By Paul Carbis
It has been a long time since I have been really critical of beauty therapists; I understand just how diverse the daily tasks are and yet how highly specialised the role is. I appreciate the long and often quite physical hours involved, but in recent times I have had a number of experiences that have made me question the professionalism of some of the therapists I meet.
Now, I know some extraordinary beauty specialists who perform to the very highest standards and who have undertaken extra studies to maintain their knowledge base in an ever - changing industry. However, increasingly I am confronted with staff who do not know enough about the products they use and sell or the equipment they should be utilising.
An industry of change
There is no doubt that other than the computing sector, the beauty industry is one of the most rapidly developing fields to work in.
Every year cosmetic chemists produce another new and miraculous ingredient to help keep the skin looking and feeling younger. Engineers create machines with pressure, air, lasers, light, sound and heat to transform the skin and change the way we look. Cosmetic surgery is rampant and the number of clients we treat that are on serious medication is ever increasing.
No one is saying that the role of a modern beauty therapist is easy. Yet the fact that we are now dealing with these highly effective products and equipment means that the emphasis on further training needs to be at the forefront of preparation for being a professional skin therapist.
Who is at fault?
Salon and spa owners and managers need to plan this extra curricula training into their staff development programmes. The better product and equipment suppliers are providing regular schools on product knowledge and equipment use. It is important that staff attend as much training as possible if they are to remain up to date with the latest industry trends. However, it is also the responsibility of professional therapists to undertake further training of their own. No longer can someone graduating from a beauty college with a Diploma assume that they are ready for the workforce.
There are just too many pieces of technical equipment and too many different product ranges with varying ingredient mixes for any school to prepare students adequately. In most countries I visit, the aesthetics curriculum is many years behind what the industry and public are demanding from their therapists.
This really hit home to me recently when I conducted a short product knowledge test as a part of my retail sales training, with a group of therapists. One therapist, who performed rather poorly, responded with:
"Well you cannot expect me to sell any home care because I do not know the products because I have not yet been to the product school".
I was absolutely dumbfounded. My response was to hand her the product manual and tell her to learn a section of the range at home as I would test her on it at the end of the week.
In my mind I was wondering if this lass was accepting a lower wage because she was not able to fulfil her full responsibilities.
Every salon and spa has new staff at some stage and there is no possible way even the biggest product supplier could offer continuous product knowledge schools, so professional therapists must undertake to learn their products themselves.
My own staff expect a product knowledge test, game or quiz as an agenda item in every staff meeting. They take pride in being experts in the products we stock. It is part of what sets us apart from our opposition. Expert Advice
A major part of the reason our clients visit our salons is that they want our expert advice. On the whole, salon exclusive products are quite active on the skin and require experts to determine the exact group of products to produce the best result.
With products so active a misdiagnosis could produce awful reactions on your clients skin, especially with contra-indications to allergies and medication.
Knowing product ingredients becomes vital in choosing in-salon treatments as well as recommending home care.
Expert product ingredient knowledge also allows a greater degree of flexibility in treatment programmes and the mixing of products. It provides an understanding of what equipment can be associated with specific products to assist in exfoliation, penetration, iontophoresis, cleansingindeed, a whole range of treatment protocols.
It is also vital to provide our clients with the correct products to suit their specific skin type. Knowing the ingredients will assist in determining what will best suit our clients skin through seasonal, hormonal, ageing or lifestyle changes. Excellent product ingredient knowledge also gives the client confidence that their therapist actually knows what they are doing. It is one of the major differences between pharmacy, supermarket and department store assistants and salon based therapists. In a salon or spa we are trained to understand the function of the skin, we have the equipment and facilities to analyse the skin correctly and we are expected to have outstanding knowledge of our products. Its not just Ingredients
Professional therapists know far more than just ingredients. They advise on how to use products, frequency, application techniques, order of application, storage and amount. To advise their customers fully, they know prices, value, how long products should last and comparisons with other brands. This all takes a commitment to extra learning.
Its the Same Expectation with Equipment
The modern salon has some amazing technology available for use. Skin diagnostic equipment and photographic computer images, LED Light Therapy, Micro-dermabrasion, Endomology, Ionto and Sonophoresis, IPL, VPL, Lasers and a myriad of others for just about every known skin concern. Professional therapists read the manuals, they attend as much training as they can and they read industry journals. Using these technically advanced pieces of equipment without a high degree of knowledge can have devastating results on your clients skin. Conversely, in the hands of an expert these machines can produce amazing results. The results your customers want, expect and pay for.
The Best Point of Difference Your Salon Will Ever Have
The best advertising and marketing on the planet will only ever bring a customer to your salon once if they are not convinced that the staff are experts in their field. Having a reputation as the local experts in skin care will always be the very best marketing point of difference for your salon over your opposition. Todays consumer is better educated than ever before. They have literally dozens of beauty and lifestyle magazines and television programs espousing the latest and greatest products and equipment, techniques and ingredients. They are demanding specialised equipment, specific products and expect that their therapist will know all about them. Those professionals that can display their knowledge, speak as an expert and offer the correct advice will not only retain a greater number of clients, but will be in demand as their reputation as an expert grows.
In Any Other Industry
Can you imagine a mechanic who wants to work on a modern car without computerised equipment? How about a doctor who doesnt consult X-rays, Ultrasound or guesses at medication on prescriptions? Would a baker not use scales and measuring implements or follow a recipe of ingredients? Does a chef not know how foods react with each other to produce a certain taste?
In any other industry, exemplary product and equipment knowledge is paramount to being successful and achieving a positive outcome for the customer. It needs to be the same in the beauty industry.
I urge salon owners and all therapists to review their product and equipment knowledge and timetable extra training both in and outside working hours to maintain the professional standards the public has a right to expect. After all, we are paid as professionals, experts in our field.
No therapist I have met has ever offered to hand back part of their wages to their employer because they did not adequately understand vital aspects of their position like the products or equipment they use or recommend.
As long as product companies keep discovering new ingredients and new skincare equipment is developed, the task of learning for a modern beauty specialist will be an ongoing process.
Paul Carbis is regarded as one of the worlds foremost authorities in salon and spa management. He is a regular visitor to expos and conferences in the USA, UK and throughout Australasia.
If you would like to have Paul conduct training at a conference, expo or industry meeting, he can be contacted on