What does it mean to be holistic? Where does holistic begin, and where does it end? A holistic connection between mind and body is recognized as an important aspect of beauty and skin care, though the current concept of mind, body and spirit is vague, nonscientific and limited. This makes it difficult to effectively use holistic in the practice of esthetics and spa therapy. A clear definition and insight into holism can help to develop a model useful in the business and practice of beauty and wellness.
Holism is defined as the understanding that the parts make up a unified whole. The parts are no longer viewed as individual units, but are analyzed in relation to the whole organism. Holistic health and beauty perceives the organs and parts of the body, emotions and the environment as interconnected with an affect on the overall health of the person and, ultimately, the skin. The question is, how whole is holistic? Is a person a closed container of mind, body and spirit that stops at the skin’s boundary, or does it go further? How far out does the holistic effect go?
The connection between beauty and health
What is beauty? This question is seldom asked and rarely has a clear-cut answer. Beauty is often stated as being in the eye of the beholder, but this is hardly a basis to support a multibillion dollar industry. There must be more to beauty that drives people to achieve it. For those in the business or pursuit of beauty, there is value to having a clear beauty definition and well-defined beauty goals.
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Beauty has its roots in biology and is a means of attraction. Nature’s goal is to reproduce and continue a species by producing the strongest offspring. To do this, both parents—or seeds or cells—must be in the most vital, healthy condition. Beauty is used in nature as a visual representation of health.1
If beauty is health, then a beauty goal would also be a goal of health. To achieve health and beauty, a holistic approach is most effective in addressing all conditions that may influence or cause an imbalance to the system.
Emotions and skin health
Mind-body is the most commonly made holistic association. Emotional stress has an influential impact on, and can instigate, disease and skin damage. The impact stress has on the skin is evident in several conditions, such as hives, acne, psoriasis and eczema. These conditions are either directly caused or exacerbated by stress.
The body releases signaling molecules through thought and stress. These neurochemicals and hormones physically alter the activity and functions of the body. They may cause inflammatory responses, which can have profoundly negative effects on the skin. For example, the stress hormone cortisol, released during stressful situations and the fight-or-flight response, is known for its inflammatory effect and can cause premature aging of the body and skin.2
Stress-induced glucocorticoids also were found to be directly responsible for the breakdown of the cutaneous barrier function3 and transepidermal water loss,4 resulting in psoriasis5 and atopic dermatitis, and the emotional stress-induced neuropeptide Substance-P was found to play a role in acne.6, 7
The responsibility of the practitioner is to establish if stress is a potential cause of imbalance, though it’s not always obvious, and select a remedy or treatment that will address both the stress and the physical condition. Holistically, your business should be representative of the stress-free and relaxed mind-body, and you should offer tips or provide classes on reducing stress.
The environment and the skin
Living environment and conditions are another consideration in the holistic evaluation. The most obvious of environmental concerns are those familiar to your geographical environment, such as common allergens; sun exposure, which includes elevation; and atmospheric conditions of moist or dry air. Other concerns include: airborne toxins or pollutants from nearby industrial manufacturing, mills or farms; contaminated tap water; or environmentally unsound waste areas. A toxic environment may manifest as allergies or atopic dermatitis, but it also may just as easily result in a skin condition with a cause more difficult to identify.
Areas producing high amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from wires, power plants or other sources and radio frequencies (RF) from microwave towers and ovens also have been implicated as a cause of disease8, 9 and may directly or indirectly affect skin. The EMFs from cellular phones are debatably another potential source of biological disruption.10, 11 EMFs and RFs also may alternately create emotional stress with the resulting effect on skin.
Home interiors too have potentially high amounts of EMFs or RFs, as well as environmental toxins. Providing awareness of environmental and home pollutants through available literature or Internet suggestions, such aswww.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=static.health, will offer a valuable service to your clientele and support the image of a green business.
Personality and philosophy
Personality and individual philosophies can be used as diagnostic elements for their affect on skin condition. The Hippocratic temperaments and the doshas of ayurvedic medicine are systems that classify personality and physical types for use in diagnosis and treatment. Matching skin to personality may be obvious—a nervous personality equals stressed skin and congested skin fits a sluggish personality—but deeper observations break from the obvious and look at stubbornness, fear, anger, type A and worrisome personalities, where the clinician may observe the personality and holistically connect withskin condition.
A person’s philosophical viewpoint is also a consideration. Positive or negative, spiritualist or realist, and even political viewpoint may be a subtle defining factor in skin condition. Philosophical viewpoints and personality types will likely parallel emotional balance. Be conscious that your business philosophy often will attract a philosophically like-minded clientele, and your treatment options should correspond to that.
Lifestyle, diet, work habits and social habits
Lifestyle is reflected in the skin’s condition, and prescribed treatments are only as effective as a person’s habits will allow. No sleep, stressful work habits and a party-all-the-time lifestyle will not allow for proper digestion, circulation or detoxification, which ultimately will be seen in the skin condition.
It’s well known a poor diet is a detriment to skin care. The nutrients from a balanced, whole food diet with supplementation will maintain a healthy body, mind and skin, so it’s holistically beneficial for the practitioner to have a basic understanding of diet and nutrients.
Exercise, proper rest and playtime also have their benefits. They increase the health and emotional well-being of the individual and their skin. A business based on beauty wellness may do well to include holistic services such as a professional lifestyle coach, nutritionist and fitness center, or offer informational resources to counteract a negative lifestyle.
World issues and interconnectedness
What effect does a struggling economy, desolation in third world countries, war and political chaos have on the skin? Thought it’s only speculate on this issue, the potential imbalance on health that may occur should not be overlooked.
The modern perspective of the universe sees interconnectedness between all things. In this context, joy in one corner has a joyful influence on everything everywhere, and the same applies to pain, suffering and cruelty. Be aware of the emotional impact this may have, with each person responding uniquely to world eventsand energies.
Your business may counteract negative world issues through recycling programs, volunteerism and other positive actions that, in turn, emit positive influence within the interconnected whole. In this context, your positive action will have a positive healing stimulus on the skin of your clientele, as well as on your business.
The quantum aspect
Quantum, or subatomic, science presents a mysterious and altered understanding of physical reality. Reality is not necessarily as it is perceived. It can be said people create the physical world through their perception, senses and thoughts.12 Interconnectedness becomes evident at the subatomic level where boundaries, space and time dissolve and are not as you tend to believe.
Energy work, such as Reiki, along with meditation, prayer healing, feng shui, and other ancient rituals and philosophies, find support from insight into the quantum sciences. A basis in this science is where a holistic model can really take flight and expand the possibilities of how mind, body, spirit, lifestyle, relationships, world crises and interrelated connection among all things may affect skin.
What effect does your attitude, the ambience of the spa, the camaraderie of the staff, the neighborhood of the business or the competence of the manager have on the outcome of a treatment? Based on a quantum viewpoint, these are dynamics that may certainly, and holistically, influence the outcome.
The holistic model
Bear in mind, the information presented here is meant to develop an awareness for the potential of a holistic model. There are no rules regarding holism, except the understanding that all parts work in concert and are not isolated, independent pieces. How far you take this, or how whole you see holistic, is guided by your own sense of holism. Part II of this series will give suggestions regarding holistic treatment options, analyzing each topic and matching it to ingredients, formulation, techniques and business models.
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2. S Talbott, Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection, Hunter House Publishers, Alameda, CA (2007)
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