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Traditional Practice of Hair Removal
Latest Updated by 2002-12-13 08:00:09

As the name suggests, hair is removed through the twisting of thread. If you were in Guangzhou a couple years ago, it was not hard to run into such a sight, whether on a street side or around a corner: A lady, usually in her 40s or 50s, wearing plain clothes, and another lady, old or young, hair tied back, sit face to face. The former lady, or the practitioner, moves her head, upper body, and left arm rhythmically. Looking closer, you would see she holds one end of thread in her teeth, the other in her left hand, the middle part of the thread looped through the index and middle fingers of her right hand. She uses the loop to trap rows of the customer's facial hair and pulls them out by the roots.

Largely due to the work's unsanitary environment and obstruction of pedestrian traffic, the practice is no longer allowed on the street. Now the practitioners line busy shopping streets such as Beijing Road and Shang Xia Jiu, asking female passers-by whether they want a La Lian Mao-the puling of facial hair. If they find an interested patron, they will tell her the price, usually from 5 to 8 yuan, and lead her to a back street or up to their attics, anywhere that's not in the way of traffic or the sight of policemen. They sit down on stools and the ancient facial ritual begins.

To call it a ritual is not exaggerating, or at least not in the older days. In northern China, girls used to get a threading right before their wedding day. It is called Kai Lian, or the opening face. The removal of birth hair signifies the end of immaturity and the beginning of womanhood.

Now people are less strict about this custom. They may choose to do it before or after marriage, depending solely on one's tolerance of facial hair. In Canton, the hot and humid climate can work undesirably on one's face, causing thicker hair and darker color. Both help the tradition keep its charm.

If you're a new comer, the practitioner might show you her treasure boxes that are filled with small paper boxes. There may be hundreds of them, each with a person's name written on the front cover. They are her regular patrons, and inside the small boxes is pearl powder. The powder is applied to the customer's face before threading begins. The purpose is to add friction and fight bacteria. As she ties your hair behind with bands and powders your face with her hand (unwashed), you might become a little anxious or maybe suspicious and ask: Will it hurt? With bad things happen to my face? She will reassure you: Only hurt a little bit, but your face will get whiter and smoother.

Aunt Xiao, as people call her (it's Cantonese custom to call woman in her 40s or 50s aunt), has been in this trade for eight years now. She used to work for a local plant making boxes. After retirement, she started this private business. She lives in one of the old apartment buildings right behind the face-lifted Shang Xia Jiu Shopping Street, which is an edge against her competitors. She only needs to stand outside her home, locate a customer, and take her inside the building. She doesn't use her apartment for the business. Instead, the crawl place between stairs is good enough.

"My mom has done La Lian Mao for me since I was a little girl. And my mom's mom had done it for her," Aunt Xiao said, As she grew up with the tradition, she didn't have much difficulty learning and mastering the skill, but she warned people against incompetent practitioners.

In northern China, girls used to get a threading right before their wedding day. It is called Kai Lian, or the opening face. The removal of birth hair signifies the end of immaturity and the beginning of womanhood. Now people may choose to do it before or after marriage, depending solely on one's tolerance of facial hair.

"If she (the practitioner) doesn't know how to use her strength, she could damage a girl's face," she said.
Aunt Xiao, along with her partner and sister-in-law, Aunt Chen, has over 600 customers now. Most of them come regularly, usually once a month or every twenty days. She said whenever there is a holiday, business would surge, and the Spring Festival season would keep them really busy, for getting rid of old hair not only feels like a new beginning, but more practically, makes one's face look cleaner and paler.

Paler skin has long been the cosmetic ideal in China, which is captured by the saying that a pale face can cover all your defects. To answer why this is the case is like explaining why many women don't like facial hair. Threading aims to achieve, even just temporarily, bothyanking off the hair and making the face appear whiter since it's no longer (not in a couple weeks) covered by hair. For Ms.Zhang, Zhang, it even solved her acne problem.

"Since I started to do this, I don't grow pimples any more," the twenty something said. Zhang regulates Aunt Xiao and Chen's "parlor", and when asked whether her pores are getting bigger as a result of this monthly pulling, she said no. Aunt Chen, also retired, said it will only make pores smaller and skin healthier.

As to why, she couldn't offer a scientific explanation, but said the movements of thread on one's face can "accelerate blood circulation." She recommended threading to everyone as long as they don't have skin that is too sensitive.
"A few people might have reactions, such as itching and rashes," she said.

Apart from facial hair, threading can also remove hair under armpits and leg hair, according to Aunt Chen. "Of course it would be a little more painful," she said.

Editor: Weiwei

By: Source:Guangzhou Today
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