Evaluating the skin
Evaluating the skin
Why we need to do it more accurately to be credible
By Florence Barrett-Hill CIDESCO ITEC Dips
In this day and age, precision and accuracy is demanded in almost every profession, and a commonality with professionals is their reliance on measuring devices to ensure accuracy and integrity is maintained.
Take a builder or tradesman for instance; the use of tape measures and rulers is mandatory, your mechanic or automotive technician uses highly accurate clearance gauges and electronic diagnostic equipment to maintain your vehicle.
Your doctor uses measuring devices and testing apparatus to help determine your health. Even the baker down at the local shops uses an accurate scale to measure their ingredients.
Why is it that so many beauty and skin treatment therapists still use subjective methods to analyse and make decisions about their clients skin?
The effective diagnosis and treatment of many skin conditions requires far more accurate data than currently employed to give their clients the result they expect, and are paying for.
One of the most difficult things to do when diagnosing a variety of skin conditions is to determine the effect a cause has had on cells and systems. Only by collecting evidence of what the prevailing physiological and chemical events are occurring, along with a detailed client history can any logical assessment be made.
And this is where the crux of the matter lies. To accurately determine a clients skin condition we must determine the reference point from which we will work toward improvement.
We need to use devices and procedures to measure certain parameters of the skin. There are a number of devices on the market that help with the analysis of the skin, however too many of them are either incorrectly used or are just unable to provide the accuracy of data required because of their design. This is largely due to either insufficient instructions on device usage or unrealistic claims from the device marketers. This is where the technologically inexperienced therapist can unwillingly waste their time and money.
As an example of a device being incorrectly used, I can recall an attempt by a skin care company rep to diagnose a clients skin with a black light skin scanner while they had a full face of make-up on. The absurdity of this still makes me laugh. How can the clients lipid flows going to be quantified if the skin surface had both oil absorbing and tinted substances on it? What was the hope of assessing the clients structural integrity correctly through foundation and blusher?
A further encounter had a proud therapist demonstrating her new sebum tester that was placed on the skins surface for 10 seconds to obtain its reading.
I started questioning the devices value when five tests on the same person by five different individuals revealed a variety of results. What was going wrong?
The problem was that the test was not a precision timed event, and each person who conducted the test counted the 10-second period slightly differently with the probe not on the surface for the same time for any of the tests. Measurements such as these are almost worthless as they are not repeatable with any accuracy.
As for devices with strictly limited uses, I had occasion to have my skin analysed through an expensive magnifying camera that showed spectacular close-ups of my pores and skin surface.
While it certainly looked impressive, the therapist conducting the examination seemed to be unsure of exactly what she was looking at and how it was relevant to my prevailing skin conditions. Although it was a great visual tool, it could not tell me the things I needed to know about lipid flows, vascular damage and the level of free water in the epidermis.
Even though there were analysis devices used in each of these cases, they did not provide any measured data that was free from subjective opinion. Think back to what I mentioned earlier about the tape measure. 1cm is the same on all tape measures. It is a measurement that is not open to misinterpretation. This is the type of measurement we should be conducting with our clients skin.
How much lipid is present? What are the levels of free water in the epidermis?
What grade of erythema is present? What is the background and displayed Fitzpatrick skin type? What is the epidermal pH?
We cannot gather this information by looking at the skin through magnifying cameras or conducting measurements that are not quantifiable against a known scale and are repeatable with a high degree of accuracy.
Thankfully there are digital skin testing devices available that do have the features to provide the information we need to know.
These devices use precision timed measurements that are repeatable and accurate and quantify various parameters of the skin to a scientifically based scale.
When a measurement of lipid levels, hydration, melanin, erythema or pH is conducted, a number representing the level or amount present is displayed.
This is what we are looking for. It is a quantified number relative to a scale, with no misinterpretation. Clear and concise. It is the therapists version of a tape measure.
While we may have been using the trained eye to determine conditions in the past, there is an increasing need to confirm these observations with accurate data, and this is where our analysis devices are brought to play. With a combination of visual examination, consultation and a range of skin tests, we can quickly establish an accurate physiological and chemical picture of the clients face or treatment area of interest.
Although these devices can be used individually, it is when they are used in combination that we obtain a more detailed picture of the skins prevailing conditions.
Take for example the correct use of both black light and a digital skin tester in harmony.
The digital skin tester is used to determine overall lipid levels, followed by a visual examination under black light to determine the areas of oil flow and quality of sebum present in various areas of the face.
In this scenario, each device is used to examine the same dynamic of the skin, in this case sebum. One device quantifies the overall level present and the other displays the density of flow and composition relative to the colour displayed.
A similar duo of tests can be conducted for susceptibility to pigmentation when undertaking skin rejuvenation with Intense Pulsed Light devices.
The black light is used first to determine the areas of concealed pigmentation that may cause concern, with the digital melanin tester used to quantify that level of pigmentation.
The combination of data is then be intelligently used to determine appropriate settings on the Intense Pulsed Light device to be used.
Without the employment of either of these analysis devices, how could the client be ensured of not having a post-treatment pigmentation issue? How else would you know if there was a potential problem lurking beneath the skins surface?
And so we return to the theme of this discussion. If the beauty and skin treatment therapist is to be seen as a professional in the eyes of an increasingly aware public, we must take steps to ensure our conduct and procedures are scientifically based.
If this requires us to invest in equipment that helps us become more accurate with our diagnosis and consequently more effective in our treatments, then we must take this step without hesitation.
© 2005 Virtual Beauty Corporation