The Lives of Women (part 2)

In my previous blog, The Lives of Women (part 1), I discussed my belief that today’s narrow definition of “beauty” has taken a toll on women’s self-esteem. And unknowingly, certain elements of the esthetics business may be contributing to the problem. I have come to this conclusion based upon my experience as a 19-year veteran of the esthetics business. But first, as promised, here is another excerpt from my book Notes from Your Fairy Godmother, Chapter 5: “THE BEAUTY.”

Oh, my God…

What if you wake up some day and you’re 65 or 75 and you never got your memoir written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.  ~ Anne Lamott

 

Agelessness v. Beauty

            Agelessness is not an actual destination; it is a marketing concept directed at women. So, no matter how hard we try or how much money we spend, we’ll never get there because the finish line is always moving.

            Beauty, on the other hand, means many things, few of which are based on something as temporary as looks. There is beauty in love, kindness, friendship, children, nature, the heart, the soul, and memories of a life well-lived.

            Yet we continue to compare ourselves with a very narrow view of beauty as dictated by fashion and beauty “experts,” even though we are aware of the manipulation by airbrushing and photoshopping, as well as fake hair, fake nails, extreme diets, and the various teams of people who prepare models and celebrities before their images are presented to us. 

            You know what they say: Sometimes the grass looks greener on the other side…because it’s fake.

Be your own kind of beautiful.

 

 In 1999, I made a huge career leap when I left a very successful court reporting career and followed my passion into what at the time I thought would be a wellness business. I didn’t actually intend on being an esthetician working in the treatment room, but I knew from past experience as a successful business owner that I needed to be proficient in all aspects of my business. So I went back to school, earned my esthetician license and opened a small day spa. I was the only esthetician at first, but even as I became more successful and brought other estheticians on board, I continued to remain in the treatment room. I loved the work, and I loved my clients.

Back in those days, electrical equipment was relatively basic (microdermabrasion, galvanic current) and products weren’t particularly clinical. Doctors were just beginning to enter the spa business so the birth of the “medi spa” was on the horizon but not yet on the scene. Clients relied on the esthetician’s skin analysis expertise, product recommendations and home care protocols. Those were fun times, for sure.

While I was enrolled in my esthetician program, I contacted a friend who had also changed careers and had become a dermatologist. She allowed me to follow her around at work for a day so I could understand dermatology and learn more about the skin. That opened my eyes to the fact that I was not getting enough education in my esthetics program which started me on a never-ending quest to become a better-educated esthetician.

Later, when I opened my day spa, my dermatologist friend and I tossed around the idea of her coming in once a month to offer Botox injections which were just becoming popular in day spas. In the end, however, I decided that the liability implications were too high so we nixed that idea. However, I will never forget something she said to me.

She pointed out that if people were coming into my spa for Botox injections, they would likely ask her about skin care products and home care protocols. She admitted to me that she wasn’t very well-versed in that area (remember, this was before doctors had jumped into the medi-spa business). She told me that the doctors at her medical practice would typically just hand out samples given to them by sales reps. (As I recall, those were OTC products like Cetaphil and Dove soap.) It was clear that my friend didn’t give much credence to products used at home. But that was many years ago, and it would have been a totally different conversation today. Today’s dermatologists are raking in the big bucks with their own “medi-spas” and skin care products.

All of this brings me to my main point.

There is definitely room for all of us in the field of skin care. In fact, I prefer lots of options in life, so the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned.

  • There are Multi-Level-Marketing companies who want us to believe that they have created that ONE magical potion that works for every human being and is nothing short of miraculous.
  • There are well-known celebrities who have developed their own skin care line so that if we use it, we can look as great as they do.
  • There are department store salespeople who have picked up enough skin care lingo to convince unsuspecting shoppers to purchase products at exorbitant prices, which in the end don’t really do much.
  • And there are the self-serve grocery store/drug store products that have many fillers and additives to make the products feel good and smell good, but must be relatively neutral to assure that shoppers won’t hurt themselves with active ingredients.

And then, of course, there are the estheticians.

One of the biggest differences about estheticians is that unlike all of the other sellers of skin care products listed above, our focus and our priority is on the care of our clients’ skin, not the selling of the products. We know that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all product. We know that our clients’ skin changes constantly based upon a multitude of variables, and that professional-grade skin care products must be chosen based upon a particular client’s specific skin condition that day – not that year, or that decade. And we know that for optimal skin health, a client’s home care products and protocols must be adjusted as needed, based upon the esthetician’s educated recommendation.

Estheticians also know that it matters a lot how an ingredient is sourced and how a product is manufactured and sold. We know about fillers and additives and we know how to read the ingredient deck of any product. We know our clients’ skin well because we have done our homework and have identified any problematic issues due to allergies, fluctuating hormones, lifestyle habits, medical issues, etc. And we keep up with those variables because we know they will change throughout a woman’s life.

Unfortunately, Estheticians do not have the enormous advertising budgets that the big box manufacturers and sellers have. We don’t hire celebrities to testify publicly that a particular brand has made a life-changing difference in our skin. We don’t have huge amounts of product in stock that have been stored at a gigantic warehouse somewhere (not necessarily stored properly), or on store shelves for who knows how long. And Estheticians are not trying to lure clients in with a plan to upsell them to the plastic surgery department.

I was at an event with several women recently and one asked me for my recommendation about facials and skin care. This beautiful woman told me that she was using a professional brand of skin care products but was not under the guidance of a professional licensed esthetician. My advice, as always, was to see a really good esthetician for a consult, skin analysis and facial. That to me is the best starting point. Learn about your skin, the impact of fluctuating hormones, sun damage, exfoliation, and the myriad of customizable options available from an esthetician.

Other women in the group offered advice which included more aggressive procedures, such as those performed by medical personnel. My response was immediate: “Please don’t go from barely washing your face and not exfoliating, all the way to an invasive procedure. Start slowly, carefully, safely. And if you are going to move up the chain of esthetics procedures, please stop when you feel really good. Don’t feel the pressure to go down the road of lift-tuck-inject-cut-poke-scrape-bleed-peel like a snake…and end up looking like a weird version of your already beautiful self. Because 10 or 20 years down the road when your skin is discolored and worn out, you probably won’t realize it may have something to do with the invasive and aggressive procedures you thought were a good idea long ago.”

To be clear: I am not suggesting that highly-clinical procedures are bad. But many newly-licensed estheticians that I know are being trained to go right for the outer edge of what their new esthetician license permits them to do. In other words, the art and craft of professional skin care without burning and bleeding has been left behind in favor of dramatic esthetic procedures. I know that some women demand these procedures, and of course that is their choice. But I think today’s estheticians should be willing to do both.

I know the hardcore stuff is fun, but at least consider that esthetics overkill may not be for everyone and in fact could be a component of the demise of a woman’s self-esteem. If estheticians are able to look past the surface of the skin and consider the woman’s psyche, there might be more we can do.

(How estheticians can help will be in my next blog, part 3)

 

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