The Global Citizenship research group assists in developing a professional code for skin therapists

At the end of May, the Dutch Association for Skin Therapists (NHV) adopted a new professional code. Natasha Labohm, Skin Therapy lecturer and researcher with the Global Citizenship research group worked as the project leader with the professional association to develop a new professional code. ‘This is a wonderful start to improve the ethical conduct of skin therapists and to discuss this issue with Skin Therapy students.’

Professional standards and professional ethics are closely intertwined. The professional code is a guideline for appropriate professional conduct and includes rules that are based on elementary standards that are deeply entrenched in professional ethics. Natasha is conducting research on ethical conduct by skin therapists for the Global Citizenship research group. To provide advice on the new professional standards, she talked to skin therapist and experts in medical ethical conduct. She also conducted research on professional codes of comparable paramedic professions.

Beauty standards

‘We were greatly in need of a new professional code,’ states Natasha. ‘The use of new technologies and the impact of social media are rapidly changing our profession. About 10 years ago the work of a skin therapist was mainly focused on treating sick or damaged skin. With the introduction of new laser technologies, skin therapists are increasingly asked to treat healthy skin. Social media is having an unparalleled impact on beauty standards and reinforces that question. Anyone who is sensitive to the daily stream of perfect – filtered and photoshopped - pictures on Instagram, may find themselves quickly resorting to help to achieve that perfect skin. And many influencers want to meet the expectations ‘in real life’ that they represent in their perfect pictures.’

Realistic

An increasing number of people is finding their way to a skin therapist for cosmetic treatment. Natasha: ‘A laser treatment is not a restricted treatment. That means anyone with such a device can offer treatment. With the professional code, skin therapists can demonstrate that they follow ethical professional conduct based on quality norms in all of their treatments, including in laser treatments. That means for example giving a client a realistic impression of the treatment's results. Not everyone can achieve that perfect smooth skin, despite all the technologies.’

Students

Fourth-year Skin Therapy students are further elaborating the professional code in 4 teams, during a 10-week project, under Natasha's supervision. One team will create a user friendly version of the professional code, so all skin therapists can easily apply it in their daily practice. The second team is developing a proposal to nominate an ethics committee. This committee will advise skin therapists in case of ethical dilemmas in their practice, regularly evaluates the professional code and organises education and training about ethical conduct. The third team will work together with a skin therapy practice to research how skin therapists can profile themselves as an ethical professional. The fourth student team has made a proposal for including ethics in the degree programme.

Ethics education

The new professional code offers an excellent basis to develop an ethical learning track for the Skin Therapy degree programme. Although all lecturers of the degree programme see this as a valuable topic, it will be important to focus more attention on ethical conduct and supporting students to become a competent ethical professional. Natasha's research with the Global Citizenship research group will contribute to this in the coming years.