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How to Discuss Other Brands and Businesses with Clients

Inspired by a recent student question, we wanted to address a tough topic we all deal with as skin professionals: speaking on brands, treatments or businesses that differ from our own.

It’s inevitable — your clients will hear about products, brands, and treatments that you don’t offer at your business, and they may ask you about them. What’s more, your clients may actually purchase or try a treatment elsewhere and simply tell you about it after the fact.

In our experience, this can elicit an emotional response from a lot of skin care pros. And we get it. It can be frustrating when you’ve invested so much time and energy into a client, and they express interest in something that you don’t offer — or worse, they have foregone your recommendations altogether and chosen a treatment or product from another provider (or even non-professional “skinfluencer”).

This emotional response can result in a few different reactions: from defensiveness and anger that ends in you lecturing your client on why they were wrong (or would be wrong) to invest in the product or treatment in question — to a defeated loss in confidence and giving up on recommendations altogether. After all, if your best clients aren’t loyal to you, why even try?

The problem with these reactions, though understandable, is that they simply don’t serve you. In other words, they aren’t going to lead to your success. Speaking down about another brand or lecturing a client on a decision they’ve made does not position you as a professional or inspire trust. It will most likely create a very negative but memorable experience for that client — risking permanent damage to the relationship, or even your reputation if they feel compelled to share it. (Remember: research shows that our brains recall negative experiences for longer and in more detail than positive ones).

So, what can we do instead?

First, we urge you not to panic and to take a minute to reflect on what is causing your reaction. While in the moment it can feel like your client has chosen (or is considering choosing) another professional or brand — is this really what’s happening? Or, is it simply a fear? From our perspective, if your client is broaching the subject of another skin care brand with you, this typically indicates a level of trust. If they didn’t trust or value your opinion, they probably wouldn’t even mention it.

Next, it’s important to remember that all skin care is elective. Professional or not, with you or not, everyone is free to invest or not invest in skin care however they choose. We can’t control what our clients try when it comes to skin care, and this all-or-nothing approach to client loyalty certainly won’t help us attract or retain clients. We need to respect our clients’ autonomy and personal priorities when it comes to decision making. This is an integral element of client-centred care (a principle we live by here at Skin Care Lit).

What we can do, however, is speak to our unique value and educate our clients on our personal skin care philosophy — in other words, why we have chosen the brands and treatments that we have.

Which brings us to the real question: how should you respond to clients when they ask about brands or treatments that differ from your own?

Our number one suggestion is to get curious!

If they don’t tell you outright, ask your client what piqued their interest in the particular treatment or product in question. Their answer will likely teach you something about their primary skin concerns or buyer motivations. For example, you might hear: “I heard it helps with acne scarring, and I’d love to get rid of mine!” or “I’ve heard it’s super expensive, so it must be really effective, right?”

With this information, you can make effective suggestions based on what you do offer. Here are some prompts to get you started…

“I can’t speak to that brand, but I’ve seen great results for [acne scarring] with [insert your recommendation]. It works by…”

“I don’t offer that treatment because I tend to take a more [insert your own philosophy — i.e. barrier-supporting, less invasive, clinical] approach. Using [insert treatment or approach] I can address [insert primary concern] by [insert how it works]...”

Now, what if your client has already tried a treatment or purchased a product?

The answer is still curiosity! Ask them what they like or don’t like about the product, or what results or side effects they noticed from the treatment. These answers will provide valuable insight to effectively recommend complementary treatments, or, if their experience was negative, replacement options. For example…

“I’m so glad you’re experiencing [insert positive result] with that! If that’s a major concern of yours, I might also suggest adding [insert complementary recommendation] to help with [insert additional benefit].”

“I’m so sorry you experienced [insert negative result or side effect]. That’s one reason I tend to take a [insert your personal approach] instead. If you’re interested, we can try [insert recommendation] which will help address or heal [insert negative result or side effect] by…”

And finally, if the product or treatment in question could potentially damage your client’s skin or curb their progress, you can gently and professionally educate them. In this case, the key is to focus on them and their personal concerns — instead of on your own business objectives or bad-mouthing the other brand. For example…

“While that may work for certain people, my concern is that it could exacerbate your [insert primary skin concern]. That’s because [insert ingredient or technology] works by [insert how] which could potentially curtail your progress. My suggestion would be to instead [insert recommendation] as it will address your [insert primary concern] without [insert side effect or negative result].”

The key is to remember that, no matter how much time and energy we have invested into our clients and their results, they always have the choice about how and where they spend their money. In order to respect their autonomy and avoid breaking their trust, it’s important to always come from a place of curiosity first and show them that you are there to support their skin care goals. The good news? This approach is most likely to result in them continuing to invest in you!

And finally, a reminder that just because a client tries a product or treatment elsewhere does not mean that your relationship is over. We’re all skin care lovers here, so be honest: don’t you often try a product or treatment out of curiosity — even if you’ve already found your tried-and-true products and brands? Try to frame your client’s skin care enthusiasm and curiosity as an opportunity to learn more about them and better serve them!


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