Can Estheticians Work on Clients with Skin Cancer?

Estheticians are often the professionals clients turn to for advice, treatment, and pampering. With their trained eye and expertise, they meticulously analyze skin conditions, recommend appropriate skincare regimens, and perform a range of rejuvenating treatments. However, amidst the pursuit of radiant and healthy skin, estheticians occasionally encounter a more serious concern: clients with skin cancer. 

Recommended course: Skin Cancer Guide for Salon Professionals 

Types of skin cancer 

Skin cancer encompasses several types, each with distinct characteristics and behaviors. The most common types include basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma typically appears as a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin. It often develops in areas exposed to the sun, such as the face and neck, and tends to grow slowly, rarely spreading to other parts of the body.  

Squamous cell carcinoma usually presents as a firm, red nodule or a flat sore with a scaly crust. It can occur in sun-exposed areas but may also develop in areas not regularly exposed to sunlight, such as the genitals. While squamous cell carcinoma tends to grow more quickly than basal cell carcinoma, it is less likely to spread to other parts of the body.  

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, arising from melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment in the skin. It often appears as a new, unusual mole or an existing mole that changes in size, shape, or color. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body and has the potential to metastasize to other organs if not detected and treated early. 

Identifying skin cancer: A vital skill for estheticians 

Estheticians are well-versed in recognizing various skin conditions, but identifying potential signs of skin cancer requires an extra level of vigilance. Skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can manifest in subtle ways that may initially be mistaken for benign conditions. For estheticians seeking comprehensive knowledge on skin cancer detection and prevention, enrolling in the course “Skin Cancer Guide For Professionals” can be invaluable. 

Here are the skin irregularities that estheticians should check before starting any treatment: 

  • Recognition of suspicious features: This includes asymmetry, where one half of the lesion differs from the other in shape or size, and irregular borders, characterized by jagged or undefined edges. 
  • Understanding color variations: It is important to correctly detect color variations within lesions, as this can be a key indicator of malignancy. For example, melanomas often exhibit uneven pigmentation or a mixture of colors, ranging from brown to black, red, or even white. 
  • Assessment of lesion diameter: Not all large lesions are malignant. Those larger than 6 millimeters in diameter warrant closer examination and possible referral for further evaluation. 
  • Visual and tactile examination: Visual inspection can reveal surface characteristics like color and shape, and tactile examination can provide additional information about texture, such as roughness or scaliness. 

Understanding the risk factors 

To effectively serve their clients, estheticians must be aware of the risk factors associated with skin cancer. By understanding these risk factors, estheticians can provide tailored recommendations for sun protection and skin cancer prevention to their clients. 

  • Prolonged sun exposure: One of the primary risk factors for skin cancer is prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Over time, cumulative sun exposure can damage the DNA in skin cells, increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. 
  • History of sunburns: Sunburns, especially during childhood and adolescence, can significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Even occasional sunburn can cause long-term damage to the skin and contribute to the development of skin cancer. 
  • Tanning bed usage: Indoor tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can be even more intense than the sun’s rays. Regular use of tanning beds has been linked to an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as well as non-melanoma skin cancers. 
  • Family history of skin cancer: Individuals with a family history of skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease themselves. Genetic factors can predispose some people to skin cancer, making regular skin checks and sun protection even more crucial for prevention. 
  • Immunosuppression: Immunosuppressed individuals, such as organ transplant recipients or those with conditions like HIV/AIDS, have a weakened immune system, which can make them more susceptible to skin cancer. Estheticians should be mindful of immunocompromised clients and emphasize the importance of sun protection. 

The delicate conversation: Addressing concerns with clients 

Broaching the topic of potential skin cancer with a client requires tact, empathy, and professionalism. Estheticians are in a unique position to initiate this conversation, as they often develop trusting relationships with their clients over time. If a licensed cosmetology professional notices any suspicious lesions or changes in a client’s skin, it’s essential to address these concerns promptly and in a sensitive manner. Use non-alarming language and avoid making assumptions about the nature of the lesion. 

Reassure the client that early detection is key to successful treatment and that seeking evaluation from a dermatologist is the next step in ensuring their skin health. Emphasize that most skin abnormalities are benign. However, a medical professional should still evaluate them. 

Empowering clients: Education and sun-safe practices 

Education is a powerful tool in the fight against skin cancer. Cosmetologists can empower their clients by educating them about the importance of regular skin checks, the ABCDEs of melanoma detection, and the significance of early detection.  

Furthermore, promoting sun-safe practices such as wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen, seeking shade during peak sun hours, and wearing protective clothing can significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer. 

Treatment for clients with skin cancer: Collaborating with dermatologists

Estheticians have skills in various skincare treatments and procedures. They do not have the expertise to diagnose skin conditions or diseases. It’s essential for them to recognize their professional boundaries and refer clients to dermatologists when necessary.  

Dermatologists are medical doctors specialized in diagnosing and treating skin conditions, including skin cancer. By collaborating with dermatologists, estheticians can ensure that their clients receive timely and accurate evaluations of suspicious lesions, leading to early detection and treatment of skin cancer. 

For professionals, it is best to establish a clear referral process for clients with suspicious lesions. This may include:

  • Providing clients with information about trusted dermatologists in the area
  • Assisting with appointment scheduling
  • Following up with clients to ensure they receive proper care

Advocate for skin health 

Estheticians do possess expertise in skincare and beauty treatments, but they should refrain from performing services on clients with known or suspected skin cancer. Working with clients with skin cancer can pose significant risks, including exacerbating the condition or interfering with medical treatments.  

Instead, estheticians should prioritize client safety and well-being by referring individuals with suspected skin cancer to dermatologists for proper evaluation and care. By adhering to professional boundaries and collaborating with medical professionals, estheticians can contribute to the overall health and safety of their clients