The Facial Begins

I soap my hands up with cleanser and hover over Stephanie’s face. “Go on, get in there!” says Miss Jenny. “You won’t hurt her.” We’re spending a lot more time talking about how to touch your client now that we’re done with makeup and starting skin care. “Always let them know you’re coming,” says Miss Lisa. She cups a dollop of cleanser in each palm, then presses the tops of her curved fingers into Sue’s shoulders before proceeding up her neck and face. That shoulder move is key. “If you touch their face right off the bat, they’ll jump out of the bed,” Miss Lisa explains.

I press on Stephanie’s shoulders and then start stroking up her neck and over her chin and cheeks, circling into the folds around the nose and then around her forehead, until she’s covered in a thin layer of foam. Even though she’s lying on a facial bed wearing only a Velcro towel while I sit at her head and look down, it’s somehow less intimate than applying makeup. I think because her eyes are closed.

After spending four weeks with Stephanie, I know an assortment of random “getting to know you” facts: She has a 1-year-old nephew, she curses her oily skin, she just had two dates with a guy but there wasn’t any spark.

But suddenly she stops being Stephanie, aunt, skin-obsesser, dater of spark-less dudes, and just becomes A Face — an upside down series of planes and curves that I need to cover in cleanser and then wipe clean with a wet cotton pad. It’s like when you say a word too many times in a row and suddenly can’t remember what it means. Stare at the photo above for a minute too long and you’ll see what I mean.

I repeat the cleansing, per Miss Jenny’s instructions, and then apply toner. Then I stop, because we haven’t learned to do anything else yet. Stephanie opens her eyes and is Stephanie again. We laugh.

“Remember, we’re promoting relaxation,” says Miss Jenny. That means you want your client to totally unwind and let their guard down (“they become the bed,” Miss Lisa likes to say). But there aren’t many other scenarios where you see someone at their most relaxed — but also most vulnerable. If Stephanie and I were training for any other profession, I wouldn’t have much reason to scrub the underside of her nose. It’s a weird thing to be responsible for someone else’s relaxation when you’re feeling anything but that yourself.

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7 Comments

Filed under Facials, In Class, week 5

7 responses to “The Facial Begins

  1. KNB

    I love the relationship you are fostering with your fellow students. In the end, they are the reason (one of them) that you are delving into this industry…the women who go into this profession for lack of a better alternative, and need a magnifying glass held up to their work, so as to protect their health…and their lives. Well done, you.

  2. Chandler

    “But suddenly she stops being Stephanie, aunt, skin-obsesser, dater of spark-less dudes, and just becomes A Face… It’s like when you say a word too many times in a row and suddenly can’t remember what it means… there aren’t many other scenarios where you see someone at their most relaxed — but also most vulnerable.”

    This is so fascinating, probably my favorite post of yours so far. I think speaks to a phenomenon that’s larger than even the beauty industry. It reminds me a bit of the part in Nickel and Dimed when she’s talking about how her customers in the restaurant are more like “patients” because they’re “temporarily unable to feed themselves.” It’s so weird how those working in the service industries are simultaneously at the mercy of their customers, but also positioned to see those customers in such a weirdly humbling light.

  3. I agree with the other two comments here- this is completely fascinating and it must be really interesting to be going through the experience of learning these skills so intimately with other women you still hardly know. I’m curious about the dynamic in class- it sounds like there are only a handful of you, but is it competitive at all? Another question- have you changed your own beauty routine at all?

  4. Guys, thanks for the great comments here — they are some of my favorite of any post so far! You’re going to see more on this tension between serving the customer while also being in control of the customer. It’s a strange relationship that I’m far from understanding completely.

    Amy, in answer to your Qs: The class is quite small (4 “freshman girls” and another 4 “senior students” who are usually in the spa working on clients) and we’re all getting to be pretty great friends since we spend so much time getting hands on with each other! There is some friendly competition over grades, but it’s pretty benign. My main impression is just how friendly everyone is, and how passionate they are about skin care and beauty treatments. Some people are doing this because it seems like the only viable option, but for almost everyone I’ve met so far, the desire to do this work really comes from a place of wanting to help other people feel good. Katherine put it well: My fellow students are absolutely why I’m doing this. That kind of passion (and compassion) for helping people should be rewarded and compensated fairly.

    In terms of my own beauty routine: I’m experimenting with a lot with different products in and out of class. My skin broke out pretty badly during the makeup practice, probably because I wore very little before and was suddenly caking it on, and the other women seem pretty break-out-prone too. So now that we’re on facials, we’re all trying different things to see what will clear us up. I’m still waiting for the miracle cure!

  5. I love this post, too. I often wonder what the beautician (is that what you say?) is thinking when I get a facial–cool to think they’ve zoned out and I’m A Face.

  6. Pingback: [Tip Jar] Client #3 likes me; she really likes me. « Beauty Schooled

  7. Pingback: [Last Ten Weeks] The Practical Report (And Other Good Stuff to Read Today) « Beauty Schooled

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