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How to Handle a Product Reaction

By: Carl Thornfeldt, MD
Posted: February 28, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
This is a pustular reaction to an aggressive superficial peel of 30% salicylic acid after microdermabrasion.

This is a pustular reaction to an aggressive superficial peel of 30% salicylic acid after microdermabrasion.

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For instance, the client may have inadvertently forgotten to disclose a specific product or prescription that she has been using, or did not discontinue a topical prescription, such as tretinoin, soon enough before a treatment. Other times, undisclosed previous treatments could affect the outcome of your procedures or, you may discover through asking questions that your client did not follow your recommended post-care instructions.

Many times, a simple regimen adjustment is all that is needed for your client. When a client begins a new regimen, those who have a more sensitive skin type, especially during a dry winter, may find it easier to start their new products slowly. Begin with one new product, and then add another every three to five days until you are confident there will be no negative reactions. This method also helps narrow down the product that causes the adverse reaction if one occurs. A trusted referral relationship with a dermatologist is important for any spa professional so immediate help can be obtained if necessary.

Have a plan in place

The client who left me the voice mail came to see me in person, so that I could visually assess her skin reaction. She had a history of sensitive, atopic skin, and the peel had created a secondary infection due to the high bacterial counts in her skin. Luckily, the secondary infection was able to be healed pretty quickly, and she cleared nicely without scarring with the regimen described above.

As a spa professional, your clients trust you to recommend products that are not only effective, but also safe. Offering home care products that have safety testing data, such as a human repeat insult patch test (HRIPT), is ideal to ensure products have a minimal risk of irritation or allergy (< 3/1000), or less than three adverse reactions per 1,000 test applications. Before retailing any product line, it is crucial to research the line and ask for safety testing data first to lessen the risk of adverse reactions. Of course, there are always rare exceptions, so be prepared. Having a plan in place when unforeseen reactions do occur is the best way to handle unusual situations.

Carl Thornfeldt, MD, is the founder and chief executive officer of Episciences, Inc., the manufacturers of Epionce skin care. He has practiced dermatology for 30 years and is co-author of the book, The New Ideal in Skin Health: Separating Fact from Fiction (Allured Books, 2010).