It's the moment every beauty pro dreads: getting a call from your client after they've left your salon or spa to tell you something is wrong. This is when you go into detective mode to find out what happened. How do you handle it?
How To Prevent An Allergic Reaction
You can prevent many unfortunate reactions with your initial consultation. You need a thorough medical history, including medications and allergies along with a careful skin analysis. Here are some other things you need to know:
Handling Your Client's Allergic Reaction To A Skin Treatment
When a client calls about an unusual reaction, a cell phone picture is nice, but a live check-in is better. Persuade them that you need to see them in person to get the best understanding of what has happened to their skin and to interview them about the reaction.
When the client comes in, you need to determine a few details. For example, if a chemical peel was done, what was the pre-peel degreaser? How was the peel applied?With a cotton pad, brush, rough or smooth gauze? What were the peel ingredients? How many layers were applied? How long was it left on? What did the client do at home? Do they have pets? Did pet dander affect the acid –mantle balance? Did they apply post-treatment care with clean hands? Have they been around heavy fragrances that can cause irritation to already compromised skin? This may seem like a lot of questions but getting specific is the only way to know the true cause of the reaction.
If it’s a reaction from a facial, what steps were used to perform the facial treatment? Was steam used? What ingredients were in each of the products? Some ingredients can’t be combined. Did you know tea tree oil cannot be combined with lavender? Don’t mix salicylic and retinols. It will strip away too much of the stratum corneum. Benzoyl peroxide and retinols should not be mixed unless they are in prescription formulations. The benzoyl peroxide will cancel out the retinol in a chemical reaction and cause unusual skin irritation.
A visual assessment is critical. If the skin is photosensitive, tender with touch, it could be an allergic reaction. Swelling, hives with itching or stinging is usually an allergy. Clear blistering that is painful could indicate herpes or a staph infection. Pustules, scabbing, crusting and weeping usually means infection. If a reaction begins to spread beyond the area that you provided treatment, like swelling that is moving down the neck, when you only treated the face, its time for a medical professional to step in. If the reaction is continuing beyond the period of time when the client’s skin should be healing, you can not diagnose. An evaluation from a medical professional is reasonable.
These are specific questions for specific treatments. If your client had a different service, you'll have to ask different questions accordingly. When in doubt, consult the ingredients in the products used during the service as well as the home-care products (or products your client used without your consultation at home) to see if these could be causing their reaction. And if their symptoms don't appear to be caused by the service you gave them? Always refer them to see a medical professional.
What To Do In The Future
After a client has an allergic reaction and you find the cause, make sure to update their medical form ASAP. Make note of their reaction in your client notes and list any products you used as well as the name of the service. This way, future reactions can be prevented. Additionally, you should always brush up on the ingredients you're using in your treatment products with a Skin Care Ingredients Dictionary and compare them to your medical forms before a treatment.
Additionally, when the client starts on new home care, have them start gradually. Add one or two new products at a time. Begin with three times a week. Then progress to every other day. Then every day. Check in after three to five days to see how they are adjusting to the products and then again at three weeks. This lets you tweak the plan of care rather than deal with a bigger problem down the road.
No matter the reason, communication with your client is essential when they have an allergic reaction to a skin treatment. Close follow-up after a new treatment or recommending a new home skin care regimen will show your client that you truly care about giving them the best results for their skin.
Photo: Shutterstock | LittleDogKorat
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Mary Nielsen grew up in Minnesota but calls Portland, Oregon home for the past 30 years. She is the Executive Director of Spectrum Advanced Aesthetics Institute and serves on the board of Certified Advanced Estheticians for the state of Oregon. She is a happily married grandmother who has been thrilled to be working in the never dull field of advanced esthetics for over 17 years. She spends her free time outdoors or at her sewing machine.
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