Some parts of the body just get more use than others — and while it may seem that elbows don’t get very much use at all, think again. “The fact that we are constantly using our elbows makes it an area that is more likely to be dry and scaly than other body parts,” says Dr. David H. Herschthal, clinical associate professor, department of dermatology, University of Miami School of Medicine. “Some people are predisposed to dry, scaly elbows.”
Elbows are constantly being scraped, leaned on, and rubbed by clothing—all of which can contribute to irritation and dryness. Dry skin can also be a result of inherited factors, metabolic factors, increasing age, low humidity, excessive bathing, or contact with soap, detergents, and solvents. On top of that, the skin on elbows is not very sensitive, making it more likely that dryness will go unnoticed (and untreated) until it becomes a problem.
A common form of psoriasis is charactered by raised red skin and silvery scales.
Add-On Service to Fight Dryness
With winter comes parched skin for clients of all ages — and the perfect opportunity for salons to add treatments to soothe dry, scaly elbows to the menu. Luckily, this common problem has a simple solution that can be incorporated into a manicure, pedicure, or massage service.
“The best treatment for dry elbows is a combination of exfoliating and moisturizing daily,” says Dr. Herschthal.
Becky Rocco of the Yellow Strawberry Salons in Sarasota, Fla., agrees. “An elbow treatment is the equivalent of a facial—and the same products can be used on other problem areas like the feet and hands,” she says.
Indigo The Salon in Greensboro, N.C., provides a variety of add-on services to deal with dry, scaly elbows. “Dry elbows are a seasonal issue for our clients. Typically we tend to see them more in the winter,” says owner Michelle Wallace. “We focus mainly on rehydrating the skin. To deal with this we perform paraffin elbow wraps, AHA peels, and we use super- hydrating lotions.”
If a client has particularly scaly elbows, Indigo’s esthetician Gigi Haith recommends using a peel — such as a fruit-acid mask—to remove built-up dry skin.
Massageworks, Inc. in Falls Church, Va., offers an Elbow Rescue Treatment for $20 to “eliminate rough, dark, scaly elbows and replace them with a smooth, refined look.”
“We begin with a citrus oil to soften and moisturize the skin,” says Massageworks owner Linda Steele. “We follow that with a great herbal product that contains five AHAs and literally peels the skin right off. Then we apply a water-based moisturizer.” She notes this treatment is also popular in the summer when skin is dry and flaky due to exposure to the sun.
Rocco entices her clients into getting elbow treatments by giving them a free demonstration. “Once they see what the products can do, they don’t hesitate to get the elbow treatment,” she says.
Men pose an interesting challenge, according to Wallace, because they tend to believe that their ashy elbows do not need attention. “We have a 40% male clientele and we are trying to educate them,” says Wallace. “The men who have tried an elbow treatment really notice the difference and make an effort to take better care of themselves.”
What You Need to Know
For the most part, it is safe to treat dry elbows in the salon; however, on occasion you may run across some clients who are in need of a dermatologist’s care.
Excessively dry skin can result in dermatitis, a condition in which the skin becomes red and itchy. This condition is not very serious, but might require medical attention.
Another more serious condition is psoriasis. Raised red skin and the flaky, silvery white buildup of dead skin cells characterize the most common form of psoriasis. “This condition would need to be treated by a dermatologist with medical assessment and prescription medication,” says Dr. Herschthal.
“We refuse to perform a treatment on a client if the skin is raw, tender, or has an open wound,” says Haith. “Our policy is to refer that client to a dermatologist and have her return to us once the problem has cleared up.”
Home Maintenance Is Key
The key to improving the state of dry skin is daily treatment, and while you cannot have your clients in every day for an elbow treatment, you can retail products for them to use between visits.
“Home maintenance is integral,” says Wallace. “Even if your client comes in one day out of the week, the treatments won’t help if they don’t do anything about the problem the other six days of the week”
In addition to retailing products, you may also want to recommend that your clients increase their water intake, reduce the frequency of baths or showers, use lukewarm water in the bath or shower, replace soap with non- soap cleansers, and apply an emollient to the skin often, particularly after bathing, and when itchy.
Your clients care about the way they look and feel — and they’re sitting in your chair. Offer them relief and comfort for their dry skin with an elbow treatment, and retail maintenance products to them. They will feel better, their skin will be healthier, and you will have performed a valuable treatment that generates profit and retail.