6 Ways to Improve Skin Health: An Esthetician’s Guide

Estheticians specialize in skin care, they make clients look and feel their best with services from moisturizing and hair removal to exfoliation and cosmetic application. But science shows there’s a complex relationship between health and beauty that’s more than just skin deep. Successful estheticians know a beautiful glow and skin health require an inside-out approach.

What Does Skin Do for Our Bodies?

Skin is the body’s largest organ and the first line of defense against a hostile environment. It’s a rugged but flexible semi-permeable barrier that protects soft tissue from damage.

It has three layers, the dermis, the epidermis and the subcutis that protects us from:

  • Changes in Temperature
  • Moisture Loss
  • Microorganisms
  • UV Light
  • Heat
  • Cold
  • Injury

Why is Good Skin Health Important?

Skin works hard, and it’s vulnerable to damage, protecting it is as essential as caring for our bones, muscles and organs. Healthy skin is our primary barrier against infection-causing microorganisms. Keeping it in good condition helps us stay safe.

What Can Cause Skin Damage?

Skin damage can be genetic, environmental or a combination of both. Top causes include sun exposure, tobacco use, free radicals, harsh weather conditions, genetics, and skin disorders.

Sun Exposure

The most common cause of skin damage is the sun. It may seem counterintuitive that what brightens and warms our days can be so destructive, but ultraviolet light causes genetic damage to the cells just below the superficial layer of skin where most cancers begin. It also breaks down collagen and elastin, the structural proteins that give skin its smoothness and elasticity.

Sunlight also triggers melanocytes, the cells responsible for the skin’s color, to overreact. When we’re young, it gives us a youthful glow, but as we age, it results in liver spots and patches of dark discoloration.

Tobacco Use

Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, limiting their ability to deliver vital nutrients to the epidermis. As a result, skin loses elasticity and resists healing. Smokers have a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a common form of cancer affecting the lips.

Smokers are also prone to yellow discolorations and heavy wrinkles around the mouth. Smoking is associated with premature aging and worsening of skin disorders, including rosacea and psoriasis.

Free Radicals

Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules produced by the body in response to environmental stress from pollution to junk food. Missing a needed electron, these rogue cells circulate through the body where they damage healthy cells’ DNA, causing premature aging and cancer.

Harsh Weather Conditions

Without proper protection, repeated exposure to harsh weather from blistering heat to bone-dry cold causes dryness and surface irritation. Excess humidity can result in superficial yeast infections in skin folds where conditions are dark and moist.


The balance of moisture and fats in the skin that determines its resiliency is, in part, genetic, related to hormone levels and the immune system. While a healthy lifestyle can enhance or detract from the quality of skin’s appearance, little can change its character. Estheticians help clients by educating the client about their individual skin and how to keep it well maintained

Skin Disorders

Millions of Americans suffer from skin disorders ranging from mild to severe. You may see some of these skin disorders as an esthetician including acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Acne – the most common skin disorder in the US. Located on the face, neck, upper chest and back, it causes a pimply rash that if left untreated, can leave permanent scars. Pores clogged by dirt, oil and bacteria are thought to be the culprit.

Rosacea – a red skin rash that makes the face look flushed. Rash is triggered by alcohol, sunlight and stress. There are millions of cases in the US annually affecting both men and women.

Eczema – there are a few types of eczema that cause symptoms from open red rashes to greasy, crusty skin. Researchers believe it’s an autoimmune condition in which the body overreacts to external irritants. Like rosacea, it’s exacerbated by stress and typically needs medical intervention. But clients often see estheticians for help camouflaging its effects.

Ways to Improve Skin Health

Since skin quality correlates directly to health, estheticians should recommend these lifestyle measures like sunscreen, sun protection clothing, proper nutrition, moisturizing, improved sleep, and stress reduction.


Dermatologists recommend wearing water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher for most everyday activities and up to SPF 30 for extended outdoor exposure. People with fair skin, outdoor jobs or a history of skin cancer should use SPF 30 or higher regularly.

Estheticians should warn clients to wear sunscreen rain or shine since some UV rays penetrate cloud cover. Recommending cosmetics and daily moisturizers with sunscreen built in may improve compliance.

Sun Protection Clothing

If wearing a sleeveless top on a sunny day sounds like a good idea, think again. The body is as vulnerable to sun damage as the face. Since reapplying sunscreen over the limbs and torso throughout the day can be impractical, a better solution can be to wear UV protective clothing. Tops brands are fashionable, breathable and block most sunlight. A wide-brimmed hat protects both the skin and eyes and is critical for clients with thinning hair.

Proper Nutrition

Aging occurs at a cellular level, it’s something no skin care product except sunscreen can prevent. The foundation of radiance is healthy habits beginning with sound nutrition. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables with vitamins A, C, E, and K promotes beautiful skin, but for a boost of radiance, nutritionists recommend adding specific foods to the diet.

Tomatoes – shown to cut skin cancer rates, that’s no small benefit for outdoor workers and beach lovers. Tomato products such as sauces count, but as always, fresh is best.

Olive Oil – an anti-aging powerhouse, diminishing the effects of long-term UV exposure such as dark spots and crow’s feet as well as combating dryness caused by free radicals. A tablespoon per day drizzled over salad is all it takes.

Walnuts – zinc is essential for skin repair, but it’s hard to get with an average American diet. One ounce of walnuts contains 10-percent of the recommended daily allowance, plus antioxidants that fight free radicals and inflammation.

Green Tea – compounds in green teas have shown to restore aging skin cells and speed the healing of wounds including skin conditions like eczema. Drinking it fresh brewed is preferred over taking supplements.

Cocoa – As if we need more excuses to each chocolate, new research suggests the flavanols found in cocoa improve the of structure of skin. A one-ounce serving of high-cacao, low-sugar dark chocolate three times a week strengthens its resiliency and smooths away light wrinkles without adding too many calories. Telling clients to improve their diet by eating more chocolate is guaranteed to make you their favorite beauty professional.


Moisturizers improve hydration in the top layers of skin, sealing in moisture. Most formulas contain humectants to attract moisture, light oils to seal it in and emollients that smooth rough spaces between skin cells for a smoother appearance. Choose products with antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, to help fight free radicals.

In addition to protective treatments, these tips can help to keep skin moist:

  • Limit showers to 10 minutes or less and avoid very hot water.
  • Use gentle cleansers. Harsh brands strip away valuable skin oil, leading to dryness.
  • Avoid excessive exfoliation. It gives skin a fresh look but is damaging.
  • Moisturize immediately after bathing to trap in moisture.
  • Use non-fragrance lotions, they’re the least irritating.
  • Run a humidifier during dry winter months.
  • Launder clothing with mild, hypoallergenic detergent.

Improve Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to health conditions from diabetes to cancer, but did you know it’s also associated with premature skin aging?

Getting less than the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep nightly can impair the skin’s ability to heal from daily stress. During the deep sleep cycle, the body goes into repair mode and produces more collagen for skin repair. Without it, wrinkles and sags form well before their time.

Stress Reduction

Stress has a negative impact on skin. In the short term, it worsens conditions including acne and rosacea, it’s not uncommon for estheticians to get panicked phone calls from clients breaking out the day before their wedding or a big job interview. Long-term, it causes chronic inflammation that impairs healing.

Stress can increase cortisol, a fight or flight hormone the body produces to give us a physical and mental edge in emergency situations. But when it’s chronically elevated, it prompts the body to create more skin oil.

Estheticians should advise clients to avoid stress and offer services that promote both relaxation and skin repair. A quick afternoon facial detoxifies skin while offering much needed down time.

Final Thoughts

Estheticians know the key to enhancing skin quality is to improve wellness. It takes a clean canvas for artists to work their magic. Beauty begins and ends with good health.

If you have a passion for improving skin health, you could begin your career as an esthetician at the Minnesota School of Cosmetology (MSC).  Our Esthiology Diploma Program is designed to be completed in under 5 months (600 clock hours) with full-time enrollment.  Our esthiology diploma program has been developed by talented, caring, real-world professionals, many of whom still work in the field.  We give our esthiology students experience in skincare, waxing, make-up, application of facials, and more.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming an esthetician and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

*Completion time for this program is defined by 35 hours per week.