Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Crackdown Continues. Again.

So, we had Monday night off because it was a Beauty U Staff Development Day, which means tonight, Miss Stacy and Miss Theresa have a long list of new rules and reminders for us:

When you greet a client, always make eye contact.

And smile.

And say your name and their name.

And give them a double handshake, where you tenderly — dare I say, reverently? — cup their one hand in both of your own.

And the biggest deal: Nobody, but nobody, is allowed to know in advance what clients we’ve been assigned, or when they’re coming in.

Stay with me.

Up until tonight, when we arrived at Beauty U, we would clock in, go to the classroom, and look at the night’s appointment book, writ large on the flat screen TV monitor that is hooked up to the main computer. The appointment book program is basically a big Excel sheet with the names of the senior students running along the top and the hours of the day down the side, with each appointment plugged in accordingly.


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[Beauty Overheard] Beauty School is Not Hot.

From this week’s Modern Love essay, “Finding Marriage Without Losing a Self,” by Jillian Lauren:

“You know, when I said beauty school was hot, I was just playing with you,” he said. “I know that place is crappy and mind-numbing. And I think it’s great that you do it anyway. I think you’ve got guts for trying to change your life.”

This essay isn’t really about beauty school. It’s about Jillian Lauren, a recovering heroin addict/prostitute who tries to reclaim her middle-class Jewish Good Girl self via a Brides‘ Magazine-worthy wedding to the perfect guy, until she realizes that the fairytale ending would require her to ditch her “disaster” self, even the parts of that girl that are worth keeping. The couple elopes in a small, cloudy sunset wedding instead: “Not at a happy ending, but at a quiet and hopeful beginning.”

But the story starts with Lauren in beauty school post-rehab, because, “I was just desperately trying to find a career that would pay my rent, lend some stability to my days and maybe afford me some time to write in the evenings.”


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Pretty Price Check (06.25.10)

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

photo of women smoking a cigarette in the sun

  • 4.5-9 lbs: The average weight gain you’ll see if you quit smoking. Which is enough to have French women clinging to their Marlboros. (Or whatever fancy French brand of cigarettes they smoke there.) Bleh. (Via Jezebel.)
  • $700: How much this writer spent on eyelash extensions. Hey, she got two-and-a-half months of glory out of them, before starting to look like “a bad drag queen.”


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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.


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Twittering This Post.

I’ve been finding Twitter to be obnoxiously slow today, probably because everyone is tweeting away about a certain soccer game. Plus, it’s about 112 degrees in my office, which doesn’t translate into super insightful blogging. So, here’s a quick post that is really just things I would have tweeted if I didn’t keep getting that sad whale screen:

  • Anna North has a really great essay about why we’re so weird about seeing women’s skin, even if we’re Kim Kardashian (on Jezebel.)


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Estheticians Are Not Doctors.


Esthetician's Lab Coat from photo

Esthetician's Lab Coat from Wait, what does she remind me of?


At Beauty U, we’re told this all the time. Like, don’t think that you can diagnose a mole as skin cancer. Just suggest your client see her dermatologist for a check-up. And, don’t expect to learn lasers or Botox — those have to be administered by a doctor, or an esthetician working under a doctor with advanced training. (Read: Well beyond the scope of Beauty U.)

Some of the time, I find this reassuring. Anatomy, cosmetic chemistry, skin physiology and basic electricity each get a dedicated chapter in our Milady’s textbook. That adds up to maybe three weeks, tops, that we spent learning straight-up science and they are everybody’s least favorite chapters. Last week I was waiting for a client in the classroom while Miss Lisa and Miss Stacy led the current crop of freshmen through their chemistry chapter (this involves the students reading off a PowerPoint lecture while the teachers interject every now and then with their own knowledge and expertise). When it came time to figure out the difference between a solute and a solvent, everyone got so stumped that we turned to Wikipedia for a better explanation. I’m not saying these women are dumb. They are quite smart. I’m just saying: Med school, it ain’t.


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The Birk Question, Answered. (-Ish.)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle to embrace the new (or not so new, depending on who you ask) Birkenstocks-aren’t-ugly-after-all trend. And you guys had a lot to say about that. I got a backhanded f*ck you, I got a lot of feminists wondering why I would devote so many words to talking about frickin’ shoes already, and I got some fellow shoe lovers saying hell no, we won’t go there.

Well. This should make some of you happy. (Not that last group.)

Photo of VA's Birkenstocks

Those are my feet and I’m wearing my first pair of Birks.

I think they look great. From most angles anyway.

I’m even rocking them to a work event in NYC today, because I have to schlep about the city in 90-degree heat and I know I need to do so blister-free.

And I would end the post there, on such a foot-happy note, except so many of you raised valid questions about all my anti-Birk agita, asking, quite reasonably, if it wasn’t at odds with the entire mission of the Beauty Schooled Project. Read more…

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Pretty Price Check (06.18.10)

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

Chris Jordan's 32,000 barbie dolls

  • 32,000: The number of Barbie Dolls you’re looking at in the photo above, by artist Chris Jordan. Which also represents the number of breast augmentation surgeries performed every month in the United States. (Via EcoSalon.)


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More Thoughts on Skin (This Time, with Cellulite!)

Thank you, wise readers. You made such good points yesterday. And it’s helping me refine my perspective on pimple popping (because, honestly, if you don’t have an informed and nuanced perspective on that, why do we let you vote?). And skin in general.

So here’s a quick and dirty summation of your very valid points: Sometimes we pop pimples for popping’s sake. This is a hygiene issue; who wants to walk around with a pore full of greasy gunk?And it’s just damn satisfying, like popping (kinda gross) bubble wrap. Or picking your nose. And, if you have a lot of painful acne, extracting that crap makes you feel better. Plus there definitely is a space in which women being comfortable examining the less pristine parts of their bodies (even if it’s with an “ew!” response) is a good thing.


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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.”


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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!