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Skin Abnormalities: Separating Harmless From Harmful

Jennifer Linder, MD February 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine


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Clients rely on skin health professionals to answer their questions accurately and honestly. Clinical estheticians are often faced with treating more than hyperpigmentation, acne, rosacea and visible aging because additional dermatological irregularities and curiosities are commonly brought to their attention. Although many cutaneous concerns should be treated by a physician, being able to identify various lesions can be helpful to the esthetician in developing treatment plans and determining when to refer to a physician for suspicious abnormalities. There is often a fine line between conditions that are dangerous and those that are merely cosmetically bothersome—understanding the difference is crucial to healthy, happy clients.

As the protective barrier for the body, the skin is constantly exposed to various offenders. The amount of stress placed on this vital organ often results in various physiological changes. The pathway in which these conditions are formed—and whether or not they spread and damage surrounding tissue—determines the level of threat they are to the overall health of the client. Noncancerous skin growths, such as seborrheic keratoses, sebaceous hyperplasias, cherry hemangiomas and verrucae planae (flat warts) are examples of skin concerns that are visually unappealing but not considered harmful. Cancerous lesions such as basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas, as well as those lesions with the potential of progressing into skin cancer, such as actinic keratoses, can be life-threatening in some circumstances.

Cause for concern

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and its various presentations can make it difficult to identify without proper physician examination. Cancerous lesions invade and destroy surrounding normal skin cells and tissues and, although prevention by using daily sunscreen and antioxidants is best, appropriate treatment is crucial once any type of skin cancer develops. Any and all questionable skin growths should be examined by a dermatologist before topical treatment is applied.

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Related Content



Cause for concern 1

Cause for concern 2

basal cell carcinoma

Cosmetic annoyances 1


Cosmetic annoyances 2

Seborrheic keratoses

Cosmetic annoyances 3

Sebaceous hyperplasias

Cosmetic annoyances 4

Cherry hemangiomas

Cosmetic annoyances 5

Verrucae planae

Business Tips: Skin Abnormalities

It is recommended that all skin care professionals develop a relationship with a physician for referral purposes. Having this system in place can help to build client relationships, the spa professional’s level of respect within the industry and a spa’s bottom line. Following are ways spa professionals can work along with physicians in the prevention and treatment of common skin concerns.

  • Use networking opportunities to meet physicians who are not currently offering noninvasive esthetic procedures but whose patient base typically seeks these types of treatments, such as OB/GYNs and family practice physicians.
  • Refer clients any time anything appears suspicious. In turn, the physician will refer their patients to you each time they ask questions regarding skin care or esthetic treatments.
  • Work with patients before surgical procedures to help get the skin as healthy as possible. Healthy skin responds better during surgical procedures and heals more quickly post-procedure.
  • Provide appropriate guidance on preparing patients’ skin for more invasive skin treatments and on protecting it afterward.
  • By referring clients to physicians, spa professionals are offering a more holistic approach to treating the skin, and they will be more pleased with the end result.

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