Hello? What’s Your Phone IQ?

A large percentage of licensed skincare therapists, cosmetologists, and other professionals working in the health and beauty industries are solopreneurs. Being a solopreneur makes it really difficult to juggle between managing the business, answering calls and performing direct services, all at the same time. The most important thing that a solopreneur can do as the first step to close a sale is having Phone IQ. If they’re not answering the phone, returning a call on time or answering the phone properly, the chances to lose a sale are higher.

Note: 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone and 30-50% of sales go to the business that responds first.

Phone IQ is a term I’ve coined which entails everything from technology to phone etiquette. Let’s review your Phone Intelligence Quotient:

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You should have a dedicated line for your business. If you’re using your personal cell phone number, you don’t have Phone IQ. If you don’t want to have two mobile phones with you at all times, consider using Google Voice. It’s a free service, and it allows you to have a dedicated business number that rings into your cellphone allowing you to distinguish between personal and business calls. You can set it up with voicemail (VM) that can get transcribed into your email so you never lose a message.

Have a professional voice message for your VM. Keep it short, sweet and clear. Everybody knows they need to leave their “name, phone number and a brief message”, so skip all that. If you have too much information to offer, such as making announcements about your specials or changes in your policies, you should direct your clients to your website. But most importantly, state the time frame in which you are going to return calls (usually 24 hours) and stick to that time frame no matter how tired you are at the end of the day. However, keep in mind that the faster you return a call, the more likely you are to make a sale.

Note: Referring clients to your website will allow them to get more information about your offerings and your business. Having a “FAQs” page is highly advisable. Your website should definitely have a “Contact Us” page, as well as ways in which the client can easily schedule an appointment with you. (Read my articles on “Salons and Millennials” Part 1 and Part 2).  

Answer the call promptly. Sure, there are times when we just can’t drop everything to answer the phone. But your clients should expect a prompt response within 2 rings. Two rings should also be the setting for calls to go to voicemail. Don’t make the client wait for you.

Note: Treat questions, comments and complaints on social media just as promptly as phone calls. Seventy-eight percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. “Salespeople” in this context translates to “solopreneurs” who respond to potential and existing clients promptly on social media.

When answering the phone, stand up and smile. When you stand up, your energy increases, and when you smile, your client can “see” and “hear” it. Sending positive energy and vibrations to a potential or existing client makes them feel better about themselves, which in turn makes them feel better about doing business with you. Picking up the phone with a quick “Jane’s Salon, how can I help you?” sounds rushed, abrupt and boring and will automatically make the client feel put off. We are in a creative business. Get creative with your own “pick up line” and add a splash of friendliness.

Note: According to an article on Discovery, human beings can differentiate vocal intonation not only between a smile and a non-smile but among different types of smile. “Smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can actually identify the type of smile based on sound alone…” And since 84% of the message over a phone is your tone of voice, making sure that “smiling tone” comes through is imperative (Read source here).

If you must put a client on hold, let them know why. It only takes an additional 10 seconds at the most. I personally find it annoying when I am told, right off the bat, “can you please hold?”, especially when all I have is a “yes or no” question. Wouldn’t it sound better to hear “Thank you for calling XYZ Salon. I’m wrapping up with a client. Would you mind holding for about one or two minutes?”; and then wait for the client’s response. If you know it will take longer than two minutes, let the call go to voicemail and don’t pick  up. If you have an employee, ask for help and have the employee assist the caller. Oh, and make sure you have some kind of music programmed on your hold system. It’s frustrating to not know whether you’re on hold or if the call got disconnected.

How many times have you been under the impression that the business hung up on you? Urgh! Off-putting, isn’t it? Sometimes, the client has remembered one last question, or they are in the middle of telling you to have a good day, only to be cut off. So never hang up first. Just don’t do it. The rule is that the client hangs up first – not without hearing from you, first, that it was your pleasure to assist them and wishing them a good day. Waiting for them to hang up first sends the message that they are most important.

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Don’t speak over a client. It’s just rude. If the client is calling you with questions about your products or services, don’t rush to cut them off because you think what the question is. And when your client calls you because they have a complaint or concern, allow them to vent and finish what they have to say and immediately apologize. If you simply don’t have the time to discuss over the phone (you’re alone in your business and another client is soon to arrive) schedule them for a 30-minute (in your book) in-person meeting (you can call it chat, consult, discussion, etc). The client will feel more important and will most likely feel better about you and your business by the time they come to you.

Note: Retaining current customers is 6 to 7 times less costly than acquiring new ones. So put energy and effort in your current clients and solving their needs.

If you have the financial means to hire a Virtual Phone Service, do so. They provide all kinds of services that may be difficult for us, as solopreneurs, to get on our own (mainly due to our lack of technical knowledge). These services range from toll-free numbers, hold music, “call flip”, call recording and video conferencing to live attendant, among others.

Note: When you have to leave the office in the middle of a phone, “call flip” allows you to transfer the call from your desk device to your cell phone so you can keep talking on the go.

If you have employees, make sure they (all of them) are properly trained to answer the phone exactly as you want them to. Never allow them to deviate from that format. Have procedures in place on how to handle appointments, questions, sales, and complaints. Your employees should also expect that they, too, should answer the phone if you or the receptionist are not available. That phone call pays their salaries!

The following rules on how to answer the phone, along with examples of how the conversation may actually go, have been researched and put into practice by very successful small businesses. Many business coaches use these rules when a potential client calls them for the very first time. I would like to share them with you.

Rule #1: Build Relationship with the client

Salon: It’s a great day at XYZ Salon. How can I help you?
Caller: I wanted to know about your XYZ service.
Salon: That’s great. My name is _______. May I have your name?
Caller: Sandra
Salon: Hi Sandra. How are you today?
Caller: I’m good.
Salon: Awesome!

Note: Starting with “It’s a great day at…” and learning and repeating the name of the client several times over the course of the conversation is mandatory.

Rule #2: Ask Empowering Questions

Salon: So that I am able to help you better, would you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Caller: Sure
Salon: Is this treatment for yourself or are you calling on behalf of a friend?
Caller: Myself
Salon: What are the areas of concern that you’d like to target?
Caller: XYZ and ABC
Salon: Have you ever received a similar service?
Caller: Not really
Salon: What have you done so far to treat the area? At home or in salon? And are you currently using any products?
Caller: I’ve received ABC and just using XYZ
Salon: What kind of results are you expecting to receive?

Rule #3: Gain Commitment

Salon:
I ask these questions because a lot of times people have an idea in their mind of what this treatment is about and usually ask the wrong questions and have false expectations. Most people believe that XYZ they have had for years will go away in one session. That is not the case. It is for this reason that this treatment is being offered as a package of (amount) for $xxx.

This is where you will provide the necessary information. However, keep in mind that if you have a niche treatment that you’ve developed, the best course of action would be to ask the caller to schedule an in-person consultation (see below) and prevent your competition from gaining access to this information free of charge.

Rule #4: Ask for referral or to search testimonials and close

Salon: Sandra, what I’d like you to do is visit my Facebook page to see the “before and after” photos I’ve posted from clients who have authorized me to publish these photos. With no commitment, would you like to come in for a consultation?
Caller: OK
Salon: Great! What day and time are more convenient for you?
Caller: Tuesday at 3pm
Salon: Absolutely! I have that time frame available, so let me get some information from you (You want to get full name, email address and tel# and perhaps a credit card if you hold appointments with a credit card).
Salon: Sandra, I have you down for Tuesday at 3pm. Please note that I have a 24 hour cancellation policy which I recommend you read in full on our website. Also, Sandra, I would like to make you aware that we offer a Referral Program, which you can learn all about it on our website as well. Please let your friends and family know about our services and that we are here to serve them as well.

 

Salons and Millennials: The Missing Ingredient – PART 2

By now, you should be getting some ideas as to how to market to the millennial crowd. But there are still other characteristics you may want to consider before finalizing your marketing strategies.
Millennials are civic-minded (good citizenship) with a strong sense of community – locally and globally. Remember, they’ve been instilled that they are here for a purpose. They prefer to work for companies that sponsor events outside of work, especially so, when these are charity events or when the company supports volunteer opportunities.  They also care about supporting local businesses and promoting local employment. In fact, more than 50% of millennials make an extra effort to buy products from companies that support the causes they care about (research from Barkley, an independent advertising agency). They’re also twice as likely than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to care how their food is produced and whether or not is organic (Boston Consulting Group).

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Salon: You’re small and you’re local – you’re already half way there! Connect and submit a proposal to a few local companies that provide wellness programs for their employees. Present monthly lunch-and-learns at the company site, then provide discount coupons to the person in charge of benefits in the HR department so that they can be handed out to the employees. You can also connect with a local charity and co-host a fundraising event. Don’t know which charity to give to? Survey your clients before they’re out your door. Provide them with 3 or 4 options and extra space to add their own. Majority wins. 

Millennials are not individualistic but rather group-oriented, as long as these groups are formed by members of their own generation. They are willing to sacrifice their own identity – to not stand out among their peers – in order to be seen as part of the group.  This stems from the fact that parents of millennials have taught their children that every voice matters and equality is worth fighting for. Millennials have a strong sense of justice. They can be compared to the “Flower Child” of the Baby Boomer era.

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Salon: Provide opportunities to experience your services and products in groups!  Offer BOGO’s and…don’t cringe… extend the Loyalty Program to their best friend (only one friend) so that they can share it. 
Millennials like collaboration because they are community-oriented. They want everyone to get along. So, the possibility of collaborating with businesses and brands, is high in their list of interests. Alex Castellarnau from Dropbox, the popular file transfer cloud service, said: With millennials, “a new brand, service or product is only started by the company; it’s finished by the customers. Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product, the brand, with you. Companies that understand this and figure out ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.”
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Salon: While the observation above mainly refers to the technology sector, there are many ways in which a salon can collaborate with their millennial clients. Surveys are a great way to learn what people think, feel, need and want. Use MailChimp or Constant Contact to reach out to your clients. Choose your more loyal millennial clients and ask them how they would solve a specific problem you’re having and make it fun, like a contest. Provide a raffle opportunity for every participant and 1-month free membership, for example, to the winner of the contest. Talk about engagement!

Millennials are high-achievers. They’ve probably been put in career tracks since grade school. While Baby Boomers made their mark in the humanities and arts, millennials are leaving theirs in science and math. However, they care about balance between work and life. They are healthy-minded and actively seek out potential employers that offer fitness and wellness programs for their employees.

Because they are high achievers, they don’t like to waste time. When it comes to in-store experience, millennials will instantly grab their cell phones to do their own research about a service or product.  However, if the in-store experience can provide the knowledge they seek faster and better than it would take for them to browse their cell phones, that would prove to be a real value to the millennial.

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Salon: Having well-trained and knowledgeable employees is very important if your target market is Gen Yers. 

Millennials are adventurers. This is also the generation that has traveled the most. They consider business travel is an opportunity to explore a different place. As the adventurers they are, they crave new discoveries even within the daily and mundane. Shopping is no longer for “needed” items. They want the whole experience: the lighting, the colors, the textures, the music, the scents, customer service, testers, demos, and if possible, the history of the product or service and how the product or service is helping sustain our planet! They want to feel pleasure inside the store. They want to talk about it and share their experience with their peers (remember, they’re group-oriented). This is, in part, the reason why cuisine in America has become so eclectic, from expensive fusions to cheap messy food trucks. Millennials are always searching for the new, exotic, memorable, and even perhaps, dangerous experience.

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Salon: Because millennials are so keen to traveling and to new experiences, providing regular new experiences will keep the millennials’ interest. These experiences can range from product launches to workshops to surprise monthly “late night” hours. Get creative – the options are limitless.

As I’ve said before, millennials are a highly social, group-oriented generation, and they socialize over every single experience, offline and online. They are the experts on social media. They live, eat, breathe social media. It would only make sense that businesses that want to target millennials have all their knots and bolts in place to provide exciting, engaging and up-to-the-last-minute social media campaigns. Have you heard the saying “You snooze; you lose?” If you just can’t keep up with DIY campaigns or can’t afford a social media marketing company, there are other very affordable ways you can accomplish this. A highly recommended, trustworthy VA (Virtual Assistant) could become your savior!  If you’re not active on social media, you become irrelevant to millennials, who are quickly moving to the next and best thing in seconds.

 

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Salon: It is important to bring social media into the store. First, you can let millennials know where you are online by posting decals from Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, Foursquare, StumbleUpon, YouTube or whatever social media networks you use. Ask them to “check-in” and provide incentives when they do. Foursquare offers ways to earn badges and win freebies or discounts (incentives) for check-ins that you can control.

Millennials were born in the digital era; so when it comes to technology, they expect it to work flawlessly, period.  From home computers to internet to cell phone texting to online gaming where millennials interact with others, to sharing music – the world is at their fingertips and they expect the information to be available exactly at the moment when they need it. Millennials, for the most part, don’t watch TV, don’t go to church, rarely smoke and hardly sleep. A Pew study concluded that 80% of millennials sleep with or near their cell phones. Not only is the cellphone a way to communicate (call or text), but it’s also a way to learn the latest gossip and news, to hook up, to make new friends, to remind them of tasks or appointments, to recommend travel experiences and to research information about products, read their reviews and compare prices while shopping. They also post reviews and share their experience with a particular business or product IRT (in real time), so they feel they are part of the collective decision-making. Millennials even donate to charities through their cellphones!

Because millennials are all about convenience, making it easy for them to pay for your products and services is key to successfully close a deal with a millennial. This may require an upgrade to POS terminals and add the necessary software to make all transactions as easy as possible. When it comes to Loyalty Programs, there was consensus, at a recent Microsoft Envision Conference, that it must be digital in order for the program to succeed.

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Salon: It would only make sense to make your website and create fun apps that are mobile compatible. Include Loyalty Programs and Discount Coupons that are easily scanable with your POS terminal. For example, you could have the technology in place to safely store clients’ data, including credit card information.  Consider using NFC (near-field communication) contact-less payment options like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Venmo. Even Facebook is beta-testing their contact-less payment app. It would also be advisable to have quality WiFi in your store – a huge convenience for millennials in exchange for your lack of flexibility…

In summary, the fact that you are a small, local business gives you an edge. But don’t stop there. Sell unique products and services and help support a cause by engaging in fundraising events or providing online or app charity donation ability. Make it easy for millennials to see, feel, taste, buy, use, research and review your product or service. Give your salon employees the option to download your payment app (Square, PayPal, Venmo) so that they can more easily check out your clients. Provide an outside-the-salon experience by having an engaging website, online appointment with easy self- rebooking and cancellation, preferably with texting capability. Create your very own business app. Consider upgrading your POS terminal and necessary software such as CRM (Client Retention Management) and accounting system, as well as offering easy access WiFi and cellphone charging station. Have all your social media accounts updated and managed by a professional. Virtual Assistants are an affordable way to go, especially when you need to be on alert to manage your online reputation. Offer Loyalty or Perks programs, memberships and the ability to purchase gift cards and eGifts (www.Yiftee.com) through their cellphones. Provide surveys and opportunities to provide testimonials to make millennials feel part of your business. Offer virtual consultations through Skype or FaceTime and offer express services or technology-based services including the use of ProScope (microscope for phone on-the-go skin analysis) and a SkinScope Scanner for skin analysis. You’ll have them at…hello!

Salons and Millennials: The Missing Ingredient – PART 1

Fifteen to twenty-five years ago, the buzz word in our industry was “Baby Boomers.” Marketing efforts emphasized how we needed to market our services to this segment of the population. I remember taking countless workshops on how to develop specific treatments and service menus to ensure that the Baby Boomer generation’s health and beauty needs were being properly addressed in our industry. Millennials who were born in the 1980’s have also been taught that our industry’s lead consumers are Baby Boomers. While Baby Boomers are still a huge part of the target market we serve in our salons, the new buzz word that has been…well, buzzing for a while, is “millennials”. But we have been so conditioned to target Baby Boomers, that millennials are still an untapped segment of the population by salons and spas, and marketing efforts to attract this generation have not been completely successful because we just don’t know how to address their needs.

Salons and spas need to understand the psycho-social attributes of millennials if they want to be successful at targeting this generation. Millennials, or Gen Yers, are simply different. Born approximately between 1980 and 2000, they can be characterized by very specific traits, which must be carefully considered when offering services, products and the space where they will experience these services and products.

Dubbed as Generation “Me”, millennials are highly confident and tolerant, while also demonstrating a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. They feel special because their parents have instilled in them that they are vital to our world – that they were born for and with a purpose. They have been celebrated and praised; therefore, millennials expect to receive frequent positive feedback. They are assertive. They believe they are “right”. They crave attention.

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Salon: Use words in your marketing campaigns that allude to being special and how they can conquer the world with great skin. Your customer service must be impeccable. 

However, millennials are also a highly protected generation, having been coined the “Peter Pan” Generation. They have grown up in a world where there have been increased safety measures (school lock downs, warning labels, safety laws). They don’t like to deal with unpleasantness because their parents have advocated on their behalf throughout their lives. This, along with financial uncertainty, has caused a tendency in millennials to delay certain rites of passage into adulthood like living with their parents for a longer period of time and delaying age of marriage and having children. Emerging adulthood has been established now at 25 years of age.

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Salon: Emphasize on their need for safety by promoting your salon’s sanitary and safety procedures. Produce videos on your sanitation/sterilization processes or how main supplies are actually disposable rather than re-usable.  

Honesty gives us all a sense of protection. Millennials, in particular, highly value transparency – that is, open, genuine, truthful, authentic and honest relationships with everyone, be it their employers, their service providers, their family members, their peers and the products they buy.

Millennials have accumulated more debt (student loans) than any other generation prior, and experienced firsthand a global financial crisis and the highest unemployment rates in US history – second only to the Great Depression. And, considering that data from a 2014 study of US Millennials, which revealed that over 56% of that group considers themselves as part of the working class, and that only nearly 35% consider themselves in the middle class, transparency seems to be the most powerful motivating factor for millennials as consumers of goods and services – not money. Millennials are loyal to brands that they feel convey authenticity, trustworthiness and reliability and are willing to pay a premium for that trust, even if they can’t afford it.

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Salon: Along with providing more affordable services, provide a service menu with very clear pricing parameters and add-on’s. Once in the room, don’t offer an add-on without providing the additional cost to the final bill ahead of time. No one likes it and millennials much less. Learn your ingredients well and make sure that when you say whether or not a product contains XYZ ingredient, that this is actually accurate for the entire line(s). Millennials will research everything you tell them and will question you. Besides, transparency transcends space and time.

Millennials feel the pressure to succeed at all costs. As children, they had tight schedules with structured activities (school, sports, arts, socials with friends). This generation has had more hours of homework and less free time than all previous generations. What Baby Boomers and Generation Xers once enjoyed – spontaneous play in the rain, makeshift hero capes with towels and houses on a tree with bed sheets – millennials have not experienced.  They are multitaskers and have a hard time handling free time. They can juggle many responsibilities at once, but they are also easily distracted with social media, not to mention texting. They take on a lot, and then expect others to be flexible with them when there is a scheduling conflict.

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Salon: Flexibility is difficult to provide when we are in the business of scheduled services. However, providing other conveniences and trusted services and products to millennials will prove effective in having them develop brand loyalty toward your business.  Additionally, as professionals, we were trained to serve the Baby Boomer generation who didn’t even imagine what the internet could do. We need to serve millennials differently. Salon services need to be cut shorter and/or allow time for millennials to check their cellphones. Relaxation has another meaning to them. And if this idea makes you cringe, perhaps your marketing campaigns could address the effects of radiation and gravity on the skin.Read these article from Skin Inc: Tech neck, cellphones, and selfies.

Anal Bleaching and…Love?

Anal bleaching and love: these are two terms that, together, most people would think are a joke. Well, it isn’t. If you are following my blog, you’d know by now that this is my niche service and I have been offering it for years. So, I have a clue or two as to the type of client that will call me requesting this service, and I can even tell you *when* they will call me to schedule an appointment.

The first thing that my non-industry (skincare/wellness) friends or acquaintances ask me when I tell them what I do is “why would anyone do that?”  I give them general answers, but the truth is that most people do it because of love.

We, as humans, have the innate NEED to love and be loved. Love looks differently to different people. The point is that we all seek out love. But what does anal bleaching have to do with love? Well, for most of us, love is expressed through our sexuality. Just like love looks differently to different people, so does sexuality. And when people have sex, there are certain body parts that are exposed in ways that can make a lot of people feel too exposed, vulnerable and self-conscious.

Most clients that come to me for Intimate Skin Bleaching (I prefer to use the term “Intimate Skin Bleaching” because it also includes the vaginal area and other areas the client might consider intimate or private) are women who have recently gotten divorced and are now back in the dating scene. Others have been single and celibate for years, and they’ve decided it’s time to become sexually active again. I’ve had clients who have met their new “lovers” in another country, and after a time having a long distance relationship, they’ve decided to get together and make the encounter “special” by making sure that their intimate parts look they way they think their partners will like. As you can see, these are all cases of people yearning to be accepted and loved.

Another characteristic of Intimate Skin Bleaching clients is the day when they call to schedule an appointment.  In my experience, most calls come in on a holiday; and it’s become sort of an inside joke between my boyfriend and I. Whenever my telephone rings on a holiday (and I don’t recognize the number), my boyfriend says “someone needs anal bleaching.”  And low and behold, he is correct. And let me clarify, although we make light of the situation, we have seriously discussed the possible reasons as to why this may be happening. And we have come up with the theory that perhaps people feel lonely on holidays, and that gives them time to ruminate and focus on what’s “wrong” with them, causing them to go beyond the physical and look further into their most intimate areas. This, dear reader, is not funny at all.

Low self-esteem is definitely the culprit of why people seek out Intimate Skin Bleaching services.  And while women (and some men) deal with self-esteem issues as they relate to their intimate body parts, there are, on the other side, a group of people who vilify those who offer such service or products.  I’ve been “attacked” by some of these people who tell me that I encourage low self-esteem.

I disagree. Firstly, I have come to understand the reasons why people seek me out – they want to be accepted and loved. I’ve learned this from my hundreds of conversations with clients about their lives and what they’re willing to share with me over the phone (voluntarily and without being prompted) as to why they “need” Intimate Skin Bleaching – the “acceptance and love” that we’ve been talking about.  Secondly, I have found out, through trial and error and research, those ingredients that are effective yet safe for the client’s health. Thirdly, because of my training as a Health Educator, I am able to provide proper counseling as to the risks of such treatment, including conversations about self-esteem. And lastly, I am empathetic and project, through my actions, that I do care about their physical as well as their emotional well-being, while also projecting a non-judgmental attitude. These last behaviors are what the client is also looking for as part of that “acceptance/love”: empathy, caring and non-judgment.

There are indeed unethical providers and product manufacturers out there. And yes, there are indeed commercials that perpetuate low self-esteem by exploiting the feelings of the characters through rejection simply because their skin is not “light enough”.  However, in a world full of people who are emotionally affected through these media images and messages, there are other qualified and properly-trained professionals who are able to provide Intimate Skin Bleaching services in a compassionate manner and discuss with clients the importance of self love.

Skin is a mirror reflection of your overall health

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By now, you’ve heard the cliche’ – and may be tired of hearing – that your health is a mirror reflection of your skin. It’s true! In my 24 years working with skin and hearing my clients talk about their health concerns and situations and my continuous studying of skin as an organ – not as a beauty statement – have led me to recognize this fact – the skin is a mirror reflection of your overall health. In today’s blog, I will use myself as an example of this fact.

For several months now, I had been experiencing an unbearable itch all over my body. I developed sensitivities to soap, even to the non-latex gloves I use to perform skin treatments! There have been countless sleepless nights and nothing – nothing – can take the itch away. We changed our laundry detergent, dish washing soap, shower gels, shampoo, you name it.  At some point, I thought we were infested with bed bugs, but that wasn’t the case, to my relief!

Shortly after the itching began, I ended up in the ER and after 2 months of tests and appointments with several specialists, they discovered I had gallstones. This is the reason I needed surgery – I had my gallbladder removed. Because my gallbladder was blocked, I was accumulating the bile, which started to become toxic and caused to liver to become fatty. My liver just couldn’t handle or process anything, so it began to become enlarged. Throughout this ordeal of medical appointments, I began to notice that I was developing some sores on random places of my body (not scratch related – see picture below).

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So, I began to share with friends, family and acquaintances about my severe case of itchiness. Until finally someone mentioned that they had known people with gallstones who had the same symptoms. So, I decided to do more research on this.

Sure enough! Although not very common, it is not unusual either for people to experience itchy skin when having gallstones. When a stone blocks the bile duct, the bile collects and becomes toxic, and this toxicity may reflect as itchy skin.

The day after surgery, the itchiness almost went away in its entirety! I am still dealing with itchy skin because I am still healing and my liver is now in the process of cleansing and repairing itself but nothing compared to what I was experiencing! And I am not even going to address the fact that even my melasma has cleared! But this is another topic for another time.

I cannot convey in my writing how horrendous this itchiness has been. There were times that I left my skin raw, other areas with rash-like bumps. In my travels through the internet researching this itch, I came across this excellent article about gallbladder and liver health and I thought it would be nice to share. Gallbladder and liver diseases are sometimes masked by other health issues. An innocent (or not so innocent) itch that has no apparent reason might be a symptom. Please take care of your health and your skin will treat you well.

Rodan and Fields – Unethical Beyond Belief!

12033214_10207980473096681_4665603173707007191_nRodan and Fields – Unethical beyond belief!

This is how powerful marketing and blatant unethical dissemination of information can be, including words from professionals whose titles are highly regarded in the industry. Here you have – Rodan and Fields – two dermatologists (a title they love to flaunt) claiming two things: 1) that they “invented” a product. First of all, ANYONE with some knowledge of basic ingredient chemistry can “invent” a product, send it to a lab, have the chemist formulate it and pay a branding company to get your name/logo all over the place. I recently had a client who came in as a client (her excuse) because she wanted to introduce herself as a future vendor – she was “creating” a new skincare line. When I asked her about specific ingredients, she had no clue what I was talking about. She wasn’t even in the cosmetics industry, and said she needed to get back to her chemists to see if they were using any of the ingredients I mentioned. So there you have it. YOU, my friend, CAN create a new skincare line! Just Google it. 2) R&F claim that their products are “pharmaceutical grade” (see picture). READ MY LIPS: the FDA does NOT, I repeat, does NOT differentiate between “different types” of cosmetics and their information is simply untrue. The FDA has absolutely NO SAY when it comes to cosmetics. And because people believe what they are told, let me offer you some quotes from the FDA directly:

– FDA’s legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products we regulate, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market, although we do approve color additives used in them (except coal tar hair dyes).
– FDA encourages cosmetic firms to report product formulations through the VCRP. However, the companies are not legally required to tell FDA about their products and safety data.

–  Because the law does not require that bad reactions to cosmetics be reported to FDA, we may be unaware of problems.
– FDA can inspect manufacturing facilities to determine if proper controls and practices are being followed. FDA also works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to examine imported cosmetics. But because resources are limited, only a few establishments are inspected each year, and just a fraction of imports are physically examined.
– FDA does not have the resources to sample and analyze all cosmetics on the market.
– The CIR is an independent, industry-funded panel of medical and scientific experts that meets quarterly to assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients based on data in the published literature as well as some that is voluntarily provided by the cosmetic industry. The industry data may or may not be complete. FDA takes the results of CIR reviews into consideration when evaluating safety, but the results of FDA safety assessments may differ from those of CIR.

– FDA cannot require recalls of cosmetics, but works with companies to make sure their recalls are effective.

– There are no regulations or requirements under current United States law that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of cosmetic products. Manufacturers have the responsibility to determine shelf life for products, as part of their responsibility to substantiate product safety.

– In direct response to this marketing piece from R&F: 

Cosmetic products are not expected to be aseptic; however, they must be completely free of high-virulence microbial pathogens, and the total number of aerobic microorganisms per gram must be low. Since there are no widely acceptable standards for numbers, temporary guidelines are used instead. For eye-area products, counts should not be greater than 500 colony forming units (CFU)/g; for non-eye-area products, counts should not be greater than 1000 CFU/g. The presence of pathogens would be particularly important in evaluating as unacceptable a cosmetic with a marginally acceptable count, e.g., 400 CFU/g for an eye-area product. Pathogens or opportunistic pathogens whose incidence would be of particular concern, especially in eye-area cosmetic products, include S. aureus, Streptococcus pyogenes, P. aeruginosa and other species, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. Some microbes normally regarded as nonpathogenic may be opportunistically pathogenic, e.g., in wounds.

For details about ALL MICROBIAL AND PATHOGEN TESTING required for manufacturers, use this link: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/LaboratoryMethods/ucm073598.htm

– For more information, go directly to the FDA website and go through some of the links. Just pick and choose and you will soon find out there is NO SUCH THING!

http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/Labeling/Claims/ucm203078.htm

FAIR PACKAGING AND LABELING ACT: http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/ucm148722.htm

The Top 6 Myths About Anal Bleaching

intimate bleachingThere’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let’s start by dispelling the top six myths I get asked all the time.

It’s only for the anal area

Actually, “anal bleaching” is the common term used for Intimate Skin Bleaching, which is the umbrella term. Intimate Skin Bleaching applies to the anus, the vulva, underams, under the breasts, testicular and groin areas.  For some people, the knees, elbows and neck are also considered intimate areas, therefore all of these areas can be treated using the proper umbrella term – Intimate Skin Bleaching.

It’s a one-time deal type of treatment

This is probably to the #1 top myth.  Keep this in mind: it took years for your backside to get this dark. While it won’t take years to lighten it, it will certainly take at least 6 weekly sessions. Regardless of which route you go: at-home product, in salon service or medspa laser treatment, it definitely takes more than one treatment to get the area lightened.

“Bleaching” involves the use of harsh chemicals

Nothing is further from the truth. There are indeed many products coming to our country containing banned ingredients (via Amazon or eBay) such as mercury, for example. Mercury is highly toxic and can cause serious psychiatric, neurological, and kidney problems. Pregnant women can pass the mercury to their unborn child. Another toxic ingredient for these intimate areas is hydroquinone or HQ. Prolonged use of HQ could lead to ochronosis and has been linked to toxicity in the body, including cancer. A highly reputable skincare center would never use harmful ingredients. In fact, there are many advances in the skincare industry allowing for highly active botanicals such as alpha hydroxy acids and peptides to do wonders for skin pigmentation.

Anal bleaching completely gets rid of the dark pigmentation

All pigmentation might not go away. First of all, the vulvar area, for example, does tend to be darker than the rest of the body because it’s a highly vascularized area (blood vessels). The anal area, due to its main bio-physical purpose, may not clear 100%. If our skin is naturally darker, lightening these darker areas might take longer than a person with lighter skin. If the ingredients being used are safe for your body, the realistic expectation is to not expect 100% lightened skin.  Going the unsafe, unhealthy route will not allow you to enjoy your lightened areas as much as you would like for as long as you would like.

As long as safe ingredients are used, there are no other risks involved

Most people I talk to – clients and skincare professionals alike – are not aware at all of the risks this treatment might impose on clients (and the professional as well). First of all, when having the anal (and vaginal) area worked on, this treatment can definitely make the client more susceptible for HIV infection and other STDs. Also, since most STDs are asymptomatic, a client might not be aware they have an STD, exposing the skincare professional to an infection (if not wearing or removing gloves properly). Also, if the client has an STD and treatment is performed in the same area, it could worsen the infection.

Skincare centers and professionals offering anal bleaching are experts in this specialty treatment

As a skincare professional of 24 years, and sex and health educator for over 10 years, I am shocked at the numerous times I talk to other skincare professionals about Intimate Skin Bleaching’s potential risks because the look in their eyes is like “OMG! I had no idea!”  So, if you’re looking for a reputable and knowledgeable place, ask this test question: “Will this treatment put me at risk for HIV infection and other STDs?”  If the answer is no, look somewhere else. You can also ask if the skincare professional is specifically certified in Intimate Skin Bleaching. Chances are they’re not properly trained. This is the reason the Institute of Holistic and Transformative Aesthetics (IHTA) was created, to properly train and certify skincare professionals on Intimate Skin Bleaching.