Neralee Flanagan: The Rise of the Facialist

Ashleigh Sharman discovers a new breed of holistic facial therapist in Brisbane’s Neralee Flanagan.

Wellness is indeed, all around. From meditation to yoga, green juices to organic living, many consumers are embracing a renewed approach to health and wellbeing, clients and beauty therapists alike. And so, it is only natural that we see this philosophy land in the treatment room. Yet there is more to it than simply lighting a candle and offering clients herbal tea — asking us to dig a little deeper to manifest beauty of the body, mind and spirit — and it’s a journey that Brisbane-based holistic facial therapist Neralee Flanagan has only just begun.

“My journey is one of the self, a long journey of eating well, meditation and nourishment. Before, looking inwards, I did not feel beautiful, did not feel enough, did not have the levels of self-esteem and happiness I longed for. It doesn’t matter what you look like you need to be connected internally to who you are and I have found that this is what is most remarkable about my work. I can connect with clients and help them to feel good about themselves. It’s not about the skin, it never is. Aesthetics come after, health comes first,” says Neralee who has worked as a beauty therapist for the last 13 years.

Neralee STORY 3What then became a professional and personal quest, to discover how to feel better about the skin we are in, has led Neralee to study and explore the fields of Ayurveda, holistic health, organic skin care, nursing, nutrition and energy-balancing, in order to take her externally-focused beauty training and turn it inwards.

“In other cultures, ageing is a privilege. I personally connected with Ayurvedic principles and perform daily rituals to rebalance and enhance longevitity. When you strive for health and happiness in life, looking beautiful is simply an end-result to looking after yourself. It’s not hard or complicated, and most clients ‘get it’, but in such a stress fuelled society we are asking people for their time and it might take years to adjust to a new lifestyle regime,” admits Neralee who has learned that the key to maintaining this balance is to live from a space of loving self-acceptance.

This sense of ‘feeling great in your own skin’ comes from the nourishing and balancing of mind, body and spirit, a place that Neralee hopes to guide all clients and more therapists towards. For if the beauty therapist is not in a positive, fulfilled and nourished place how then can they ‘give’ to their client?

“With my own beauty beliefs and philosophy established everything else can easily feel very transactional. In our role as beauty therapist, we touch, we connect with people, with women, with their vulnerabilities — you are in a position where you have to be careful. It’s important, as a beauty therapist, to protect yourself from negative energy. Clearing the room of energy and holding intentions before you enter the room and also after the treatment, wish the client well and energetically let them go. Remember you are holding space for that client — you are not taking on board their energy.

“In a salon environment there are constraints of space, time, revenue, meeting targets, all pressures on the therapist yet your client is there for connection first, inner beauty, and results second, outer beauty. The pampering side of what we do is often termed ‘fluffy’ yet everyone I know is stressed, has wavering energy levels, and it is no wonder so many clients are taking up yoga, trying to find this connection through breath,” Neralee says.

Neralee Flanagan
Neralee Flanagan

Clients who have already opened themselves to other aspects of wellness, from fitness to nutrition, are then the perfect candidate for Neralee’s holistic approach to beauty. She does not look at clients’ skin under a lamp, rather it is about touch and mapping the face according to Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine principles; she takes time to ritualistically cleanse the skin; has complete awareness of every ingredient and mindfully applies each product.

“Go back to basics and work in harmony with the body, internally and externally however a foot massage doesn’t make a treatment holistic. You need to help clients take time to develop personal rituals, to appreciate their beauty and express gratitude. People probably think I’m crazy but we are looking sicker and using anti-ageing approaches from a much younger age — there is a real disconnect here! We need to come from a place of love but instead this industry is built on fear.”

Neralee tells that when you build a relationship with a client it’s not just about the skin and specific results, rather it is a connection and that is what keeps them coming back to you. She recalls the story of a regular client who booked in for a waxing treatment.

Neralee STORY 2When she arrived, Neralee could sense she was ‘all over the shop’ emotionally. She knew something wasn’t right so sat the client down and had a chat. The client immediately burst into tears, explaining how there were immense stresses at work. Rather than proceed with waxing, Neralee and her client joined together in a guided meditation taking in breathing exercises and energy clearing. Months later, the client confided that treatment was her ‘Neralee moment’.

It is an example that may not suit every treatment room or salon owner around the country but it is testament to Neralee’s philosophy of a natural, holistic approach to beauty — a philosophy that, with a wellness revolution underway, more and more clients are willing to be tuned in to.

“This philosophy has opened my eyes to another way that is about heart connection and wellness. Not just organic natural products but that the way of treating, the way of performing beauty therapy can be different. I truly feel I’m more than just a beauty therapist, I feel like I’ve come home, this is it for me.”

Neralee Flanagan is a Brisbane-based facialist

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