarrely obsessed to some) Skin Therapist and Educator, I relish all that is skin – the challenges, the diversity of 35 beautiful shades of color, the countless anomalies that it can present, it goes on. There isn’t a wart, a cyst, café o’lait lentigo or crop of keratosis that I don’t get very excited about; in fact sometimes I have to stop myself from reaching out to have a quick feel of the skin of a complete stranger. Not advised while in the grocery checkout line.

    So while preoccupied with the day to day “business” of our profession of capturing and securing clients, prescribing pustule potions and tweeting about what we do, we might just start to treat the skin like our partners after 10 years of marriage and overlook all of its magical wonders.

    So beyond protecting us, regulating temperature and helping us to communicate, here are eight other reminders of why we love skin:

    • We’d evaporate into thin air without it.
    • Dead skin accounts for about a billion tons of dust in the atmosphere.
    • In 30 minutes, the average body gives off enough heat (combined) to bring a half gallon of water to boil.
    • The sense of touch is more sensitive among women than men because our fingers are smaller.
    • There are 2,500 nerve receptors per square centimeter in the human hand.
    • Goose bumps appear when it is cold or we experience a strong emotional reaction such as fear, nostalgia, pleasure, awe, admiration, or sexual arousal.
    • The most sensitive areas of your body are your hands, lips, face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet.
    •  We can live without seeing or hearing—in fact, without any of our other senses. But babies born without effective nerve connections between skin and brain can fail to thrive and may even die.

    If you need some more inspiration and want to learn about some of the significant studies around touch and the impact of our work check out these two great resources:

    Skin Lover