Exploring the therapeutic effects of availing beauty services, its correlation with self-love, and what makes the beauty parlor a safe space for women to rejuvenate themselves and connect with their bodies
5 minutes read
A few years ago, while scrolling through social media, I kept bumping into posts where people had clicked pictures of their brightly painted nails and hashtagged it with #selflove or #nailartistherapy. Hashtags that propounded the philosophy that painting your nails could take you towards self love! I was appalled. Had I been looking for self love at all the wrong places then? By that point in my life, I was trying to undo the damage caused by years of berating myself, wallowing in self hate and negative self talk. I was broke and had no actual money to afford therapy, so I read whatever I could. From the ‘5 ways to love yourself’ listicles on buzzfeed to books by self help gurus, I read it all. I was desperate, in a deeply toxic relationship with myself and I firmly believed that if there was anything that could save me from myself, it was self love. The Internet was my mentor, guide and philosopher, and it told me that if I looked hard within, I would find self love. So I read, sat on a mat, looked within and when self love didn’t show up, I decided to end the wait and go paint some nails. Looked like everyone else seemed to find love armed with a bottle and brush, why not give it a try? A few uneven coats, some more self berating and a lot of struggle later, my nails looked like a five year old had painted them. Needless to say, I scoffed off the whole idea of looking for self love in a bottle of nail paint and vowed never to trust a hashtag again.
It has been a few years since the tragic night of the failed nail paint-self love experiment. And even though my relationship with hashtags is the same, my thoughts on the therapeutic effects of self care and availing beauty services have changed. Over the years, I saw women transforming the way they feel, by changing the way they looked. We women spend a lifetime being conditioned into existing to please others, tailoring our looks to please, to be validated, to be accepted.
Coloring their hair, getting it chopped, putting on a bold shade of lipstick, all these were ways in which I saw women around me owing their bodies, defying, deciding, rather than being decided for.
I was convinced that maybe the answer to a better self image and happier minds, lay in our bodies. Instead of looking inside, could we look outside? Changing the way we look, can perhaps change the way we look at ourselves. Initially, I was skeptical of the idea that investing in my physical appearance could change the way I felt about myself, emotionally and mentally. Or a head massage could make me feel better about my career crisis. Well, maybe a trip to a parlour won’t solve life’s biggest problems. But as women, investing in skincare or availing beauty services , is a way of taking care of ourselves, of spending some quality time with our minds and bodies.
Today, we are witnessing a whole generation of privileged women taking to social media platforms to talk about how beauty can be the new therapy. And why not? If changing your thoughts can change the way you look at yourself, can changing the way you look in the mirror not lead to a newer, better perception of yourself? Does cleansing the dirt off your body not make you feel as rejuvenated as cleansing your mind of negative thoughts at a yoga retreat?
A conversation with Aayesha, a Delhi based make up artist, gave me a few insights into what makes beauty the new therapy for women. She said, “For those who do not have the time for self care, a massage session at the parlour can be very therapeutic. For most women, the time they spend at the beauty parlour is the only ‘me time’ they get. Getting themselves groomed and pampered is relaxing and empowering for a lot of women. They spend the majority of their day taking care of others’ needs, a trip to the parlour is a way of taking care of their own.”
Bhavya, who is a skincare enthusiast and frequently avails beauty services, makes an important point about beauty having been a traditionally therapeutic practice for women since centuries. She says “The influencers on YouTube may have revolutionised the way we have begun to see skin care and self care, but haven’t our ‘nani and dadi’ used methods like ‘ubtan’ and ‘champi’ to take care of their bodies since generations? Weren’t they ahead of us in their knowledge of oils and concoctions that calmed not only a body in distress, but also a troubled mind?”
It is not only the manicures, pedicures and the massages that make the beauty salon a place of relaxation and rejuvenation for women. For most women, it is a safe space where they can talk about their bodies. The salon becomes a place where they’re not alone with their insecurities, but are in a room of women who feel similarly.
At times, these insecurities manifest in the form of your typical parlour didi’s vocabulary – “Are conditioner nahi lagaate?” “Arey, don’t you apply conditioner?”. Their job demands them to project these insecurities- how else will their business thrive?
As a privileged society, we have reached a consensus where we all agree that self care is not a luxury. For a good life, it is a necessity. Many marginalised women from lower socio-economic strata might not avail beauty services from a parlour, but all of them want to be pampered. After all, a tiring day at farm work, domestic work and unpaid care work call for a stress relieving activity. Applying “ubtan” once a while and asking for massage from the neighbour or another family member is therefore a normalised response. And yet, there are women who find themselves pressurized by the same concept of beauty- of being pampered by these facials and massages. One forgets that beauty therapies and facials are just modes of being pampered.
As individuals, we need to make way for beauty in our lives in whichever form or mode, and let it be, for it always has been, the much needed therapy in our overburdened and exhausted lives!