"Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature." -W.H. Auden
Modern life has become increasingly mechanized as we add more and more technology to activities that once were human-driven. In our quest for efficiency and advancement we often end up physically isolating ourselves. A video conference with people across the country allows us to share ideas, but not something as simple as a touch. A technology-mediated world is increasingly resulting in touch disappearing from our daily lives. This disappearance is to our detriment.
In addition to technology affecting our opportunities for physical contact, cultural norms may complicate the idea of touch. Some cultures are much more prickly than others about what constitutes an acceptable touch interaction. The relatively reserved roots of much of USA culture may be partially responsible for the reluctance Americans can have with touch. People immersed in a restrictive culture may not even realize how many opportunities for touch are lost. Religious restrictions can complicate habits around touch as well. Another factor like local climate can set the tone for touch interactions, with cultures in warm, sunny environments tending to adopt a more touch-friendly culture. This leaves individuals in Northern areas literally out in the cold touch-wise.
The loss of this important facet to human life should be of concern, and luckily the esthetics world is in a wonderful position to reintroduce therapeutic touch to many people's lives.
Touch is essential to human health and wellbeing. Physical contact is one of our first and most primal forms of communication in life, and infants that are denied touch suffer delayed intellectual and emotional development. Touch activates the brain's orbitofrontal cortex, which is involved in feelings of reward and compassion. A well-received touch can communicate safety and trust between two people, and one study has been able to show that we can actually communicate compassion through touch alone more effectively than through facial expression. Reassuring touch from a loved one is even capable of disarming stress reactions.
All of these benefits put a spotlight on the crucial importance of the relationship between facialist and client. It also illuminates a benefit and bond that is often lost in many medi-spa environments where touch is strictly clinical, and appointments may be spent with machines.
In a touch deprived, isolated, digital society the time spent at the office of a trusted esthetician is a haven for an important moment of human, healing interaction. This is an arena where touch is eagerly permitted. An esthetician's table may be one of the few places the client receives a lengthy period of touch in their daily life.
Additionally the way the esthetician touches can communicate safety and compassion. Skin is an emotional conductor. Each client is a unique individual, not a number in a ledger or a sales goal, and they should be treated with care. Estheticians should be in a receptive, resilient, and warm emotional state themselves in order to properly connect with each client and convey healing compassion.
Skin improvement happens through truly healing the body. Superficial changes to the skin from exfoliation, hydration, and extraction will quickly diminish if the body's innate state of unease (dis-ease) reasserts itself. The only way to lasting improvements for the client is to work with the entire body and "woo" its complex systems.
So skip the machines. You were born with two of your most powerful, sensitive tools for treating your client - your hands.
Conventional ideologies put "stronger" products and fancy machines at the forefront, reducing the hands-on time. But healing is about more than just the surface of the skin, and benefits that extend beyond the treatment can be improved through touch. In holistic esthetics massage is the star of each treatment.
In a 2008 Japanese study it was found that a 45 minute facial massage treatment was able to decrease psychological distress, boost mood, and activate the body to a heightened state following the treatment. During the massage the parasympathetic nervous system was activated and enhanced. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the body functions during rest and relaxation, and oversees many unconscious body processes. After facial massage the sympathetic nervous system was boosted. This is the system that is involved with conscious action and fight/flight. This research suggests a heightened state of healing has been activated. The facial massage would allow the body to divert energy to deep healing during treatment, and return the client to their daily activities ready for improved productivity and with a more positive mood. These benefits go far beyond the 45 minutes spent on massage.
It is the job of the holistic esthetician to mobilize the innate healing resources of the client's own body.
All of the beautiful products in the world and the most beneficial phytochemistry will offer little improvement if the client's body remains in a stressed, imbalanced state. Touch is a major part of urging the body to relax and begin its own work in healing.
Along with this is the added benefit that time spent on massage is a wonderful opportunity to create a lasting impression and produce even better results through aromatherapy. This is not only smart healing work, it is good business. The nose is linked to some of the deepest, most primitive parts of the brain that are involved in producing long term memories. Clients will remember the lovely aroma they are bathed in while on your table, and their positive memory will have them coming back for more.
Aromatherapy massage is also more effective at reducing psychological distress than massage alone. This can be due to both positive association with certain scents, and the physiologic benefits of essential oils as they absorb into the client's skin. A course of massage therapy has been shown in one study to have benefits akin to psychotherapy!
Not only the compassion and communication of the touch matter, but techniques varying from light to deep pressure can have different benefits to the various layers of the epidermis, dermis and supportive tissues. A trained professional will know when to use each type of touch and fit them to the problem at hand. Very light lymphatic massage may be needed, but in some cases deeper pressure to connective tissues can help spur regeneration more efficiently than light touch. Sports medicine is now showing that fibroblasts, which are responsible for collagen production and other fibers, are spurred to greater action by deep pressure. Because of the potential for damage or irritation from deep pressure such treatments should only be executed by a trained professional.
The effects of touch from another person are also something that cannot be completely duplicated by the client at home. The body knows whether touch is from ourselves or another being, and psycho-social qualities such as connection and empathy are missing from solo touch. At-home self massage is absolutely valuable, but the physiological reaction to another human is unparalleled. Touch also benefits the person giving it as well as the recipient. Research has shown that the physiological benefit to the practitioner can be equivalent to that of the client. You'll be a happier, better-balanced therapist when you focus on touch as a major part of treatments.
Blissoma would like to assist you in making touch a memorable, deeply restorative, and business-building part of your esthetics practice.
To aid this effort we have created two beautiful, natural backbar massage lubricant recipes.
Flora Touch Facilitation Massage Gel and Primeval Herbal Immersion Massage Oil are designed specifically to maximize the therapeutic results of your facial massage. Flora is a water based gel with squalane and extracts of hydrangea and elderflower and Primeval is a rich, earthy oil with cooling blue vervain, passionflower, and regenerative comfrey with skin building schisandra co2 extract. Both are suited for skin types prone to inflammation, and contain no nut ingredients. Flora will offer about 6-7 minutes of slip, and Primeval will give in excess of 10 minutes of slip. We recommend using Flora on dehydrated skin to infuse extra water into the skin during the massage, and Primeval on damaged skin to soothe and protect it.
Conventional massage products often just create slip and a cool sensation. Our herbally infused, wholly nutritious, organic massage products make the most of your massage time by providing a bevy of vitamins, antioxidants, and phytochemistry. They will have extra time to absorb while you work the product on the skin, and the receptive state of the client will allow the body to put those compounds to their best use.
The right lubricant can provide an optimal tactile and therapeutic experience. We focused strongly on aromas that would make your massage a signature part of your service. Our choices of essential oils will assist you in relaxing the client and are suitable for almost every skin type.
To experience these products contact us for a wholesale account. Flora and Primeval are available only to skincare professionals with an approved Blissoma account, and more herbal and organic backbar products are in development.
Will you make massage an even bigger part of your facial treatments? The many benefits say you should! We hope to hear about more skin professionals adopting truly compassionate, conscious, and deeply effective ways of working. When we work in conjunction with the body's needs the results can be amazing.