Tag Archives: Miss Jenny

[Career Opportunities] Rock Stars and Role Models.

Molly Surno Nail Salon Photo

Melissa asks:*

Who are the beauty industry stars that the people in class aspire to be? Is Miss Jenny a role model? Are there big six-figure earners people look up to? Does anyone aspire to a Hollywood-style job as a celebrity or Fashion Week makeup artist? Is getting in with a brand–like being a MAC artist a big thing? Just curious about the aspirations/expectations.

There’s a lot of talk about the potential to earn six figures, but I have yet to meet anyone who graduated from Beauty U and is doing that. A few weeks ago, Mr. G gathered us all in one of the classrooms to show us pictures of a former student with a big rock star because she cuts his hair now (sorry, I’m being coy to help with the whole protecting my sources thing —  by which I mean the student, not the rock star!). She had emailed them over to let him know how well she is doing out in LA and he couldn’t wait to tell us about it. “This is a Beauty U graduate!” He kept saying. “This could be any one of you!”

“Do you know how she got that job?” one of the cosmetology students wanted to know. “Like, what she did after she left here to end up working for Mr. Rock Star?”

“I do not,” said Mr. G. “I’m guessing she went to New York City to get some more training and then I think she ended up moving to California for family reasons. So I don’t really know the whole story. But she started here, just like you.”

I mean, there is every chance that this former student is actually Mr. Rock Star’s niece or something. Suffice to say, her Beauty U. degree isn’t what landed him in her salon chair. It seemed like the current student population was pretty evenly divided between finding her story totally inspirational (a lot of the hair students talk about migrating to NYC for apprenticeships or additional training at big salons like Bumble & Bumble) or more of a fairytale that didn’t have much bearing on their lives.

What’s been making me a little sad is the fact that the ratio keeps skewing more towards the what-a-fairytale end of things the longer I spend in beauty school. Miss Jenny, Miss Lisa and the other teachers are absolutely role models, but more for their knowledge and talent than for their financial success, especially since Miss Jenny let slip that she’s earning “way less than $20 an hour” working at Beauty U. But when we started, several of my classmates were pumped up about the idea of being makeup artists, working on photo shoots for magazines, or at the very least, doing bridal makeup freelance or for a big spa in our area. At the midpoint, they’re talking more about working for a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. This is because the work feels more meaningful there and because you’re more likely to get health insurance.

And when I talk to the senior students who are graduating in the next month or so, even that ship has sailed. Sue started by applying to dermatologists’ offices, but no one seems to be hiring and those that are require extra training on top of your basic 600 hour Beauty U degree. So she’s selling Mary Kay cosmetics instead, hosting parties, moving $500 worth of products at a time, and bringing their promotional materials and samples in for all of us to try and buy. Her Mary Kay sales director drives the silver Chevy (which has replaced the pink Caddy, FYI) and makes a “good corporate income,” all the while being a stay at home mom to her kids. That’s living the dream.

So while facialist-to-the-stars is a nice fantasy, a ticket out of the lower middle class is more of what we’re aspiring to these days. Everyone worships brow guru Anastasia Soare, for example, but nobody seems all that connected to the notion that they could personally become the next Anastasia, with a celeb-studded client list and products in every Sephora.

I guess reality is setting in. I just hope it’s still worth $8500 in tuition payments or loans.

[Photo from the ever-amazing Molly Surno‘s Smallest Canvas project.]

*Do you have any burning questions about Beauty U, behind the scenes? Hit me in the comments, email beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com, or find me over at Formspring.me, which seems to be what all the cool kids are doing now.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, In Class, week 15

[Government Watch] On the Matters of Tanning and Toxins.

I admit to being fully impatient with anyone who thinks a tax on tanning salons is a bad idea. Of course, thus far, that group is mainly limited to tanning salon owners (shock) who feel their “one little industry” is getting stuck with the country’s entire health care reform tab (via Jezebel). What’s more surprising: The fact that they aren’t getting much support from the rest of the beauty industry on this one. Before embarking on this here project, I tended to think of the beauty industry as one big, pretty battleship. But it’s actually made up of several different and sometimes warring factions, and tanning salons are to estheticians kind of the way reality TV stars are to um… the cast of Gossip Girl. By which I mean, they’re both guilty pleasures, but at least Leighton and Blake and the rest have to try to act.

“A big part of our job is to promote good health,” says Miss Jenny. “I think it’s irresponsible for any esthetician to go to a tanning salon or even tan regularly during the summer.” She’s not against a healthy “I spend time outdoors” glow, mind you, but you best be wearing and reapplying your SPF all day long.

And the tanning industry is hopping mad about the way the rest of the beauty industrial complex is treating them, because twist! The new 10 percent tanning tax really came about as a replacement for the 5 percent tax on Botox and other cosmetic surgical procedures, which was soundly squashed by the beauty industry and feminists alike. I’m still working through how I feel about that one. Claiming it’s discrimination to tax Botox when women need it to compete in today’s tough job market? Issuing statements about access to expensive, elective surgeries when so many Americans don’t have access to health care at all? Are we really doing that, NOW? And yet! There’s that pesky issue of abortions and birth control not getting covered, while male vanity drugs like Viagra slipped through the cracks.

So I guess you can’t blame the tanning industry for being cranky with Big(ger) Beauty. From StyleList:

Vice President of the International Smart Tan Alliance Joe Levy told NBC Philadelphia: “In creating the bill Rep. Maloney and Dent [the Congresswoman and Congressman who started the bill] have been duped by the cosmetics industry, chosen to ignore the latest research of UV light and have sided with cosmetic companies who seek to keep all of America out of the sun and covered with sunscreen.”

Duping you into preventing cancer? By telling you to wear sunscreen?! Yup, that sounds like the cosmetics industry all right. Oh wait, except it doesn’t, since potential carcinogens are among most cosmetic manufacturers’ very most favorite product ingredients. And extra sales tax on those wouldn’t do us much good, since beauty brands aren’t required to tell you when they’re using toxic ingredients.

At least for now: Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is calling for an overhaul of our federal toxic chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The current TSCA doesn’t require any manufacturers to disclose dangerous ingredients or do any pre-market safety testing on chemicals before they stick them in all the consumer goods (makeup included) that you bring into your house and put on your body every darn day. If you think greater scrutiny sounds like a good idea, go here to email your senator on behalf of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Campaign, a coalition of non-profits and advocacy groups working to get a new bill passed.

It’ll be an uphill battle against Big Beauty and all its industry friends (cleaning products? furniture? food? Check, check and check), so do spread the word. And let’s hope that grouchy tanning salon owners don’t hog all the media’s attention when it comes to stories on just exactly who the beauty industry is throwing under the bus.

What do you think? Does a tanning tax make sense? Would you like to see more regulation on which chemicals are allowed in consumer goods? Do tell.

[Photo: Tanning Beds For Sale Online. Good to know.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Government Watch, Happenings, Ingredients, products, Tanning, week 15

Would You Like Your Breasts Included in This Service?

So are you guys sick of facials yet? I’ll admit, I am — and I still have 59 more to do before I graduate. But this week, we’re taking a hiatus from cleanse-exfoliate-massage-mask-tone-moisturize to learn about body treatments. Which means: “Shave, moisturize, do whatever you need to do,” Miss Stacy told us, as we were leaving last week. “Because it’s time to get naked!”

We’ve already learned the (not naked) paraffin hand and foot dips, so next up on the body treatment list are Dead Sea Salt Body Scrubs, Herbal Body Wraps, Seaweed and Mud Body Wraps, Sugar Scrubs, and the Detox Inch-Loss Wrap. In all of these, your client strips down to a disposable thong (or sometimes an old bikini). Your job is to massage her from top to toe with the scrub or wrap her whole body up in product-soaked elastic bands (they look like huge Ace bandages). Then you wrap her again with heated blankets or shiny Mylar sheets (above) and leave her to cook like a giant baked potato.

So tonight, Miss Jenny jumps right in to the deep end. “It’s time to get over our shyness, girls,” she says. “Your breasts are a part of your body. Your buttocks are a part of your body. Why shouldn’t they receive the same treatment as the rest of you?”

We steer clear of nipples and plumbers’ cracks, but we’re going to learn to apply the scrub or massage cream using a circular motion all around the outside of the breasts and haunches. Of course, some clients are shy and don’t want this much hands on action. So we do first need to ask, “Would you like your  breasts included in this service?”

If the answer is no, we provide them with a disposable bra, or at the very least, use a strategically placed hand towel. Even if we are including it all, we’re going to learn to discretely avert our eyes when we remove the towel to attend to these parts, and quickly re-drape afterwards. That helps to underscore that you’re not getting that kind of body treatment.

“But I encourage, or at least, do not discourage, my clients to have everything included for best results,” says Miss Jenny. “You have to remember that it is just a body and breasts are a perfectly normal part of that.”

So somebody, clock it: It took 77 posts, but I think we finally have a totally body positive message being imparted by the beauty industry! Your breasts and butt are part of your body. Be proud of what you’ve got. (And um, treat them to a nice $75 salt scrub… okay, but A for effort.)

Anyone here a big fan of body treatments? And do you choose to have your more personal areas included, or does it freak you out to show your esthetician that much skin?

[Photo via Totally You.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Body Treatments, In Class, week 15

My First Real Client.

Last week, when I was finishing up my Three Months Down report, commenter Kate Ashford asked:

I have a question: How does the working-on-not-fellow-students clients thing work? Do people know you’re students? Do they get a discount? Does the beauty school have a spa that customers use, with the knowledge that they might be peeled and spackled by beauty students in training? And how are you feeling about working on real people? (Not that students aren’t real people, of course.) But it’ll be pretty different, no?

The answer: Pretty damn different, indeed.

First, the facts:

At Beauty U, we spend the first twenty-odd weeks dividing our time between book learnin’ (the beloved Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians) and practicing what we’ve learned by working on each other. Once we finish every chapter in the textbook, we graduate to “senior student” status and are eligible to work on any client who walks in the door.

From the outside, Beauty U looks like any other strip mall salon. The main room has all the chairs, mirrors and sinks-with-chairs set up for the hair dressers and behind that is the spa, with all of our facial beds and the waxing station. Whenever we do book work, we shuttle off to a couple of small, windowless classrooms at the back. When we’re doing the hands-on stuff, we work on each other out in the spa, right alongside the senior students working on regular clients. So those folks know they’re coming to a beauty school and will have their facials, hair cuts and other treatments performed by “senior students under the supervision of an instructor.” That’s actually the draw because our services are much cheaper than average salon or spa prices. Think $25 for a facial that would run you $60-80 anywhere else. And we’re always running specials; right now I’ve got a stack of coupons that will entitle you to a free European facial and 25 percent off our retail products.

Now, I’ve still got about two months to go before my class finishes our Milady’s time and is deemed real-client-ready.

But tonight, three of the four senior students are out with the flu.

Only Becky made it in and here we are, with two real people clients, a body treatment and a microdermabrasion facial, scheduled for the same time. Miss Jenny and Miss Stacy look at each other in horror. They can’t work on clients at Beauty U because, as Miss Jenny says, “we don’t perform services for these kinds of prices anymore.” (Plus, she has to teach the class, which she can’t do if she’s behind a curtain giving a facial.) Becky obviously can’t perform a body treatment and a microdermabrasion facial simultaneously.

And so, before I know what is happening, I find myself up and off the bench.

“Is she ready?” says Miss Stacy. “She hasn’t even learned micro yet.”

“She’ll be ready.” Miss Jenny is sure. She squares off with me, and it’s like Coach Taylor bringing in the rookie for the final touchdown. (Everyone here watches Friday Night Lights, right? Okay then.) “You’re ready to do a facial, aren’t you? You’re not afraid to work on a real client, right? Well okay, get in there.”

I scrub up and plug in the steamer while Miss Jenny heads out to explain to the client in question that she can’t have microdermabrasion tonight because nobody qualified to do it is available, but I can give her the best damn European facial she’s ever had and it’s $15 cheaper anyway. My client, Jody, is apparently happy with that, so a minute later, Becky and I are walking across the salon floor to pick up Jody and her friend Betty from reception.

They’re Beauty U regulars, middle-aged soccer moms out for a girlfriends facial & body treatment night, on a budget.

I’m nervous, obviously, though it’s not the facial itself that’s freaking me out. It’s all the logistics around it that suddenly seem so awkward, even though we’ve been running drills for weeks and, after all, I’ve been on the other side of the spa chair plenty of times myself. I lead Jody into my curtained-off area in the spa and tell her to go ahead and change into the spa robe and then get into bed. And when I say “get into bed,” I have to try very hard not to giggle, because dude, I just told this strange lady to take her clothes off and get into bed.

I mean, of course I did, and she obviously knows that’s what she’s going to do, but still.

So I go hover outside while Jody changes, and Miss Jenny rushes over for a little coaching. “Her skin looks pretty sensitive; micro wouldn’t have been good for her anyway,” she whispers. “You can try upselling her to a Vita-Cure facial, maybe — oh wait, you haven’t done that yet — or how about a paraffin hand dip?”

I peer through the crack between the curtains and see Jody standing in her striped Hanes underwear, still folding up her clothes. I bolt back like I’ve been shot and return to pacing nervously around the spa door — I swear, I did not mean to spy on her, but how else am I supposed to tell if she’s ready for me?

Of course after that, I wait too long and by the time I poke my head back in, Jody has tucked herself in the facial bed and is clearly wondering if I’ve died. So I overcompensate with chatter as I give her face a quick cleanse and examine it under the creaky magnifying lamp. Does she have any concerns with her skin? What products does she use at home?

Jody keeps her responses short (“no” and the name of a skin care line I’ve never heard of) and that “I’m here to relax, please don’t talk to me” cue is one I can read right, so I shut up, forgetting that I’m supposed to use that info, however flimsy, to plot what products to try to sell her later.

Once I’ve got the steam going, we both start to relax — Milady’s claims steam is good for your skin because it hydrates and melts sebum clogging your pores. But I’m just as convinced we use steam during professional facials to make them seem more professional. Even as I’m painting exfoliator under Jody’s nose and massaging her shoulders, the thick cloud of steam between us feels like an important barrier, giving her permission to stop thinking about me sitting at her head.

I get in my groove after that, so when she speaks suddenly as I’m applying her mask (to say “that smells good”), I jump. And check the time — facials are supposed to take an hour, but I realize I’m not clear on whether that’s an hour plus time for them to change before and after, or an hour total, and anyway, I can no longer remember what time I started, or how many minutes the mask is supposed to stay on.

Meanwhile, Miss Jenny pops her head in every so often, to check my technique. Since Jody has sensitive skin, she’s anxious that I not let her steam too long or extract with too much vigor. But I can tell she’s also proud — the first of her students, working on her first client! It’s sort of stage mom-ish, but sweet.

And then I’ve got Jody toned and moisturized, and it’s over almost before it began. I slip out so she can dressed (pulling the curtain more tightly behind me this time) and collapse into a chair next to Miss Stacy to ponder the client consultation form. I don’t have anything to write next to “What did you upsell?” and “Products recommended,” so I leave everything blank and just scribble my name at the bottom.”Eh, worry about that stuff next time,” says Miss Stacy, as she signs off for me.

Every Monday at roll call, Miss Susan announces the prior week’s top upseller and top product mover. I won’t be getting any such gold stars, but I don’t care. I wave Jody out and ten minutes later, Miss Stacy wanders back from reception with five folded singles for me. A 20 percent tip and Jody’s  face didn’t fall off or turn red.

I’m calling this one a win.

[Photo: I already spent my actual five dollars, so this is “Five Dollar Note [macro]” by thefixer via Flickr.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, week 15

Selling On Up. And Making It Up as You Go.

Here’s the secret to have a successful salon or spa in one word:


Our goal, as soon as you walk in the door, is to convince you that hey, actually, a more expensive facial would be more beneficial for your skin than the bog-standard European facial you signed up for, or that in fact, you’ll extend the benefits of the facial much longer if you buy a bunch of products for home use, too. And by the by, did you know we also do hair and nails here?

At Beauty U, we’re getting ready to work on real, live clients soon, and learning to fill out a form for every customer where we have to write which treatments we suggest as an upsale, whether they decided to go for it, and which home products we recommend. The part that creeps me out is that we’re then supposed to hand this form to the client at the end of the service. They bring up to the receptionist so she knows what to charge them — which means the client can idly flip it over and see the back where the word “upsell” is printed right there in black and white.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I were the customer and I saw that word on my receipt, it would pretty much make me want to down-sell and never buy anything from that salon ever again.

I first learned about upselling when I worked in retail during high school and college, so it’s not like the beauty industry invented this term. (I worked at a book store and we were encouraged to persuade customers to add on a cute bookmark at the cash register, or maybe consider grabbing a favorite author’s latest in paperback along with the hardcover.) But while I get the bottom-line-business of it, I still feel like it’s nice to protect the customer, just a little bit, from the dollar signs in our eyes. Especially because we’re taught over and over at Beauty U that selling products and services is our responsibility as estheticians — our moral imperative, in fact, because customers need our help. They’re presenting us with “problems” (frizzy hair, acne, age spots) and asking us for “solutions.” And that means giving “tips” on how to take better care of their skin and hair. Every good tip should include a piece of advice about “what to do,” and a piece of advice about “what to use.”

“I hate the idea of upselling because I feel like it makes customers uncomfortable,” says Meg, as we read aloud from tonight’s PowerPoint lecture on making sales. “What if they can’t afford to buy a bunch of products?”

The PowerPoint has an answer for that: “Customers thinking they can’t afford it is the number one reason they’ll give you to avoid buying something,” it explains confidently.

And then: “Customers who think that are delirious.”

This is because customers don’t understand that salon products really cost them less, because the ingredients are more concentrated, meaning you can use less and the bottle will last longer than the drugstore crap you usually buy. (Anyone who has ever bought a salon bottle of hair conditioner knows this is a tremendous lie.)

But whether that’s actually true is irrelevant, as we learn on the next slide, which explains that if we’re not sure what a product really does, we should feel free to follow the MSU rule.

MSU stands for “Make Stuff Up.”

As the PowerPoint explains, “If [the customer] wants softness, your product gives them softness.” Personal testimonies are also strong selling tools, so we’re encouraged to tell customers that any given product we’d like to sell is what we use ourselves. (Again, what we actually use being fully beside the point.)

Now, before you all get in a lather, let me state for the record that Miss Jenny is horrified as I read off this slide. It’s her first time teaching this Business Skills unit, and she wasn’t expecting this kind of advice. “Are they kidding me?” she asks, flipping back and forth through the PowerPoint lecture to see if the MSU rule is some kind of Beauty U practical joke. “You can try that tactic maybe once, but if you make a sale that way, it will be the last time you ever sell to that customer.”

But there it is, in black and white on the screen in front of us. So much for the customer cult I was worrying about last month. Apparently at Beauty U, the customer is always right — but also, as far as we’re concerned, kind of a moron.

[Photo: “Stylist Chair So Chic Salon Dream Dazzlers Play Set,” $74.98 via Amazon. Because “now you’re the stylist with your own stylist chair!”]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, In Class, week 14

Three Months Down: Beauty U Just Isn’t So Pretty.

The Three Month State of Beauty U Report continues.

Okay, I’ve told you that we’re sleep deprived and living on junk food. Now let’s talk wardrobe. The first few weeks at Beauty U, we took the dress code seriously: Black shirt, black pants or skirt, Beauty U apron or spa jacket on top. Professional is the watch word Miss Jenny keeps coming back to on this front. “You don’t have to look like a super model every day, girls — just keep it professional.”

But first of all? The polyester Beauty U aprons don’t withstand much washer-dryer action before they start to fray. Plus, when you spend the whole night mucking around with white or light-colored lotions and powders, an all-black uniform starts to seem like a questionable move. Then there’s that whole issue of jeans not fitting so well anymore. We might have started out in black dress pants and cute flats, but most of us are down to black sweat pants and sneakers now. I’ve figured out that if I wear my black yoga pants to school and then go to bed in them afterwards, it greatly increases the odds that I’ll be able to wake up in time to hit a yoga class before work the next morning. We’ve also generally stopped wearing makeup, because it’s just an extra hassle to wash it off before we practice facials anyway, and you already know how infrequently I brush my hair.

Again, big heaping soup spoons full of irony here. I think Miss Jenny keeps mentioning “looking professional” because in another month or so, we’ll be done with the textbook and ready to start working in the spa on real, live, not-fellow-student clients, and she’s hoping she can get some of us back into real pants by then.

So that’s where we are, gang: Three months and 176 hours down, six months and 424 hours to go. I can name almost every layer of the skin, apply eyeliner in an almost-straight line, and even give you a glycolic peel (if you can withstand the pain). As these last few posts show, the honeymoon period is ending. Most of my classmates started our program overflowing with excitement — they were passionate about makeup and skin care and thrilled to be pursuing a long-held dream that would lead to a glamorous and lucrative career.

I hear a lot less of that excitement now and a lot more worry about whether all this hard work will lead to a job that’s really better than their current low-paying service industry gig — or, given the economy, if there will be any jobs at all.

Now I’d love to hear from you: What did I miss in this Three Month State of Beauty U Report? What else are you dying to know about the inner workings of beauty school, this project, or the beauty industry in general? Put your questions in the comments or email me [beautyschooledproject (at) gmail (dot) com] and I’ll work on answering them in some upcoming posts!


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, In Class

More Thoughts on Chemical Peels.

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Learn about the project or catch up with weeks 1-9.

Stephanie and I are talking about how she did just fine with Monday’s alpha hydroxy acid peel, while I cried like a little tiny girl. For starters, she’s had more experience with peels because one of her best friends is an esthetician who hooks her up at cost, while I was a peel virgin. “I think you do kind of work up to being able to tolerate them,” she says.

“Also, keep in mind that Stephanie’s skin is much thicker than yours,” says Miss Jenny. What she means is, Stephanie is black. According to Milady’s, page 212:

Black skin is prone to hyperkeratosis [My note: This is esthetics speak for “an excessive build-up of dead skin cells.”] thus needing more exfoliation and deep pore cleansing. Black skin does not age as quickly because of the differences in physiology and the additional sun protection. However hyperpigmentation [Me again: “brown discoloration from melanin production due to sun or irritation”] is a greater problem for darker skin types.

Milady’s follows up that explanation with a photo of a black woman and the helpful caption, “ethnic skin is more fragile than it looks.”It goes on to note that “Asian skin is considered to be one of the more sensitive skin types,” while “Hispanic skin is usually oilier and needs more deep cleansing treatments.” And, “if you want to specialize in ethnic skin care, there are educational resources and advanced classes addressing this area of study.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of generalizations about my skin,” says Stephanie after we read that section out loud in class. Plus, some none-too-subtle reinforcement of racial stereotypes (those oily Hispanics, eh?). Not to sound all “We Are The World,” but color aside, Stephanie and I have noticed that our skin is a lot more similar than it is different; we both break out along our jawlines, get dry around our noses, and get dark circles under our eyes.

But here’s another reason that Stephanie handled the peel better than me: “It reminds me of this Fair & White skin cream I tried once to even out my dark spots,” she says. “Actually that was way worse — I got a little in my eye and thought I was going blind.”

Oh, you mean Fair & White, as in one of the skin lightening creams that the New York Times ran a front page story about last weekend, because they contain steroids and mercury, not to mention hydroquinone, which I told you about when Sammy Sosa went ghost-faced on us last fall? Yep, I bet those do make your basic glycolic peel feel like a walk in the park.

And so maybe Milady’s has a point, because for sure, nobody has ever tried to sell me a skin whitening cream. But does that make “ethnic skin” and “Caucasian skin” so fundamentally different? Or does it just mean the beauty industry has figured out different ways to get our money?

[Photo: Amazon]


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Chemical Peels, Facials, Ingredients

(Not) Hooked on a Peeling.

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Learn about the project or catch up with weeks 1-9.

Here’s how Milady’s explains a chemical peel, which is where an esthetician paints your face with glycolic acid (a kind of alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane) to exfoliate away your dead skin cells, from page 384:

These light peels are noninvasive/nonaggressive in nature, and are designed to create an enhancement of the epidermis by working on dead cells, not the dermis, or living tissue. The application of peel skills in your skin care practice will be one of the most exciting and financially rewarding areas of your treatment “bag of tricks.”

And here’s why peels are so beneficial (and exciting and financially rewarding), from page 386:

Peels improve the texture of the skin and increase the CRF [cell renewal factor], hydration, intercellular lipids, barrier function, moisture retention, elastin and collagen production. Peels also reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation. After treatment, skin looks and feels smoother and softer. Peels are used to control skin conditions such as acne, hyperpigmentation, clogged pores, eczema, and dry skin.

And here’s how my skin feels as Meg paints on my first-ever chemical peel last night: Like she’s using live electrical wires to coat my skin in battery acid.

Nothing against Meg, you understand. She’s a pro. And keeps saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” when I yelp. But you know that scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin where Steve Carell gets his chest waxed? Yes, that one? Okay, so imagine me as Steve, only it’s acid and it’s on my face.

“You’re absolutely fine,” says Miss Jenny. “This is not that bad. It’s not like you’re dying.”

“Are you sure?” I say. “Because it really feels like I might be dying.”

“She’s fine,” Miss Jenny tells the room at large as I break the spa’s no swearing rule.”She’s going to love how her skin looks.”

“I don’t get this,” says Meg, rushing to remove my peel with cold towels. “A chemical peel just doesn’t sound like anything you would want on your face no matter how well it works.”

“So call it a sugar peel or a fruit enzyme facial,” Miss Jenny advises. “Some of them are even made out of chocolate now.”

Most of my face turns red, “but you redden so easily,” Miss J sighs. (True that.) The burning does subside after about five minutes, and five minutes after that, I’m back to my normal color. My skin feels baby smooth. Ten minutes after that, it starts to feel tight and dry. Miss Jenny says we will all need to apply extra moisturizer before bed and again in the morning, “but the good news there is you won’t need to wash your face again because the peel works so well.” And I imagine, because any small amount of soap-like product would irritate the heck out of your skin.

You’re only allowed to have one peel per week, and Milady’s notes that “more than eight weekly peels in a row is not recommended,” though “a series of peels every three to four months is the typical recommendation.”

Miss Jenny likes to host peel parties, where a group of girlfriends will get together at somebody’s house and pay her $25 per peel. It’s a big discount over the $75 you’d pay at her spa, plus she brings wine and cheese.

“I worked for about three hours last Thursday night and made $270,” she says. “You girls are going to love peels.”


[Photo: Samantha post-chemical peel, via Elle.com’s “Vanity Insanity,” which puts chemical peels in the same category as pinky toe removal (to facilitate more comfortable stiletto wearing). That sounds about right.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Chemical Peels, In Class, Ingredients, week 10

Try the Kool-Aid, It’s Delicious.

An excerpt from our packet on “People Skills:”


1% DIE







I mean, no pressure or anything.

That being said, I’ll admit that I’ve moved on from hair stylists when I felt like I’d lost their attention a bit, and figuring out how to tame my wavy hair was no longer their reason to get out of bed in the morning. Simon Scott says it’s a common problem: Stylists and estheticians give amazing service the first time they see a customer, meaning you walk out feeling like they’ve changed your life. The second time around, they do more or less exactly what made you so happy before — but you’re disappointed because you didn’t get that epiphany moment of “oh my God, why have I been straightening my hair all these years?” And by the third visit, you start to think you’re in a rut and it’s time to move on.

That scenario rings pretty true for me, and it’s making me wonder why we want our salon workers to treat our acne, our split ends, our callused feet like these admittedly mundane problems move them on some kind of spiritual level. On the one hand, it should elevate our respect for their work — these people are trained professionals, artists, heroes even, capable of working strange and powerful magic on your appearance that you could never hope to replicate on your own. Miss Jenny tells us all the time how great she feels when a client won’t shut up about how amazing his or her skin looks, post-treatment.

On the other hand, you’re asking a near-stranger to obsess over the clogged pores and hard-to-grow-out bangs that might keep you up at night, but the rest of us barely notice.

Also from the packet:







I get that this is a business and we’re in the service industry. I’m just wondering when customer service turned into the customer cult.

Thoughts, please: What do you expect in terms of service when you go to a salon? What makes you leave a hair stylist or esthetician and take your business somewhere else? Do you think our expectations about salon pampering have crossed the line? (Leading the witness there, I know — feel very free to argue the other side.)


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Customer Cult, In Class, week 9

Deconstructing Facials.

My 600-hour adventure in esthetics school. Read about the project or catch up with weeks 1-9.

I think we’re all getting itchy about facials. It feels like we’ve been doing them for 100 weeks (reality: about five) but we have to perform 75 before we graduate, so the empty pages in our blue books (where Miss Jenny signs off on each treatment) seem to mock us as we hurry through yet another cleanse-analyze-exfoliate-extract-massage-mask-tone-moisturize.

And the truth is, I’m extra impatient because I’ve always been sort of dismissive of facials. They just seemed like an absurdly expensive indulgence that didn’t really give you a whole lot of take-home results. I’m still having trouble seeing the much-touted results — after I had Repechage’s Hydra Medic facial last week, everyone raved about how clear my skin became, but as far as I can tell, the three papules and pustules (technical terms, yo) that were there before the facial are still there now.

Even so, I’m kind of giddy when Miss Jenny breaks out the box of Repechage Four Layer Facials. This is because the Four Layer is like the Cadillac of facials. Repechage founder Lydia Sarfati developed it about 30 years ago, and claims that it revolutionized the way we do facials because the four layers of seaweed masks are so much kinder and gentler than so many other facials, which leave you red and raw after as proof that they’re “working,” yet just as (more so? why not?) effective.

Spas pay about $20 per Four Layer in ingredients and charge anywhere from $80 to $150. So you pretty much have to know how to do one because it’s one of the biggest money makers on the spa menu.

Problem there is, they’re wicked hard.

So here’s how it’s supposed to go down: Up above, you can see the Repechage model version of the Four Layer. A seaweed serum, hydrating cream, seaweed mask and mineral mask are all layered on and left to set, and then, in box number five, we have the grand finale, when the mineral mask hardens into a thick shell and you can rock it off your client’s face in one magical piece. The seaweed mask rubberizes underneath, so you peel that off, slap on some more hydrating cream, and show your client their shiny new self.

Here’s how I did:

No, that’s not a pile of vomit. It’s my seaweed (green) and mineral (tan) masks, after I had to break them off Meg’s face. Not so much on the gently rocking and rolling them off. More like, both masks set before I finish applying them, and begin hardening into a lumpy mess all over poor Meg’s face while she focuses on deep breathing so the claustrophobia (that quite naturally ensues when your face is frozen by a granite-like pile of mineral gunk) doesn’t win.

“It’s your first time and this is a very hard facial,” says Miss Jenny sympathetically as she helps me pick pieces of seaweed mask out of Meg’s hair. The senior girls, who are all rocking their mineral masks off in one scary Halloween mask piece, nod. “I’ve broken a lot of mineral masks,” says Sue.”You’ll get it next time.”

And, anyway: “Meg’s skin looks fantastic now!” says Miss Jenny. “Just look how much better.”

I look and look and wish I can see what she sees.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Facials, In Class