A few blocks from Vanak Square in the heart of the Iranian capital, a discreet sign hanging at the entrance of a concrete building indicates the location of Cheherda Lounge (which means “Faces”). Like everything about women in Iran, the place is far from within sight. It is only after having crossed the vestibule of the building, crossed a passage giving on an external court and climbed a few floors in the biting cold that one finally sees a pink screen which makes us guess the entrance.

With faces uncovered
It’s 10:30 in the morning, a foggy Monday in February, but the small studio already looks like an anthill. Twenty employees play the brush and chisel to meet the demand of the ladies who jostle at the gate. At the entrance, the manager makes appointments by phone. In front of the closed window of a white blind, a beautician frantically files the nails of her client. The continuous blowing of the dryer mixes with the modulations of Farsi, the language of the country, and with sharp bursts of laughter. The atmosphere is relaxed. Clean and restrained, but rather narrow and crushed by neon light, Faces is a typical beauty salon for middle-class women in Tehran.

 

“It’s almost always crowded,” says Peggy, 28, a fake blonde with dyed eyebrows and cowboy boots that looks more like an American than an Iranian. “But this is nothing compared to Norouz (Iranian New Year, which begins in mid-March). During the holidays, I work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. “Overwork that is not without advantage since his monthly income can then go from 2,772,000 rials ($ 300), the base salary , at 9,240,000 rials ($ 1,000), thanks to the tips.

 

Sarah, a colleague, joins the conversation. “Iranian women have always been pretty, but since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, as we have to hide our curves and our heads under the veil, all our attention is focused on the face and hands,” she said, turning to the table dedicated to manicures and pedicures, in the center of the room.
She pointed out, however, that there have been changes since the days of Khatami (1997-2005). The coats are more fitted and the girls are more motivated to watch their line, unlike the time when the female forms were lost under the chador, the fabric covering the head and body. Iranian women are increasingly resorting to cosmetic surgery to inflate their lips or their breasts: “Wives want to keep their husbands! jokes Peggy. Since traditions are lost and men go elsewhere, they must make extra efforts. ”

Next door, 20-year-old Elham, the youngest employee, sweeps the locks of hair on the floor. She has a white plaster on her nose. Like many Iranian women, she decided to have her face redone, a common practice in Canada. You only have to pay 14 million rials ($ 1,600) for the operation and that’s it.

 

In the narrow hallway of the entrance, two middle-aged women peel hairstyles magazines with astonished eyes. The haircuts of the new generation seem eccentric to them. What is in today in Iran? “It depends on tastes and styles,” says Sarah. But let’s say that fashion is rather long with bangs. And especially: dye please, preferably blond. Influenced by US pop shows and satellite-based Fashion TV, many Iranian women dream of resembling Hollywood stars. It sometimes gives surprising results, as illustrated in this photo of Peggy’s sister-in-law: a false platinum blonde with eyebrows and ebony eyes.
Limited freedom

 

The prohibitions remain nonetheless numerous in the country of the mullahs. Mahnaz, manager of the show for five years, assures that her work is still limited by the restrictions of the regime. “Tattoos are prohibited, as is the nail implant. Even a bride has to put on her headscarf when she comes out of the living room after being pampered for hours … It’s very restrictive. Not to mention the policewomen of the vice squad, who sometimes come to the salon unexpectedly.
And the hijab, it is not harmful to the hair? “This is what doctors have long claimed,” says Mahnaz, because the scarf deprives the hair of vitamin D provided by the sun. But in recent years, as Tehran has become one of the most polluted cities in the world, it is said that the hijab would protect toxins from the air. ”

Pollution or not, Mahnaz would prefer to do without it, even if she has the rare privilege of being able to work without. “When we arrive in the morning and remove the hijab, it is not a real liberation, says this woman of 45 years. We do not want to be