Chances are you won't want to read the book Hammond resident Susanne Schmaling is writing.

And even though she spends her every spare moment researching it, chances are she won't try to sell you on it, either.

But if you're a clinical esthetician, as she is, and you happen to be shopping for new skincare equipment, her text will come in quite handy.

Schmaling, who runs the Institute of Esthetics in Astoria, is an expert in skincare and has compiled a series of guides to equipment for estheticians.

An esthetician is certified to practice advanced and corrective skincare techniques, including microderm abrasion - a deep sandblasting that removes dead skin - chemical peels and other facial treatments.

Estheticians are different from dermatologists. They usually employ holistic alternatives to Western medicine, and although they are not doctors "we understand the physiology of skin," she said.

Growing up, Schmaling was "an Army brat," and moved around a lot with her family. However, much of her time was spent in southern Oregon, and her grandparents lived on the coast. Her mother now lives in Newport and her sister lives in Bend.

Her interest in skincare and esthetics started in her early 20s.

"I've had bad acne my whole life," she said, noting that her skin has improved in the last several years.

She worked as a makeup artist in Seattle before studying esthetics. She owned her own spa in Salt Lake City until 2001, when she and her husband moved to Cannon Beach.

Schmaling now has 600 hours of schooling as an esthetician, and some of the things she knows about skincare could make your skin crawl. For example, nanotechnology has made the molecules in some cosmetics and cleaning products is so small they can pass right through skin pores and enter the blood stream.

In fact, Schmaling said those molecules should be considered drugs. But the Food and Drug Administration hasn't started regulating them, so it's impossible for consumers to tell how much of them their skin is absorbing, and no one really knows whether they are unhealthy.

"There's not a lot of research on the dangers of nanotechnology," she said. "There are some things in cosmetics you don't want in your system. If things get through your skin, they penetrate right into the system. But there's no regulation of cosmetics, per se."

Skin, which is the human body's largest organ, functions as a barrier to toxins most of the time, "but if that barrier is impaired, you are more susceptible to your environment," said Schmaling.

Stress and some kinds of soap can actually weaken the skin and make it more vulnerable to skin diseases such as eczema and rosacea.

The phthalates used to plasticize some cosmetics can, if they enter the body, function as endocrine disruptors, behaving like hormones in the body and triggering unintended reactions. Some people also worry about the effects of parabens, the preservatives used in many beauty products.

Schmaling has been published in a number of skincare industry trade manuals, and now travels to conferences around the continent offering lectures and training.

She collects information from manufacturers and researches new products. Sometimes companies hire her to train people to use their products.

Her next book is very technical and directed toward a very specific audience.

"It's basically a trade manual for estheticians on all the equipment we use in the industry," she said. "I'm knee deep in research for the textbook every spare moment I have."


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