You have to suffer for beauty. But how much REALLY?

Oh the things we do to our bits. As if bikini waxing wasn’t brutal enough, we had to up the ante and embrace the Brazilian didn’t we. And
now? Now? Even as you kick back with your morning latte, there are women across this sunburnt country queuing up to have a laser gun
pointed at their feminine parts. It’s Sex in The City meets Star Wars. Nude from the waist down.

According to a recent university study, 61% of women say they do activities they don’t enjoy in order to improve their looks. Clearly,
as my friend Zoe observed on her blog recently, “the other 39 % are either cave-dwellers, monks or liars.”

With the exception of a haircut, there’s not much about maintaining your looks that doesn’t hurt if you’re female. And since the amount of
upkeep required to look decent increases with every passing year, so does the pain. Beauty hurts.

I sometimes think men have rather a wafty idea of what goes on in beauty salons.  It’s certainly not their fault. The name ‘beauty salon’
has misleading connotations of pampering. It implies fluffy white towels, soothing strokes and Enya music.

But last time I checked, being plucked, squeezed, peeled, ripped and tweezed with or without hot wax being poured directly onto your genitals is not most girls’ idea of a wafty good time.

Sadly, it’s not just hair removal that hurts. Massages notwithstanding, most things that happen at a beauty salon tend to be on the ouchy side. Like ‘extraction” or “cleaning”. This is beauty-speak for squeezing the bejesus out of your face. And ‘brow-shaping” which involves a heady combination of hot wax and tweezers. And peels. This is a lot like pouring acid onto your face, and then leaving it there until you’re desperate to slam your hand in a car door just TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF HOW MUCH YOUR FACE HURTS.

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Even the hairdresser is not pain-free. This is a surprising truth I learnt in 1990 when Yazz was cool (The only way is up. Ba-by. Remember?), and I bleached my hair white. Imagine a thousand bees all over your scalp, all stinging you at once. For an hour. Good times.

And now we have laser. I’m not sure why the torture of waxing or the hassle of shaving had to be superseded by a new form of hair removal that involved eye-protection goggles and the smell of burning. But there you go. We’ll do anything and pay anyone who will promise us flawlessness or hairlessness. We are that easy.

But really? We shouldn’t complain. Complaining should be the exclusive preserve of those who land in hospital after a beauty treatment. The Accident Research Centre at Monash University reports that 90 Victorians were hospitalised in 2006 with waxing injuries. One of them was a woman who experienced a life-threatening infection after some minor bleeding following her treatment with a trainee waxer. I’d hazard a guess that her big mistake can be found in the last two words of the preceding sentence. I’m sure trainee waxers do need to learn somehow but couldn’t they practice on, say, bubble wrap? Or a tree trunk?

According to newspaper reports, “Within a fortnight, the diabetes sufferer, who has a lowered immune system, was suffering excruciating pain, a fever and a rash extending to her chest, arms and neck. Doctors at the Austin hospital unit saved her life with antibiotics…but they were astounded when just six months later the same woman presented with a similar condition – this time caused by shaving.”

So who are we suffering for exactly? Rarely, it seems, men. I don’t know many guys who have rolled over after particularly nice shag and remarked, “You know babe? With smaller pores and slightly more streamlined eyebrows, that would have been even better.” Mostly, men don’t even notice the majority of our beauty suffering.

This is confirmed by a quick poll of friends who have been committed to the torture of the Brazilian wax for years, even through periods of deliberate celibacy and relationships with happy men who couldn’t care if they had silver tinsel down there. “I do sometimes ask myself why I’m doing it,” admits one happily single friend in her mid forties who has a Brazilian every six weeks. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a form of voluntary masochism. I just like the way it looks.”

Yes, vanity plays an enormous part in how much pain we’re willing to endure. “I want to look the very best I can, and the older you get the more it all hurts,” says another friend in her thirties who has some kind of beauty treatment every second week, “all of which are unpleasant but necessary.”

“The worst and most humiliating beauty treatment is tattoo removal,” insists another friend who knows this to be true. In 1992, after a bad break-up, she had a small tattoo applied to her right buttock for $50. She was 20 and thought it looked beautiful. “Fifteen years and eight removal treatments at $150 each later, I am living proof that not only does beauty hurt but it is indeed in the eye of the beholder.”

Generally, I find that the more disfigured you look after a beauty treatment – greasy hair, squeezed skin, ugly red marks on your face where your eyebrows used to be – the more likely you will bump into an ex boyfriend. I’m sure there is some kind of scientific formula for this. If only our best and brightest scientists weren’t so busy trying to cure cancer and the like, they could set their minds to proving my beauty-salon-ex-bumping theory conclusively. Lasers anyone?

What beauty treatments do you love and which do you loathe? Is it true that you have to suffer for beauty?

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