Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pretty Price Check (04.30.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of what we paid for beauty this week.

Anna Wintour and Meryl Streep are the Devil Wears Prada photos

  • $42,500: How much the highest bidder paid for a week “working” at Vogue in a charity auction to benefit the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. My favorite part is that “the experience” was originally valued at $10,000. Because that’s a typical entry level fashion magazine weekly salary. (Via The Cut.)
  • $3000: What Jude Law dropped on La Mer wrinkle cream at Nordstrom this week. Because you asked.
  • 4,795,357: The number of Botox injections administered in 2009. Which is down four percent from 2008. But is still 4,795,357 shots of Botox. Average cost? $405 a pop. (Via Jezebel and the New York Times.)

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Pretty Price Check, week 24

[Beauty Overheard] It’s 10 PM. Do You Know What Makeup Your Daughter is Wearing?

So here is what I’m stuck on, from this morning’s New York Times piece on tweens wearing makeup:

“I’m using the choose-your-battles kind of parenting,” Mrs. Pometta, an independent publicist from Plainfield, Ill., reasoned in a telephone interview. “I figured, better that she’s informed and has the right tools than she goes into it blindly with her friends in the bathroom and comes out looking like a clown.”

Mrs. Pometta’s daughter, Alyssa, is 11, and among the 18 percent of 8-12 set who wear mascara regularly (15 percent wear eyeliner and lipstick).

Now I get the “better she’s informed” argument when it comes to your kid and safe sex. I get it when it comes to letting your child have a sip of wine at dinner. Because  these are life experiences that have pretty dire consequences if they go badly. The worst-case scenario that Mrs. Pometta is warding off? “Looking like a clown.”

Alyssa is 11. And wearing makeup. Of course she should look like a clown! She should be playing around, figuring out what she likes and dislikes, putting on purple eye shadow at sleepover parties and expressing herself and what not.

But Mrs. Pometta isn’t talking about sleepover parties. She’s talking about Alyssa wearing makeup every day. To cover blemishes, lengthen her eyelashes, make her lips more pink. To cover up what she perceives to be her flaws.

And by taking Alyssa for that makeover, Mrs. Pometta let her know that she sees those flaws, too.

PS. While clearly, I think this article could have done a better job of digging into the body image ramifications of this trend, I was psyched to see writer Douglas Quenqua take on the environmental-health risks of kids putting all this crap on their faces. Plus, excellent quote by our friend Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face, and spokesperson for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Yay!


Filed under Beauty Overheard, beauty standards, week 24

[Glossed Over] Don’t Call COVERGIRL’s Contest Winner “Mustache Girl.”


Ellen Stands Up For Beauty Photo

Oh Ellen. Not you too.


COVERGIRL has announced the winner of their “Stand Up for Beauty” Video Contest. (Remember their Campaign Declaration Cloud, that read like a spambot’s mash-up of “love your body” rhetoric mixed with “buy our products” reminders? How could you forget?)

You can go watch the video on their website real quick, and then come back and we’ll talk about Nicole, “an Ohio gal” who is “funny, ambitious, and positive” and just netted herself $50K by making faces at the camera while putting on makeup and fessing up to her lady ‘stache.

Hi! I’m Nikki. When I was a kid I used to get picked on. I was kind of awkward and hairy. They called me “Mustache Girl?” Yeah, I have a little bit of uh, hair on my upper lip. But it doesn’t matter to me what they say. I know with CoverGirl, I can feel beautiful just being me. I don’t have to be Miss Popularity. I don’t have to be serious and conform. I can be funny or quirky. I can fall down sometimes! If I want to. I don’t have to spend a fortune to feel pretty. I don’t have to wear designer clothes. I don’t have to be a Size Zero. Ha ha. I don’t have to shave my legs every day — but I don’t have to have a mustache either. Hmm. I can be glamorous and sexy and I think nerdy can be kind of cute. I don’t have to wear makeup, but I like to. Not for you, but for me. Because I. Am. Beautiful.

So on the surface, this is good stuff, right? Nikki looks and sounds cute as a button. Yay, (some types of) body hair! Yay no more Size Zeros! (Nikki looks to be about a four.) Yay being funny AND sexy all at the same time!

I mean, good Lord. If “pretty can be funny” is a message we still need to clarify — in today’s post-Tina Fey/Sarah Silverman/Jennifer Aniston/Etc world — then grasshoppers, we have more work to do than I even thought.

Because no kidding, pretty can be funny. Pretty girls get to fall down, wear glasses, make fart jokes, and even, under very specific comedic circumstances, eat pizza or cheese in public. That’s not radical. They’ve been doing it on every sitcom since “I Love Lucy.” They get to do all of this stuff because they’re so gosh darn adorable — and thus, all their wacky antics are cute, not threatening or weird.

It’s when you don’t fit the beauty mold to a perfect size 0 to 6 that we run into trouble. If Nikki lets her mustache grow in, then no, we don’t want to watch her make goofy faces anymore.

But we actually don’t need to clarify that. I’m not pointing out anything we don’t all already know, in the marrow of our beings. This is how the beauty industry works now. Plain old insecurity isn’t selling? Women are cottoning on to the “you’ll buy this product if we make you feel bad enough” marketing plan? Then let’s talk about how great and smart and strong they are — while continuing to show the same exact beauty visuals (thin, poreless, hairless) we’ve been using for years. The products are the same. The goal (look like this to be happy and beloved!) is the same. The only thing they’ve changed is the display copy. And as my friend Gayle Forman points out today, over in her blog post, “fat,” images are so much stronger than the written word.

Which is why this Stand Up For Beauty campaign (and, I fear, the whole Dove Real Beauty/Britney sans airbrushing advertising trend) is not any kind of step in the right direction.

It’s just the same old CoverGirl commercial playing dress-up.

PS. No word on what Nikki plans to do with her $50K beyond the website’s nonsensical explanation that she’ll use it to “make her possible true!” By the by, Nikki is also “Inspired by family and friends, especially her mom.” It’s like CoverGirl’s ad writers just Google “words women like to hear,” (or maybe “words Oprah has used recently:” possible! moms! inspiration!) slap them down on paper and go to lunch.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Glossed Over., week 24

[Tip Jar] Seven, Back for a Salt Scrub.

So, remember Client Seven, the 70-year-old lady getting her first facial, despite (or perhaps because of) a host of medical problems including fake knees and high blood pressure?

Well, I must have done something right, because tonight she’s back.

Her daughter has booked them both in for salt scrubs, but failed to show up — something about Seven’s grandson and a meeting with the principal, which doesn’t sound good. “She was supposed to treat me, but I guess I’ll have to treat myself,” says Seven.

She says she’s had a salt scrub before, at a spa in Vegas. But I still make sure we go over the contraindication list pretty carefully, because I’m remembering those fake knees. “They’ll be fine, just not too much pressure,” says Seven. I leave her to get undressed, not surprised when she says she’d rather wear her own underwear than the disposable paper thong we’re supposed to offer clients. (I hate wearing those things and I’m not 70.)

When I come back in — well. I’m going to contradict all sorts of things I’ve written on this blog before, but here it is:

Seven is not pretty.

She’s the kind of overweight where her feet have ballooned up, so her toes are scrunched in sideways on themselves. Her legs have thick, angry scars from her knee surgery. And gravity has done its job most everywhere else.

I have to will myself to touch her.

And of course, intellectually, I’m furious about it. If age and weight are the two great enemies of our unattainable ideal of female beauty, then obviously, Seven has lost on both fronts. Does that mean she no longer deserves to relax, to enjoy the warmth of human touch, to feel good? Of course not. It was an unrealistic standard in the first place. Her body is just as valuable and valid as my own or anyone else’s. If anything, she deserves more respect, because her body has accomplished so much more. (Seeing as I’ve yet to bear a child, have my knees replaced, or go to Vegas.)

And yet. Maybe it’s because that’s just not the way we value women, and that value system is more deeply ingrained in me than I’d like to admit. Maybe it’s because sideways-scrunched toes freak me out. But this salt scrub (my first on a paying client) is difficult. I’ve enjoyed doing body treatments on my classmates (a fairly diverse range of sizes) because they seemed empowering, a way to celebrate a woman’s body without making it about fixing some flaw. But a salt scrub is supposed to make your skin smooth and glowing. People like to have them done before a beach vacation or a hot date. And at first, all I can think is, when is Seven planning to get into a bathing suit and why?

I get myself over it, though. I scrub up both her legs and get into my flow (though yes, I’m grateful that we don’t include feet in this service) and when it’s time to say, “Would you like your breasts included in this service?” I don’t blink when Seven says “yes.” I move in the figure eight pattern that we learned, keeping the towel in place and my eyes averted, and hoping that conveys “I respect your privacy” not “I’m afraid to look at you.” I really don’t want to give Seven reason to feel bad about herself.

When we’re finished and I’ve walked her to the shower, Seven does something that surprises me. She strips off her towel and her underwear, revealing a stained Depends pad, shoves the towel at me and hops into the shower. I dart out, closing the door as quickly as I can, and I remember how last time, she stripped off in front of me without blinking an eye. Maybe she’s just that comfortable with her body. Maybe she’s the type of person who overcompensates when they’re uncomfortable, and would rather just act like she’s okay than wait for me to guide her into the shower and have her pass the towel back, which is how we’ve been trained to do it so the client never actually has to be completely naked in front of us.

But when she’s dressed and heading out to pay, Seven makes a point to tell me that I unclasped the wrong part of her charm bracelet when I took it off for her at the beginning of the service. I apologize and ask if she wants help doing it back up.

“Why would I want you to do that?” she says in a suddenly harsh voice. “You don’t know how I like my jewelry. Just give it back right now.”

I do, feeling like the maid who’s been caught in the silver drawer. And it occurs to me that there’s another option: Maybe she’s fine being naked in front of me because she’s paying to be fine with it; she’s not supposed to have to worry about what someone in a service position thinks of her.

It’s probably a combination of all these things. When you try to work money into the youth/beauty hierarchy, the math gets tricky. Seven probably feels the power of her position as The Paying Customer and the insecurity of her body all at the same time.

She tips me $5 on a $34 service. And she’s the first client who doesn’t fold up the money first. Instead she lays the five dollar bill flat down on the counter between us and I’m the one who quickly folds it up and tucks it away.

Tip Jar Total = $48


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Beauty U, Body Treatments, In Class, Tip Jar, week 24

[Fun With Press Releases] Rankled by Cankles.

Fun With Press Releases: Because sometimes, the beauty industry just goofs.

Really, I should just post this and not write one word about The Wonder that is this press release. This canvas doesn’t need any more paint. It feels sacrilegious. We should just read and silently bask in the perfection of it all.

So here (and, you’re welcome):

Sent: Wed, April 21, 2010 3:29:32 PM
Subject: Story Idea: Rankled By Cankles

Hi Virginia,

The newest body part worth stressing over is the ankles…well, “cankles” to be exact.

Cankle – a word derived from the combination of ‘calf’ and ‘ankle’ – occurs when the calf merges with an obese or swollen ankle, and is claimed to be the “thunder thigh” of the new millennium.  Many women struggle with excess leg and ankle fat and no amount of diet or exercise make a real difference. The popularity of gladiator-style sandals and cropped leggings this summer has only added to the nationwide cankle anxiety.

For those who have had enough of the emotional distress, there is a now a new treatment called XXXXX, a novel laser assisted lipolysis technology that shapes and contours the body, including the lower leg and ankle area.
XXXX uses ultrasound technology, which is has the ability to differentiate between fat cells and important tissue. The breakthrough science means more precise contouring and a gentler effect on surrounding skin tissue, which results in faster recovery time, less risk of patient complications and the appearance of tighter and smoother looking skin. Check out XXXXX for more information.

We have partnered with several top physicians in the area and would love to work with you to showcase the treatment – and we can bring the equipment and expert (and patient) to you!

If you would like any additional information or to contact a physician, please email me or call XXX.XXX.XXXX.


Okay, I know, I know, but I just can’t help myself!

Top three reasons why I love this press release:

1. The quasi-scientific explanation of the word cankle. “It’s claimed” to be the thunder thigh of the new millennium. By, we can only presume, scholars and men of record the world over.

2. The reference to gladiator sandals that makes me want to party like it’s still 2008.


Now. Back to the silent* shock and awe.

*That’s just how I appreciate fine art. You should feel free to rail away.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Fun with Press Releases, week 24

Pretty Price Check (04.23.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Photo of a Tanning Addict

  • 78 percent of frequent tanners say they’ve tried to cut down but can’t — and feel guilty about it, according to a new study that bolsters the not new theory that tanning can be addictive. I think we knew this, but clearly, still disturbing. (Via Mother Jones.)
  • $150,000: How much the moms on this episode of Tyra spend on beauty treatments for their kids. There’s a weird defense of spa services for kids happening right now (and let’s be clear, we’re talking about weekly manicures and regular leg waxes for grade schoolers — not playing around with your mom’s nail polish) and it’s making me all kinds of itchy. More on this soon. (Via Jezebel, who is not a fan.)
  • 4 Avon Executives have been suspended pending the results of an investigation into whether they bribed officials in China and Latin America (two of the $10 billion company’s biggest markets). (Via CBS News.)

PS. Here’s a little Earth Day present for you: The Zoya Nail Polish Exchange is going on now through June 30. Send ’em your old/unwanted nail polish (which, I’m hoping, they plan to dispose of safely) and get a free bottle of their more eco-friendly polish (because it doesn’t contain formaldehyde, toluene or phthalates), free!

[Photo from Liz Barrs’ Flickr Photostream that will pretty much kill any buzz you ever get from tanning.]

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Filed under Pretty Price Check, week 23

I’m Your Waxer, Not Your Mother.

The New York Post is reporting on how Brazilian devotees come to view their waxers as “mothers without the baggage.” Says one loyal client:

“Meeting her made me realize how two women, complete strangers, can be nice to each other without all the catty drama. Granted, you should never be rude to anyone ripping hair off your body.”

Hmmm, responds Jezebel’s Sadie:

I wonder, as much as the genuine phenomenon of bonding with a professional you like — and of course I believe that’s real — there’s also another phenomenon, that of casting in oddly close terms a relationship which is essentially a business one, which can make recipients, alive to the nuances of class and inequality, feel uneasy.

Tonight Sue’s leg wax client asks Sue to also do her underarms, which translates to Sue pulling wax strips for nearly two solid hours, through the time when normal Americans are sitting down to family dinners, while said client reads a magazine and checks her Blackberry. (How can one check a Blackberry and read a magazine while another person is pulling hot wax off your legs and armpits? I do not know, but this lady manages it.) I think it’s safe to say that nobody feels the mother-daughter bond developing there.

Meanwhile, the rest of us give Brooke her first Brazilian. Maybe it’s because Brooke is just 19, but I think a lot of us do feel maternal, or at least sisterly, vibes. Campbell, who sings in her church’s gospel choir and also frequently in regular conversation, holds Brooke’s hand while I paint on the wax, and when I rip and it hurts — and yes it hurts a lot — she starts to make up a song that goes “Brooke has a pretty vagina now/Because she let us put hot wax on it.” We circle around and because it’s now a group of women coaching another woman through spreading her legs and experiencing major pain, all the moms in the room start sharing their childbirth war stories. Campbell is singing and everyone is laughing and talking at once, even Brooke.

It’s like how Naomi Wolf (Ooh, second Wolf call-back in the same week, guess what I’m re-reading right now?) acknowledges that as much as it creates competition and animosity between women, the beauty myth can also bring women together, enabling us to bond over shoe shopping or failed diet attempts or even our frustration with the beauty myth. We’re all here to do this thing that feels so fundamentally anti-woman (rip out Brooke’s perfectly serviceable pubic hair so she can meet a standard of beauty brought to us by the porn industry). And yet, maybe just because we all like Brooke, who, I tell you, is a brave little toaster about the whole experience, but also maybe because this is the way women have always cared for one another, it ends up feeling really pro-woman. And she’s so happy with the end result (you know, once the redness goes down) and so we’re happy for her.

But Sue’s client gives her a $3 tip for two hours of serious waxing and leaves without saying thank you. So yes, money changes the game. With Brooke, we have a level playing field; next week, she’s waxing me. With a paying client, you’re there to perform a service. The girlfriend-bonding stuff gets stripped away. And I don’t blame the women in the New York Post article for wanting to put it back. Even if “I love my waxer, honest!” sounds a little like “but I have lots of black friends!”

I just hope they remember to tip well, so their new BFFs can make rent.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Beauty U, Customer Cult, In Class, Waxing, week 23