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Dermalogica - Human touch more than skin deep?


Dermalogica - Human touch more than skin deep?

Lesley Corridan – Dermalogica Education Manager: Trade and Consumer

Skin therapists know instinctively the value of physical contact.  There is something about the energy and emotion that passes from one human to the next when we connect – whether a warm embrace, a simple touch on the arm or a polite handshake. 

Over recent years’ society has sent messages of the dangers of touch, the misconstrued meanings it could give, the lawsuits that could follow.  Understandably, we tend shy away from putting ourselves in a vulnerable position. With the rise of the digital era we have even more reason not to connect with people.  It’s easy to become isolated without consciously deciding to do so.  This is all happening around us despite the overwhelming evidence that human touch is vital for our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.


Touch is the first sense humans develop in the womb, even in embryos as small as 1.5cm. It is commonly thought of as a single sense, but it is significantly more complex. Our skin possesses nerve endings that recognise itch, vibration, pain, pressure and texture. And one exists solely to recognise a gentle stroking touch.

These nerves send neurochemical signals to a large region of the somatosensory cortex - which brings to our consciousness the precise nature of each tactile contact.  Our skin and its magnificent network of nerves connects us with the outside world.  But it’s not just the nature of the touch that we sense. 

Researchers at Berkeley University have sought to pinpoint how touch may be a language in its own right. In the study, two strangers separated by a barrier to prevent all forms of communication, were asked to touch each other through a small hole. Taking turns, each participant put their arm through the hole in the barrier, allowing the other person to touch them.  The individual on the other side attempted to communicate 12 different emotions, one at a time, with brief touches to the other person's forearm. After each touch, the recipient guessed what emotion was just communicated. The outcome? Individuals could detect gratitude, sympathy and love about 55-60% of the time. Solid proof that emotional communication encompasses not just our facial expressions or our voice but substantially our touch.1 

So how do we “change the world with our bare hands” – to quote Dermalogica Chief Visionary and Founder Jane Wurwand. Never before has our industry been more valid.  With the rise of Cuddle Workshops, where people pay to feel the unsexual embrace of another, our touch-starved society needs addressing now. 

With the evidence that emotion is communicated through touch, we should never underestimate the power we have to influence how another person may feel.  Our feelings and thoughts are communicated through our hands.  If we can go into every service with the right intention to show compassion, care and empathy - our client will feel it.  Jane says we need to involve “our head, our heart and our hands”.  Touch should not be in isolation to the message it conveys.  Having the right intention with every treatment – from a brief conversation and Face Mapping in a retail space to a full Dermalogica Pro60 service in the treatment room – we can make a lasting impact.  It can transform how someone feels about themselves and create that life changing human-to-human connection.   What a privilege we have as professional skin therapists to do such meaningful and relevant work every day.

1The communication of emotion via touch.

Hertenstein MJ1, Holmes R, McCullough M, Keltner D.

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Saturday, 31 October 2020