20 September 2011

An afternoon at the beauty parlour

After I moved to India I quickly discovered the luxury of the beauty parlour. Of course these exist everywhere, but in India the beauty parlour seems to be an indispensable part of every self-respecting woman’s life. This is where women go on a weekly basis to get waxed and threaded, massaged and pampered.

The reason why this is a luxury I’ve indulged in only in India is because it’s so cheap. In Europe it costs at least 50 Euro (3300 rupees) for a hair cut and blow dry. For this price in India I can also get a manicure, pedicure, hair treatment and facial thrown in for that price. I admit it: I’ve become a beauty parlour junkie of sorts.

I also now know why the beauty parlour is so indispensable. Since I’m always barefoot at home and wear sandals year-round, my feet are usually in a bad state. They also take a pounding in dance class. So pedicures have become a necessity. Also, neatly-painted toenails seem to be fashionable. Then there’s my hair, which is usually a frizzy mess because of the heat and humidity. Head massages, hair spas and conditioning treatments are hard to resist. I’ve also become a fan of eyebrow threading. This was the newest trend in London five years ago. But it cost 15 pounds: 75 times more than the 15 rupees it costs here.

I also tried waxing for the first time in India. The full-leg wax was not a good experience because of an over-zealous beautician. But the half-leg wax is bearable. The beauty parlour ladies have also tried many times – unsuccessfully – to submit me to an arm wax. “Arm wax?”, I had asked them, puzzled. “You mean Indian women wax their arms?” “Yes Madam, Indian ladies do full waxing,” they assured me. This was not something I had considered before. Nor had I known that hairy arms are undesirable. I started to surreptitiously scrutinize my friends’ arms. And I discovered they were indeed hairless. So it must be true! Then a foreign friend told me her Indian husband insists she wax her arms! I was horrified at the thought that my hairy arms could be considered repulsive. Then another friend told me that she had tried waxing her arms but was appalled by the stubble that grew back. That settled it. I like my hairy arms.

The beauty parlour is also a place to exchange news with the beauty parlour ladies and read Femina magazine. And a chance to observe the hierarchy of the Indian working environment in action. The new girls are always bullied by the more senior staff. They have to do the dingy jobs like washing hair, serving tea and coffee and sweeping up bits of hair.

Another discovery for me was that the beauty parlour is not only for ladies! There are beauty parlours which cater exclusively to men while others offer services for both. Men also come to get manicured, pedicured, facialled and threaded! The beauty parlour ladies used to tell me that they offer services for men too and would ask me to “inform Sir”. ‘Sir’ would find the thought of getting a facial or pedicure hilarious. But he tells me about what goes on at the barber shop: hair cuts and head massages of course, but also hair dying, eyebrow threading and fruit-scented facials. I’m not sure about arm waxing though.


Vani said...

yes! beauty parlours are one of the bestest things about india. :-)

the convenience (yes, luxury in western terms) is surely one of the things that i keep missing of India. i feel so comfortable and settled-in once i find a lady to go to for eyebrow threading (and upper-lips and chin) at least - when i shift to some new city in usa.

Desisoccermom said...

Isabel, that was spot on! And I love the photo on top.
The reason we like to wax our arm hair is because of the dark hair color. In US, it is expensive to get a full wax so I just shave but truth be told all the years of waxing has somehow retarded the hair growth. TMI I know but just wanted to explain the logic behind arm waxing. BTW, if you have light colored hair, arm hair is not a problem. And it is definitely a no-no to waxing arm hair for men, Indian or otherwise. :-)

Samy Ben Rabah said...

Whenever I go to get a haircut (which is advertised as beauty parlour), my co-customers undergo all sort of treatment:
- of course: hair cut/ shaving
- head massage
- hair dying
- simple facial
- cucumber facial
- eyebrow threading
- nostril hair clipping

So not do different than the ladies beauty parlour.
The most hilarious was one day, as I was passing by a small shack turned into a barber shop, I noticed that a big fat guy was having his armpits shaved. Never heard of !

Shubha said...

Humorous post:)

Elizabeth Petrosian said...

Enjoyed this, Isabel! Of course, I'm looking down at my arms critically now... You will have to tell me exactly what threading is and why it's preferable to an eyebrow wax (it SOUNDS painful, like a kind of torture they'd devise in Middle Eastern prisons)--because taming my Armenian brows is like trying to trim out-of-control hedges. Sigh.

Hansa. said...

Aah.. the luxury of Indian beauty parlors.. Actually whenever I am in India, my mother-in-law calls up this lady who comes home and does all the services like waxing, manicure, pedicure etc etc. So, I dont even have to step out of the house! Sigh..

Isabel said...

My hair is dark, desisoccermom, so my arms are, um, hairy!

Threading is not painful Liz! I haven't tried eyebrow waxing so I don't know if threading is preferable... but it's quick and painless, and very 'precise'. I'm sure the beauty parlour ladies could tame your Armenian brows!

daniela said...

Hello Isabel
this is my second time in your blog. Congrats! It's a very good one.
This post got me thinking. Because, here, in Brasil, it's so common to do wax. I guess it's because of the beach plus the hot weather. And we start doing it as teens like 11, 12 years old. And sure hair gets thiner and grows less after some time. It's great. We feel clean.

See you around,

Isabel said...

Thanks Daniela!