Julie O’ConnorSenior Project PaperIaluna / FlynnJunior Year Quarter IIThousands of dollars every year are spent on making your hair, skin, and nails look flawless. On average, the basic woman spends $15,000 on beauty products over the course of her life, but what many fail to realize, is that you are spending money for beautification services even after you die. The term desairology refers to skin, hair, and nail care for a funeral. Most of this is performed after the embalming process, which is also a crucial part of preparing the deceased for a funeral. Services for the deceased vary depending on religion, culture, area of residence, and other depending factors. There are also different kinds of services that take place, and sometimes, none at all. For example, for Christians, it is common in the United States to have a “viewing” or a “wake” the afternoon or evening before the funeral and burial service. These viewings can include prayers and a small remembrance service usually held by a minister, Reverend, pastor, or other religious figures. The funeral service and burial usually take place in the morning after the vigil services. Some religions have different traditions though. For example, Hindu religions hold a short viewing before a cremation service. These viewings usually include recitation of prayers, hymns, and cultural traditions. Buddhists may or may not have a wake, for it depends on the family. If there is a wake being held, then the body lay in a simple room wearing simple clothing. The wake can last as long as a few days at a time. Other religions have no viewing or visitation services. For example, Jewish families will not have a viewing, although it is common to have the immediate family come together, gather around the casket, and tear a piece of black clothing, as a sign of grief and mourning. Muslim cultures like to have the deceased buried as soon as possible, thus having no visitation or funeral services. If services are custom in a culture, then most people will have the deceased embalmed and have makeup applied. This is a crucial part of comforting the family because they will be remembering the deceased for who they were in life, so they want the body to look as lifelike as possible. When a body dies, the embalmer will chemically treat the body in order to keep the body from decaying and giving off toxic scents before the services are even planned. Embalming can also help with the makeup application, which is where the desairologist comes in. In an interview conducted by Simon Davis, embalmer and desairologist Daniella Marcantoni was asked if embalming the body made the makeup application easier. “Yes, absolutely. People start decomposing immediately…It’s just that the color and the tissue fixation… they’re harder, they’re more pliable. It’s really hard to apply cosmetics to unembalmed tissue,” (Davis). Because the body begins to change as soon as it dies, the look of the person does as well. Funeral homes usually go one of two ways. They have both an embalmer and a licensed cosmetologist for the cosmetology work, or they have a trained professional who is licensed in both embalming care and cosmetology. In a different interview conducted by Kathleen Hou, Jamie Reed was interview about what it is like to work for an embalming company, which is different because she does not work for the funeral home itself, she works for a completely separate company. “I work at an embalming company, which is different than a traditional funeral home. We are the go-between. Funeral homes contact us. For example, they call and say, “We had a patient pass away at a nursing home. Can you go and pick that person up and embalm them?” (Hou). Reed is also a licensed cosmetologist, therefore she also does the makeup application. She shared that since the skin is so firm, it is hard to apply makeup to the body, so she uses an airbrush. She informs us of a product she calls “hot-chocolate”. “I use something called hot chocolate — it’s a dark-brown powder that looks just like what it’s named for, and you use it to add in shadows. I’ll shadow in crevices around the nostril, upper lip and nose, and chin. All the places where there would be natural shadows.” Mortuary cosmetologists need to make the body look as natural as possible, so they have to apply the makeup as if they were sitting in an upright position. This includes correct showing, highlighting, creases, etc. If done correctly, it can be an extremely helpful part of helping the family in mourning. In order to be a desairologist, there are certain guidelines, restrictions, and lost of training a person has to go through. The subject needs to have an active Cosmetology license, and needs to go through different classes in order to be able to perform services on a client. It is a good idea to visit different funeral homes in the area. Many funeral homes are more accepting to nail technicians, but many others are accepting of general cosmetologists as well. Desairology is losing its popularity and demand. “Melissa Johnson, Funeral Director and Embalmer of 26 years with Johnson Mortuary in Forest Park was quoted by the Chicago Tribune stating, ” I don’t see a calling out there today. Maybe down the road,” when asked about the demand for Desairologists” (Torres). Many people are opting out of having open casket funerals, and instead having cremation services, green funerals, or even using the viral Bios Urn, the biodegradable urn that will contain their cremated ashes, biodegrade, and eventually grow into a tree. This is popular in places varying from Europe to Barcelona to all over North America. Because of these environmentally beneficial, and cheaper alternatives to viewing and funeral services, many families prefer these other options. Due to this, many cosmetologists do not go to school to take a desairology course. “Derek Johnson, president elect in 2003 of the Illinois Funeral Directors Association said, “Because most beauticians probably do not learn how to work on the deceased in school, a course on Desairology could be beneficial to the industry” (Torres). It is also uncommon for mortuary makeup to be taught in school, nor is it common for it to be mentioned in general. Because of this, many cosmetologists do not even think of desairology as a career path, and for the small percentage that do consider it, only a select few are not creeped out or scared of the idea of working with dead bodies. If desairology was taught in Cosmetology schools, then maybe there would be more stylists interested in doing the makeup. Because some embalmers do not have the correct background in cosmetology, they have specific restrictions of what they cannot do. “We can’t remove teeth. We can’t cut or excise tissue. We’re not supposed to cut hair. For hair removal we have to have explicit written instructions, because that’s something that’s considered irreversible. And anything that’s considered irreversible, you’re supposed to have explicit instructions from the family—with good reason.” (Davis). They have to ensure they are not doing anything that could upset the family. For example, the quote explains that they cannot cut the deceased’s hair. This is because they could possibly cut it too short or mess up the haircut. The deceased person is supposed to look the same as they did in life and if the hair or makeup is wrong, it can cause the already upset family even more distress. Embalmers and desairologists are also not allowed to shave the persons face, another type of hair removal. “I mean, you can’t just assume the beard is just scruffy and shave dad or grandpa clean. Maybe that’s how they wore their face” (Davis). As mentioned previously, it is important for the deceased person to look the same as people will remember them, so if they wore their face scruffy or grown out, then the desairologist cannot simply get rid of the facial hair to make their job easier – it could anger or upset the family, and even send them into severe distress. Embalming can be extremely helpful in multiple ways. It can help with the makeup application. When a person dies, their body immediately begins to decompose. By embalming the body, it can keep the skin firm, but this is also a challenge. The embalmer needs to use specific makeup. Most makeup is made in order to be put on skin with a normal body temperature. Desairologists use a specific makeup mixture made specially for the deceased and use different substances for different techniques and necessary changes to the skin. “There’s this stuff—we called it orange juice, because it literally looks like dark orange juice. It’s like a tinted liquid, and it has a little bit of a moisturizing property in it…It’s called Glow Tint” (Davis). While working with these chemicals, it is crucial to be properly protected. Desairologists and embalmers usually have specific Personal Protective equipment, including a lab coat (or full sheets over their clothes in some extreme cases), gloves, shoe covers, and they always have their hair tied back. They can have more coverage if desired, but for many, the basics is usually enough. The desairologist should also have updated tetanus, hepatitis, and tuberculosis immunizations because when the body begins to decay, the body can become infected with bacteria and organisms that may not have been there when the person was alive. It’s also important to avoid all bodily fluids as possible, but by the time the makeup application comes, the body should already be embalmed. Families can also request a specific stylist if they would like. If the deceased person has been a client of one hairdresser for a long time, especially a few years before they died, then the family can ask the person to do their hair for the viewing. In a personal interview, John D’Iorio, a Paul Mitchell National Educator and Representative, recently told me about one of his experiences doing hair on a deceased client. “I’m standing there and I’m drying and drying and drying the hair, but for some reason, it wasn’t feeling dry. Now I had been left alone in the room while the funeral home director went to prepare something else, and when he came back in, he said, ‘Stop drying, she’s dry.’ and I looked at him and felt the hair and told him it wasn’t. But what I didn’t know was that I was actually just feeling the absence of body heat, and I was actually feeling her scalp” (D’Iorio). The desairologist has to be very careful with this situation because if the hair is overdried, the hair can become coarse and staticy due to the lack of moisture. In the interview, he also mentioned another client he performed a service on. “What I also didn’t know was not to go all the way around the head, because they will be laying on a pillow. My client’s head was angled up, laying on a block. I styled the entire head and the funeral director told me that the hair from the back of the head would have to be tucked under their head” (D’Iorio). It is important for the stylist to understand exactly how the client’s family wants the client’s hair styled, and if it is wrong, the family will become distressed.
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