Cabello planchado, pestañas rizadas, uñas pintadas. One of my favorite treats? The kind of beauty treatments I wouldn’t have even considered getting back home.
If you’ve spent any amount of time in Mexico, you’ve surely noticed something: so many Mexican women are Glamorous, with a capital G!
And if you’ve noticed that, then chances are you’ve also spotted a plethora of beauty salons, nail salons, and spas of all shapes, sizes, and types, making that glamour no mystery at all.
The good news is that for most people, prices are typically quite accessible in ways I find that they’re not north of the Rio Grande (I was shocked when I went for a simple pedicure with my sister in Texas and paid over $60 for it!).
So, how do you make these beauty treatments happen, especially if your Spanish is only so-so?
First of all, let’s look at some tips for any appointment you make:
1) Look online. Most reputable places will have both Facebook and Instagram accounts, and you can look for them by typing in a keyword like “salon” or “uñas” plus the city name in the search bar. I love this option because it lets you look at their work before deciding to contact them!
2) Write out your questions and requests in a message with the help of a friend or an AI translator if needed. That way, they’ll know what services you’re interested in, and you can get help if needed in understanding their questions and responses.
3) Use pictures to show what it is that you want (a good idea even in your native language); a picture really is worth a thousand words, luckily in any language! Pinterest can be an especially good place to get ideas if you don’t find anything on their local pages similar to what you’re looking for!
4) Ask about prices beforehand. Almost every place will have their price per service fairly set in stone, so ask about the services you want in advance so you and your budget are prepared.
Now it’s time to get specific! Below, I will list some of the most popular beauty service categories in Mexico, along with key vocabulary and average price ranges.
One thing to keep in mind: prices will vary by region, as well as some other factors: tourist area vs. non-tourist area, urban vs. rural, fancy super-decorated boutiques vs. holes-in-the-wall. As long as you ask before you buy, there shouldn’t be any surprises!
From 100-1200 pesos for haircuts; 600-4000 for color and special treatments. Even if we don’t do much else fancy lady-wise, most of us do get our hair cut at least once in a while, right?
Places to get your hair cut can range from someone’s living room to dedicated, fully-equipped hair salons (if your Spanish isn’t great and you’re not adventurous with your hair, I recommend the fully-equipped kind). Most hair salons also offer make-up services for special events!
Here are some key vocabulary words you might want to know:
- Cortar (las puntas): cut, trim (the ends)
- Lavar y secar: wash and dry
- Teñir: dye
- Fleco: bangs
- Capas: layers
- Keratina: keratine treatment (all the rage lately!)
- Maquillaje: makeup
From 200 to 800 pesos, depending on the service. Getting my nails done is something I never did back home: too expensive, too time-consuming, too chemical-y smelling. But here, I go for pedicures at least once a month (my local place is about 400 pesos) and nail care and painting (typically around 300 pesos) about every three weeks.
Nail art is a major thing here, so if you want to go wild, this is your chance! Most places have a price for mono-colored and then go up from there depending on how many designs you want. Here’s some helpful vocabulary:
- “Polish”: This is what they say for non-gel (regular) nail polish, the kind that comes off with nail polish remover from the grocery store.
- “Gel”: pronounced as “hell” in Spanish.
- Acrílica: it is what it sounds like – acrylic!
- Extensión: acrylic extensions
- Acrimano: when they put acrylic material over your natural nail length, with no extensions
- Diseño: design – if you want any special cute shapes on your nails, this is what to ask for!
- Efecto: special effects, which might include things like glitter, a matte finish, or anything they need to use several different polishes or magnets to make happen
- Forma (ovalo, cuadrado): nail shape (oval, angled)
Want to wake up every morning with long, thick lashes? Mink lash extensions have been popular in Mexico for a while now, and if you’ve got 800-1000 pesos for the first treatment and 500-800 pesos for touch-ups every three weeks or so, they can be great fun!
Essentially, fake “mink” lashes are glued one by one to your natural lashes, a process that takes a couple of hours but that isn’t all that uncomfortable, especially if you’ve wanted to force yourself to just lay there and relax! Results are pretty, dramatic, and immediate.
- Rizado(a): curled
- Largo: length (also “long”)
- Color: is what it sounds like!
- Natural: used to describe a natural (as in, not overdone) look.
- Retoque: touch-up, which for mink lashes, is approximately every three weeks
This is the one thing on the list I haven’t tried…I’m from the generation of teens who overplucked their eyebrows in the ’90s, after all!
That said, “microblading” has been all the rage for a few years now, and I have to admit, I have seen some beautiful eyebrows out there lately, not something I’d have ever thought to pay attention to. The cost is around 2000-4000 pesos, and the effects can last up to two years.
Here are some key vocabulary words:
- Grueso: thick
- Tatuaje: tattoo (from what I understand, microblading basically is “tattooing” one’s eyebrows on!)
- Depilar: remove hair (through shaving, plucking, waxing, etc.)
This is only a very short list (follow-ups to come!), but they’re all fun, non-permanent ways to dip your toe into the water of what the beauty services industry in Mexico has to offer.
If you’re feeling adventurous, the time is always right to experiment. But even if, like me, you’re quite conservative and cautious when it comes to trying out new beauty treatments, you’re sure to be pleased with what you find!
Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, sarahedevries.substack.com.