- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

Adrienne Bianco lies still on the beauty bed, as though she were designed to complement the luxurious ambience of the spa. She appears like a model from the French Riviera as her grin and hot-pink toenails reveal her youth. Her skin, sun-kissed and wrinkle-free, also gives away her age — 20.

To preserve the youthful appeal of taut, clear skin, Miss Bianco receives her first facial treatment of microdermabrasion. The junior at George Washington University concedes the deep-skin exfoliation isn’t just a preventive measure, though — it’s also for the “ridiculously soft feel.”

Whether for inner strength, medical reasons or sheer aesthetic pleasure, women have varying degrees of what they consider necessary beauty maintenance. While one woman can get away with a six-month hiatus between haircuts and leave fingernails, pores and a half-inch of silver roots au naturel, another, such as Miss Bianco, requires weekly pedicures to accommodate her obsession with feet.

On this particular day, Miss Bianco is also at the Hela Spa in Georgetown for a bikini wax and laser hair removal for the first time on her underarms. Laser removal is the premier treatment to rid her body of her second self-proclaimed obsession — unwanted hair.

As the aesthetician moves the laser over the tender skin, Miss Bianco smiles, relieved that “it doesn’t hurt at all” and confirms her desire to continue the laser removal on her leg hair after school starts, a treatment that is a big expense for a college student.

“I’m very minimalist in some things and more adventurous in others,” she says, pulling her naturally brown hair over one shoulder. “Now I’m 20 years old, and for the rest of my life, my leg hair will be gone and I won’t have that headache.”

Permanent hair removal is a luxury, however, for other women, such as Elsy Sandoval. The 34-year-old Alexandria resident uses other, less permanent methods, such as plucking and waxing, to get rid of unwanted hair. With a young son occupying the time and energy that she otherwise would spend on beauty treatments, Miss Sandoval says her priorities change as she ages.

“I alter what is important and what can be sacrificed,” says Miss Sandoval, whose long hair hangs in red-dyed waves. “Sometimes I need a 911 facial, and other times, I need a 911 pedicure.”

For Isabel Hagbrink, a native of Sweden living in the District, a full-body massage every week is a priority.

“It may seem like a luxury to some people, but it’s almost necessary to me because I’d be in so much pain,” says the 35-year-old public information officer and event speaker as the Hela Spa masseuse works out the persistent knot on Miss Hagbrink’s shoulder that she says is a result of sitting at her desk typing. “If I had a family, I probably wouldn’t get massages. It’s a typical single-life luxury.”

However, Miss Hagbrink views other beauty treatments, such as Botox injections and microdermabrasion, as rarely sought splurges. Waxing, she says, is just too painful when the do-it-yourself, razor-in-the-shower routine works perfectly well for the legs.

Certainly, there are some aspects of beauty maintenance that women prefer conducting in the privacy of their home. Laura Lareau, for example, cleans the pores of her skin because she has been educated in the proper cleansing method. The Falls Church resident says when she tells people she’s 50 years old, they don’t believe her.

“I put cocoa butter on my skin like a ritual,” Ms. Lareau says, adding that her dog often tries to lick the lotion off her legs. “Even if I am tired, I can’t look tired. I can’t look less than professional.”

For other women, the upkeep of one’s appearance isn’t as stringent but is more loosely based on the most necessary beauty treatments. Other treatments are often left out of a woman’s beauty budget based on a number of factors, including expense and lack of knowledge.

Miss Bianco, for instance, although religious about her weekly pedicures and waxing, doesn’t wear a lot of makeup or subject her tresses to the damaging effects of a blow dryer or coloring chemicals.

“I budget to afford beauty treatments; I wouldn’t buy a new outfit or go out to dinner to afford it,” Miss Bianco says.

Ms. Lareau regularly splurges on such treatments as acrylic nails, eyebrow waxing and pedicures; massages she considers a special treat she awards herself and her husband a few times a year. Her once-black hair has turned “75 percent silver,” and the former bodybuilder considers it a must to dye her hair every two weeks.

“Washington is one of the cities where people allow themselves these treatments that they wouldn’t in the rural country,” Miss Hagbrink says.

Kimberly Etherith-Spence, 35, says it has been 11 years since she has had her hair cut or styled. She gets her feet cared for and toenails polished, however, every couple of weeks.

“I’m very low-maintenance,” says Mrs. Etherith-Spence, who lives in Leesburg, Va. “I don’t have the patience to sit and have my hair done. I love the way I do my hair.”

For some women, beauty maintenance is peripheral if it lacks physical benefits and is only for the sake of appearance. Miss Hagbrink, for instance, says she finds “makeup really annoying to take on and off.”

Miss Bianco also wears makeup sparingly and takes good care of her skin. Now, her sorority sisters also come to the spa and receive facials and massages. In the fall, a whole lineup of college girls will receive their first treatment of laser hair removal on their legs.

For many young women, beauty measures are expanding increasingly to include not only physical enhancement and convenience, but also prevention.

“People think [beauty maintenance] is only for older women who want to get rid of damage, rather than prevention care,” Miss Bianco says. “It’s important for our generation, too.”

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