No one would ever mistake me for a girly girl. All that primping and adjusting takes too much time. I preferred whatever my father was doing over whatever my mom thought was important when I was growing up and I haven't strayed much from that.
But a recent visit to the Bluegrass Community & Technical College's Leestown Road campus has me reconsidering that stance a bit.
I toured the esthetics department and heard client after client almost purr with delight about the pampering they were receiving.
"I am treating myself today," said Jennifer Rivera. She is a registered nurse at St. Joseph Hospital East as well as an evaluator for nursing students at BCTC.
For one afternoon last week, she had taken time off from work to lie down, have her eyebrows and eyelashes tinted and to enjoy an aromatherapy and paraffin dip for her hands using individual plastic gloves rather than a larger dipping pot.
"The individual hand treatment is more sanitary," said Melissa Anderson, esthetics program director and coordinator of the cosmetology and esthetics programs. "And it is a nice, relaxing treatment that softens the hands."
On a table close to Rivera was a woman whose skin was being analyzed for sun damage. Sometimes the process reveals an abnormality. If so, the student then suggests the client have it examined by a doctor.
"They are not dermatologists," Anderson said. "They can't diagnose. But some clients have come back and said, 'Thank you. It was skin cancer.' "
And, at another table, a man received a back treatment after having hair removed. The treatment involved a little massage, but the students are not massage therapists, Anderson said.
So what exactly is esthetics? It is skin care, cosmetic artistry and hair removal, she said.
The certificate program started at BCTC in 2005 after Kentucky joined other states in setting guidelines for licensure in 2004. BCTC is the only community college offering the program in the Kentucky Community & Technical College System. The program gives students who wanted to concentrate on skin care a chance to do that without studying cosmetology.
That's what attracted Katelin Lakes, 19, to the program.
"I really didn't care for the hair," she said. "I care more for the skin. I want to find ways to keep the skin clear and figure out ways to remove acne."
Since August, when the current class began, Lakes has learned to remove unwanted hair and give basic and deep-cleaning facials.
Because Anderson understands folks like me are curious but a bit hesitant, the cosmetology and esthetics programs at BCTC are hosting an open house on Valentine's Day from 3-7 p.m. Students will demonstrate the services offered in the programs and refreshments and gifts of services will be given away.
Mary Bailey, cosmetology program director, said visitors will also be asked to judge students' works which will be on display in her program. And appointments can be made at that time.
"Everything you get in a salon is offered here," Bailey said. "This is affordable and convenient. No one leaves here until we check their work. Our service is quality and their work is quality."
The esthetics field is growing in Lexington, Anderson said. More than 96 percent of her students graduate with a certificate, and all who have taken the state board exams have passed. After obtaining their license, students can work in full-service spas, in medical spas and some work with dermatologists.
The coursework involves a lot of homework and there is "no room for absenteeism."
"Anyone can slap a cream on your face," Anderson said. "But to know what you are using, why you are using it, and how it is going to affect (the skin) and cause changes" requires time and study.
"For some it might be more than they thought it was going to be," she said.
Recently Anderson was the first recipient of the national Gerson Award for Excellence in Esthetic Education. The award is named for Joel Gerson whose 1977 textbook paved the way for the board standards for estheticians.
Because she is a stickler for integrity and professionalism, Anderson instituted a "no tipping" policy for her students.
"It is very controversial within my colleagues in this industry," she said. "Sometimes the customers are not happy with that. But I explain that the students are fortunate for clients to come in and let them practice as students. That is tip enough."
Anderson wants to build integrity and professionalism in the students and it must be working. The next esthetician class, starting in January 2014, is booked. There is a waiting list for the class that will start in August 2015.
The success of the program is told by the clientele. Cherie Lewis was receiving a European facial and arm treatments. She had come at the recommendation of her mother.
"Winter dries my skin so bad," she said. "This feels really good."
IF YOU GO
What: Open House for the cosmetology and esthetics programs at Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Leestown Road campus, 164 Opportunity Way.
When: 3-7 p.m., Feb. 14.
Where: Cosmetology: Building N, Room 116; Esthetics: Building A , Room 201.
Information or service appointments: Cosmetology: (859)246-6629; Esthetics: (859)246-6632