Things Clients Say

A 69-year-old man, who reported driving a delivery truck for 28 years, with a 25-year history of gradual sun damage on the left side of his face. Photo courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine (2012)
A 69-year-old man, who reported driving a delivery truck for 28 years, with a 25-year history of gradual sun damage on the left side of his face. Photo courtesy of The New England Journal of Medicine (2012)

Editor’s note: Terri A. Wojak will be presenting the class “Advanced Exfoliation Methods” during the Advanced Education Conference Program at Face & Body® Midwest, taking place at McCormick Place West in Chicago on March 22, 2014. Register today at!

As service providers, estheticians are often taught that the client is always right ... although it may not always be the case. There are old wives’ tales and myths that have been passed down for years and, regardless of the resources available, it is still common for clients to believe these misconceptions. How do skin care professionals combat these assumptions and teach clients once and for all what is known to be true? Instead of ignoring the client’s claims—no matter how persistent—proper education will prove your dedication to helping each individual achieve their goals.

“I want a treatment to remove my wrinkles.”

Wrinkles are brought about by age, genetics and environmental factors affecting the skin. Just as those wrinkles did not simply appear on the skin overnight, the same goes for trying to remove them. Unfortunately, there are many skin care professionals claiming to have a miracle product or service that will simply dissipate all signs of aging skin, including wrinkles. There are many esthetic treatments available that are effective in reducing the appearance of wrinkles; however, results can never be promised. Every person has distinctive skin and may react differently to skin rejuvenation methods. Cosmetic medical treatments, such as injectables, laser treatments and cosmetic surgery, are proven methods that reduce the visible signs of aging. In the medical field, wording for treatment results is strictly enforced. Clinically proven ingredients, including retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), are used in skin care products to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is considered a success if wrinkles disappear with these methods, but it cannot be promised.

Client education. Always underpromise and overdeliver. Do not fall into the competition trap by offering unrealistic results just because your competitors are doing so. Clients appreciate honesty and will be pleasantly surprised if results surpass their expectations. When it comes to customer service, it has been said that one happy client will generally tell at least one other person about a good experience, but an unhappy client may tell as many as 20 others of a bad experience. To have a successful business, ensuring clients have realistic expectations is of the utmost importance. They must also be aware that it is a joint effort between them and their treatment provider, and that using supportive products at home will provide the best results. Presenting before-and-after pictures of the recommended treatment or product can be helpful to illustrate typical outcomes.

“My skin is too oily for moisturizer.”

Moisturizer is important for maintaining healthy skin, regardless of the amount of oil produced. Clients who have oily skin tend to think that drying it out is the best option for controlling breakouts. Acne occurs from a combination of dead skin and excess sebum, which leads to a buildup of bacteria and triggers inflammation. The human body is made to adapt to changes; therefore, drying out the skin often results in even more sebum production. This excess sebum, along with a dry epidermis, accumulates within the follicles, eventually resulting in more breakouts. Dry skin also leads to other skin conditions, including sensitivity, eczema and signs of aging.

Client education. Show your client a diagram on the pathogenesis of acne and point out how drying the skin can actually form comedones leading to acne. Explain the importance of adding moisture to provide a healthy environment for skin to function naturally. In healthy skin, oil is produced to protect the outer layers of skin throughout the day and is washed away at night. Before sending the client home with a moisturizer, let her know that it may feel oilier at first, but it is simply the addition of moisture. Start out simple: A hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid is a great introductory product. If clients are wary of buying a home-care item, provide a sample so they can feel the difference themselves.

“I don’t use sunscreen because I don’t lay out in the sun.”

Even with all of the knowledge available about the damaging effects of the sun, it is still unclear to many clients that sunscreen must be worn on a consistent basis. Sun damage is cumulative and can occur at any time, making the majority of damage appear from the least obvious ways. Simply commuting to and from work on a daily basis can cause a substantial amount of sun damage, regardless of the transportation method. Whether it is hot, cold, cloudy or rainy outside, the sun’s damaging rays are always present. If a person were exposed to sunlight without sunscreen for only four minutes a day for 10 years, the skin could be exposed to more than 243 hours of damaging UV rays with no protection. In addition, many clients still believe that glass blocks UV rays from reaching the skin. Although glass blocks UVB rays (burning rays), it does not block UVA rays (aging rays), which are even more damaging over time.

Client education. Show pictures of sun-damaged skin—there are several images commonly used in the industry. One picture is of a woman who sat in an office with a window on one side for a period of 15 years. This visual clearly shows the difference between the effects of intrinsic aging (from genetics and passage of time) and extrinsic aging (from environmental factors) that makes up about 85% of visible damage. Another common picture is of a truck driver who also has a clear distinction in the effects of sun exposure on the left side of his face that was frequently in the sun while driving. (See Unilateral Dermatoheliosis.) Explain to the client that, in order to see results, regardless of skin condition, sunscreen must be worn continuously. Protecting the skin from the sun will greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer, which affects 3.5 million Americans annually, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. An antioxidant and sunscreen should be applied every morning, regardless of the weather.

“I have sensitive skin, so I only use all-natural products.”

Many people claim that they have sensitive skin when in reality that may not be the case. There are several explanations for this misunderstanding. Clients may have had adverse reactions in the past with treatments or products that were not right for their skin. There are many products that claim to be gentle, especially those including all-natural ingredients. However, just because a product is natural does not mean it is good for you or that it will not cause sensitivities. In fact, most allergic reactions are caused by natural elements. Some examples include peanuts, seeds, coconut, mushrooms, flowers and citrus fruit.

Client education. Ask questions. Knowing clients’ home-care regimens, lifestyles and experience with past treatments can help you determine why they consider their skin to be sensitive. If you believe a client is sensitive due to her own actions, explain why in detail. For example, using harsh products with high pH levels can disrupt the acid mantle, leading to dryness and irritation. Changing a home-care regimen can dramatically reduce the side effects associated with sensitive skin. If the client is wary of trying something new, provide samples to show the difference a change in products can make. On the other hand, if the client is sensitive due to a skin condition, such as rosacea, eczema or psoriasis, discuss potential triggers and how to avoid them.

“I need to close my pores.”

Pore size is a common concern for clients and, although there are products and treatments that can improve the appearance of large pores, they do not simply open and close. Pores are necessary to protect the skin by secreting sebum to moisturize, and excreting waste through sudoriferous glands. If pores were closed, the skin would not have the ability to function normally. Clients also say they use steam or hot towels as methods to open pores, and cold water or ice to close them; this is especially common for those that try to perform extractions on themselves.

Client education. Show a diagram of the skin that demonstrates the function of pores; this will prove that it is not possible to open and close them. Explain that although some professionals say steam is used in a facial to open pores, it is actually used to soften hardened sebum and surrounding skin, making extractions easier to perform. It is also important that the client is aware that only licensed skin care professionals should perform extractions to avoid potential complications, including infection, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and even scarring. Estheticians are educated on how to perform extractions safely to reduce these risks. Although pores cannot be opened and closed, removing comedones, exfoliating treatments and skin-tightening procedures can all reduce the appearance of large pores.

Wording is everything

It can be frustrating when clients are adamant about details they have heard in the past, but it is the job of skin care professionals to educate them about what is true. Education is key—make the client feel comfortable and provide specific details. Skin care is easily misunderstood, so wording is everything. Estheticians are allowed to cosmetically enhance the skin, yet some unknowingly claim inaccessible goals with medical benefits. It is not just cosmetic providers; product companies often claim miracle results through false advertisements and commission-sought representatives. To be respected as a skin care professional, care must be taken when describing expectations. If the proper message is not delivered, it can result in unsatisfied clients and will eventually hurt your career. On the other hand, an educated, honest esthetician will always persevere.

Terri A. WojakTerri A. Wojak is a licensed esthetician with more than 16 years of experience. She has knowledge in all aspects of the skin care industry, including education, sales, medical esthetics, management and ownership, and she is the director, as well as an educator, at True U Esthetics in Chicago.

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