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Spa-ing 411 For Brown Skin Facials

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Last month I wrote an article for Huffington Post called Blogging While Ethnic. It told of the experiences I encountered as a young African-American woman trying to find informed skin care professionals who could fix my problem skin.

That article garnered a lot of attention mostly from the spa and beauty industry. I was invited to a couple of important events including one held in New York City by the International Spa Association (ISPA). I also received several requests for interviews from various magazines specializing in beauty for brown women. The recurring theme in all of my conversations with these women of color was the desire to find skin care specialists who understood their skin. They were willing to pay whatever it cost for the freedom to relax and know that they would leave their facial treatment physically unscathed.

As I delved deeper into this issue I continued to be amazed by the knee-jerk reactions of some members of the spa industry. At one event I chatted with the director of a renowned spa in the Caribbean. She assured me that despite her blondness and white skin she had all the knowledge needed to serve her international brown skinned clientele because her own skin had been oily since her teenage years. Her expertise came from real life. I made a mental note to cross that particular spa off my go to list of destination vacations.

Unfortunately the reaction of that spa director is not uncommon. Nor is the glazed almost defensive look that many spa managers and therapists assume when broached with the subject of ethnic skin care training. I wonder if it is arrogance, apathy or just a total denial of the idea that all skin was not covered during the first go round at an esthetic academy. Perhaps the thought of incurring cost for additional training is off putting even though it would serve to greatly enhance the therapist's skill.

One response which was very different came from the President of the ISPA, the dynamic Lynn McNees. She expressed that the need for ethnic skin care education was critical to creating new streams of revenue for the spa industry and necessary for maintaining relevance in a fast moving global industry. She felt however that stimulating the need for more training lies partially with our customers. Ethnic women must begin to demand that spas have knowledgeable service providers.

This brings me to another point. Many ethnic women who come to me for facials tell me that they didn't know they could look pretty after a receiving the service. Tiffany Rae-Reid, host of Mixed Race Radio shared that her results always looked o.k. but not overwhelmingly great. As a bi-racial woman, she'd never considered how much better her skin could have looked had her esthetician treated it in its ethnic totality. What then, as a woman of color should you be checking for when seeking a facialist? There are at least five things you can do to enhance your chances for a positive experience;

1. Before you go do your homework.
Google the spa, see if it's in the news, what type of media coverage their estheticians have. If you don't find anything, that may be a red flag.
2. Ask the spa if they have an ethnic skin care specialist or best facial award winner.
If they answer yes, schedule a consultation. This will allow you to become more familiar with your service provider. It only takes a few minutes to determine if you trust someone. Ask her about her background with ethnic skin, years in the industry and her own skin experiences. She should be doing as much listening as talking. Trust your instincts.
3. If the spa recommends a non expert ask how long she's been in the industry.
Ten years experience is your minimum. Google her. Get a consultation.
4. Ask which skin care lines are carried at the spa.
If the esthetician is only working with one skin care line that's mediocre, it may limit her ability to maximize your skin's beauty. Do your product research.
5. During your consultation, ask the esthetician if she will perform extractions on your first visit.
If the answer is definitely yes, that may be a red flag. A better response is 'maybe'. Seek out an esthetician who errs on the side of caution.

Linda Harding-Bond is an international spa trainer, master esthetician and creator of The Ethnic Skin Series on YouTube and www.Ethnicskinaficionado .