I first became aware of the MAI course on my first induction day with Skindeep. I explained to the manager carrying out my induction that I had come to Skindeep from another company because I knew they were leaders in Perth for carrying out advanced treatments and I wanted to learn EVERYTHING.
I was told that I would be undergoing extensive in-house training on many subjects along with attending many advanced product knowledge courses and lectures. She then said to me – if you are keen to learn you will soak up and enjoy all of the training, HOWEVER if you really want to know the advanced stuff, get yourself onto the MAI course, it is so extensive you will walk out feeling like you have a wealth of knowledge to carry out any treatment and help anyone that asks. You will want to correct everyone’s skin!
From then my mind was made up – I would be doing that course the next time it was held in Perth. So when my manager came back from her meeting one day and said, yes you are going on MAI in October, I was so excited!
MAI stands for the Medical Aesthetics Institute, which was created in the USA in 2000 with a curriculum to meet the needs of today’s skincare professional. In Australia it is run by Advanced Skin Technology and the course is taught by Chiza Westcarr, Advanced Skin Technology’s Global Clinical Education and Development Manager who has been teaching since 2000, speaks at both domestic and international medical conferences and is a leader in dermal treatments within the medical arena.
The course I was attending was the Three Day Master Class, which would look at Skin Physiology, Cosmetic Ingredients and Chemical Peels.
The first day was about understanding the skin, its structure and function and then conditions which affect our skin – reactive skin, acne, scarring, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, dull and lifeless skin and photo-damage and ageing.
Every beauty therapist learns about the basic structure and function of the skin, the layers of the epidermis and the dermis below, we do our exams being able to draw the basic diagram and it is occasionally revisited as we go along in our career, depending on the career path you choose, the environment in which you work and what the company is focused on. To explain the extent to which we examined the skin during the first day of MAI alone, I could only leave in amazement and wondering how on earth anything happens in the rest of the human body when so much was happening every second just in the skin, at a microscopic level within every cell.
We looked at detail at how factors such as diet and lifestyle really affect how each of these processes work and what we can do to assist in remedying each skin concern by giving a thorough and advanced analysis of each skin – certainly not a case of dry/oily/combination/sensitive and go from there but looking at why our clients have the skin condition they have and remembering really we can’t effectively begin to help a concern without knowing and helping the client to understand WHY it is there.
With so much to take in after just one day I left exhausted and with a feeling of information overload, however more so with excitement of what more was to come over the next two days of the course, Chiza had really got into my head about the importance of asking WHY things happen, something I had often thought about but gotten into a habit of accepting the “just because that’s the way it is” as so many of us do.
Our second day focused on cosmetic ingredients, documentation and classification of the ingredients that are in the products on all our bathroom shelves. How products are labelled to appeal to the consumer and the importance, not only of each ingredient in the product, but the formulation and strength of each ingredient.
It was no longer a case of a product “containing Vitamin A” but what form the Vitamin A was in, the strength of it and what factors would affect how it would penetrate the skin. We carried out an exercise where we were each given three products along with a dictionary of ingredient benefits and sources and asked to go through the long list of ingredients on the packaging and compare how the ingredients included would give the result the packaging was claiming.
One product I was given I had previously used for many years in my early twenties, it was from a popular brand and I had always bought it for myself as a “treat” and as the one good things I would do for my skin as a poor student. Well to be honest I felt a bit cheated by the end of the exercise that had I had believed in the product for so long and although I knew in recent years of studying that it probably wasn’t doing as much for my skin as I had thought. But because of the price I paid for it, I thought it would surely be doing something good. The ingredients included in the product certainly felt nice on my skin and I loved the smell however as far as keeping my skin young and wrinkle-free, it was doing very little. I had definitely fallen into the trap of clever marketing from what I now know is one of the many big companies that put lots of money behind marketing their products rather than what actually goes into that little jar. How can any consumer expect to not be drawn in?
At the end of the second day I felt so much more empowered to find out what ingredients were in lots of the products I used myself along with the products my clients were using at home and being able to explain why they weren’t getting the results they were expecting and again, how I could help them achieve more confidence in selecting ingredients, rather than simply products in the future.
For our last day we were taking a look at Chemical Peels – the agents used to carry out chemical peels and the various depths each type of peel could penetrated the skin and where and when each peel would be suitable. Having carried out many peels during my time with Skindeep so far and attending a few training courses on the peels we carried out in salon I felt I was well equipped and thought the day would just reinforce what I had learnt already.
Of course not, I should have known that MAI would go do much deeper. We looked at a huge variety of peels, from the most basic to the extreme that could be performed by doctors only which completely removed the full epidermis (top layer of skin), a peel where you would have to be kept under supervision for a number of days afterwards. Seeing images of these peels, none of us could believe how far people went with their skin and I couldn’t imagine the pain a lot of the peels would inflict. Yes we want beautiful skin but would I ever take it that far?
We looked at each ingredient and how deep it worked and why doctors may sometimes like to use these peels on their patients, however with research and knowledge of chemicals and effects on the skin, I was relieved to learn that these types of peels are no longer as common and thankfully we have much less invasive ways to achieve the same, if not better results by again taking more time to assess the skin and why we need to do each type of peel and creating a treatment plan from there.
Certainly we don’t need to leave anyone looking like the infamous image of Samantha in Sex and the City, which is what many of my clients initially think of when I suggest a peel to them. It helped me so much to have the knowledge of these very deep peels so I could explain to clients the difference between these “doctor peels” and the peels a dermal therapist will carry out and why they don’t need to go in too deep, too fast to get the results they want.
Overall, I left the 3-day MAI course feeling empowered and ready to help everyone. I wanted to go into my friend’s bathrooms and have a good look at their products and help them with their concerns!
I am so grateful that I was able to have this training, I feel much more confident to treat a client’s skin whether it is with peels, IPL, a medi-facial or simply helping someone use the correct ingredients at home, the most important factor of all. Chiza Westcarr is a fantastic teacher, she explained each part of the course with precision and with full answers to any question we had, she encouraged us to look further into each question, helped us to realise the importance of everything we put into our body through diet, lifestyle, environment etc, along with what we put directly onto the skin and see how each would affect processes in our skin, and gave examples of every situation and scenario, clearly having lots of experience in her field. Most importantly she left me with the realisation that we shouldn’t simply always accept things “are the way they are” but to look into the research and continue to ask questions, the answers we can then use to help our clients and encourage them to do the same. We can never know everything as further research is continually carried out however, I am now even more eager to keep learning and developing my own knowledge throughout my career.
Written by Victoria Magee