A real aesthetic make-over

Karen Ellithorne

Karen Ellithorne discusses how somatologists can successfully evolve into medical aesthetic therapists.


We have all heard the terms ‘medical aesthetic treatments’ and ‘advanced skincare treatment’ and are most probably offering some form of this treatment category in our skincare clinic already. However many of us, especially those who have been working in the industry for several years, are unsure how to groom ourselves in order to grow into an actual medical aesthetic therapist.


Loving skin and science


If you are looking at getting involved in more advanced skincare treatments, you should be invested in knowledge of skincare. In order to have successful treatment outcomes, it is imperative that you have detailed knowledge of the functioning of the skin and how different active ingredients work from a more scientific perspective. This is especially important when looking at treating skin conditions like acne and pigmentation.


Working with some of the industry’s top cosmeceutical brands and attending their training workshops and events will dramatically help to expand your knowledge in this area. As these brands often have scientists or doctors behind them, they invest heavily in research and case studies for proven treatment outcomes and results. These doctors and scientists very often form part of their education teams and programmes and offer a great opportunity to increase your knowledge.


Study skin physiology


Even though you will be training and working with cosmeceutical brands, read, study and attend as many lectures as possible on skin physiology. When preforming these types of advanced treatments, this up to date knowledge is going to serve you well if you have a good understanding of how skin functions on the epidermis, as well as in the deeper dermis.


In South Africa it is also important to have a good knowledge of all the different photo types – Fitzpatrick 1 to 6 – and how they react to treatments.


To work as an aesthetic therapist you should attend training courses so that you are completely confident in performing skin needling, peels and laser treatments.


Isa Carstens Academy recently launched an advanced diploma in Dermal Aesthetics. This is a one-year diploma for qualified somatologists wanting to work with medical practitioners.


Machine know-how


When working with medical aesthetic equipment like lasers, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), micro-needling and radiofrequency (RF) devices, it is imperative that one has a sound knowledge not only of the functioning of the skin and how it heals post a wounding treatment, but of how the equipment functions as well.


This type of high value equipment could be one of the best investments ever made for an aesthetic clinic, or a rather expensive mistake if left in the hands of an uneducated and untrained operator.


A good understanding of how the machine works, what skin types and conditions are indicated and how to combine treatment protocols is imperative for the successful use and longevity of equipment in an advanced skincare environment.




As skin consultation is key for successful treatment outcomes in advanced skincare clinics, many have skin scanning devices that measure the skin’s sensitivity, hydration and sebaceous secretion levels, as well pore size, depth of wrinkles and pigmentation.


This type of in-depth consultation, which can last up to 90 minutes, is imperative in putting together the skin treatment plan for the patient and measuring the treatment outcomes.


When used correctly this device will also assist to increase retail sales in a busy practice.


Be confident


When performing advanced skincare treatments, you will not only be doing the treatment but supporting your customer post treatment.


You need to have self-confidence in yourself and the treatments that you are offering in order to be able to see the process through. Post treatment your customers will have prolonged healing, redness, irritation and in some instances, swelling. You will need to brief them before and after the treatment that this is completely normal to prevent your customer from panicking and thinking that she is having an adverse reaction of sorts. When your patients start experiencing the results, they will start to trust you more and more and the post procedure support will lessen.


Find the right employer


Be on the lookout for a job in a doctor’s clinic or aesthetic practice as this is the best way to get first-hand experience and grow into the position. Most doctors don’t want to be doing peels and needling treatments and would be very happy to have a therapist assist them with these procedures. Some of the larger clinic chains also offer in-house training on their own treatment offerings and protocols


Speak out about your specialism


As an aesthetic therapist, it is very important that you remember your role and that you do not try to become doctors by association, or just a doctor’s assistant when working in their aesthetic practice.


Skincare therapists and medical aesthetic therapists are specialists in their own right. We have a high knowledge of the functioning of the skin and the active ingredients we work with, and we can achieve amazing results on the customer’s skin. It’s important to let our customers know our speciality and separate ourselves from what the doctor offers. We work alongside medical doctors in order to give the client the best result on their skin.


A qualified aesthetician, Karen Ellithorne has been actively involved in the skincare industry since 1992, working as a lecturer and therapist, as well as successfully importing and distributing various products throughout South Africa. Email karen@spaandsalonsolutions.co.za

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