Since arriving in Asia four months ago, I’ve been subjected to more beauty treatments than I’ve ever experienced before.
From threading and waxing to an impromptu haircut and some seriously questionable massages, my legs, arms, face and head have been dealing with the fallout of an almost incessant hair removal programme. Which is something they’ve certainly never had to endure to date.
Back home in London, I’m pretty low maintenance. Shaving and hair removing occurs when it suits me, but definitely not on an obsessive basis. Hell, I only initiated myself into the threading clique just before I left for Asia!
But I vowed to be open to all travelling experiences that came my way, and strangely enough, a lot of them have been beauty orientated.
Is the universe trying to tell me something?
Today, in the midst of a hundred and one event-planning changes, it was decided that a visit to the salon was the only solution. While I didn’t exactly agree, I also didn’t really have much choice – and so I found myself at the same beauty ‘saloon’ (as they’re known in India) as last week, when I experienced the joy of a head massage from the laughing hair-loss insulter.
Luckily, my oily-handed friend was nowhere to be seen this afternoon, and the saloon was virtually empty. I was guided to an open therapy room, where I was handed a flattering burgundy/white striped peasant-style smock by a benignly smiling lady. Mr Mogul’s wife (who was treating us to beauty treatments again) headed outside to look after her screaming toddler, who has decided that this week is the perfect time to start the Terrible Twos.
Meanwhile, I pointed to the hot wax pot and my legs enough times to make a point to Miss Smily, then settled back on the towelled bed. Cue ten minutes of brisk cotton-strip-to-skin pulling, while my mind wandered back through the treatments I’ve had so far in Asia.
How many ways can you take out a hair?
- Threading in Kathmandu: at my orphanage-owner friends local place, where a rather old woman subjected me to caterpillar thin eyebrows and a bare lip, as well as making the observation that I needed hair removed from my chin, cheeks and forehead, and then removing all of said hair. I think only my nose was spared, which left me feeling like a very hairy person.
- Threading in Jaisalmer: where a hot iron, still plugged into the wall, was sizzling in a bucket of water, and where I sat back an old barber’s chair that was certainly intended for the rubbish dump. Luckily the lady who owned the front room serving as a beauty parlor was very polite and let us sit on the bed while we awaited our turns.
- a haircut in Udaipur: deftly executed by an Ozzie friend in a guesthouse bathroom, along with two other victims. One already had short hair; the other had long hair similar to mine. We all got pretty overexcited and screamed a lot.
- A full body massage in Varkala: where a 14 year old girl unblinkingly asked me to strip naked, sat me on a plastic chair and rubbed my head vigorously with oil that smelled like cookie dough mix. After about 15 minutes there was a half-hearted attempt at pushing my skin around, but I think ‘body’ translated into ‘scalp’ massage at that place.
- leg threading in Goa: where a beach peddler pounced on my defenceless sunbathing legs and started attacking them with thread so immediately that it was pretty hard to say no. A very bizarre experience that I certainly won’t be repeating again in a hurry.
- Coconut oil infused hair in Gurgaon: where various guests at Mr Bollywood’s abode decided I should be made aware of how much better my hair’s condition would be if I oiled it and left it for a few hours to ‘soak’. I’m not sure if my hair improved at all, but the impromptu massage was pretty good.
- A haircut in Chandigarh: where the hairdresser eagerly offered me places to stay in Rishikesh and tried to style my newly shortened hair into a Stepford Wives-esque curl under affair for that day’s press conference. One photoshoot later and the failed attempt at styling is recorded on the front page of a local paper. Oh, joy…
- A pedicure and head massage in Panchkula: where I was insulted for losing my hair and was told in fluent Hindi that my heels were too flaky. Just as well I wasn’t paying for either service.
I was brought out of my reverie with a bump. After a dedicated effort to remove hair from my big toe, I realised the woman with the wax was heading further up my legs; crucially, past the all important kneecap area.
“Full leg, tikeh?”
Was she actually serious? I barely shave the upper portion of my legs at the best of times, let alone have someone pour hot wax over them! I hastily shook my head – but at the same time, the struggling beauty afficionado within me blurted out,
We were navigating the awkwardness of the smock versus the dangerously dripping wax on vulnerable regions when Mrs. Mogul stepped into the room. Smock hastily pulled over said vulnerable regions, only to be hoicked back up again by the now not-so-benign lady. Eyes gracefully averted by all parties, which furthered the danger of dripping hot wax making contact with inopportune areas.
When my waxy experience was finally over, Mrs. Mogul stepped in for her turn. Clearly an old hand, she was there for the full treatment.
We’re talking arms, legs, shoulders and armpits, all being relieved of their hair at the same time; knuckles, toes and round the knees becoming similarly bereft. I started to wonder if Mrs. Mogul would a tad chilly when she left the saloon. While two beauticians pulled her apart with numerous wax strips, she held her fist raised high in the air. Whether in celebration, protest or just for the plain pain of it, I was damn impressed.
But whatever Indian women say, I am still never getting my arms waxed. There’s such a thing as too much pain for beauty’s sake..
My top treatment tips for hair removal in Asia
After this wealth of foreign beauty parlour experience, I feel like I’m something of an expert in the field. Here’s what I think I’ve surmised thus far:
- Make sure the salon/parlour/living room where your treatments are taking place is averagely clean. If there’s air-con or a fan, and some nice music playing, it’s always a plus. Just because you’re paying less in a foreign country doesn’t mean you have to be somewhere you don’t feel comfortable.
- Think about the place you’re travelling to, and plan your beauty treatments accordingly. For example, India is obsessed with threading any portion of skin with hair on it, but it’s taken me three months to pluck up the courage to ask for a bikini wax!
- Go to a salon just before you head home, as treatments abroad (particularly in Asia) are much cheaper than in Europe or America. Just make sure you trust the place first, and if the price is ridiculously low, maybe check out a few more places too.
- Similarly, make your requirements clear to the beautician, otherwise you’ll find yourself much more hairless than you originally intended. There’s often a tendency for a threader to just keep on threadin’ unless you say ‘stop!’
- And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from local beauticians. While they may not understand how you want your hair styled, they could have really good tips to take home with you – like infusing your hair with coconut oil. Spend a night sleeping with your hair like an oil slick, and amazingly you reap the benefits – after a good two or three shampooings, though.
Happy beautifying! Now I’m off to shave the remaining hairs from my legs, wash away some wax residue and attempt to forget the feeling which accompanies this reaction face…