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Skin and the Brain: Uncovering New Links

By: Claudia C. Aguirre and Annet King
Posted: September 28, 2012, from the October 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
male professional skin care client getting massage

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Make an effort to touch the skin of every person who crosses the threshold of your skin care facility—no appointment needed, no makeup removal needed, no disrobing, no obligation to buy. Just touching the skin forms the basis of a tactile “map” in the neurons of a skin care professional. Feel for tension, gritty areas, tight areas, slick areas indicating excess sebum, hot areas signaling congestion and possible future breakouts, and more.

Can empathy be taught? Yes, but it helps if you’re born that way. Most skin care professionals are born with a predisposition to want to connect with people. Otherwise, you would prefer a more isolationist profession. All of this places your work into clear context. Your job is not only to clear comedones or to break up lactic acid in overworked muscles as part of a sports massage. Your real hands-on job is to restore humanity, one skin at a time, through what once was called the laying on of hands. It keeps you human, and more humanity is what the world needs now.

Is there a correlation?

Most likely, skin care clients who gaze in the mirror don’t see their fine lines, wrinkles, loss of contour, loss of firmness and patches of hyperpigmentation as indicators of their brain health. But could there, in fact, be a correlation? And, to take an even greater leap, would protecting the skin from inflammatory assault also offer related protection to internal systems and organs, including the brain? Although further study is needed, many new findings, such as those included in this article, suggest that how radically and rapidly a person’s skin ages, dictated by both genetic and lifestyle factors, may suggest how the brain is faring, as well. In this sense, youthful-looking skin may be indicative of far more than just another pretty face.

Claudia C. Aguirre, PhD, is a neuroscientist working as scientific communications manager for The International Dermal Institute (IDI) and Dermalogica. She has received numerous awards, scholarships and fellowships during her studies, and has been published in international scientific journals. She is a frequent editorial contributor to both trade and consumer publications worldwide.