In 1977, Richard Thalheimer founded a company that would eventually bring James Bond gadgetry into the hands of the every day consumer—The Sharper Image. With the futuristic persona his tools and technology projected, there was hardly a person who did not marvel at the ingenuity he was witnessing.
As a result of this seemingly universal intrigue with compact, intelligent tools and technology, The Sharper Image has grown faster than any other company of its kind with sales that exceeded $525 million in 2007.1 Its scope of goods now includes everything from automated barbecue tools to talking robots to personal hygiene technology, and the meteoric growth of The Sharper Image was due, in part, to its originality and unique retail outlet. However, more than anything, its explosive success was representative of the inherent human fascination with ingenuity and technology.
As the physical tools of technology become smaller and more intelligent in every aspect of day-to-day life, it is no surprise this trend is coming forward in regard to skin care tools and technology. Whether it be high-tech lighting options that allow a spa professional to effortlessly examine a client’s skin or a new breed of rechargeable, battery-operated devices that can be used to promote ultimate agility in a spa’s environment and budget, there is no doubt that the industry’s tools are evolving to meet the needs of the ever-changing esthetic professional.
Bringing treatment out of the room
A big part of the technological evolution in the spa industry has been spawned by the extremely strong trend of literally bringing treatments out of the room and providing services on the more public spa floor. Although historically spa professionals have hidden away their secret tools and technology in the dark corners of treatment rooms, the future of skin care could not be more opposite.
The forward-thinking tools and technology of tomorrow’s skin therapist are more than simply effective—they are interesting and fashionable; the bling of skin care, they are hand-held, compact and cordless devices that can conveniently be carried to or positioned near the treatment chair in a “room-less” service environment are one of the hottest things going in the industry right now.
Although science has brought forth many photography tools and systems to analyze the skin, there is simply no replacement for the esthetician’s own visual assessment, as well as the personal, unique and specialized prescription for each and every client. As a result, lighting options that allow spa professionals to view the skin in a better light are a new trend in skin care technology. Devices such as visors and adjustable lamps are now utilizing LED technology, magnification options, agile movement and other features to illuminate the skin for more complete and accurate visual assessments.
The convenience of these innovative tools is that they not only benefit the skin therapist during an initial consultation and analysis, but also during the service itself. Because the lighting options are often self-lit, they can allow the spa professional ample working light to accurately perform services while the primary room light is kept at a minimum, maintaining ultimate comfort for the client.
The ultimate view
Other handy tools that have made great headway in the last few years are viewing scopes that allow spa professionals and clients an up close and personal view of the skin on a computer monitor. Historically, these devices have been a bit large, cumbersome and expensive, but the latest breed is smaller, more compact, ergonomically correct, affordable and stylish. The scopes can also offer optimum picture quality, high magnification, easy focus adjustment and other invaluable features.
And though most scopes have the ability to capture a still photograph and save it to a client’s file, forward-thinking skin therapists are using these scopes as a modern mirror. With clients being able to view their skin magnified 50–200 times on a computer monitor, they can instantly take a more significant interest in improving it, as well as gain an entirely new insight into how the skin works and why certain products and professional services are needed.
A strategic and compact tool that is quickly catching the eye of many spa professionals is the hand-held, battery-operated moisture analyzation meter that utilizes bioelectric impedance technology. Although this is not necessarily a completely new technology, more sensitve sensors have been developed for it, and the general engineering has been updated, finding measurements to be more dependable, consistent and clinically accepted.
As a skin therapist places the analyzation device on the skin, a low level of electrical current measures the conductivity, resistance and amount of time it takes to obtain a reading. These measurements are calculated against an internal database of statistics to determine the exact final numerical result.
This tool assists the skin therapist in gaining factual bio-marker measurements for each client in multiple areas of the face, neck and décolleté, and these measurements, in conjunction with a visual and physical examination of the skin, greatly refine the ability of a spa professional to prescribe specific products and services. Some might even say moisture meters are like a thermometer for skin therapists.
Exfoliation and penetration
Another new development in hand-held professional technology is the service of ultrasonic peeling combined with product penetration capabilities that uses a flat, metal peeling applicator. Ultrasonic exfoliation works with the high speed oscillations—often more than 20,000 Hz—of an exfoliation peeling applicator. The applicator is applied to the skin in upward motions, generally during the cleansing stage of a facial, and some spa professionals also combine it with light exfoliation enzyme gels. After the exfoliation and peeling effect is completed, the device can be programmed for positive or negative ionization, as well.
These new hand-held devices are often rechargeable and generally capable of one-and-a-half to three hours of continuous use. As most professional applications with this device consist of approximately 10 minutes of use, its possible that a full charge could last for an entire day.
Zoning in on microcurrent
With all the buzz on microcurrent and its benefits for the skin, it was only a matter of time before manufacturers created small, more compact microcurrent devices specifically for accent treatments that can be performed in “room-less” treatment environments. Many manufacturers are offering mini-lifting programs with their devices, as well as upgrades to software programming, as new facials and services are developed.
This concept is becoming more and more popular, as it can support an intelligent, earth-friendly engineering strategy that allows for investment in one piece of equipment that can provide innovations through software upgrades.
Gadgetry or necessity?
Knowing whether these new tools and technology are useful, or just gadgets and showy puffs of smoke, can depend mainly on the spa professional. By shopping wisely, you will likely come to realize that not all products are created equally, so use logic and look for science and education that support the technology. Seek out knowledgeable and credible manufacturers and suppliers who really know their stuff when it comes to technology and also take the time to educate you about their products.
And although the prices for these new tools are certainly attainable, there is no doubt you will see price variances within the marketplace. It’s important to remember that when you are investing in yourself and your business, settle for nothing less than the best.
These new hybrids of innovation and skin care represent some of the most technologically advanced ideas and concepts in the industry today. And best of all, they complement and respect the power of touch and are best utilized by spa professionals who know that the best technological tools are really their own set of esthetic skills.
(Accessed Jan 25, 2008)
Other articles by David Suzuki
Anti-aging and Technology: What Does it Really Mean? (July 2006)