A Beautician And The Beast Of Beauty Norms
PROBLEM: My otherwise sweet and talented beautician has lately developed a deep concern for my ‘tanned’ skin. Every time I visit the salon, she is ready with anti-tan masks and potions, waiting for my nod to smother them on my face. And when I decline, she tells me her secret home remedies. I wouldn’t accuse her of being a racist because, however ridiculous, her intent is genuine. But fair is certainly lovely for the lady, and I want to tell her it’s not OK.
LG: You seem gorgeous inside and out for sticking with her for so long. But your beautician is genuinely racist in her upholding of beauty norms, and while she might be well-intentioned, who needs that crap in their life? You go to a beauty salon to feel beautiful!
Tell her nicely but firmly that you are very happy with the colour of your skin; you are tired of hearing her talk about your skin like it’s something that needs to be ‘fixed’; and you will take your business elsewhere if she keeps talking this way. (Be firm. I know it’s a lie — trusted beauticians are a rare bird — but you have to sell it if you ever want to get a manicure in peace.)
Good luck, lovely!
SB: Agree with LG… good intentions don’t negate racism. While this is unfortunately a commonly held and warped standard of beauty, that doesn’t make it alright. She’s clearly making you uncomfortable so you have to say something, and soon.
Take a firm hand now, or who knows what is next… asking you to bleach your armpits or massage your nose to make it smaller and comments on body hair and cellulite?! The last thing you’re looking for in your self-care at the salon is judgement.
If you want to avoid the uncomfortable conversation on race but still get through to her, let her know your new attachment to monastic silence and ask her to give it a try! Silence is golden.
LG: SB, I am with you — I am all about silence at the salon. If I want to discuss my insecurities and body ‘problems,’ I go to a bartender.
MM: Like LG said, you go to a beauty salon to feel beautiful. Unfortunately though, beauticians have no idea of this or pretend not to, since it isn’t good for business.
I’ve found that flipping the question works wonders. Ask a beautician about her own self-care regime, and she will embark on a long rant of how being surrounded by so many beauty products doesn’t make it easier to maintain those perfect French nails or a permanent blow dry. She’ll quickly forget about your skin colour if you lend an ear for her troubles, and you can continue your salon visit in peace.
Assuming you have perfected the sympathetic nod and internal mute button, of course.
SH: Give her a taste of her own medicine. The next time you are at the salon and she shares her fairness wisdom, tell her about the latest tanning products on the market. See her eyes widen. When you think she’s intrigued enough, shed some light on beauty norms, gently explaining how myopic (and racist) her worldview is.