I believe that as an industry we have the power to make a huge impact on people’s body confidence, self-esteem and mental wellbeing by making some simple changes to the way we talk about, design and deliver our services. The service-based beauty industry has access to millions of clients, and we are missing so many opportunities to make our salons and workplaces safe, accessible and body positive.
Beauty should be subjective, but it has been standardised by society. The language the industry uses to describe the problems it solves are a constant reminder that clients’ bodies aren’t good enough – “fat busting”, “anti-ageing”, “flawless skin” and “beach-body ready”, to name a few. As an industry, we are heavily entrenched in fatphobia and diet culture, often offering solutions for fat removal and dieting.
We don’t walk around with filters and airbrushing, so it’s unrealistic to expect skin to be flawless. Skin is affected by a number of factors outside of our control, and this constant expectation that it should be flawless is exhausting.
As an industry, we are constantly creative with new treatments and products to adapt clients’ faces and bodies to achieve new fashion standards.
We must take more social responsibility for the impact our businesses have.
We need to look at how we promote our services, how we describe what they do and how we can offer clients an experience that focuses on beauty for mindfulness and wellbeing instead of just meeting society’s standards. There is still a lack of representation throughout the beauty industry for different body shapes and sizes, skin colours and disabilities.
So, where do we fit in to being able to make positive changes on negative body image and low self-esteem when, essentially, we are an industry whose profit is generated from people wanting to keep up with society’s standards? We rebel! Here are five low-cost but impactive ways that you can make a difference:
Representation– How diverse is your brand and business? What type of clients do you have in your marketing photos, on your social media channels and on your website? If you were a marginalised person, would you feel seen and welcomed by your business? Communication is key. If you have a business that is accessible for people with disabilities, tell them openly in your marketing and on your website and have a visual representation in your images.
Empathy – Learning to understand how other people experience the world, and therefore how they experience your business, will be the most important tool for making your business body positive and inclusive.
How does a person in a fat body feel when they visit a beauty salon and what can you do to improve that experience?
How safe does a trans or non-binary person feel when they visit a beauty salon and what can you do to ensure they know you are a safe space for them? How easy is it for a person with a disability to visit your premises and how do they find out that information?
For example, having information about parking and how to access the building available on your website or social channels will help them to plan their visit and reduce some anxiety.
Brands – Choose wisely and look at the message your brands send about body image. Are they diverse? Are they representing marginalised bodies, different skin colours, disabled people, and LGBTQIA+ people?
The values of the brands you work with represent your values. If you are choosing brands that do not test on animals and are sustainable and you are proud to talk about that with clients, set the same standard of brand values for body positivity and inclusion.
Experience – Make the experience a treat for the senses and one that is body positive. Consider what your client looks at, smells, feels and hears when they visit you. Take the focus away from just changing their appearance and make it part of their self-care routine. Make it non-negotiable for their mental wellbeing.
Get rid of glossy gossip magazines and replace them with empowering books or magazines.
Use essential oil blends that uplift and empower or relax and soothe. Understand whether your client wants to have quiet time to themselves or a chance to chat and connect with you and others.
Language – Be mindful of the language you use and the messages it sends about body image and body expectations. For example, a treatment that would ordinarily be described as “anti-ageing” can use words like “illuminate” or “radiance”. Remove words like “flawless” and replace with “improving skin tone and glow”. Take a look at your treatment menu and see what message it gives about what is expected of your client’s body and the way it should look.
The service-based beauty industry is an invaluable part of our clients’ wellbeing toolbox, and we have the power to make a massive impact if we pull together and recognise that a person’s worth is not based on the way they look.
We can create an industry that supports mental wellbeing first and foremost, and we can try to actively promote that message as part of our core values.
Amy Bates is a hair and make-up artist and the founder of The Beauty Rebellion, a coaching and consultancy business that teaches beauty and spa businesses how to be body positive, inclusive and diverse.