My Beauty Labor Part Four: The Heavy Lifting.

photo of VA's Bathroom cabinets

First, the last installment of my beauty work stuff. This is how often I do the hardcore beauty work. (Yes, for me, this is as hardcore as it gets. Remember how everyone’s “normal” is different?)


  • Get a haircut (every three months), yes, at a fancy Manhattan salon that runs me around $120-$150 (including tip) plus whatever products I decide I cannot live without. Usually all of them.
  • Get a blowout ($35-50) which is where they just wash and style your hair, no cutting. Heaven when you have Somewhere Very Important to be and do not want to stress about your hair. But also weird that this has become so popular, because really, paying someone to wash your hair? Are your hands broken? (And by “yours” I mean “mine” and the answer is often “do shut up and let me have this.”)
  • Get a pedicure once every 6-8 weeks between April and September. Almost always at a salon. Sometimes at home, though I usually end up despairing over the results. (One reason I chose the esthetics program over the nail program — I seem to be polish-application challenged.)
  • Exfoliate all over using some sort of salt or sugar scrub in the shower. Usually before dressing up fancy or getting into a swimsuit. So maybe half a dozen times per year.
  • Get a bikini wax once or twice over the course of the summer when bikini-wearing is imminent. Cry because it hurts like hell. (In between I will occasionally touch up with shaving, but for the most part, this is the only time I deal with that whole area. It just hurts too much.)
  • Get a massage at a fancy spa. Maybe once a year for a treat. (Ironic, yes, that I never bothered to get facials before I started Beauty U — I always found massages way more relaxing.)


All of the above has stayed at the same frequency with two key exceptions:

  • Body treatments (salt scrubs, mud wraps, etc) are happening at least once every two weeks now, because someone will need a body to treat to meet their signature quota.
  • Waxing is happening as fast as my hair will grow in, for the same reason. And it’s gotten um, more aggressive.

So, there you have it. (Or at least as much as I could remember by sitting and staring into space for awhile and then at the products in my bathroom cabinet. Pictured above, by the way.) I figure that at the moment, I’m losing about five to seven hours per week to my own beauty work; that’s a whole business day. Add in the beauty labor I’m doing for others and we’re looking at over 20 hours per week. People, that’s a part-time job.

Would it crack you up to know that I originally thought this was going to be one, super quick post where I’d list out my beauty routine, be like, “man… beauty work… what do we think about that?” and call it a day?

Obviously, then I started writing and realized it would have to be the theme of the whole week because we all have a lot of thoughts about this. Which is awesome, because something I hear a lot in the context of this project is “but women don’t want to give up [insert your favorite beauty service/product/treatment here].” The rationale goes something like this: Women work hard. (They have the babies, remember?) They need these small luxuries. How dare I start talking about toxic chemicals or exploited workers or eating disorders and take all the fun out of feeling pretty?

And I always have to step back from the edge, apologize, and say “of course I don’t want you to stop getting [insert That Beauty Thing again]! I just want us to figure out a more socially responsible way to do all of that.” And everyone breathes a little sigh of relief and is like, “well, okay, I guess I can start tipping better in salons/buying phthalate-free shampoo as long as it works absolutely as well as the regular stuff.”

So here’s the deal. There is nothing wrong with that scenario. If you love your Beauty Thing so darn much, who am I to take that away from you? You work hard. You have the babies. You deserve a fricking bubble bath and I do not want to rob you of that joy. (I do want you to be able to have a bubble bath free of carcinogenic ingredients. But I’m not holding you responsible for that.)

But what I’ve been delighted to discover this week is that many of you actually aren’t clinging to your beauty routine as an inalienable right. You too get bored and frustrated by the drudgery of it and with the expectations that push you to keep at it. Even if you love feeling pretty just as often. Both these things are true.

And that means that in fact, you are open to giving up [insert-That-Beauty-Thing-here]. Or other parts of your beauty work — maybe the parts that create the most work for you, or require the most undignified, badly-paid work on the part of the people you hire. Or maybe you’re open to swapping it for something else, or finding ways to make this work better.

It makes me think that maybe the whole “women cannot be asked to part ways with their [insert-That-Beauty-Thing-here]” theory was actually brought to us by — wait for it — the makers of [insert-That-Beauty-Thing-here].

They’re the ones who don’t want you to give them up. You’d actually just as soon have that extra half hour to go read the newspaper or stay in bed.

So, this week we’ve talked about what we do and why we do it. Now let’s keep the conversation going. Is there anything about your beauty work that you’d like to simplify — even if it meant looking a little different from the beauty ideal you carry around in your head?

My answer to that question is probably as long as the last three posts combined. But for starters, I’m going to work on my Hair Obsession. My goal is to make peace with my hair’s natural state. Which means cutting down to just one styling product (from my current rotating catalog of at least eight) and ditching the “I’m going somewhere nice so I should spend 45 minutes heat styling myself or getting a professional blow-out” altogether. Okay that sounds hard. How about, as much as possible? Except for super special occasions?

I’ll keep you posted.



Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, week 26

6 responses to “My Beauty Labor Part Four: The Heavy Lifting.

  1. Melissa

    Count me in the category of people who’d give up my beauty work in a second if I had the courage. In fact, I went through a period of a few months recently when I did have the courage (long story, I was feeling very “screw this” about patriarchal bullshit), and stopped doing ALL beauty work. I stopped doing everything that didn’t fall under the category of “basic hygiene” (or “something a man would also do”). (Okay, I still shaved my armpits. And I still bought fruity body wash instead of the cheaper plain soap. But everything else went. No dieting, no makeup, no hairstyling, no fancy lotions and creams, no new clothes, etc.) It was great while it lasted. I mean, I looked awful. But I felt great.

  2. You know, I never thought of that part of my lifestyle (culture?) as privilege, but I guess it is. Most of what I think of as “beauty labor” (washing face, wearing deodorant, brushing teeth) is probably classified under “hygiene” for most people. I typically pull my hair back into a ponytail or a knot, and that’s it for the day.

    I do wear makeup (or do my hair sometimes – if the mood strikes, or if I wake up early for no apparent reason and can’t get back to sleep (like today). Hey, it beats emptying the dishwasher… 😉

  3. Rayenae

    I wanted to ask about the waxing legs thing. I recently waxed one of my legs (don’t ask) and found that when the hair grew back it was really painful. Has this happened to anyone else? It really felt like I was growing porcupine quills, not hair. Every time I got goosebumps I nearly wanted to cry.

    I searched around the internet but couldn’t find anyone relating a similar experience. I can’t imagine someone going through this and not having something to say about it though.

    • Hey Rayenae,

      Ouch! That sounds miserable! I’ve heard of (and experienced) people having some itchiness and ingrown hairs after waxing, but this porcupine quills thing is new on me. I’m guessing that when you pulled off the wax, you didn’t rip cleanly enough, so instead of grabbing out all the hairs by their roots, you were just cutting the hair off at the surface of your skin (which is actually what shaving does). Also, if you yank up with the strip instead of yanking parallel to your body, you can really rough up your skin because it will pull up the top layer of cells along with the hair.

      At least, this is what we’ve been learning at Beauty U… hope it’s semi-helpful! I’ll keep an ear out for anything that sounds more exactly like what you experienced. In the meantime… back to shaving? And a lot of moisturizer?


      • Rayenae

        I’m sure I was doing it right, and I’ve never really felt anything like it when just shaving, so I’m not sure. I’m wondering if it has to do with my hair type? I have really thick coarse hair.

        Anyway, thank for the response. I’m definitely sticking to shaving.

  4. Pingback: My Morning Beauty Routine… Exposed! | Beauty Schooled

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