By Deepthi Nair
When the neighbourhood beauty salon offers a steep discount on all their services on a weekday, I move heaven and earth to keep my appointment.
One of these days, I made it to the parlour one evening. I was all set to relax during a one-hour facial, which I had snagged for Dh125. But I was disturbed (yet again!) by unsolicited advice. No sooner had I closed my eyes that the beautician began: “Your skin looks worn out. It has too many open pores, freckles… you’re prone to acne…” She went on, “In your 30s, you should take better care of your skin,” etc. I was trying to enjoy the pampering session, but there I was, having to listen to this unwelcome grooming advice.
The whole point of going to a salon is to fix the flaws, not be panned for what they think is wrong with your skin or your hair or your weight. It doesn’t help that these are thinly-veiled attempts to sell salon merchandise. Creams to soften wrinkles, body oils to reinvigorate pale skin, special shampoos to manage tresses — all of these have been pitched to me while my face is being steamed and exfoliated.
One time, an attendant repeatedly told me how desperately I needed hair serum. I had gone to get my hair blow dried but was given an earful about split ends, dryness, damaged texture, hair fall, and how I ought to come in once a week for an (expensive) hot oil treatment.
All of it is so unnecessary. This beauty shaming needs to stop. No customer likes to feel judged or inadequate. I understand that they have to meet monthly targets and earn their commissions, but surely not at the cost of driving away loyal clientele.
The ‘advice’ never stops, no matter which salon I frequent. The more the employees of salons get on my nerves, the more I seek out salons with less pesky employees. Don’t beauty parlours train their attendants? What happened to customer relations and subtle sales strategies?
When you patronise a particular salon, you tend to be friendly with the staff. I end up making small talk about the weather, the job market, holiday plans, latest movies, etc. Often though, conversations will veer into personal territory, not of my doing. I will be asked my age, about family planning; you get the drift. Just another routine of courteousness being taken as a license to become more familiar. It doesn’t surprise me anymore. It is not easy to reply to such questions politely. But it’s too much if, on top of the intrusiveness, you get ripped off.
There was a salon I used to frequent for their quality of service. However, when I went to them for a ‘formal make-up application’ for a New Year’s Eve costume party, they charged me Dh500, which was significantly more than usual. Why would they inflate rates without alerting the customer? Guess who never returned to that parlour.
I checked with my girlfriends if they too had received such unwarranted advice. As it turns out, I am not alone.
One friend enrolled for a weight loss programme that was advertised by a salon. To her dismay, she ended up being fat-shamed by the therapists. They commented on her love handles and fat deposits. This from an establishment promoting weight loss.
Another friend recalled how once a beautician recoiled at the prospect of waxing her. Throughout the session, the beautician had her face turned away. My friend naturally made her displeasure known to the management, and didn’t go back.
I remember seeing another friend’s social media post on how she was beauty shamed by an acquaintance of hers who works at a salon. I scrolled back to find the post on her timeline. She had said “I went for a facial, hair treatment and pedicure. But, instead of feeling beautiful after the treatments, I came out feeling like c**p.” My friend went on to share the exact piece of unwarranted advice that had been doled out to her.
Somewhat more understandable is how attendants get irked when they realise you’ve visited another salon. They’ll issue a remark on the lines of, “Madam, your eyebrows look out of shape. Where did you get your threading done? Not with me, for sure?” Okay, I get it. Your service is unparalleled and I made the mistake of stepping foot into another salon. Grave error of judgement.
I understand that a job at a salon is physically demanding and involves long hours. But when I spend money to come to your place of work to relax, feel good about myself and be pampered, is it too much to expect some peace and no judgment?
Deepthi writes on Dubai property and loves to be in the thick of all that’s fun in this city