Have You Got Salon Anxiety?

We chat to industry experts on how salons can be a safe space

“I’d love to get an actual wax, in a salon” Amy says, “But I just can’t get past the idea of a stranger seeing my body and bits!”

Going to the beauty salon and having a treatment done is a privilege, for sure. It takes time and costs money and not everyone has the means to make that happen. An hour or two in a salon can be the perfect excuse to relax your mind and get some well-needed R&R. Investing some time in yourself, whether it’s with a massage or a wax, in between a busy life schedule, sounds like total bliss for many.

But sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. A trip to the salon can bring about feelings of dread and anxiety for some as self-esteem and body image play a huge role in beauty treatments. That hour or so in a salon chair can be filled with terror and embarrassment, which is the opposite of its intended purpose. Taking your clothes off, and putting your trust in another person to treat you with dignity is a huge ask, and can leave you feeling very vulnerable, even if you’re receiving a treatment that will benefit you in the long run.

Changing your mindset doesn’t happen overnight, it’s continuous work unlearning everything you think you know about yourself to grow your self-esteem. It’s important to remember that the people performing your treatment are professionals. In their own words, they’ve quite literally ‘seen it all’, and their main priority is making you feel comfortable and giving you the best treatment possible. Judging your lumps and bumps is the last thing on their mind.

Amy, 34, has only ever had manicures in a salon, but the fear of someone touching her body prevents her from getting treatments she’d love to try. “My friends all tell me it’s so fine, but I think being plus size, and having weird ongoing issues with my body really gets in the way.” Amy is not alone, from body image issues to hygiene anxiety and intimacy struggles, many people have difficulty with the idea of being touched by a stranger.  

Grace Dunne has been working in the beauty industry for over twenty years. She provides a mobile spray tan service to customers and says that she approaches all of her clients with kindness and understanding. “I would say that 80% of my clients are self-conscious in some aspect about their body. It’s not easy to strip off and stand in front of a stranger naked, that’s why how I treat them is crucial,” Grace says.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

It’s important to remember that you won’t be the first person to ever feel awkward and that informing the therapist or clinic can help ensure you get the care and patience you need. “When I see a client that is uncomfortable about their body shape I reassure them they are in good hands, there is no judgment here and they are in a safe place. I tell them I’ve been in the beauty industry for over 20 years and that we are all made in different shapes and sizes and I am even somewhat self-conscious about parts of my own body so I totally understand how they are feeling. I chat to them with empathy and as I would with a friend.

“Then I’ll explain their treatment and what’s involved to help put their minds at ease about what will happen next. While I’m working on their tan, I will chat about upbeat topics to take their mind off their treatment and that generally makes them at ease and puts a smile on their face. Seeing a person go from insecure to feeling good about themselves at the end of our treatment is one of my favourite things about my job. The thing that I would say to people who are suffering from salon fear is don’t be afraid. We are professionals and will take good care of you and make you feel as comfortable as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you are our priority and the most important thing for us is that you are comfortable and happy.” 

Sabrina Mota, a massage therapist based in Dublin understands that making a client feel completely relaxed is one of the most important parts of her job. She believes that everybody deserves to feel good about their bodies and ensures that she shows her own vulnerability to make the experience a positive one for them. “Sadly, it happens often that clients will come to me feeling embarrassed or scared. Even when people know that a massage treatment can help aid pain or health concerns that they have, they can still avoid it because of that fear of feeling uncomfortable,” she says.

But Sabrina is always dedicated to creating a safe space for her clients. “First, I’ll explain the benefits of the treatment to my client and let them know that I am fully qualified to assist them in how they might feel. I never want my clients to have any doubts when they enter my salon, so I will put in the time to make them completely comfortable and relaxed. Being a massage therapist requires you to have a knowledge not just about massage but to be a kind and empathetic person too.

“People who have low self-esteem need to be listened to. When I have a client who is suffering from body image issues I will show my solidarity with them to help. I’ll listen to what they have to say with respect and assure them that I am there to help solve their issues together. I love making people feel more confident and showing them that they deserve to feel good, just as much as anyone else.”  

If you’re avoiding a treatment you’d love, remember that they’re professionals, they’re trained in making you feel comfortable, and most importantly of all, you deserve it. A salon treatment to ease pain, or make you feel your best may actually end up being a powerful tool in helping you with body acceptance.