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Sole Survivor

By: Annet King
Posted: October 2, 2013, from the October 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Not all Western professionals acknowledge reflexology as viable. However, here’s the good news: More conventional medical environments are taking an interest in the role and benefits of reflexology, and massage in general. This is thanks, in part, to the recognition and integration of complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) in many major hospitals, as well as consumer demand and the hard clinical data now available via fantastic web portals, such as www.spaevidence.com.

The Ultimate Foot-saver Treatment

Begin The Ultimate Foot-saver Treatment (See Treatment How-to: The Ultimate Foot-saver Treatment) with a traditional signed consultation, and analysis of the feet. Apply the same scrutiny as you do when examining your client’s face and other areas for any indicators of medical issues or possible contraindications to the feet. Remember, it’s not within your role to diagnose illness or treat disease—leave that to medical professionals. Following are some interesting observations you can apply that combine Eastern and Western disciplines.

  • Pinch the toes to be sure that the color snaps back instantly. Inadequate blood flow may cause tingling, numbness, cramping, and discoloration of the skin and toenails. Cold feet and toes may indicate circulatory problem sometimes linked to smoking, high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • Swollen feet may signal poor lymphatic drainage. Feet that are continually swollen can be a sign of more serious health conditions with the lymphatic or endocrine system.
  • Check the toenails for rippling, thickening, sponginess and discoloration. These signs may indicate a past of continuous trauma to the nail bed, including pressure from ill-fitting shoes, damage from gel polish or pigment absorption from darker nail polishes. Lifting of the nail plate and yellow or white discoloration may indicate a possible fungal infection. The infection starts at the nail fold and resides in the nail bed, making it hard to treat. Shoes that fit poorly may make the infection worse or, in some cases, even cause the infection. Topical and oral medications must be prescribed by a physician, but some laser treatments have shown positive results.
  • Check for topical fungal infections elsewhere on the foot, especially between the toes. Itchy, scaly skin may be athlete’s foot, which is easy to pick up in gym showers. Food allergies, or a reaction to chemicals or certain products can result in contact dermatitis, which also may cause itching, redness, blisters and dry patches. Moles between the toes should also be documented. Sunny flip-flop friendly climates in particular report higher rates of melanoma on the feet. Ensure your client is also applying an SPF in this area.

Health and hygiene

Whether you are a nail tech performing a traditional pedicure, a skin care professional giving a spa foot treatment or a trained reflexologist, you must always legally abide with state health and hygiene codes. Regulations can differ state-to-state and license-to-license regarding what you can do and where you can touch. What needs to remain consistent is the level of professionalism that applies to esthetic work and conduct. Recently, pedicures specifically have received some terrifically bad public relations coverage due to poor hygiene, unsafe practices and the resulting horror stories where clients have contracted staph infections and other infectious diseases.

Remember to treat feet with the same respect given to the face and body. This means no low-end, bargain-bin products filled with common irritants, such as artificial fragrances or colors—especially important to remember, because artificially fragranced foot products with heavy fruity aromas sometimes sway clients to use them. Also, be judicious when planning a treatment. Even if you can legally remove dead skin with a blade or use fish to munch it away, re-think whether you have the client’s health and best interests in mind. Skin care professionals have fought long and hard to be respected, so let’s not throw it out with the foot soak.

Annet KingAnnet King is the director of global education for The International Dermal Institute (IDI) and Dermalogica. She develops, writes, presents and monitors the success of all classes that comprise the IDI curriculum, and is CIDESCO-, ITEC- and CIBTAC-certified. King’s initial career as the operations director for Steiner involved overseeing spas onboard several luxury cruise liners. This parlayed into extensive work in the skin care field in Singapore and other areas of Southeast Asia. She can be contacted at 310-900-0811 or aking@dermalinstitute.com.