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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Naturally Beautiful: Pensacola Practitioners Take A Gentle, Organic Approach to Skin and Hair Care

Health-conscious people have been avoiding chemical-laden foods for decades. Now a similar trend in beauty is gaining momentum, as more natural skin and hair treatments hit the market. 

Two Pensacola practitioners are at the forefront of that trend. Susan Blanc, an esthetician and the owner of Rejuvenate and Relax Facials, and Camy Gibson, an organic stylist at Le Vogue Salon, offer the latest in all-natural beauty treatments, proving that you don’t have to risk your health to look your best.

Hands-On Is Healthier

For Susan Blanc, being a trendsetter in esthetics goes beyond using high-quality organic products in her facial treatments. It also means using her hands to bring out the best in a client’s skin, though her peers are using mechanical processes.

“A lot of estheticians are using microdermabrasion and things like that,” she says. “Well, I use my hands. In school I learned European-style facial massage, with over 50 different types of moves in five different modalities.” 

She says her signature service, the Zen Facelift Facial—an all-natural treatment based on ancient massage techniques—produces excellent results but is far gentler on the skin than mechanical or chemical treatments.

The 50-minute facial has multiple components, such as skin analysis, deep cleansing, exfoliation and masking. But the centerpiece of the process is a 20-minute massage that incorporates several techniques based in traditional healing modalities. Among them are lymphatic drainage; cupping; guassage (known as “Eastern Botox” for its ability to smooth fine lines and wrinkles); and dermafile, a machine-free way to polish and resurface the skin. 

The facial has immediate visible effects and is also a preventive therapy, Blanc says. While a single treatment will leave the skin feeling plumper and softer, monthly treatments help counteract the downward pull of aging over time. 

Like any therapeutic massage, the Zen Facelift Facial is designed to stimulate the muscles, organs and circulatory system while calming the nervous system—a combination that can lead to broader health benefits. 

According to the facial’s creator, Cheryl Miller, a master esthetician and the owner of the Zen Lounge and Institute for Higher Learning, in Puyallup, Washington, potential benefits include clearer sinuses, improved breathing, more nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood cells in the skin, less eye muscle fatigue, relief from chronic jaw pain and relief from headaches. 

The Safe Frizz Fighter

Everyone loves the idea of “beach waves.” Off-the-shelf hair products claim to have captured the alchemy of sun, salt and ocean breeze, to turn ordinary locks into a charming, tousled halo. But women who live near the beach (or in any humid place) know its real side effect: frizz. 

If there is such a thing as hair magic in a bottle, it’s keratin, which wraps itself around the hair to strengthen it. When heat is applied to seal the cuticle, the hair ends up smooth and shiny for three to four months. 

“A keratin treatment is not a permanent straightener—it’s a hair tamer,” Camy Gibson says. “It’s designed to smooth out curls some, but mainly it tackles frizz to fight humidity, so your blowout won’t be ruined in 20 to 30 minutes once you step outside. And it’s a noncommittal treatment, because if you don’t like it, you just let it grow out. It doesn’t leave a line of demarcation like a perm or a chemical relaxer.”

Not all keratin-based treatments are safe, Gibson warns. Some contain formaldehyde, while some others claim to be formaldehyde free but contain an ingredient that releases formaldehyde gas when heat is applied. Either way, these treatments pose enough of a health risk to have triggered a “hazard alert” from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Gibson now specializes in organic keratin and color, but she used to go home with a headache, burning eyes and nausea after giving just one formaldehyde keratin treatment.

Since switching to Smooth Rituals, an all-natural product that uses keratin, amino acids and jojoba oil to smooth the hair, Gibson has not gone home with unpleasant side effects, and her customers only go home with what they came for: frizz-free hair.

Gibson suggests researching keratin products online to ensure they’re all natural—advice that holds true for any beauty treatment. Bottom line, whether you put it in your body or on your body, the natural alternative is usually best. 

Locations: Susan Blanc, 400 Pickens Ave. (inside Benjamin and Larry’s Salon), Pensacola, FL. For more information, call 850-723-8429. Camy Gibson, 609 W. Chase St. (inside Le Vogue Salon), Pensacola, FL. For more information, call 850-582-0177.

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