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  • What is Oncology Skin Care?

    sensitive-skin

    Sensitive. Dehydrated. Barrier Impaired. Surprising as it may be, treating the skin of someone undergoing chemotherapy and related cancer drug treatments is often times the simplest part of the skin care service. In working with oncology clients it is actually the other considerations that go hand-in-hand with cancer treatments that pose the greatest challenge for the skin care therapist such as compromised blood cell counts, blood clots or risk thereof, involved lymph nodes, tissue integrity, bone involvement, medical devices, clients’ experience of side effects, and long term or late effects of treatment.

    In addressing skin specific considerations, identifying therapist guidelines for oncology clients starts by establishing whether you are working with a client in active treatment and recent recovery, or someone in long-term survivorship. With regards to the latter client population, understanding the modifications related to compromised lymph nodes will serve you best, and treating their skin will most often depend on your resource knowledge on how to treat aging, dehydrated, and sensitive skin (note order of words).

    In working with clients still in active cancer treatment or recent recovery, skin is usually extremely dry and dehydrated, inflamed and irritated, fragile, sun sensitive, and can be very reactive. In this situation treat the sensitivity first. Product properties that minimize exacerbating skin sensitivities include an acidic-neutral pH to minimize the flux in skin pH; surfactants or emulsifiers that will not strip the skin of its moisture or strip the lipids and proteins of the stratum corneum; moisturizing ingredients such as emollients, humectants, and occlusives; and formulas without potential irritants and allergens.

    Additional core guidelines model the “Less Rule” in practice; avoid excessive heat, steam, and anything invasive, aggressive, or too stimulating. Put on hold physical scrubs, Retin A or Retinol-based products, strong chemical peels, alcohols, astringents, anything that dries the skin, and extractions because of the potential for easy bleeding, easy bruising, inflammation, and the very serious risk of infection.

    Many cancer treatments can additionally cause photosensitivity. Help your clients understand that the best sun protection is reducing exposure, a hat, and a physical sun block.

    Terminology
    Oncology client: Anybody who is in, or who has a history of cancer treatment. Considerations are often different for each client, and during active treatment or recent recovery can regularly change.

    Oncology skin care: Oncology skin care is an advanced field of study and involves the modification of skin care applications in order to safely work with the effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Essential aspects of an oncology skin care therapist’s skill set are an informed understanding of the pathophysiology of cancer; the side effects of cancer treatments, such as medications, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; and the ability to modify skin care applications, techniques, and product selection in order to adapt for these side effects, as well as for the disease.

    Johnnette du Rand, CMT, NCTMB, CMLDT, Skin Therapist
    Greet The Day, Institute of Integrative Oncology

    Greet The Day programs complement medical care and have provided thousands of hours of oncology massage, skin care, and supportive health practices for people with cancer. Greet The Day is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization.

    Visit http://www.greettheday.org for more information.

  • Antioxidants: Past, Present & Future

    In this recent Q&A, Dr. Claudia Aguirre met with American Spa Magazine to discuss the latest in antioxidants and skin care. Get the scoop on these famed ingredients and find out what trends in antioxidant research we can expect to see next!

    Q. “Antioxidant” is an overused buzzword in the beauty industry. What should people look out for when choosing skincare products? Are there any common marketing claims that are particularly misleading?
    A. Antioxidants are so widely varied, with a multitude of functions, that they can appear to be as ubiquitous as moisturizers themselves. In fact, there are over 600 known carotenoids and over 8,000 sources of polyphenols found in nature. And those are just the ones we know. The activity and effectiveness behind a product’s antioxidant power comes from its unique formulation. It all depends on the formula when it comes to antioxidants, and since the formulas are not always disclosed, the best thing for a spa owner or consumer to do is to look for products coming from reputable brands which spend heavily on research and development.

    Much of the marketing claims that are in fact misleading are typically confined to the food industry. For example, the word ‘superfood’ is not recognized as a true category of food in the scientific community although many people believe the antioxidant power behind goji berry is better than blueberry (or other food not currently in the spotlight). These trendy foods of course then get translated into skin care formulations that highlight the ‘superfoods.’

    Q. What are some common misconceptions about antioxidants?
    A. Probably that they’re quick acting. We are always looking for a quick fix, and compared to sunscreens and retinoids, antioxidants are more preventative and protective rather than corrective. However, over time these can correct some signs of photodamage, as vitamin C has been shown to lighten up sun-induced pigmentation.

    Another is that a vitamin is a single compound. A ‘vitamin’ is typically a family of compounds. For example, Vitamin A can be sourced from animals (retinoids) or plants (carotenoids) in our diet. So they’re not as simple as we think.

    Q. What are some of the most promising emerging antioxidant ingredients on the market and why?
    A. Vitamins are tried and true and many people may not realize that these also have a number of derivatives which can produce the same effects on the skin as the original vitamin compound. For instance, vitamin C has an active form of L-Ascorbic Acid but has a long list of derivative compounds (MAP, Ascorbyl Glucoside, etc) that can also provide benefits to the skin such as lightening up photodamage and promoting collagen production.

    The plant based antioxidants – polyphenols – are also great at scavenging free radicals in the skin. However, these likely have benefits that extend beyond preventing oxidative damage. Recent studies suggest these compounds can also promote oxidation (prooxidant) and trigger cell death, which may prevent tumor cells from growing and proliferating. Some may even mimic our own chemical messengers like hormones, as in the case of soy isoflavones1. Others like the catechins found in green tea can also impart anti-inflammatory benefits to sensitized or irritated skin.

    Q. What is your company doing to increase the antioxidant power in your skin care products?
    A. The biggest issue when it comes to antioxidants in skin care is how to deliver it efficaciously to the skin. We at Dermalogica not only use a wide variety of antioxidant compounds from botanical, marine and synthetic sources, but we also employ the latest technology to ensure delivery and penetration of the product. Since these are highly sensitive compounds, they easily ‘rust’ or oxidize, turning the product brown and rendering it useless. We encapsulate derivatives of stabilized vitamins in an advanced liposomal delivery system to optimize results on the skin. This ensures we don’t get adverse effects like irritation, and allows the ingredient to penetrate without being oxidized by the environment. Some packaging options such as airless tubes can also help with the delivery.

    Q. Are there any other trends that you’re seeing in antioxidant research?
    A. Combinations of antioxidants have been shown to work better than when used individually. So you’re likely to see products with a cocktail of vitamins and antioxidants rather than a product based on a single ingredient.

    Some of the current research is focused on marine algae, a large and diverse group of species that include kelp and seaweed. These have shown to include a large variety of antioxidant compounds such as carotenoids, polyphenols, vitamins and polysaccharides2. It won’t be surprising to see products crop up with marine antioxidants as the next trend in anti-aging cosmetics.

    Other carotenoids besides β-carotene are also being closely investigated. Powerful antioxidants found in tomatoes, peppers and even microalgae include lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, among many other compounds.

    And just as combinations of antioxidants are proving to be better than using them separately, combination treatments are also becoming more popular. A recent study concluded that ‘the addition of polyphenolic antioxidants to an IPL regimen improved the clinical, biochemical, and histological changes seen following IPL treatment alone3,’ suggesting that topical antioxidants are not only great protective elements in skin care, but they can even impact the efficacy and results of other treatments.

    References:

    1. Scalbert, et al. Polyphenols: antioxidants and beyond Am J Clin Nutr January 2005 vol. 81 no. 1 215S-217S
    2. Cornish, M.L. and Garbary, D.J. Algae 2010, 25(4): 155-171
    3. Freedman, B. M. (2009), Topical antioxidant application augments the effects of intense pulsed light therapy. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 8: 254–259

  • Branding for an Experience

    As we all move through our day-to-day lives we often do not realize the subtle trail of familiarity. From the Starbucks mug we pour our coffee into, to the Apple logo gracing the back of our beloved mobile phone, or even the golden arches of McDonald’s lining the streets of our commute. All of these recognizable shapes and colors may seem like the backdrop to our hectic days but they are in fact part of a much larger picture – these images are part of a brand. They establish what the brand is without words or sounds, and they instigate memories and curiosity. Branding is essential in any business because it allows us to tap into something that is unique to each person, and the feeling that is left from the experience can be hard to forget.

    When clients comes in for a treatment they have a certain expectations. It is safe to say that anyone walking through a salon or spa door is looking for results and enjoyment, and the last thing we want to do as a business owner is pour our business model down our customers’ throats! This is where branding comes into play. From the moment your clients walk through the front door, you want them to feel the experience your business offers. Creating visually appealing merchandising on shelves, counter spaces, and focus tables is a great place to start. Clutter-free, easy to shop spaces make exploring products enjoyable, helping to set the tone for your clients and the image you’d like your business to project. And it shouldn’t stop there! You can spread that experience throughout the space, and a clever way to achieve this is to feature pieces tastefully in the treatment room such as a blanket or client wrap.

    The most powerful marketing tool you can use is your brand, and the key as you drive your business – and the products that support your business – is to make your branding distinct. The treatment room is an amazing place to help mold your image, and linking the pleasurable experience of the treatments you offer to your brand is a unique and creative way to represent your business’ overall model!