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Give Origin to Your Client’s Sensitive Skin

By: Kris Campbell
Posted: December 4, 2013, from the December 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Health-challenged skin occurs when the skin is affected by medical diseases, medications and treatments. Diabetes, cancer and lupus are just a few of the diseases on the rise in the United States, and the treatments and prescriptions used to control them can have severe side effects on the skin. (Editor’s note: To learn more about this topic, the book Health-challenged Skin: The Estheticians’ Desk Reference (Alluredbooks, 2012) by Morag Currin can be purchased at

Most people diagnosed with a medical illness will, at some point in treatment, develop sensitivities. Diabetics deal with rashes, glycated skin, easily infected areas and even neuropathy, a result of nerve damage that can lead to numbness or loss of sensation in the hands and feet. Skin of clients with lupus is extremely reactive and may suffer from rashes, alopecia and scaly lesions. Cancer can cause rashes, nail issues, radiation burns, skin breakouts, inflammation and negative reactions to fragrances, to name a few.

Treatments should be toned down and clients should use products with gentle, hydrating and protective ingredients, such as those that are antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. (See Treatment How-to: Sensitive Skin Facial.) Make sure the products are lightweight and slowly build up the amount you use on clients’ skin to avoid occluding it.

In the treatment room

Skin care professionals need to remember a few actions that can be taken in the treatment room for clients with sensitivity issues that will help leave the client with refreshed, calm skin and allow them to enjoy the treatment.

  1. Avoid parts of treatments that may irritate sensitive skin. Steamers are not recommended for sensitive skin because they can cause increased redness. If the client insists, then aim the nozzle at an angle away from skin. Use lukewarm-to-cool towels instead of hot for soothing purposes. Cool glass globes can relieve redness for eyes and faces, or clients may like to just place them in their hands while a service is performed.
  2. Use soft linens and towels. Many towels have a very course nap that can pull on the skin. Look for something with a soft nap or microfiber. Teach clients about this for home care in order to keep inflammation down while they are not in your care.
  3. Apply makeup to color correct as a potential add-on. Sensitive skin clients will want to leave your facility with an even-looking skin tone. The application of a gentle mineral makeup without any irritating ingredients can complete the sensitive skin facial.


Hormonal issues can lead to skin sensitivity. Women are affected by hormones at an early age; girls can experience the start of menstrual cycles as early as eight-years-old. They also deal with the loss of hormones due to menopause for a longer period of time because humans are living longer. Sensitivities can range from hormonal acne issues to extremely dry skin.

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