Common Conditions

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A professional skin therapist must know how to identify and treat their clients’ skin concerns, many of which are very common issues that appear due to genetic, immunological or environmental factors. Unfortunately, inexperienced estheticians may have to resolve these problems through a series of trial and error. What’s more, because training is primarily based on a Eurocentric model, many conditions are often misdiagnosed in clients with darker skin tones. Rather than relying solely on product knowledge training, successful estheticians must learn how to design a treatment series and suggest a home-care regimen that improves these conditions over time. Here, you’ll find some of the most common problems that show up in the treatment room, along with suggestions for how you can reverse the symptoms to perfect your clients’ complexions.


Acne, known as retention hyperkeratosis, is an inflammatory condition of the pilosebaceous unit (the shaft, follicle and oil gland). It’s marked by rapid shedding of cells that clump together in clients with a predisposition to overgrowth of the otherwise very common p. acnes bacteria, which results in eruptions that range from papules to cysts.

Luckily, acne can be cleared relatively easily with daily use of topical antibacterial agents such as retinoids, salicylic acid and sulfur. Benzoyl peroxide has long been the gold standard acne fighter, as well, but it’s not always suitable for deeper skin tones. Professional microneedling treatments will also help minimize acne scars.

Acne vulgaris, on the other hand, can take 12 to 18 months to treat, and may require topical or oral antibiotics in addition to the standard topical therapies. Clients with severe acne that doesn’t respond to these treatments may require Accutane, a controlled prescription medication derived from vitamin A.

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Aliesh Pierce, LE, is the author of Treating Diverse Pigmentation (Milady 2012). Pierce established herself in the world of skincare manufacturing as director of education for Veria International and DMK Skin Revision, and has since created online beauty portal, where she provides courses for estheticians that cover a multi-ethnic approach to skin care. Most recently, Pierce launched an Ayurveda-inspired indie skincare brand by the same name.

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