Monthly Archives: July 2010

What’s Going On With Nail Salons. (And Why They Aren’t the New Massage Parlors.)

So, tonight, a Beauty U student brings in the newspaper because the front page story is “Local Madam Arrested for Terrorizing Sex Slaves.”

“I can’t believe I went into that place!” she says. “I didn’t know what it was!”

She thought it was a nail salon. Because that’s what it said on the sign.

Our teacher has already seen the newspaper and is more world-weary. “You have to know the signs,” she tells us. Front windows painted up? A back room for “massage?” And — this is the part nobody quite says but we all know it anyway — Asian-owned and operated? Check, check, and check.

Let’s back up for a second. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Government Watch, In Class, Nails, week 35

[Beauty Overheard] You Can Wear a Bikini Even If You’re Old.

From New York Magazine’s The Cut (because, seriously, they dig up all the best beauty talk):

British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman: “I defy anyone claiming there should be an age limit on bikini wearing. Certainly with the loss of muscle tone and wear and tear that women’s bodies suffer as time passes, the bikini becomes an increasingly difficult option the older we become. But as in so many things, the divide between one-piece and bikini wearers is less to do with age than attitude.”

So your age is not the issue. Phew! All we really care about is how skinny and toned you might be… got it? Isn’t that sooo generous? If you can have the body of a sixteen-year-old at 50, then you have nothing to worry about!

Ahem. Continue reading

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Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, week 35

[Last Ten Weeks] The Graduation Date is More Conceptual Than I Would Like.

So remember how last week, I told you that I was down to my last 18 nights at Beauty U?

Then I went to school and Miss Susan told us that we forgot to count snow days. Which Beauty U “doesn’t hold against you,” (as in, charge you extra money for) but does require you to make up by pushing your graduation date back a day for every snow day missed. State rules about how you have to have precisely 600 hours to qualify for the state board exam and what not.

I only dimly recall it now that we’re in the height of summer sweatiness, but we had six snow days between December and February.

Which means, my graduation date rolls back a whole week and a half. (Plus those pesky 9 hours that I’m still chipping away at in Make-Up Time.)


I was pretty grouchy about it last week because I had my one graduation date (August 17) so locked in my head and it was really keeping me going. But now it’s July 26, which means my new graduation date (August 26!) is now exactly one month and 20 Beauty U days (80 hours + 7.5 make-up hours!) away.

So I’m feeling more Zen about the whole thing. And wanted to update you so you don’t feel anxious.

From the Department of Crazy Beauty U Rules, it should be noted that even though they don’t hold snow days against us (and thanks, by the way, for not considering me personally responsible for nature), they didn’t exactly clarify the snow day policy until I thought to ask. Six months after the fact.

And they don’t allow us to make up the snow days the way we make up the days we miss for personal reasons — so you have no choice but to watch your graduation date push back. It would have been nice to have had the option to chip away at these days as we went along. A bunch of us are planning vacations as soon as we’re set free, so there are all kinds of life, work, whatever plans that will have to be reconfigured accordingly. It’s a drag.

But hopefully it’s a drag with only a month left now. Unless the graduation date changes again — we’ve been warned by teachers and other senior students to keep a close eye on our hour tallies from here on out. Remember how they screwed up Leslie’s math and she had to come back for an extra two hours? And pay extra for them? Yeah. Like that.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, In Class, week 35

And One Last Video Before The Weekend. (Thus, Ending Your Week on the Weirdest Note Ever.)

Yes, this is my third video post this week. Oh come on, you love it. But unlike Lookism Goes Pop (which is filled with terrifying statistics about how our looks impact our ability to hold a job) and the Story of Cosmetics (which is filled with terrifying facts about all the toxic chemicals that go into our beauty products while the FDA laughs and goes to lunch), this one is just… terrifying.

For real. I thought Jezebel was overreacting a bit at first, and then I watched it and now I am maybe scarred for life.

Right? RIGHT?

It’s like if Lady Gaga and the entire NYU freshman film class collaborated on a weight loss drug commercial. After first smoking entirely too much dope.

And now I wish you a weekend filled with as much walking naked in the summer tide, thinking like a martyr, and making love to strangers as your heart desires. No matter what size you are. Sheesh.

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, products, week 34

[Beauty Overheard] From the Department of Celebrities Say the Darndest Things

photo of Christy Turlington by Patrick McMullan

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these and now here’s Christy Turlington, interviewed in the Telegraph, as excerpted by New York Mag’s The Cut:

On whether she considered her looks a curse:

“I used to think so, but I don’t any more. When I was 18, and my looks were what I was – and all that I was – it did feel very limiting. It got to the point where I wondered what I was doing. But modeling gave me the kind of confidence that a lot of girls in their teenage years don’t have. In the end, I think that the industry saved me from having to be self-conscious.”

On charity work versus modeling:

“[T]here’s nothing rewarding about modeling. It was a fun opportunity that allowed me to see the world but spiritually and intellectually there is nothing rewarding about the profession at all.”

On being a supermodel:

“Maybe our body types were more feminine, but I often felt that we were too glamorous. Because I’m not very glamorous it didn’t feel true to me. I relate far more to the fashion of today than the Chanel miniskirts and Versace jackets of that time. Plus, having to wear all that make-up — what a waste! Cindy was much more that kind of persona; I don’t think the ‘sexy girl’ thing is my image at all — I get more attention from females.”

On doing runway shows:

“Actually, I hated that part more than anything. I just remember thinking: ‘How fast can I get to the end and back again?'”

I’m not going to do the “how whiny to complain about the gig that made you rich and famous and able to advocate for maternal health in third world countries like you’re doing now” thing, because these quotes are taken completely out of context, and it’s totally likely that Christy spent the rest of the interview explaining how this emotional journey led her to the place she’s in now and all that jazz. Celebs love to talk like that. Besides, it seems like she has a fairly nuanced view on the whole phenomenon (otherwise known as her life). I like that she acknowledges how modeling gave her more confidence than your average teenage girl — it’s nice to hear that constant validation about your appearance has the expected pay-off of making you feel good, rather than the same old “but I was so gawky and unpopular in high school!” stuff.

Of course, it would be awfully nice if the standard that Christy met so easily (equating awesome self-esteem and free clothes for her) was applied less ferociously to the rest of the world. And if maybe being a fashion & beauty superstar was a little less rewarded — since even she acknowledges that “there’s nothing rewarding” about that job.


And yes, I know, what even IS this? A Beauty Overheard post on a Friday, not a Pretty Price Check? Your mind = blown, right?

Well, I figured, we Price Checked on Monday, so things are already a little wacky this week. And maybe you haven’t had a chance to read this long post I wrote about Newsweek’s Beauty Advantage package, plus you haven’t taken seven minutes yet to watch The Story of Cosmetics video. (Which, by the way, has the industry hopping mad. Whee!)

I don’t want to distract you with that much on your plate. But I will say, so you can also be in the know, that the other BIG cosmetics news this week is the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. (The industry is fricking mad about that too.) So I’m working away on a kind of Price Check on Steroids post to tell you everything you need to know about that bill and the industry’s counter-proposals. But in the meantime, click all those places I helpfully highlighted for you to get the basics — and if you support the bill, write to your Congressperson to let them know.

[Photo: Christy Turlington by Patrick McMullan, via New York Magazine’s The Cut.]


Filed under Beauty Overheard, Beauty Schooled, week 34

Another Video for You. It’s Like Substitute Teacher Week Around Here.

You know, like when you had a sub at school, so all they did was show movies? Maybe that post title didn’t need this follow up explanation?

Well then, moving right along, because THIS video is maybe even better than the one I posted yesterday. Great, clear, concise explanation of the whole “why should I care what chemicals they put in my beauty products?” issue from Story of Stuff creator Annie Leonard.

I’m about to go hop on their press call about it, and THEN I’m gonna go hop on the industry’s response press call after that. How’s that for some afternoon excitement? Stay tuned, I’ll tell you more things soon.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Government Watch, Ingredients, week 34

For Those of You Who’d Rather Watch the Movie

Newsweek’s “Looksism Goes Pop” does a pretty awesome job of summing up all the research in their zillion-word package.


Filed under Uncategorized

Okay, Newsweek. Let’s Talk About This.

Everyone on top of your assigned reading? That would be the Newsweek “Beauty Advantage” special report I told you about yesterday. It’s all about how the beauty standards have gotten stricter than ever, and new research shows that your appearance still translates to how much money you make and how beloved you are by peers and supervisors of both genders.

It’s pretty much a big downer.

Because we haven’t made much progress on this (the numbers are almost identical to the stuff Naomi Wolf talked about in the Beauty Myth oh, almost twenty years ago) and in some ways —Heidi Montag, Heidi Montag! — things are getting worse. (If you’ll recall, a lot of us feminist bloggers cottoned on to that back at the end of last year.)

There are two solutions, says Newsweek:

1) Join the club, concludes Jessica Bennett:

When it comes down to it, people get jobs because they “know somebody” all the time–is embracing our beauty premium really any worse? It might be shallow and it might not be fair, but the reality is that whether or not we decide to buy into it, whether or not we spend a lifetime keeping up with an ever-changing, ever-more-disturbing, plasticized ideal, we’re being judged already. So why not use what we’ve got while we still can? Cause we won’t be beautiful or young forever—even with a round of feminist-approved Botox.

2) Tell everyone to go shove it and life your (not so beautiful) life, says Raina Kelly, who counters that we’re getting ahead just fine thankyouverymuch, whether we measure up to cultural beauty ideals or not:

Beauty bias notwithstanding, there are still opportunities for people who aren’t hotties—lots of them. Virtually all the women I know have come to terms with the fact that their self-esteem cannot be tied to Photoshopped 15-year-olds on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Never in the history of the world have women had so many amazing opportunities, and it makes not a whit of sense to squander them obsessing over our looks. We do not yet reap rewards equal to those of men. But we can either succeed in the breathtaking arenas that are now open to us—and work to enter more of them—or we can spend our days competing with fashion models and movie stars. In other words, you can be Hillary Clinton or Heidi Montag. It’s your choice.

Obviously, I started off liking Raina’s idea best. Don’t let that sh*t define you! We’re so much stronger than that!

Only problem is, having read the rest of the package (plus this excellent XXFactor post by Amanda Marcotte on how all the stories about women dominating the workforce now are ignoring how we’re still earning less than our male counterparts and making up the majority of the working poor) I don’t buy this for a hot second.

I’m really happy that Raina (who graduated from Yale, has a job she doesn’t hate, plus a husband and a kid) is doing so super, but it doesn’t change facts for the rest of us. Newsweek has it right there in the lead story, where over 50 percent of hiring managers say prospective employees should spend as much time and money on their hair and makeup as they do perfecting their resume — yet 47 percent also say that women are penalized for being “too good-looking.”

So more from the department of nothing’s changed: Women are damned if we Botox and damned if we don’t.

What’s worse is that we spend so much time damning each other for making these different choices. If you don’t Botox [or insert your favorite/least favorite beauty treatment here], you think the woman who does is at best shallow and at worst, a traitor to the sisterhood. If you do, you think women who don’t have given up, let themselves go, or become a hairy-legged feminist who will never get a man.

Those are extreme positions, I know. So, story time:

There’s a girl at Beauty U who has long, bleached blond hair, tattooed eyebrows, and potentially-fake boobs. Plus she’s visible ribcage skinny and orange-y tan. She is Our Heidi Montag.

And we hate her.

And I say “we,” because I’ve been just as guilty of this as the rest of the class. When she’s not around, we comment on what she’s wearing that day, how crazy her blue eye shadow looks, how low-cut her shirt is, how tight her pants are… you get the idea. You know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve gossiped about other women’s bodies in the same way with your own girlfriends. (If you haven’t ever, once, in your whole life said, “I can’t believe she’s wearing that!” then please, feel free to start judging me now.)

We defend our position because Our Heidi Montag is not all that nice. Or at least, she came in for a leg wax once and complained the whole time. But that’s not what this is about.

Our Heidi Montag is so overworked that up close, she is not beautiful to me — it’s kind of hard to look directly at her. But when I catch her at a safe distance, I think, yes, I see why she wants her waist to be that tiny — I wish MY waist was that tiny! — and her skin to be that tan. Everything about her is, on paper, meeting a culturally-prescribed beauty standard. It’s like she’s been doing Jamie’s Seventeen Magazine Project for her whole life, following every rule in the Beauty Handbook to a carb-free T.

And yet, she’s failing. Because when all the beauty standards come together, they add up to a hot mess. A mess that other women just can’t deal with because Our Heidi Montag’s insecurities are so out there (and yet she seems so unnervingly proud of them) that she becomes this weird walking reminder of our own insecurities, our own failure to meet the standards.

And so we say, “Why would she want her eyebrows to look like that?” When what we mean is, “I’m better than her, because even if I’ve failed, at least I wasn’t trying that hard in the first place.”

Newsweek does speak to this issue in the main piece and in Tony Dokoupil’s essay, Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful. But to my mind, it’s The Missing Link in each of the two solutions they offer. Not everybody wants to embrace Botox, and that should be more okay, so we’re not fighting the beauty bias so hard at every damn turn. And not everybody wants to reject the notion of beauty standards altogether either.

But right now (like always) we’re determined to stay stuck at this crossroads — instead of exploring the millions of other options that fill up the space between us.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, In Class, week 34

Pretty Price Check (07.19.10)

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

First up! Thank you to the lovely commenter over on this Sociological Images post, for giving Beauty Schooled a big shout-out — and hi to all of you new folk who have traveled over from there!

If you’re looking for the post she referenced (the story of Client Nine and the Parent-Supervised Eyebrow Wax) click here. To be honest, it’s a lot less dramatic that the Toddlers & Tiaras clip over at Sociological Images — but that maybe makes it that much creepier. Because Nine’s mom wasn’t a reality TV-hyped pageant mom, where you expect her to say outlandish things so you get to scoff and judge her. She was just a normal mom, wearing faded nursing scrubs and not much makeup. And Nine’s dad was this average-looking guy in old cordoroys. And they thought getting her eyebrows waxed was just what you do when she gets to a certain age, so she can look a certain way, and we can all relax about it. Judging that mom felt a lot more uncomfortable because it meant also judging myself.

And while we’re at it, I have to ask what good it does for us to get all up and arms about that pageant mom and say she’s a bad parent or wildly insecure or whatever? Tearing down other women for their choices about the beauty myth is just never productive. (Even when it’s funny. And I’m as guilty of this as they come.)

Tearing down the industry that sells us that myth, on the other hand… is our raison d’etre here at Beauty Schooled. So let’s get our Price Check on! (Yes, it’s Monday not Friday and I’m late again. It is summer, you know.)

photo of Bikini Ink

  • $75 is the price tag on Bikini Ink, which is the new vajazzling, only it’s a fake tattoo that goes where your pubic hair belongs. (This makes me extremely hopeful that the vajazzling trend is dying so that people will stop rushing up to me on the street/sending me text messages/emailing me and asking, “oh my GOD, have you blogged about vajazzling yet?” Which just kept resulting in me NOT blogging about it, because it made me grouchy. On the other hand, I am mostly posting this so I can say “yes” when they start asking the same question about Bikini Ink.) (Via American Spa Blog and BellaSugar, where I found the picture above.)
  • $20-30 is the cost of the circle contact lenses made popular by Lady Gaga and girls wanting huge Bambie eyes. Oh, also blindness. Or at least, pink eye. Pass. (Via iHeartDaily)
  • $19.50 is what you’ll pay for Gap Kids Skinny Jeans. And how do we feel about marketing “skinny” jeans to little girls? Not so great, hmm? J. Crew calls ’em stovepipe jeans, that would have worked for me. (Via New York Magazine’s The Cut)
  • 18 is the age of Charice Pempengco, a FIlipino singer who just released her first album and got Botox for an appearance on Glee. (Via Female Impersonator.)
  • SPF 100 is a total crock of sh*t. Just wear your 30 and reapply, reapply, reapply. (Via Beauty to the People.)

And on that note, who cares if it’s really Monday? Blow off work early and go to the beach — wheee!

(I mean, I can’t, but you still should. Because I’ve got JUST 18 NIGHTS — and ummm, 9 more makeup hours — LEFT at Beauty U* so the only tan I’m getting this summer comes from Stephanie’s airbrush gun.)

Must Read: (At the beach or wherever you are) Newsweek’s new special report, “The Beauty Advantage.” I’m reading now… so expect pithy thoughts soon.

Get Excited For: Wednesday, when Annie Leonard releases her new video, The Story Of Cosmetics. I. Know.

*Spread over four weeks, don’t get panicked now, and remember, the blog doesn’t end when Beauty U does — it gets better than ever!


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Pretty Price Check, week 34

[Tip Jar] In Which You Discuss Amongst Yourselves

There are a lot of Tip Jar stories that I haven’t told you, either because they seem kind of run of the mill (yet another European facial on yet another middle-aged lady for yet another $5 tip) or because I’m just not quite sure how to explain the encounter or what conclusion we can draw. I’m solving all these problems by giving you this (not at all chronological) list of some of the latest, with the salient facts, but not much else. It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure day, only you can Draw Your Own Conclusions instead.

  • Client Twelve: Is a middle-aged woman with red hair, who comes in for a European facial. I leave her to change and step back in a few minutes later. “Don’t be alarmed — I took my hair off!” she says cheerfully, now wearing the kind of black nylon head wrap I usually associated with a more shall we say urban aesthetic? Tips me $6. Comes back three weeks later for a salt scrub where she tips me $10.
  • Client Thirteen: Tells me she has MS when I ask if she has any health conditions that might contraindicate an eyebrow wax. We agree that’s not really relevant here and proceed. She’s very sweet and gushes over what I do to her brows; “They’ve never looked this great!” I like her a lot. No tip.
  • Client Fourteen: Comes in for a cellulite wrap and spends the whole time telling me about how she volunteers with her church and was called to adopt two children from Ethiopia. Plus she needs to lose weight. Is a size zero. Tips $10.
  • Client Fifteen: Is a very old and deaf man who has come in while his daughter gets a haircut. She asks me to trim his brows. They are crazy old man brows. I do my best. She tips me $3.
  • Client Sixteen: Is an Italian man who has come in for a haircut and wants his brows trimmed. He is very nervous that I not “make him look like girl.” I do my best. He doesn’t tip.
  • Client Seventeen: Turns out to be the daughter of Client Seven, how about that? And here I learn a lesson about assumptions, because while Seven painstakingly tipped me $3 for a heck of a lot of work, Seventeen tips $10 for a European Facial and eyebrow wax, and spends the whole night telling me about her yacht club membership, her son’s fancy private school, and how, when she goes on cruises, she packs her own booze in Listerine bottles so she doesn’t have to pay cruise ship bar prices. The next night, Seventeen comes back with Seven, who tells me all about her latest diet while I give her a European. This time I get $4.
  • Client Eighteen: Comes in with her daughter for European Facials. Are perfectly lovely and enthusiastic and tip Meg and I each $5. After we wave them off, Meg says, “Why can’t they all be like that?” And we go for doughnuts.

Oh and on the subject of tipping: A lot of you have asked me what’s considered an appropriate tip, from the esthetician’s perspective. I’m sure it varies place to place, but at Beauty U, we hope for 20 percent, so $5 on a $25 European Facial. If we get more ($10 tips are not unheard of!), we are completely jazzed. If we get less, we complain.

And if you have a coupon, or the service itself is discounted in some way, it is classy to still tip based off the regular price, especially if you’re in a setting where workers are really tip-dependent. At Beauty U, we don’t get paid anything else and in fact are paying gobs of money for the privilege of working on you. At many “discount” salons, workers are paid a pretty low day rate on the assumption that they’ll make it up in tips. I don’t think that’s happening.

Tip Jar Total: $138-ish. Which keeps me in Diet Coke and Mac Snack Wraps during break. And that’s about all.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Body Treatments, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, Waxing, week 33