Monthly Archives: May 2010

Pretty Price Check (05.28.10)

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

Photo of Cassie Smith, Hooters Waitress told to lose weight

  • 132 lbs: The weight of this (5’8″) Hooters waitress, who was given a 30-day gym membership and told to drop some pounds by Hooters management. Of course, enforcing weight loss among your employees is pretty questionable no matter what their size but I include her stats for the shock value. If you weren’t already boycotting Hooters on principle, please, let’s start that now. (Via Lemondrop; above photo from same.)
  • 23.8 percent of executive board seats are occupied by women at fashion, beauty and retail brand companies, according to a study commissioned by WWD. The really scary news? This is a way higher percentage than at other kinds of publicly held companies. You know, because these brands are selling girly products, so we’re (sort of) allowed to play. (Via StyleList.)
  • 30 percent of consumers are concerned about the validity of natural and organic claims on beauty products. Can’t imagine where they’re getting that. (Via GCI)

New Favorite Blog: OMG! Have you discovered The Seventeen Magazine Project yet? Jamie Keiles is an 18-year-old high school senior in Eastern PA who is spending 30 days following every bit of advice she can glean from the latest issue of Seventeen and I would really like to be her best friend, not just because I think we have the same hair, but also because she’s been making these awesome pie charts showing how 75 percent of Seventeen‘s advertising is related to Stuff That Makes You Look Better — all the while also dissecting the ramifications of pigtails and ripped sweatshirts.

Speaking of compliments and favorite new blogs… I am loving how yesterday’s cross-post by Eat The Damn Cake’s Kate got everyone all fired up to do some complimenting already. And would like to direct your attention to a prime complimenting opportunity known as The Fresh Reflection. From their Welcome post:

We have decided to make changing the perception of ourselves official. The goal of this blog is to tell each other what WE see. The beauty WE see in YOU. Every day we will post a photo of a woman. Someone we know or don’t know. And then we ask you to leave a comment to tell that woman what YOU see in them. What do YOU think is beautiful about them that they may have missed?

But I warn you now, if you read that blog while playing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (or if you have maybe recently watched the Heathrow airport scenes from Love Actually) you might not stop crying for a week. Oh people. All so f*cking beautiful and we never have any idea about it.

And now, I’m off to enjoy a long weekend, during which I plan to wear absolutely no makeup or hair products and compliment people with wild abandon. I encourage you to do the same!

Back on Tuesday. xo


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, For Extra Credit, Glossed Over., Happenings, Pretty Price Check, week 27

[Cross-Post] A Vow of Complimenting from Kate at Eat The Damn Cake.

girl taking picture in the mirror

So remember when I told you about one of my new favorite blogs, Eat The Damn Cake? And then, remember when my post about the Shoe Astronauts got cross-posted over at ETDC and I was hopping around all excited?

Well. Am hopping all around again, because now I’ve bullied asked nicely and today, we have ETDC’s very own Kate, cross-posting over here about why we should all be giving out a lot more compliments.

This topic really speaks to me, because over at Beauty U, we so often zero in on someone’s flaw (perceived or real) to get them to buy a product or splurge on another treatment. Even when we do give compliments, it’s all part of the sales pitch. (Did you know Avon ladies are trained to compliment their potential customer within the first five minutes?)

So I’ve been getting all jaded about this being nice business. Here’s Kate to remind us why genuine-no-strings-attached compliments are actually great:

It’s really important to compliment people. In terms of body image, I think it’s extremely important that women compliment other women. I believe this absolutely. I’ve never understood dismissive people. I’ve never understood rude people. I have a sort of grudging respect for them once in a while, because it looks like they don’t have to go through the trouble of caring constantly about other people. Which must be kind of liberating.

But mostly I just feel like if I was trapped in an escape pod with one of these people, hurtling through space, we’d have nothing to say to each other. Even if we were stuck there for a week. Of course, now that I think about it, maybe meeting someone in an escape pod, blasting off from an exploding space station, might interfere with a person’s ability to be dismissive. They might start telling me about how their dad left when they were little.

The point, however much I’ve now tortured it, is: I don’t understand people who aren’t nice on a basic level to other people.

Because I think that everyone should be more than basically nice to each other. I think we should give each other compliments a lot. I think women should compliment other women regularly. Lavishly. Casually. Every way imaginable. But it’s really hard sometimes.

Here are two instances in which I recently completely failed:

1. I was on the subway. There was this woman wearing a ridiculously creative outfit. That’s saying a lot for Manhattan. I’ve seen a woman walking down Broadway in a purple evening gown. I saw a woman in the train station wearing a top, a poofy skirt, and high heels that were all decorated with rainbow stripes going in different directions. And then there are the occasional monks, new age spiritual leaders, and budding fashion designers. Oh, and the young gay guys. Gotta love ‘em. But this woman stood out even among them. She looked gorgeous. She was black and voluptuous and had her hair pulled back slightly with a headband too thin to see. Her hair exploded behind the band, like a cloud. She was wearing all pastels and white, and her heavy eyeshadow was glintingly silver. Her features were wide set and naturally dramatic, and she was working with them. She was taking her beauty to its natural extreme. I stood there, feeling lame and sallow and uncreative, trying to stare at her without being obvious. She caught me, of course. I looked away. What I really wanted to do was just tell her. I thought about it through the next three stops, trying to work up the courage. I could say, “I love your outfit!” But what I really wanted to say was, “You are gorgeous!”

The doors slid open at my stop and I got off. I walked right by her. I couldn’t do it. It’d be too weird. Damn. Damn. What if no one told her how good she looked? What if she went through her entire day, wearing that astounding outfit, with her bold makeup and fabulous face, and no one acted appreciative? Well, maybe she was just doing it for herself. But still.

2. I was talking with a casual friend about the dating scene in NYC. She was telling me about her adventures with online dating, and she made a comment like, “But you know how it is. This city is full of models and stunning women. I’m not kidding myself. I’m fine, but I’m not—“ She didn’t complete the sentence. Just shrugged and left it at that. I thought, “You’re totally beautiful!” But I didn’t say anything. I was worried she’d get awkward and wonder why I was being weird.

OK. Let’s just take a moment here. When’s the last time someone who wasn’t a sleazy guy told you, “You’re totally beautiful,” and you thought, “Weird. What a weirdo,” and didn’t feel the slightest bit flattered?

Here’s what I think. I think that it’s my responsibility as a woman to compliment other women. I know how self-conscious I feel about my appearance. I know how stupid I get about it. I know how competitive and sometimes hopeless it feels. I know how much support I need. Every single time one of my friends compliments me, it means something. It means a lot.

It sounds like a little thing– just saying someone looks good– but, you know, it could change the world if everyone did it. Like sustainable energy. Recycling. Charity. Asiago cheese. What? That stuff is amazing! Seriously. It is. And seriously, compliment a woman today!

If I ever see that woman from the subway again, I have no excuse.

*  *   *  *  *

Un-roast: Today I love the way I look in shorts. I just got denim short shorts, and they’re really hot. I wore them out with gold sandals and a white tank top today. Pretty sweet. My legs aren’t very long, but I have a curvy little Jewish girl look with the shorts.

Everyone: Do you ever compliment strangers? What about friends?

PS from Virginia:

Notice how I’ve been doing these cross-posts lately? Want to be part of the fun? Email me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com if you’ve got something to say. (Sorry Kate, for hijacking the bottom of your post with this shameless plug. You are pretty.)


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Cross Posts, week 27

The Beauty Enthusiasts.



Just found this interesting Come To Jesus post on Modern Salon about how salons and spas need to work to “bring back” the clients they are otherwise losing to Sephora, YouTube beauty gurus, CVS Beauty, and such. The numbers are daunting; 800,000 people click on YouTube beauty videos every week. But there is hope because the average beauty consumer may be flocking to online beauty gurus and those brand reps who hang out at Sephora airbrushes at the ready, but “she believed us first,” says Reuben Carranza, CEO of P&G Professional. It’s sort of like hair salons are a cross between your scorned-but-carrying-the-torch first boyfriend and those evangelical Christians who protest at Mormon churches because they think this new religion is total blasphemy.

I just mixed a lot of metaphors there. Anyway, Carranza says when it comes to restoring customer faith, the key market to focus on is The Beauty Enthusiasts:

What is ‘The Beauty Enthusiast?”

  • A consumer who thinks about spending her money, where to spend her money, and is pre-disposed to shopping and spending in the salon environment.
  • She views the salon and the hairdresser as the ‘key’ source of beauty
  • She is a thought-leader. This can include blogging or looking for new products and services.
  • She is an experience-seeker. It’s all about the total beauty experience for the Beauty Enthusiast. She likes all of her senses engaged.
  • She’s an informant. She responds to sophisticated information, trends and what’s happening in the beauty industry.
  • She wants to look the best at her age, and actively seeks out beauty news.

Beauty Enthusiast’s statistics:
45 percent purchase Salon and Retail products
44 percent purchase only Mass Retail products
11 percent purchase only Salon products.

What do these statistics mean? According to Carranza, Salon owners need to focus on the people IN THE MIDDLE who buy both salon and retail products. If business owners can
persuade this percentage to purchase only salon products, they have more customers right in their bag.

First of all, I’m enjoying the Freudian slip style grammar errors, like that “What,” which should be a “Who” but instead not-so-subtly reinforces the idea that this consumer is a credit card, not a real person.

And I guess I like this better than a lot of the sales tactics we’re learning at Beauty U, which involve figuring out a client’s insecurity in order to upsell them something they may or may not need. But there’s something about the word “enthusiast” that’s making me picture some fresh-faced girl next door type who just loves to dance is all. And so I worry that she’s really going to drink the Kool-Aid and what starts as an innocent deep conditioner habit will turn into a full-blown robe-wearing, chanting, handing out religious tracts situation. (Yes, I’ve abandoned the boyfriend metaphor and we’re doing the religion thing now.)

Of course, Carranza also talks about how she’s a thought-leader and plans ahead how to spend her beauty dollars, so I bet she’s really too smart to get sucked in. Especially the 44 percent who don’t bother to shell out for salon products in the first place. I am super fascinated that only 11 percent of this “beauty obsessed” market buys exclusively salon products — surely that number was so much higher back in a simpler, pre-Sephora time? I know I’ve talked before about the weird, warring factions of the beauty industry. Guess we have to add salon vs. retail to that cat fight.

But cults are powerfully tempting, especially when they’re selling even a suggestion of something you deeply want, like hair that doesn’t make you want to break mirrors with your face. So, listen up, Beauty Enthusiasts (if, indeed, you are a real group of people and not a market research firm’s wild imaginings): The hair salons want you back. But if you’re getting better deals at CVS, well then, no means no.

(And we went back to the boyfriend thing. Some days there just isn’t enough caffeine to keep me on message.)

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, products, week 27

A PSA About Adverse Waxing Reactions: That’s All of Them.


Photo of german waxing

I found this picture on an Austrian spa site. And no, I can't figure out what she's waxing, either.


Over the past few weeks, I have concluded that there are two types of people in this world: People who blister and burn at the merest suggestion of hair removal via waxing (that would be me) and people who can have all parts of their bodies waxed with vigor and barely flinch or turn pink.

If you’re a No Wax person, you hopefully already know that about yourself (because you burn after five minutes in the sun, or get irritated every time you switch moisturizers) or you’ll learn the hard way (getting waxed) once, and never go back. If you’re a good waxing candidate, well then, go to town. Us No Wax folks are envious of the valuable shower minutes you save by not shaving.

I had more or less decided this was good news, because in theory, it would make an esthetician’s job so much easier. Clients who get red and shriek with pain should not be anywhere near your waxing station, so you don’t have to worry about scarring someone for life and/or risking a lawsuit. The rest of your clients will be happy as clams about waxing. This makes for more pleasant work because waxing customers are much chattier than facial clients and easier to please because the results are so much more dramatic.

Tonight puts a big giant hole in my theory.

Because last night, I waxed Tammy’s armpits. Tammy is a great waxing candidate. She doesn’t ever seem to grow much body hair to begin with, and she claims to actually like how waxing feels. (She also likes microdermabrasion. Tammy and I are not from the same planet when it comes to pain thresholds.) So, I waxed, and we chatted, and she didn’t flinch or turn even the slightest shade of pink.

But tonight, Tammy comes in and reveals that her armpits have turned so pink they are almost purple. And mottled until they resemble one of those port wine stain birthmarks, or maybe really old cheese pizza. She’s in crazy amounts of pain and slathering on the Neosporin every chance she gets.

You guys, I feel so bad.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been getting a little impressed with myself and my waxing abilities. Plus, I really thought I did everything right; applied the pre-waxing treatment gel and baby powder, tested the wax on the inside of my wrist, to make sure it wasn’t too hot, ripped parallel to her skin.

Miss Stacy says that I probably didn’t hold the skin tight enough as I was pulling. This is tricky when it comes to armpits, because they aren’t a nice flat surface like eyebrows or legs. She says it’s also actually pretty normal for burns and irritation to take a few hours to show up — so you can have a client leave happy as a clam, and then wake up in the middle of the night in itchy, burning agony. That is rather nerve-wracking information.

And what really freaks me out is that nobody seems to think this puts Tammy on the No Wax List. In fact, nobody pays much attention to my concept of a No Wax List once we get past the part where the customer signs a waiver saying that they don’t have “adverse waxing reactions.” (And they all sign it.) Miss Stacy swells up like a puffer fish after waxing, but she still persists in regularly waxing her bikini line, arms and legs. “Oh, you just get red for a day or two, then you’re fine,” she says.

Yes, you just get red. (Or purple, in Tammy’s case.) And no, it’s not permanent. But it seems so odd to downplay this pain the way we’re taught to do around here. Every hair removal wax on the market claims that its formulation will cause less pain and redness than competitors. Every esthetician who does a lot of waxing claims that she’s found the Holy Grail of waxes that really does all of this, plus she knows how to wax correctly, so it doesn’t hurt as much. And people who love the results of waxing find a way to endure the pain, which usually involves downplaying how much it really hurts. (No fronting. This is like me with shoes, so I’m on to you.)

Is it maybe time to admit we’re all in on the same conspiracy here? Maybe then we could get around to developing hair removal techniques that work as well as wax but really don’t hurt this much and cause crazy rashes?

Because right now, as much as the manufacturers claim they’re working on it, I have to wonder if they have R&D meetings where they say things like, “It gave those lab bunnies a blistering rash? Whatevs. Our customers are down with that.”

[Photo from over here.]


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Waxing

Pretty Price Check (05.21.10)

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

Photo of a woman using a vacuum cleaner as a hair dryer

  • 37 percent: How much more likely you are to develop an early form of liver cirrhosis if you dye your hair (compared to women who go au naturel) says a new study published in the international gastroenterology journal The Gut. (Via The StyleList.)
  • 18: The new minimum age for tanning beds in New York State, if the “Teen Tanning Ban” passes. (Via Shine.) Poor (hopefully skin cancer-free) teens. There’s always beet tanning, lovelies. Yes for real.
  • 100% certified wind power is what Aveda is using to manufacture all their products these days. They’re also doing great on the charitable donations and the recycled packaging front. How’s about taking out some toxic chemicals, my friends? (Via what I am pretty sure is just a press release on Technorati)
  • 6 lightening creams contained mercury (out of a sample of 50) in a recent Chicago Tribune investigation. Wow, the list of reasons not to use those just keeps getting longer. (Via BellaSugar.)

Favorite New Blog: Before You Were Hot. “Because every swan was once an ugly duckling.” I know, I know — you might think that a site where people post photos of themselves during their awkward years (braces, bad bangs, and all) wouldn’t jive with my whole “love yourself the way you are” ethos. Um, you would be wrong. Braces and bad bangs are hilarious. Not taking our appearances so damn seriously is a Very Good Thing.

And, as creators Anne and Melissa say on their about page: “This is all in good spirits, like ‘we were all in this awkward phase together.'” Love, love, love.

[Photo: “A Vacuum Used as a Hair Dryer” via Flickr where all the other info is in German, so I can tell you nothing more.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Hair, Ingredients, Pretty Price Check, products, Tanning, week 27

[Cross-Post] Porn Stars are a Scary Kind of Sexy

Kittens, I am so excited to introduce this cross-post to you. The Fornicating Feminists are a group of Smith College students running a very new, very kick-ass community blog about “our recent musings on sexual encounters in college.” From their mission statement:

Our mission is to examine the gender dynamics in the sexual milieu of college life and reclaim female sexuality to be equivalent (although not identical) to male sexuality.

We hope that this will be a positive forum for women to discuss sexual issues. Our main goal is to have fun!
Oh, college. Where you can use words like “gender dynamics” and reclaim stuff right and left in ordinary conversation. You can see why I decided to be lazy today and let these smart women do my thinking for me.

But what does fornicating have to do with the beauty industry, you ask? Only everything, as it turns out. (See some of my Beauty U reporting on Brazilians if you’re not convinced.) Last week, the lead Fornicating Feminist (or Sex Fairy, as she’s called at home) wrote about porn pros and cons after screening her favorite porno for the group. It’s not required reading for the post that’s about to follow, but it is pretty great and you might find it to provide some helpful back story. And then after, you can follow it up with another Sex Fairy’s post on Even More Porn. (These ladies like to take a theme and run with it.)

I’m cross-posting this piece from a fornicating feminist who calls herself The Librarian, and brought the discussion around to one of our favorite topics – beauty standards! — by asking:

What if porn is not what floats your boat, but what’s programming your boat to float?
THIS is what freaks me out. Because I have NO desire to have sex “like a porn star” or resemble a porn star in any way. It amazes and terrifies me that plastic, fake blonds with beach ball boobs that look like they might slip out of place at any second are determining what so many men (and some women) think a sexy woman looks like.
While women’s idea of “what is sexy” is pretty fluid throughout their lives, men’s turn-ons are pretty much set for life by age 15 or 16. If porn has had a more dominant influence on their sexual experience at that point than real girls, what does that mean for the rest of their lives? Men in the 16th century thought hairy legs, well-fed figures, and plucked foreheads were beautiful, because that’s what they were told to think was beautiful. Why has the media and the porn industry turned sexy into starvation victims with injections in all the “right” places? 

Not to mention, the concept of sex in this porno was so limited and mechanical – what do you even need another person there for? There was no human connection whatsoever, which as I’ve said before, is the part of sex that appeals to me most and provides the most fun and pleasure. To not even have the actors’ bodies connecting – except where a camera can view them slamming into each other – was bizarre and disconcerting. Is this really a normalized vision of what sex is?

I was surprised. I didn’t expect to love, or even like porn, but I also didn’t expect it to make me never want to have sex again. Probably that won’t last, but seeing porn for the first time was a HUGE turn off for me. All I could think (aside from, GROSS) was, “Is this really what guys are expecting? Is THAT what I’m supposed to do? And if so, I have probably been a huge disappointment to every partner I’ve ever had. I’m boring and not at all sexy and never will be.”

Now, I know this is not true. I don’t have any desire to be with someone who can’t appreciate my individual appeal, and I was proud that the next thought to cross my mind was, “Damn, no wonder so few guys have managed to give me an orgasm, if this is their instruction manual. That would never work for me, and that’s their problem, not mine.”

I’m glad that it cuts both ways, and didn’t only undermine my self-esteem. But I’m in the most empowering environment in the universe – how many girls think they need to turn themselves into something resembling the very limited conception of a porn star in order to please their partner, and put pleasing their partner above being comfortable and pleasing themselves? How many guys are programmed by the limited ideas of what “sexy” can be?
Who knows what they would find appealing if the ultimate embodiment of sex propaganda was more open and realistic? Maybe the body hair phobia (a whole ‘nother post) would die down and women wouldn’t have to look like pre-pubescent girls. Maybe girls who develop late, or just have small breasts, wouldn’t spend as many hours hating their bodies.
I don’t want to judge any one’s personal choices; go forth and fetish to your heart’s content, so long as you have a consenting partner.
But don’t make me feel like I can’t be sexy, just because I’m not interested in that version of sex, and don’t want my personal life to resemble something that’s packaged in shrink-wrap and comes in a box. 

Other thoughts, anyone?

Lots of Love,
The Librarian


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, week 27

[Tip Jar] Client Eight is Fine the Way She Is. So I Try to Sell her a $50 Facial.

Jill Glindermann, winner of the Sun Girl Quest at Suttons Beach, 1953

Client Eight is a shy 16-year-old girl with a small bit of acne around her hairline. (Hair products, people. Hair products.) I ask if she has any concerns about her skin and she immediately starts talking about her break-outs: “I hate them! They never go away! They look so bad!”

Under the magnifying lamp, they do look huge. (Because it’s a mag lamp. But sometimes I forget that. Like when I discover that what a client thinks are blackheads are actually hairs — this happens more often than you’d expect. Not to give you something to be paranoid about. Except I think I just did.)

Plus we’ve been getting the upselling talk. Yes again. If we don’t write down that we tried to upsell a service on the client’s form, then Miss Susan highlights that part of the form and passes it back to whichever teacher is listed at the top as our coach.

I’m not too clear on what “getting highlighted” really means, but Miss Stacey makes it abundantly clear that she does not want it to happen to her. So I suggest our fancy acne fighting facial. Eight asks the price (it’s $50) and then there is an awkward pause while she contemplates paying double what she was expecting.

“It’s totally up to you,” I say, beating a hasty retreat.”The European is also a great facial!” It’s really not. But I’m not about to take a kid’s babysitting money to dodge a yellow marker bullet.

Miss Stacey hears me mention the acne facial and swoops through the curtain to study Eight’s skin. “She definitely doesn’t need that facial,” she says. Miss Stacey is never one to mince words. “It will make her break out even more. Don’t do it.”

Humbled, I perform the regular European facial and make sure to give Nine lots of compliments about her pretty eyes and cute earrings. Because now I’m terrified that I’ve made her more insecure about her (TINY when not under a magnifying lamp! And no, you can’t see those blackhead hairs either in real life!) breakouts than she already was. Plus I’m the schmuck who tried to make money off a minor. With a treatment that would make her “problem” worse.


When I fill out my form, I write that I tried to upsell Eight to the acne fighting facial and she refused. And to be honest, I’m giving Miss Stacey big points for preventing me from upselling a useless (even harmful) service. (I’m subtracting a point for diplomacy, but that’s really between me and my ego.)

But it’s a tricky dance we’re doing.

Because I have to try to upsell something so we don’t get in trouble later. Except some clients don’t need anything more advanced (read: expensive) to solve their problem (read: insecurity). And suggesting something completely unrelated (“by the way, did you know we cut hair here?” or “hey, how about a mud wrap?”) is just transparently pushy.

“You have to write something,” says Miss Stacey, when I ask her about it later. “Otherwise we get highlighted.”

I think that might be code for a new way to use my favorite Beauty U rule: Make Stuff Up.

Tip: $7 (on the $25 European Facial. So I guess she doesn’t hate me.)

Tip Jar Total: $55

[Photo: “Jill Glindermann, winner of the Sun Girl Quest at Suttons Beach, 1953,” via Flickr because she looks like she’s liking what she sees in that mirror and because I am obsessed with old-time-y “bathing beauty” photos.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 27