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Global Skin: Climbing Your Client’s Family Tree

By: Michelle Goldsmith
Posted: July 30, 2013, from the August 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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It is imperative that skin care professionals understand how the skin functions in those with mixed ancestry. For example, a person who visually appears to be a Fitzpatrick I or II may indeed have a parent or other relative who is a Fitzpatrick IV, V or VI. It would be risky to create a treatment plan for this client based solely on the color of their skin. Therefore, obtaining a thorough history and profile is important for every client. You wouldn’t want to treat this client with ingredients or percentages that are too active. Ask the appropriate questions and never make assumptions based on appearances. A great starting question is: “What is your hereditary background based on your parents, grandparents and others?” Use yourself as an example. Say something along the lines of: “My mother is Norwegian, Scottish and Irish; my father is German and Mexican. Although I do not look Hispanic, my melanocytes are programmed to respond more readily based on this heritage instead of my other relations.”

Know your client’s ancestry

The goal of any treatment is to address a client’s skin concerns without causing trauma or creating unnecessary inflammation. By incorporating the Global Heritage Model, skin care professionals will be able to more accurately deliver optimal results, minimize the potential for complications, and increase client confidence and compliance. Understanding a client’s skin begins with the initial consultation. Don’t skimp on this important review to build a foundation and a relationship with each individual. Take the time to find out everything you can about each client, including their heritage. Learn their genetic history, based on their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents.

But what if they don’t have that information? Suppose your client informs you during the initial consultation that they are adopted and don’t really know their ancestry. The best answer is to start treatment slowly and gently. Err on the side of caution. Once you’ve determined how the client’s skin responds to treatments, you can work up from there.

Following are suggestions that should be taken into account when determining treatment options.

• High-percentage, straight-acid peels should be avoided in clients with equator-region backgrounds, because these types of solutions can create more surface stimulation and could result in PIH.