Eyes of the beholder
THE PACE OF any salon may be slow and unhurried, but, Deborah Wynne says, the art of the beauty therapist is one that is deceptively relaxed. There are hushed tones, soft hands and a seductive collection of creams and scents. The atmosphere is calm.
"People don't realise the amount of knowledge or all the procedures that it involves," the beauty therapist confides. "You have to have a mature attitude about everything, because you are dealing with the public. You're like a counsellor as well. People tell you their deepest darkest secrets."
Each day Wynne, who started training in the mid 1980s, guides her well paying clients to discreet cubicles in Buttercups Face and Body Clinic at Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in Dublin. Women, and an increasing number of men, come to Buttercups to be transformed in some way. They are cleansed, toned, moisturised and revitalised within the confessional type cubicles.
Their bodies are massaged and oiled and, in due course, the high priestess of beauty works a series of small miracles on each of them. When they leave, clean and refreshed, the body has been replenished and somehow it often seems the soul has been uplifted.
Attitudes have changed in the last few years, Wynne says today beauty therapy "is treated seriously as a profession.
"I have always been very proud of it. There's a bit of glamour to it and a lot of hard work. But you do have to prove yourself and keep on going," she says. "It's a very competitive business."
She was still at St Michael's Secondary School in Finglas, Dublin, when she saw a brochure about beauty therapy. "A bulb went off in my head," she says. She was in fifth year when she asked Galligan's School of Beauty if she could do some work experience there. The school agreed, and she spent two weeks getting an insight into the world of the beauty therapist.
After doing her Leaving Cert, she went to study at Anne Weeke's Beauty College in Ballsbridge, Dublin. "It was a tough year there are people who drop out. A lot didn't realise what it entailed. The biology was the hardest.
It is a caring profession, but you have to have that regimental approach it pays off. For example, there's a set procedure for putting your client on the couch."
She did the three main exams available to the beauty therapist here ITEC, CIBTAC and CIDESCO and recalls how strict the examiners were. After completing her training, Wynne was given a job by Anne Weekes.
"I was very lucky," she says. "I worked with her for nearly three years upstairs in the salon it was like having an additional two years of training. That stood to me."
SHE WAS THEN offered a managerial position in a salon in Templeogue, Dublin, where she stayed for about a year. Then she moved to another salon closer to home, making it easier to commute each day.
"A lot of my friends had moved to London. I went to Manchester and worked for Lancome. I mostly did work on the counter and I travelled and did in store demonstrations. I learned how to sell, which is very big in beauty. You learn how to approach people and tell them what they need without feeling guilty about the prices they might have to pay. I found I was giving them more of a service.
Wynne has been back in Dublin working in Buttercups for the past three years. Beauty therapists must sometimes, she says, do a number of courses in order to become expert in a range of fields, e.g. aroma therapy, make up artistry, reflexology. Of all the areas in which she works, her favourite beauty treatment involves the removal of red veins.
Times are good for Wynne. She was recently elected to the committee of the Society of Applied Cosmetology Ireland as vice president. Starting in the spring she plans to spend a year travelling around the world, stopping off for a while in Australia already she has been promised a job in a Sydney salon.
Among all her assets, Wynne values her outgoing personality. "With the public you have to be able to take the criticism. My father was a publican, and my mam. That gave me the confidence to talk and I have a little bit of the gift of the gab."