• Can’t Touch This: More Proof on the Healing Power of Touch

    As touch givers we are attuned to the countless benefits of touch, for some of us it may have even served as the very catalyst to us choosing this profession. We can also appreciate the deep impact that touch can have, like releasing a physical knot that was also mental or vice versa, resulting in emotional release for a client as they let go of the grief, sadness, anger or pain that they may of harbored for so long.

    In recent years, the science at last has started to catch up and a wave of evidence based studies has started to surface about the physical and physiological effects of touch and massage. Thanks to organizations like the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, we know that touch boosts growth in preterm newborns, calms the “stress beast” cortisol while increasing other feel good, pain relieving, love potion hormones like endorphins and oxytocin. It helps regulate key neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine helping us to not only sleep better, crave less but also feel more enthusiastic and joyful. From helping with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anorexia, cancer symptoms and dementia, the touch benefit list just keeps getting longer.

    Some new areas that have recently come to light delve deeper into the specifics of how we touch…

    Vagus Baby!

    The skin, as we know, is a sensory organ and is laden with nerve receptors. These receptors receive messages about pressure, temperature, pain and are incredibly sensitive. When a receptor is stimulated, it sends a signal along the nerve cells directly to the brain. The brain then co-ordinates the response, like the contraction of a muscle or a gland releasing a hormone into the bloodstream.  Interestingly, the deeper “pressure” receptors in the skin called the Pacinian corpuscles’ send a signal directly to an important nerve bundle deep in the brain called the Vagus nerve. The Vagus links directly to the heart and it’s this nerve that then slows the heart down and decreases blood pressure.

    Touch tip: Use deeper pressure, slow massage strokes to quickly and deeply bring about stress relief, key for hypertensive, high blood pressure and generally stressed out clients.

    Different Strokes for Different Folks

    As pro’s we know that the method of massage we use can energize someone feeling sluggish or calm down an angry, anxious client. But why is that? Researchers found that a seated massage lasting 15 minutes increases the production of epinephrine by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This helps people become more alert, more attentive, and therefore more productive.  A slower, longer, deeper and more rhythmic technique has quite the opposite effect, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing epinephrine levels, allowing a sense of deep relaxation, and facilitating deep sleep.

    Touch tip: Offer Energizing 15-minute chair massage, hand and arm or foot reflexology sessions in the mornings or at lunchtimes to capture new clients. Great for jet lagged travelers, tired moms, young partiers and office workers alike! Take these services offsite to companies who offer well-being programs for their employees.

    Monkey Business

    A new discovery about the function of certain sensory nerve cells, known as C tactile (CT) afferents, that are only found in the hairy skin of humans and mammals, has recently emerged. These nerve cells fire more slowly and only become stimulated with gentle rhythmic stroking movements like caressing. When they are activated by this type of touch, they flood the body with feelings of pleasure and also evoke our sense of self and embodiment. Their behavior suggests that the desire of having one’s skin stroked represents an innate, natural act that’s linked to the importance of social interaction; much like our hairy primate friends that enjoy the act of social grooming and nit nibbling.

    Neuroscientists are hopeful that knowing more about these cells might help us to understand pain perception, body image distortions and certain neurodevelopmental disorders.  As a Skin Therapist, I’m happy to know that at last we have some real proof about what we have believed to be true for so long. So the next time your client tells you your hands are amazing, magical or even miracle workers, tell them that’s right because indeed they are!


  • Who Takes Care of You?

    We’re in the industry of giving. In our roles we give of ourselves to our clients, both physically and emotionally. We know how it feels after a long day in the treatment center.  And yet, just when we thought we were done, another client walks through our doors. What do we do? We dig a little bit deeper and we give just that little bit more!

    In taking care of our clients, we all too often forget just how important it is that we take care of ourselves.

    I recently visited Malaysia, where I had the opportunity to spend some time with business owners, sharing with them ways to ‘take good care of you’. During our time together, we reminded ourselves how important it is to take excellent care of our essential ‘tools of our trade’. Here is a photo of our group proudly displaying a very important tool that we use everyday – our magic hands! It is so important that in our industry, we fuel our bodies with healthy foods and look after ourselves physically, especially when it comes to our posture, to ensure a long and successful career.

    But, just like our bodies, it is essential that we also take care of our minds. As skin and body therapists we help people to feel good about their skin. We know of the many benefits to a skin treatment, being of course the tangible benefits such as the soft, luminous skin we can see and feel post treatment. But the holistic benefits of ‘taking time out’ can never be underestimated. The wonderful benefit of a skin treatment is also the rest and relaxation that it provides our minds during our time out.

    So, who takes care of you? When was the last time you were a ‘client’?

    Next time you’re feeling tired and worn out, don’t forget to nurture your mind as well as your skin. Book yourself in for a skin treatment!

  • Mindfulness at Its Finest – May Week 2014

    Inspiration that lingers is something that doesn’t come by often and easily. It tends to be a moment that stirs right then and there – be it from a song, a picture or a person in front of you. But it’s that long-term effect that we strive to achieve for our educators during our Annual International Education Conference held May 5 – May 9 at the IDI & Dermalogica headquarters in Los Angeles. It’s also a week of tribal bonding with our educators from nearly 40 countries and re-kindling the inner fire that drives us to do what we do best – provide the best education in the skin industry.

    This year we drew upon the connection of “Mindful Learning and Learning to Be Mindful” as the overall focus, where we shared touching stories, celebrated achievements, sparked kinships and reaffirmed our purpose in the business of touch.

    Throughout the 5-day conference we heard from the likes of Dr. Diana Howard on new product and ingredient innovations, renewed our mission to help women through FITE, shared achievements and goals from our global educators as well as our leaders, such as Annet King, Heather Hickman and Emma Hobson to name a few. And this year we had the pleasure of receiving a mindfulness expert, Joey Soto, who opened the week with meditation exercises and challenged us all to embrace the moment and be present. Our other special guests included oncology skin care experts from Greet the Day, Johnette du Rand and Karey Hazewinkel York, who took us through a touching and emotional presentation on working with clients who are cancer patients and survivors.

    As an added touch, our guests were provided with unique, oversized seating to sit comfortably (and take of their shoes if they like!) during the presentations in our auditorium, healthy and colorful food selection as well as exceptional entertainment for two evenings. For the Tuesday night we had the privilege of receiving Lee England Jr., soul violinist and rising star, at our headquarters performing original music and beautiful renditions of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and “Unthinkable” by Alicia Keys. On Thursday, we transported our guests to the reinvigorated district of Downtown Los Angeles where we convened at the Crocker Club for a farewell celebration in true “Great Gatsby” fashion and live entertainment.

    But it didn’t come full circle until the final day, when our chief visionary Jane Wurwand took the stage. Inspired by Ariana Huffington’s latest book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Jane showed us a new definition of success that isn’t solely based on money and power; that more characteristics such as mindfulness, passion, health and giving back to name a few can lead to true success that satisfies us from within.

    To view more photos from the week event, visit Dermalogica’s May Week Facebook page.

  • South Africa Embraces Oncology Skin Care

    Skin therapist education is essential in performing skin treatments on cancer patients or clients with a history of cancer. It is definitely an area that was not well explored when studying basic skincare in undergraduate school! Fortunately we were recently able to host a two day workshop with Johnnette du Rand, co-founder of Greet the Day and Institute of Integrative Oncology based in USA. Johnnette works in close collaboration with numerous cancer centers and has been trainer and supervisor for their integrative touch oncology programs since 2003. She received the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation for her work in the clinical center setting, and has worked in hospital, hospice and spa settings since 1999.

    The workshop introduced skin therapists to the unique and changing needs of oncology clientele, and helped prepare them with the skills and knowledge to provide safe, therapeutic treatments.

    This invitation-only exclusive workshop was hosted in three different locations across South Africa. Johnnette began her journey in Johannesburg on March 3, thereafter traveling to Durban to host the workshop on March 10 and finished off on March 17 in Cape Town. As there were detailed practical sessions involved in both days, a maximum of sixteen therapists attended each location, to ensure individual attention and perfect movements.

    The skin therapists were greeted by a humble-natured Johnnette and a seemingly large workbook! Her gentle nature and passion made the workshop come alive, as certain myths were clarified and personal stories were shared. The knowledge gained was absolutely incredible and the conversation flowed easily throughout the days. The practical sessions ensured that our students left the two days confident to work on either cancer clientele or survivors. We discussed treatment objectives, safety considerations, product selection and massage practices for oncology skin treatments, including adjustments required to safely address lymphedema, a common side effect of cancer treatment.

    Knowing that we, as skin therapists, are able to provide relief and comfort to a cancer patient through the ability to touch is eye opening. It reminded me why skin therapy is truly the best profession to be in!

  • No More Fluff and Puff

    Annet KingAs a skin therapist, massage therapist, and educator, I am often told it’s clear I love what I do. It always makes me smile because what I do – and why I do it – is who I am. There’s nothing I love more than solving skin problems, addressing business challenges and helping people. I know you can relate – from inspecting suspicious moles on family members, massaging your colleague’s sore shoulders or mapping skin at social gatherings, it’s just what we do! But the actuality of our work stretches far beyond providing skin services, waxing brows and prescribing peptides.

    We are in the business of touch, and we are no stranger to the endless list of positive health benefits our work can provide. From lowering the stress hormone cortisol, to increasing the feel good hormone oxytocin, to boosting immune function and reducing pain and anxiety, clinical proof is widely available that argues both the power of touch and the negative impact of touch deprivation.

    This has led to massage, spa and alternative therapies (like aromatherapy, acupressure, acupuncture, reflexology and hydrotherapy) finally getting the serious recognition they deserve, so much so that the number of hospitals around the world now offering complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) has tripled over the past few years. This movement is largely due to the hard medical evidence now available for alternative therapies and the fact that healthcare costs can be radically reduced when illness is prevented! And let’s not leave out the patient demand – plain and simple, many people are seeking alternative therapies.

    Seventy one percent of people would be more likely to visit spas if they knew that scientific studies showed measurable results – are you marketing your services in the right way? Or are you still using words like “luxurious,” “pampering” or “well deserved treat?” It might be time to renovate your menu and messaging, update your space and climb on board the health train – leaving the beauty bus behind!

    Discover more on this subject here:

  • 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!

  • 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