An industry built on the power of healing hands, Ashleigh Sharman talks to Dr. Alexandra Walker about redefining beauty and beauty therapy for today’s therapist and aesthetician.
Headlining consumer beauty show Beautiful You Australia in September last year, Walker says she was drawn to the event as it looked to expand the boundaries of definable beauty — that she might awaken a consciousness about how beauty can be manipulated. And it was here, on the Happy and Healthy You stage that Walker reached out to Melbourne’s beautiful people.
“Beauty is not an achievement”
We may nod our heads in agreement but there is no denying the scale of beauty we conform to within society. A pecking order that starts in high school comes to a head with our cultural view of beauty — that it peaks in our twenties and goes downhill from our thirties. It is no surprise then that our industry tailors itself by servicing clients over that peak. “You are therefore spending most of your life enhancing or fixing, but I believe people are drawn to the beauty industry by the healing aspects —healers work with people to make them feel good,” Walker says.
“If you feel sick, go to a doctor; but if you want to feel better, go to a salon”
Our industry is changing at a rapid pace. From chemical peels to injectables, machine-based treatments to permanent makeup, are therapists losing touch with their place as healers? “The focus isn’t on healing, it’s on an external ‘look’, so clients may look better but not necessarily feel better. It’s superficial and anything superficial makes people feel empty,” warns Walker.
This lack of healing may account for job dissatisfaction or even client dissatisfaction but in the game of chasing beauty how can the therapist and the client rail against the quick fix to ensure it is coming from the right place? For looking good isn’t an end it itself — it ultimately cannot guarantee feelings of happiness and wellness — and when everything is being held together at the surface, so much is at stake.
“Keep me looking good!”
We define ourselves daily on a scale of beauty, from hot to pretty, good to presentable. Yet as Walker stresses that external beauty cannot fix the inner you, so it also cannot be the end game of the client whose expectation to do so is firmly placed onto the beauty therapist. What pressures does this place on the therapist who is now charged with the inner and outer wellbeing of their client, without even realising it?
“The energy of a beauty therapist is invisible — there is no physical measure but there is also not a clear cut understanding of what the client may need from you that day in terms of your energy. They come in for a ‘routine’ treatment and there is no energy transfer. We are looking at a case not of employee dissatisfaction but of employee depletion,” Walker says.
Beauty therapists then need to be taught how to take care of this for their personal wellbeing. Walker suggests an exercise she uses at the end of every day when feeling weighed down; “I imagine a massive satellite above my head that’s magnetic and, mentally, anything that’s not mine gets sucked out toward the satellite. It is about letting go, a reminder to come back to myself and protect myself from other people’s energy in a conscious way.”
Walker says beauty therapists should be mindful of how they feel before and after interactions with clients, to ultimately be aware of the energetic transfer between therapist and client in their treatment actions.
How then can therapists manage client expectations to not only bring about another dimension to beauty but ensure a healing energy balance flows?
“Stop going through the motions. Get conscious. This industry owes it to itself,” says Walker. “The beauty industry has gone from making someone feel better to making someone look better as its focus — this is the disconnect.”
Walker acknowledges we all have insecurities about the way we look, how our body is ageing, what society deems beautiful, but it is the consciousness within these daily decisions of beauty that sets us apart. How does it make us feel differently about ourselves?
We come then to what some may seem as the great divide; the golden ratio of beauty versus spiritual beauty — Walker believing it is outer beauty which is harder of the two. So as you prepare to greet clients in the New Year take time to consider the following: Do you believe in the beauty of ageing? Do you feel like a therapist? How are you taking care of you? And, how do you define beauty?
Dr. Alexandra Walker www.awalker.tv