Monthly Archives: December 2010

Pretty Price Check (12.17.10)

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

photo of Mexican breast implant ad

Beauty Schooled goes on holiday break starting tomorrow (we’ll be back in full five-post-per-week action come Monday, January 3rd!). And I wanted to leave y’all with a really grand Price Check, just chock full of startling stats and insights. Or at least have some Big Year-End Thoughts About Beauty, like I did last year.

But instead, all I can think about it is this head-exploding concept: Continue reading


Filed under Pretty Price Check

Looking at Beauty Products Makes You Feel Bad, (Maybe) Buy More

Sephora rainbow display

At least, that’s the conclusion drawn by this study, as reported in the New York Times‘ Sunday Styles this week.

From the official write-up (emphasis mine):

The authors conducted four experiments to examine the different meanings
consumers gleaned from products that were advertised versus not advertised. In
one study, the authors exposed female study participants to either a beauty-
enhancing product (eye shadow, perfume) or a problem-solving product (acne
concealer, deodorant).The product was either embedded in an advertisement (with
a shiny background and a fake brand name) or it was depicted against a neutral
white background. “After exposure to the advertised beauty-enhancing products
consumers were more likely to think about themselves than when they viewed the
same products outside of their advertisements.”

What’s more, those advertisements affected how consumers thought about
themselves. “After viewing an advertisement featuring an enhancing product
consumers evaluated themselves less positively than after seeing these products when they appeared without the advertising context,” the authors write. The same effect did not show up when the items were problem-solving products.

Important note: None of the ads in the study featured humans — they were just straight-up product shots. Which means we “compare” ourselves to ads for lipstick and perfume in much the same way we compare ourselves to pictures of skinny, airbrushed models and celebrities.

This is pretty fascinating, peeps. So buckle up. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, products

[Beauty Overheard] Tom Ford Wants Fat People to Take Their Clothes Off

Tummy by YarnivoreThis tummy belongs to Yarnivore, who shot this self-portrait as a way of facing up to her biggest body anxiety. Love. (Used per Flickr’s Creative Commons License.)

So, former Gucci designer/fashion mogul Tom Ford wants fat people to take their clothes off.

And actually, I agree. Sort of. Wait! I’ll tell you why in a second. First, here’s Tom (via Jezebel and Contact Music):

I spend most of my time at home naked. You know, most people actually look better nude. We are all one harmonious colour, with a symmetry and an innate elegance. Fat women almost always look better without the constraint and lumpy pinching of clothes, all the straps and elastic squeezing and sucking.
As devoted readers know, a side effect of ten months in beauty school for me was twenty extra pounds. And as I’ve been working on accepting where I am with all of that, I’ve noticed that I feel WAY better about my body when I see it in the buff, than when I actually have to get dressed and go places in it. When you’re naked, curves look fabulous. When you’re wearing jeans that are two sizes too small, all you can think about is muffin top.
And then, if you’re me, you have to spend all this time thinking about why you’re reacting negatively to the muffin top and why you think you have to fit into this culturally ordained hourglass thing, when, let’s face it, most of the women you’ve descended from were a bit more apple-y and so — itsjustafactnojudgment — you were born without a waist. It gets exhausting.
The main solution, as I have just discovered, is to get over yourself, go out and buy jeans that actually fit. (Plus jeggings! Yes, I am so rocking that trend. The flip side of the no-waist thing is, you do have legs.)
Wearing clothes that fit is far more practical than walking around naked all the time. Especially now when it’s snowing and 12 degrees outside. And so I am a little ticked off that Mr. Ford feels nudity is our best option, since, hello, he’s a clothing designer! Just whose fault is it that fat women are saddled with all that lumpy pinching clothing anyway? Hmmph.
Plus, I get super annoyed when fashion magazines decide to be all open-minded and show women of different sizes, but only if they’re all naked. Because again. There are many hours in the day when, no matter what your weight, you have to put clothes on your body so as to avoid arrest, frost bite.
But I also know — after hearing countless clients apologize to me for the sight of their naked bodies at Beauty U — that there are so many of people (of all sizes) who are not at all comfortable with themselves sans clothing. And that makes me sad, because if you can’t stand yourself in your birthday suit, how are any number of beautiful, even well-fitting clothes ever going to be enough to make you happy? That means clothes have become something to hide behind — when they should be icing on the (oh very tasty!) cake.

Thoughts? How does your body image change when you dress or undress?

PS. More on fat: This heart-breaking essay on Salon. The idiot New York Times ballet critic is taken to task by Salon and Dances With Fat. And this guy legitimately prefers fat chicks, what of it?


Filed under Beauty Overheard, beauty standards

Pretty Price Check (12.10.10)

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

photo of $132,000 nail polish

  • $132,000: The price tag on this bottle of nail polish. It’s mostly cause of the bottle, which is covered in 1,118 inlaid diamonds. (Diamond-free bottles of the same color sell for around $10.) Golly, I hate when brands pull these “we will stun you with how expensive we can make this product!” gimmicks. (Victoria’s Secret stupidly uncomfortable diamond-encrusted bras, am talking directly to you.) I mean, of course I can make something super expensive if I cover it in diamonds. How is this even a challenge? Especially when the polish inside is no (safer/greener/more effective) better quality than the sh*t you usually make? (Via BellaSugar)
  • $30,000 per month: The price of many new eating disorder programs, as hospitalization rates have increased. Sad on about a hundred levels. (Via Jezebel)
  • 50 percent: The amount of “muscle wastage” (read: sagging) that rats experienced after being injected with Botox. Forget what I said, I’m back to being scared about this. (Via The Cut)
  • 9: The number of pairs of shoes that 80 percent of women say they own but don’t wear because they’re too uncomfortable. You’re probably reeling from this information. I thought, “Only nine?” And then: SIGH. (Via Lemondrop.)

Thanks for being patient with a light posting week, kittens.  I’m swimming in pre-holiday deadlines and don’t want to sacrifice quality by throwing up any ole kind of post just to keep you reading. Because I respect you too much. But I’m also swimming in half-written high quality posts, so don’t fret, more good stuff coming your way very soon. (In the meantime, you really should follow me on Twitter to get your Beauty Schooled fix, because oh boy, am I interesting over there, in a pithy, 140-characters kind of way.)

Have a great (and potentially very snowy depending on your geographic location) weekend!



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[Fun With Press Releases] Is Cosmetic Surgery a Career Investment?

Fun with Press Releases: Because sometimes the beauty industry just goes there.

This publicist says yes:


Studies have shown that attractive people have an advantage when it comes to getting hired.  In the recessed economy with so many Americans out of work does it make sense to “invest” in cosmetic surgery?  Smoothing out an angry looking furrowed brow or choosing from a myriad of lunch-hour procedures to look younger and fresher might give job-seekers more confidence and a greater probability of landing their job.

XXX Medical Institute in the XXX area has over 20 years experience as specialists in plastic surgery and eye surgeries. They are available for interviews and comments on this topic.  Dr. XXX of XXX Plastic Surgery is a XXX. area Top Doc and specializes in breast and body cosmetic surgery.  If you would like to speak to anyone on their team regarding a topic, please let us know.

I’m thinking a lot about how the recession has shaped our spending habits this week (like, remember how on Friday, I asked you about this and told you to email me? It is still true and you still should!). For so many of us, the last few years have served as a bit of a wake-up call, whether you were impacted directly and had to do some serious retrenching, or worrying that you might be made you think a little harder about how we got so addicted to buying so much stuff in the first place.

Especially clothes (me). And beauty products and services (me again). And oh yeah, pretty things for my house. Sigh.

And then here comes this press release, suggesting that spending more on cosmetic surgery is actually an investment in your financial future and as essential to your job hunt as your LinkedIn profile. Right away, I was all scoffing and how dare they? about it, because clearly, we would all be better off spending less right now, particularly when it’s money we don’t have.

But I’m also not sure the press release is so wrong. Because I hear from women every day about the pressure we face to look a certain way (usually younger, also thinner) to get and keep a job. And while I hate endorsing that pressure and saying, yes, you, cave and get the Botox, if you can’t beat ’em, you can at least look younger and stay employed! I’m also not sure there is a clear solution here, since, after all, you probably do really need that job.

So, this is a tough one. We do need this wake-up call. It is time to reassess our spending habits and think about how we want to use our money in the future. But we’re also still under a lot of these same pressures, which come with a certain price tag.

How are you navigating this? Do you find yourself spending money on beauty that you’d rather be saving — whether it’s cosmetic surgery, or something more mundane like needing to update your work wardrobe every season no matter what? Or are you conscious of making different choices now? Let’s discuss.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Fun with Press Releases

Bikini Waxes are Definitely Not The Opera

Definitely Not the Opera

Which is why I was so excited when CBC Radio’s DNTO called last week to interview me about Brazilians, inspired by the Slate/DoubleX piece.

For you United States-ers, DNTO is the Canadian “This American Life” (except, again, Canadian. And hosted by the awesome Sook-Yin Lee). Every week, they explore stories on a theme. Saturday’s theme? Making the Private Public.

It’s a terrific show and you can listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes. If you’re in a really big hurry, my story starts at 25:59 and lasts about seven minutes. But do try to listen all the way through, because every story is pretty grand. (You know I adore/am slightly haunted by Sushma Subramanin’s story of being a recovering makeup addict, just for starters.)

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Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Happenings

Pretty Price Check (12.03.10)

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

Marymount basketball team and cheerleaders 1958

  • $150: What you get paid per game if you’re a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Plus the hidden perk of having your body ripped apart by catty judges. (Via Hairpin)
  • $225: What you get paid when you model for Vogue‘s editorial pages.
  • $15,000: What you get paid when you model for J. Crew ads. So beauty does pay… sometimes. (Via Fashionista)
  • 60 percent: The uptick in nail polish sales this year. Beauty folk want polish to be the new “Lipstick Index” (their proof that we spend more on beauty in a bad economy). Because we’re buying less lipstick. (Could this be why?) (Via Sephora’s Beauty and the Blog)
  • 24 percent of consumers say they have chosen ethical personal care products over conventional products during the past six months. And the beauty industry is paying attention to that. Woot! (Via Cosmetics Design)

While we’re talking about spending: I’m working on an article for a national women’s mag about how the recession has changed our spending habits, especially now that things are (maybe?) starting to look up. Are you happily falling off the frugality bandwagon, or do you find you don’t even miss the things you cut out when we were all tightening our belts? Has trying to spend less changed your tastes, style or your quality of life?

Email me stat (beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot]com) if you have thoughts to share on this or have changed your spending habits in a dramatic way and I’ll give you more details.

Must Read: This smart post by Michelle Segar, PhD, a psychologist and researcher who studies health behavior and exercise with Institute for Research on Women and Gender at University of Michigan. Michelle advocates exercising for immediate benefits like boosting your mood and increasing your energy and sense of well-being — rather than those much more elusive (and guilt-inducing!) goals of thinness and health. Yes. More of that talk, please!

[Photo: “Marymount Basketball Team and Cheerleaders” by the Adolph B. Rice Studio, February 21, 1958, via the Library of Virginia’s photostream in Flickr’s Commons pool.]




Filed under Pretty Price Check

On the Subject of Selling Hair

Blond Extensions

This story from last week’s New York Times is still haunting me and it seems like nobody really took much notice, so we better: Poor Russian women are selling their blond hair for around $50 a braid, so you can pay an average of $439 for glorious golden extensions.

This actually made the gray lady’s front page, which surprised me — except for how this piece got top billing there too, so clearly, somebody at the ole NYT has a hair fetish, methinks — because this isn’t quite news. Indian women sell or donate their hair in religious ceremonies all the time, as everyone knows if they saw the Chris Rock movie. In fact, (brunette) hair from Asian countries makes up the majority of the $250 million per year human hair extension market. And the NYT reports that blond women have been selling their hair since the 1960s, only now the demand has substantially increased thanks to extensioned-out stars like Jessica Simpson and my hair crush Blake Lively.

I’m a soft touch when it comes to hair — I cried buckets when Jo sold hers in Little Women — but crowning glory rhetoric aside, doesn’t this whole practice feels like a bad Disney movie in the making? Only instead of Cruella Deville chasing puppies, we’ll have some pretty-yet-plucky blonde (with the Indian chick as her sarcastic sidekick, I mean, it is Disney) running from a cartoon Kevin Paves wielding evil magic scissors, with her spun-gold tresses hidden under a jaunty newsboy cap.

And yet, it’s far more real than that.

So many black women have this lifelong struggle against their natural hair texture, which starts young (check out this awesome news story about a black mom who decided to cut off her extensions after her five-year-old daughter talked about hating her own hair) and never really ends unless they decide to wear it super short once they hit middle age, as Debra J. Dickerson explains over on DoubleX.

Meanwhile, all these Indian, Russian and insert-other-poor-countries-with-great-hair-here women are selling off these pieces of their bodies for grocery money. So their more affluent sisters can achieve cartoonishly long, volumized hair.

Which, by the way, most of us still don’t even realize isn’t real — I just had to break the whole “yes it’s extensions” news about Blake Lively to a good friend last week, and I spent most of last summer in denial myself about the girls on Pretty Little Liars. Like Photoshopping and really good plastic surgery, you can know extensions are out there happening somewhere.. and still not know them when they’re right smack there in front of you, making you feel inadequate about your own hair’s naturally flat top and just-below-the-shoulders stopping point.

In short, human hair extensions make everyone’s hair worth less. While costing you a small fortune. Continue reading


Filed under Hair, Happenings

[Beauty Overheard] Emma Watson, Free from Hermione’s Reign of Terror

Truth? I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a “Harry Potter” movie from start to finish. I’m pretty sure the rest of my family has joined a support group over it (“Loving Your Non-HP-Loving Child” or some such), but there it is. And I wanted to be sure to admit my ignorance before we get started today, because I would like to discuss one Emma Watson, with her adorable new pixie cut!

Here’s what she told WWD about it (via New York Mag’s The Cut blog, where you can see said haircut pictured because I have copyright issues to consider here). Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Overheard