Tag Archives: Waxing

[Spa Stories] The Sheriff Gets a Brazilian

Spa Stories: Close encounters of the beauty salon kind.

Today’s Spa Story comes from The Sheriff, the hilarious lead author of the Fornicating Feminists. She wrote about her first Brazilian waxing experience last week and I immediately begged her to let me cross-post it for y’all. (Since, you know, Brazilian waxing is something about which I have a lot of opinions.)

Before we jump in, here’s a little reminder about what this new little series (written by you!) is all about:

Spa Stories is a place to share how your relationship with beauty (your own or other people’s) evolves when you spend time in a salon or spa. And by “you,” I mean consumers, sure — but I’m also talking to you, salon employees. If you read the comments on my Slate story, you’ll see a lot of folks feeling highly anxious about what to tip and why it took me two hours to do all that waxing. It’s one thing for me to keep regaling y’all with Beauty U tip stories, but clearly, I cannot speak for the whole industry! So hair stylists, estheticians, nail techs — I want your stories here. And when I say “stories,” this can be an epic saga spanning years a quick life-observed moment from a comment made by a client last Tuesday, the tale of your first brush with waxing and other extreme beauty sports, or… You get it. Email it to me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com.

Now here’s The Sheriff. Continue reading

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Filed under Spa Stories, Waxing

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Tasered.

photo of metallic pink taser

So fascinating to hear everyone’s take on the Vatoo Thing, from Friday. (I am especially loving the extremely great point that you are not actually tatooing your vagina because that is INSIDE your body. Oh, seventh grade health class flashbacks galore!)

Meanwhile, Gawker and The Cut have been riffing on the male side of the genital beautification biz (manzilians, brozilians, guyzilians, penazzling, yes these are all happening in a day spa somewhere), in response to this firsthand account on Salon by Jed Lipinski. I admit to being a little grouchy because there’s a rather glib tone being taken about a waxer who reports having to pull a taser on an “aggressive” male client in the thigh because he kept making inappropriate advances.

Maybe I’m uptight and old-fashioned, but if you have to bring a taser to work, I’m sorry, your job is too dangerous. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Tip Jar, Waxing, week 39

You’re Just Here to Apply the Product

I think everyone in upstate New York must be on vacation, because there is an absolute dearth of customers at Beauty U right now. Which is kinda sad, because Meg and I graduate next week — next week, people!!! — and we’re trying furiously to fill up all the blanks in our blue books. I’m particularly lacking in the lip/chin wax department. In theory, I’d have ten finished by graduation, but I’m stuck at five… and with our usual rotating cast of old lady clients off at the beach or whatever, there’s a serious lack of chin hair in my life right now. Continue reading


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, In Class, week 38

What Your Waxer Is Not Thinking About You.

Photo from "Smallest Canvas" series by Molly Surno

Meg gives me a bikini wax tonight both because hey, it’s swimsuit season and because she has “1 Bikini Wax” written on her List and I like to help a sister out. Every week, the teachers write us out a grocery list of services to try to do that week — if you complete everything by the end of the week, you score a Jeans Pass. And you know how we all feel about jeans passes. Which means by Wednesday/Thursday, we’re all scrambling around in a “please-can-I-just-wax-your-arm-hair-for-my-jeans-pass” way.

Anyway, I’m just going to say it: You are never going to feel more unattractive than when you’re splayed out for a bikini wax. Forget the part about your waxer seeing your business. Tonight all I can think about are thighs and how you have to contort into all these angles that are extremely unflattering to them, under what just might be the brightest light ever. This is the first time I’ve been back on the client side of the table in awhile — so strange because just a few months ago, I was the client and had no idea what it was like on the waxer side of things — and I completely zero in on how very vulnerable you feel. And how much you have to trust your waxer to be cool with things.

But here’s a pet peeve I have about many spa clients/some people I tell about this project/probably a lot of privileged white people: When they say things like, “I wish I spoke Korean/Vietnamese/whatever so I could understand what those nail salon ladies are saying about me.”

Okay, let’s break this down.

1) You are not that interesting.

2) Spa services, especially manicures and pedicures, are increasingly performed by Asian people. 40 percent of nail technicians nationwide are Vietnamese, according to the latest Nails Magazine survey, and in some areas, like California, it’s closer to 80 percent. Nail tech training requires the least amount of hours (250 hours in my state to esthetics’ 600 and cosmetology’s 1000), which means you can get through school and start earning money more quickly, which is important when you have a family to support. And while wages are low, they tend to be better than many other jobs available to recent immigrants who aren’t yet fluent in English.

Now, being non-native English speakers, they quite naturally converse with each other in their non-English native language. So listen up, because I’m only going to say this once: When people talk to each other in a language you don’t understand, it does not mean they are talking about you.

3) You are not that interesting.

In fact, I’ve been interested by how rarely we talk about our clients at Beauty U. If a client tells a funny story, maybe we’ll reprise it. If a client is really mean or doesn’t tip, well, okay then. You gripe about your day too.

I’ll admit, earlier this week, Miss Marci came out from helping Brooke negotiate a particularly tricky leg and bikini wax and said, “That woman is so hairy! She even has hair on her stomach, like a man. This is going to take all night!” So yes, it does happen when we’re faced with something extreme.

The rest of the time, we talk about the funny thing someone’s kid said, or who has cramps, or what’s up with our skin. We bitch about the ongoing esthetics-cosmetology rivalry (which boils down to the fact that we give them facials and such all the time because we need people to work on, but they never give us haircuts or blow-outs because there’s a Beauty U rule against students getting free cosmetology services during class time — don’t get us started!). We talk about blind dates and fights with boyfriends and the merits of the various vending machine offerings.

And in between, clients come in and we go to work. And that’s the deal.

So back to the bikini wax: I think it’s probably impossible to be in that situation without wondering, “Oh God, what is she thinking about this?” I know all of the above, and I still have that moment. If you have a language barrier, I get how that adds to the confusion because it creates more uncertainty in what is already a highly uncertain situation. And the many vagaries of human nature mean that I can’t guarantee that your waxer/hair stylist/nail tech doesn’t talk about you behind your back (or within earshot in that Secret Code otherwise known as the language she can speak and you can’t — you know, like how spending every day in America surrounded by fluent English speakers probably feels to her). I absolutely can’t guarantee she doesn’t think something in the privacy of her own brain. In fact, you might as well assume that she does. Because she’s human and entitled to her thoughts.

But I think it’s worth noting that even though you’re naked (or barefoot), you still might not be the most vulnerable person in that room.

[Photo by the constantly brilliant Molly Surno, from her “Smallest Canvas” series that I just cannot get enough of.]


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, Customer Cult, In Class, Waxing, Week 31

Why It’s All About Skin. (Don’t Read This if You’re Squeamish, Part 2)

Salon’s David Marchese has an essay up today about our secret addiction to pimple popping which is worth reading, though I can also summarize it for you in one line: Squeezing your zits is gross, but everyone does it anyway — what’s that about?

So here’s a maybe not shocking answer: It’s because we don’t like our bodies. And more specifically, we don’t like our skin.

Because an awful lot of our body anxieties reside in the epidermis. After all, it’s not your kidneys, lungs, and other internal organs stacking up that make you feel fat, It’s how much skin you can see in the mirror. And whether it’s smooth, or lumpy, or skin you can lift using both hands because it’s got that kind of heft. Skin is also where all of our unwanted hair sprouts from. It’s where we agonize over wrinkles and other signs of aging.

And of course, it’s where our pimples brew. Here’s the best quote in Marchese’s piece:

“Pimple popping offers instant gratification,” seconds Laura Cooksey, who “pops pimples all day long” as an aesthetician* at the Face Reality acne clinic in San Leandro, Calif. “People find it pleasurable the way that having your legs waxed is pleasurable. It can be uncomfortable and sort of nasty — we’ve all been grossed out when the pus hits the mirror — but you’re doing something that can help you toward your goal of clearer skin.”

Yes. I’ve talked about the perverse pride we get from extracting before, but I had a bit of an epiphany when Cooksey compared it to waxing. Both of these skills are still so novel to us at Beauty U, that whenever someone comes in with a really big pimple, several of us will cluster round to watch Miss Stacy go to town on it. (We also watch the gross-out YouTube videos that Marchese references. Which I’m not linking to because, seriously? Don’t.) And when we’re waxing each other, there’s a lot of pausing to admire the evidence. I gave Brooke another Brazilian on Monday and every time she flinched, she’d say, “Wow that hurts! But did you get a lot of hair?” And I’d show her the pellon strip now coated with wrong-side-up hairs, freshly ripped from where the sun don’t shine, and we’d both be like, Damn, you can even see the root balls.

I’ve debated whether to view this as a weird kind of empowerment. We genuinely don’t get grossed out by the site of pimple pus or pubic hair anymore, and I’d like to think that’s a sign that we’re all becoming so sangfroid about the human body; sure, it’s hairy and sometimes oozes stuff, but that’s life.

Except. Our satisfaction is all about getting this stuff out. We want pimples and extraneous hair gone — annihilated!— so we can feel cleaner, smoother, and pretty. Which means our natural state isn’t pretty. It’s gross. And as estheticians, we’re the front line on fighting grossness. The only ones tough enough to face that pimple dead on and take it out in a surgical strike. It’s like the Jack Bauer school of skincare.

This is a pretty violent way of viewing the human body. Of course, that sounds extreme. And when we’re faced with the worst of it — the angry red scars of a recent face lift, for example — we might feel horrified and sad. But we don’t connect that extreme violence to the everyday abuse. Anyone who has ever agonized over acne in the mirror, extracting until you’re red and swollen, knows that violence is the answer. We love popping pimples because it’s a not totally crazy way to punish yourself for failing to meet your beauty criteria. For not loving the skin you’re in.

Now, when you choose to have these things dealt with professionally, you’re paying someone else to inflict that pain on the parts of yourself that you hate. I’m not sure what that says — about how you feel about yourself or how you look at them after. But Brooke did a Brazilian on a client last week who didn’t tip her and at first we were all shocked — who doesn’t tip the person willing to get elbow-deep in their junk? (You know, in a non-sexual/non-gynecological context.)

Then I remembered the shame.

That feeling of how fast can I get dressed and get out of here? that comes after a particularly rough bikini wax, or even a facial when the esthetician extracts so much you’re convinced your face is going to look like Swiss cheese. I understand not feeling entirely friendly towards the person who just beat up on you for an hour.

But you should tip. Because once you stop to think about it, the woman making $11 an hour to excavate your pores is not the person you’re mad at. It’s mostly you, what with all your skin.

*Yes she spells it aesthetician and I always spell it esthetician because that’s how the textbook spells it. I think the A is just for fanciness. We all do the same stuff.


Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Customer Cult, Facials, In Class, Waxing, week 30

[Tip Jar] Client Nine Brings Her Parents

Client Nine is a tiny girl with big eyebrows.

When I go out to the reception area to get her, she jumps right up when I call her name. And the woman sitting next to her says to me, “Don’t worry, she’s been here tons of times.”

“Great,” I say. It honestly takes me a minute to put it all together. “Come on back, Nine.”

And then Nine turns to that woman. “Mom? You’re coming, right?”

And then to the man sitting on her other side. “Dad? Do you want to come too?”

Then I realize that Nine is very, very young. Thirteen, her mother tells me. And I am going to wax her eyebrows with both of her parents watching.

First stop, Miss Stacy. Because technically speaking, the minimum age for a waxing service is 16. (I’m not actually sure if that’s a Beauty U rule, or a state board rule, or a general industry standard, but I’ll dig into it and report back.) But Miss Stacy says as long as a parent or guardian is present, it’s okay.

At this point, I’m sort of assuming that Nine is the one wanting her eyebrows waxed, because she’s read about it in magazines or her older friends are doing it, or whatever. She is not one of those 13-year-olds who looks 20. In fact, she looks maybe 11. But I always looked young too, and I get that sometimes that means you desperately want to look older, when older equals cooler.

So Nine gets comfy in the waxing chair and I take a look. Yes, she has the kind of unibrow that happens when you also have lots of dark curly hair. It’s there, but not so thick you’d stop on the street or anything. Then again, it’s clear this isn’t her first waxing job. I explain that I’m just going to clean it up a teensy bit.

“We were also wondering,” says Nine’s mom. “Do you think it’s time for her to start waxing her lip?”

I blink. I know there’s a semi-annual media blitz about tweens getting crazy spa services (see here and also here) but this is my first up close and personal encounter with it. I’ve never heard the mother of a middle schooler suggest a lip waxing before.

Also, Nine doesn’t have any lip hair. I swear to God. This is not some hormones-out-of-whack or unfortunate-genetic-tendency super hairy kid. She’s got the same amount of lip hair as me, which is to say, basically none unless you look really hard in certain lights. Plus she has that perfectly soft, smooth skin of a child who has always worn sunscreen and has yet to experience her first pimple. The thought of putting hot wax on that makes me cringe.

“She really doesn’t have anything to wax,” I say. Which is hard, because what I want to say is, are you effing crazy? But, you know, customer service and what not. “Plus, with lip waxing, we’re learning that once you start it, you really have to keep on doing it and I’m not sure she wants to take that on right now.”

(By the way, this is true. I had a moment of “oh God, my lip hair” a few weeks back, and while everyone at Beauty U claims up, down and sideways that waxing makes the majority of your hair grow back finer, both Miss Stacy and Miss Marci were adamant that I shouldn’t wax what is really just some peach fuzz because with lips, the hair does become more noticeable when it grows back. How is this possible? I have no idea. Hair removal is so often more art than science.)

“She is only thirteen,” says Nine’s mom. “I guess we should wait a little longer.”

Yeah, or never do it.

And then Nine pipes up. “See, Dad? I told you I didn’t need my lip done.”

I’m sorry.


Nine’s Dad comes over to take a look. “Okay, okay, we’ll wait.”

Let’s be clear: This father seemed like a reasonable guy. He wears glasses and a crumpled button-down, and has been sort of hanging back, highly aware that he’s a stranger in a strange spa-land. He didn’t pound his fist and insist that I go ahead with the lip wax. He didn’t call his daughter ugly (while I was there).

I’m just saying: This father suggested his thirteen-year-old daughter get a lip wax. That she in no way needs.

Thankfully, no one pushes the issue any further, possibly because I’m putting out all the “I will not wax your child’s lip if you pay me in rubies” vibes that I can muster. We proceed with the brow wax after I call Miss Stacy over for reinforcement. She traces Nine’s eyebrows with her finger, which is just what we do to kind of feel how the hair goes, but today it’s somehow very sweet, like, it’s okay, we won’t let them hurt you.

“Just clean up the middle,” Miss Stacy tells me. “We don’t want to do anything more because we want her to look her age.”

Nine looks distinctly relieved.

“Last time, the girls did under her brows too,” urges Nine’s mom.

Miss Stacy repeats what is going to become our mantra: “We want her to look her age.”

So I clean up the middle. Nine is used to waxing and barely flinches, but every few minutes she says, “Mom?” Like to check that her mother is still here with her. Which tells me that she’s more nervous than she’s letting on. And makes me sad because um, yes, her mother is here. Her mother and father are the reason we’re all here.

I also do tweeze a very few hairs from underneath, because I realize, upon closer inspection, that whomever waxed the arch into Nine’s brows last time, did a crap job and they’re growing back unevenly. I try to even things out, not because I want her to have some kind of Anastasia Brow Studio arch, but because I’m hating that someone already screwed up her fine-before-we-got-our-hands-on-them brows and, in case you missed it, She’s. Only. Thirteen.

When I finish, the unibrow is gone, but Nine’s brows are still full and natural. Miss Susannah wanders over, confused. “Don’t you need to wax the underneath?” she says.

Miss Stacy and I both attempt to convey all of the above via a furious, whispered “Lookherage!” I’m not sure Miss Susannah gets it, but she stays quiet after that.

Mom and Dad peer in to check the results. “Ohhhh! SO much better!” says Mom to Nine. Dad is nodding. “Don’t you think it looks so much better that way? I just wish it didn’t grow back so fast!”

“Okay,” says Nine.

I can’t help myself. I turn to Nine and say all in a rush, “You’re gorgeous just the way you are, and having thick brows means amazing hair and amazing eyelashes and this is a very good thing.”

“Okay,” says Nine.

But then something great happens. Mom turns to Dad and says, “Honey, why don’t you let them clean up your eyebrows too?” Maybe the woman (whose own brows are completely tweezed and possibly dyed) is just super anti-brow hair. Or maybe she’s annoyed that he’s been pushing hair removal on their daughter and wants to give him a taste of his own medicine. I have no idea. What I do know is a minute later, the father who told his daughter to get rid of her non-existent lip hair is sitting in my waxing chair.

I promise, I’m a professional. I don’t make his brows look crazy or burn him with the wax or anything. If I maybe pull a little up instead of parallel to the skin, because maybe a sloppy ripping technique makes it sting a little bit more, well, you know, who can say? It all happens so fast.

After they leave, Miss Stacy tells me that Mom is “a peel junkie,” who comes in for spa services all the time. “I really don’t think Nine cares about her eyebrows,” she says. “I think they make her do it.” I tell her about the whole lip wax question and we’re in firm agreement: It’s one thing to clean up a kid’s unibrow because maybe she’s getting picked on at school. But giving her a super-styled arch, zeroing in on lip hair that nobody else can even see, and telling her that the way we make her look is “so much better” than the way she looked before — I mean, no. Obviously not.

But here’s the thing: Nine’s parents aren’t the type of Real Housewives folk that you’d expect to be spa servicing up their child. They look their very middle age, he in khakis, she coming straight from work in some kind of scrubs. And, obviously, they love their daughter. So once I step back from the experience, I’m not even mad at them.

What I’m mad about is just how normal they seem.

And also, how normal the whole experience seems to them.

Tip: $5 (for two $8 eyebrow waxes.)

Tip Jar Total: $60

[By the by: I feel compelled to report that these tallies are actually a bit off base. In real Beauty U time (16 hours a week, with 1-2 clients most nights) I’m now up to way more than nine clients, and thus, more than $60 in tips. But not every client story is all that post-worthy. So I’m going to do a round-up post soon, just to get us caught up on a more accurate tip jar total and such. In case you’ve been wondering about all of that.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Customer Cult, In Class, Tip Jar, week 28

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

Hairy Legs are Not a Trend

Image from Cosmo Brazilian Guide Page 1Image from Cosmo Brazilian Guide Page 2

Despite the fact that the New York Times found two anti-shaving celebrities last week, (Mo’Nique and Amanda Palmer, who, I am pretty sure, can only be considered “famous” because of this article) and decided to build a whole story around them, which has had much of the blogosphere in a flutter ever since.

Don’t get me wrong: I want hairy legs (hairy everything) to be a trend. Actually, I want the whole thing to be an old trend that has slogged past the tipping point of trendy and become just a fact of modern life, like iPods or iced coffee. How amazingly freeing it would be if hair removal — arguably the most deep-seated and impenetrable of all our beauty myths — became strictly optional, and being hairy was considered maybe a little hipster-ish (or insert your-favorite-youth-culture-group-here), but basically cool?

But this is not the case. (And I know my readers at women’s colleges will disagree, but bear with me ladies, because I’m talking about out in the real world.) Two hairy quasi-celebrities does not a trend make.

Remember two weeks ago when I asked what’s the deal with waxing? The comments are still rolling in and for sure, this is a shades of gray kind of issue. Some of you shave daily. Some of you obsess over legs and pits but forget about your bikini line until summer. Some of you care about your eyebrows and the heck with the rest of it.

I’m hearing the same kind of thing at Beauty U, where, as you might imagine, we’ve been mired in the subject of body hair removal for weeks now. And the biggest complaint we all have about waxing isn’t the pain (though yes, there is so much pain). It’s the logistics of the thing; the fact that you have to let your leg hair grow in to be a quarter of an inch long before waxing will work. Which means you have to walk around all stubbly for at least three weeks. There’s a lot of discussion about wardrobe planning, and how much stubble can be visible now that we’ve hit capri pant season. “I can’t take it anymore!” says Brooke, a former daily shaver after going cold turkey on the razor for two weeks. “If we don’t wax my legs tonight, I’m shaving. I feel like Sasquatch.”

We wax her. And then compare leg hair length to see who can go next.

Because, despite Mo’Nique’s no-shaving stance, despite the NYT’s raised-eyebrow coverage, the overarching theme is this: Women remove body hair. In fact, we don’t just remove it, we have specific rituals, preferences about what and how much, and schedules to which we must adhere, in order to stay on top of this business. We’re investing time and money ($1.8 billion in 2008, says Mintel Research) to get this done. We’re fitting it in around final exams, and work deadlines, and the kids’ soccer practice. And most of us aren’t giving those routines or our body hair much thought — until it starts to grow back.

“It’s good you held out,” Miss Susannah tells Brooke after we finish her leg wax. “Now it will grow back so much finer next time.” Because getting it to grow back finer over time is the whole goal of waxing, with the Holy Grail being no hair at all, obvs. Waxing (as almost everyone knows from reading instructional women’s magazine articles*) rips each hair out by the root instead of cutting it off on the skin’s surface, buying you extra weeks of hairlessness (before you have to go into hiding for the three weeks of stubble), which, in theory, would enable you to spend less time and money on hair removal.

But we’re all so busy contemplating the hassle, the injuries, and the expense involved in hair removal that I think maybe we’re missing the key question: Should we be removing all this hair in the first place?

The fact that the answer is such an obvious “duh” is the reason why Mo’Nique and Amanda Palmer are making headlines (yet not trend-setting) in the first place.

I’m with Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory who says, “…like most of the women I know, shaving generally remains the one burdensome, nonsensical, politically indefensible beauty ritual to which I cling.”

But it’s my turn next for the leg waxing. And I can’t f***ing wait.

*Like the above spread from this month’s Cosmopolitan, which includes instructions and cut-out stencils for giving yourself an at-home Brazilian. Via Jezebel.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Beauty U, Waxing, week 23

Beauty School Tests Can Be Harder Than You’d Think.

Tonight we have the written test on waxing. It’s an accidental pop quiz because Miss Stacy forgot to tell us we were having it. Nobody does well. The spa has been busy, busy, busy with clients and it’s been over a week since we cracked open Milady’s (or, as is usually the case, read from the Milady’s-provided PowerPoint lecture instead). Remember that whole speech from Miss Susan about how we can’t work on clients because we’ll miss important book learning? When we get our grades,* we finally get why that’s important.

This is our fourteenth written exam (out of about twenty) that we’ve taken since starting Beauty U. For the first thirteen, we followed Miss Jenny’s pattern: Read the PowerPoint lecture together as a group. Answer our workbooks independently, then review the answers as a group. Take notes while Miss Jenny quizzed us from the actual test. Study from those notes at home. Answer the chapter review questions for extra study time and extra credit. Do well on the test.

The other teachers think Miss Jenny spent way too much time on theory and not enough time being hands on with us.

Miss Jenny thought that we all worked full-time jobs (hence our participation in a night school program) and most of us take care of kids too, and thus, didn’t have much in the way of free time to spend on homework. And I’ve got to go with Miss Jenny on this one. And even if she was being too easy, it seems a little questionable to change the game so drastically at the halfway point.

“I never had any test review when I was in school,” says Miss Stacy, when we complain that this test was harder than the rest because she didn’t do the study prep, or tell us which day we’d have the test so we could plan to study at home. “You shouldn’t have been counting on us doing that. If we have clients, we don’t have time.”

Except that we aren’t supposed to have clients, because we aren’t supposed to work on real people. Until we’re done with all our tests. Oops.

Miss Stacy and Miss Marci (one of the Miss Jenny replacements) go over the test with us so we can all figure out where we went wrong, and it becomes clear that the main source of confusion is, well, them.

Example #1: Beauty U provides baby powder for us to apply to skin before we wax. Milady’s says that baby powder can be irritating (all that fragrance) and cornstarch is a better option. So when the multiple choice test lists both baby powder and cornstarch as potential answers… Chaos ensues.

Example #2: Milady’s insists that roll-on wax is the most sanitary option. Miss Marci insists it’s the least sanitary option. So when the test describes it as both sanitary and unsanitary… You get the idea.

Sorry, I know that’s all a bit inside baseball. And in the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn’t matter whether roll-on wax is sanitary or if you use baby powder or not. Miss Stacy and Miss Marci are both excellent hands-on teachers, great at demonstrating how to perform services and endlessly patient when we ask really obvious questions, over and over again. And it’s not their fault that we keep getting so busy with clients that we don’t have time to do book stuff — they don’t book the appointments.

But I think it does matter when a business that bills itself as “a school first” prioritizes paying clients over test review. And schools that encourage working moms to apply by saying the night schedule will be so easy to fit in around their busy lives should make a real effort to design a curriculum that actually does that.

“When I was in school, I had to learn what was the real world way and what was the book way and it was up to me to keep it all straight,” says Miss Marci.

We’re getting pretty cranky about this whole “when I was in school” business, past evidence of things sucking not being the most rational argument for why things should continue to suck in the present day. But what makes me sadder is that, as we present our case, the teachers know we’re right.

“This is just how Beauty U does things,” says Miss Stacy.

“What if you asked them to do things differently?” Meg asks. “Like book fewer clients, so we can have time to do our test review? Or give us points for questions that we answer right for the real world if you think the book is wrong?”

There’s an awkward silence. “I guess we can try that,” says Miss Marci, looking at Miss Stacy for confirmation. Even though Miss Stacy is technically the junior teacher, Miss Marci, being newer, lets her call most of the shots.

Miss Stacy just shakes her head.

*Okay, full disclosure, because I know somebody will ask: I got a 90. Or technically, an 88, plus 2 points of extra credit for hastily scribbling answers to the chapter review questions as we were all cramming as best we could ten minutes before the test. I know. A 90 is a great grade. But stay focused, because this isn’t about me.


Filed under Beauty Schooled, In Class, Waxing, week 21

So What’s the Deal with Waxing? (Because My Arms Feel Naked Now.)

Okay, kittens. We’re done with body treatments. We’ve mastered facials. Makeup applications are but a distant memory.

At Beauty U, the time has come for waxing.

A quick disclaimer to the supportive family members who read this blog: Now might be a great time for you to take a little break. Maybe catch up on that pile of unread New Yorkers in your bathroom. See what’s on TV.

I’m just saying. Things are going to have to get a little bit graphic round these parts. Continue reading at your own risk. That’s actually good advice for anyone who gets squeamish about body hair.

Because we’re going to have to talk about body hair.

And to start with, maybe we should talk about why it makes (many of) us so squeamish.

“If men had to remove their body hair, don’t you think we would have figured out how to make this hurt less?” asks Blanche, as we gear up for our first waxing practice. My forearms are deemed the most appropriately hairy subjects. Everyone is nervous. The wax is hot. The wooden Popsicle sticks and muslin strips that we’re supposed to use to paint it on and then rip it off seem clumsy and awkward.

The general consensus is hell yes, there should be a better way. And also that hair removal is something we only do for the pleasure of men anyway.

“Except now we like it better that way too,” adds Stephanie.

“I’m not sure that we even like it, I just think everyone does it, so it seems like that’s what normal is,” says Miss Stacy. “If everyone went around hairy, we would think that was normal too.”

And yet. Miss Stacy removes all of her body hair (for the uninitiated that means, arms, armpits, legs, bikini zone to some degree, and any extraneous eyebrow, lip, and chin hair) on a regular basis. Even though she has pale, sensitive skin that raises up in red welts for days after every treatment. “You get used to it,” she says. “And it’s so great later because you don’t have to shave and the new hair grows in finer.”

So, we get down to business on my forearms. Which, in the space of ten minutes, go from this:

Arm before wax hair removal photo

To this:

Photo of arm after wax hair removal

To be honest (and don’t worry — I’m always honest, but especially about what hurts in waxing), it doesn’t hurt as much as I expect. Like ripping very large (but not super sticky) Band-Aids off your skin, as fast as possible. Or being snapped repeatedly with a large rubber band. I mean, it’s not awesome. And those red welts feel hot and strange to touch. But it’s bearable. I discover a tiny scar on my left forearm that I’d never noticed when it was covered in hair.

It feels weirder the next day, when it looks like this:

Photo of arm post wax hair removal, after redness

My arms aren’t sore, and they are undeniably smooth — but they feel fragile, like the skin might peel off, and a little numb as I slide into my coat sleeves. I am acutely aware of my lack of hair. And feel sort of plastic.

“You’ll have to remind your clients that hair does serve a purpose,” says Miss Theresa, one of the day teachers who is filling in tonight. “It’s not the best idea to take it off every part of your body just because you like how it looks.”

So here’s the thing. Before I started at Beauty U, I didn’t even know that arm hair removal (as in, wrist to elbow or even higher) was Done. I’ve met a handful of women (of Italian or Jewish descent, with pale skin and very dark hair) who shaved their arms. But I thought that was a bit of an anomaly, a hassle that only the very hairy or very self-conscious subjected themselves to. Turns out (at least from what my peers and teachers tell me) it’s pretty common from women of all colors and cultures.

Which makes me realize there’s a lot about waxing (and hair removal in general) that I don’t understand yet. So as I delve in deeper, I’d love to do a little pulse-taking with you guys. This seems especially relevant in light of last week’s cross-post by Emily Heroy, on how you can love fashion and still be a feminist. After all, what says “stereotypical feminist” more quickly than hairy legs and armpits?

So: Do you love hair removal? Do you consider it a necessary evil? Do you eschew it completely as a sign of patriarchal oppression? Why or why not?

And if you have a hair removal line — some kinds of hair removal seem totally normal to you, but others sound freaky — do share your thoughts on all of that, too. Not to mention: Where do you think your preferences come from? (Your family, your friends, hairless Hollywood starlets, that Babysitter’s Club book where Kristy shaves her legs for the first time, you get the idea.)

I have my own preferences/theories about how I ended up with these preferences, and I’ll be sharing them (and analyzing them and over-analyzing them) as we go along — but I really want to hear from you. So go!

[Photos courtesy of the trusty iPhone.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty U, In Class, Waxing, week 21