Les Moussors de Awa for Dulcenae, inclusive beauty salon writen by Aurélie Sogny for Marie-Claire
It is the very first inclusive beauty salon in France. "The project of a lifetime", that of Laurent and Sophie Gaudens. The couple received us on a beautiful summer morning to tell us their story and the story of this place "apart", but for everyone.
Beyond the informative nature of the workshop, Awa gave a demonstration on one of the participants, and invited the others to try their hand at making their own moussor by giving tips on how to enhance the natural beauty of each one. It was a very human moment that touched us, but was also received positively by our participants, Murielle, one of them, said: "Thank you, thank you. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror since the cancer was announced (not so much before either) but I was really scared..... I felt like a princess and feminine but without fuss or pride.
Awa Seck, creator of the brand "Les Moussors de Awa". Around a table set up for the occasion, Sophie, Camille, Laurence and Muriel marvel at a bed of colorful fabrics. They are all here to learn how to tie a scarf, an accessory that for some like Muriel, who has breast cancer and who, because of treatments, has seen her hair fall out little by little, is a way to reclaim her body. Awa encourages her to look at herself in a mirror, a gesture that is not always easy for these women who have lost what they consider, for most of them, a symbol of femininity. "A woman who wears a scarf is a woman who assumes herself. When you wear it, you hold your head high, that's her magic."
A moment of sharing and emotion that delights the owners of the place, Sophie and Laurent Gaudens. Because Dulcenae is above all their story.
Together, they first founded Burns and Smiles, an association whose mission is to fight against the isolation of burned people by helping them reintegrate into society. A cause that was not chosen at random, since Laurent himself is burned on more than half of his body. "I have the look of those who have a particularity, Sophie that of the person accompanying him. We complement each other well", explains Laurent Gaudens.
Faced with different physics, backward movements and words that isolate
Very quickly, the duo wants to go further and wishes to concretize a common will to offer a place to those who, because of a disease, a handicap, a skin problem (acne, psoriasis, vitiligo) or other (skin distension, overweight and obesity, back pain), do not always feel at their place in a "classic" institute.
They then imagine Dulcenae, a local service that offers socio-aesthetic care tailored and adapted to this "particular" public, but also to those who are not. "We welcome everyone because we didn't want to stigmatize people with damaged bodies, whether they are burned or have cancer, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to 'forget' their condition. I, for example, am not asking to go to places where there are only people like me, I just want a place where people know how to take care of my scars. That's all", Laurent Gaudens confides to us. "Many people voluntarily exclude themselves from beauty salons because they feel they don't have to show their bruised body to a beautician. There is also the fact that professionals are not trained or the brands' protocols are simply not adapted", he adds.
Then there are those who, like him, have had a bad experience. "I've already had the right to step back. It's very traumatic, all the more so if you're psychologically fragile because it's a form of exclusion." A rejection sometimes accompanied by violent words: "An overweight client told us that before a massage, a beautician told her 'I hope you don't break my table'. She didn't dare move a foot during the entire treatment. The risk in this type of situation is that people say to themselves that it's the same everywhere and that they don't have the right to go to institutes because of their physique," recalls Sophie Gaudens.
"Nothing to worry about, no matter what your particulars"
Dulcenae was therefore thought out in every detail by the couple so that everyone feels good and thinks of nothing else but getting pampered. On the walls, no posters of models with a photo-hopeful look nor too "girly" colors. The paintings and furniture, carefully chosen by Sophie, invite you to relax. We are very far from the sanitized atmosphere of hospitals. On the contrary, we are "like at home". There is the "bar-living room" corner to relax, the "dining room" with its large table to attend workshops, and of course the multi-purpose treatment booths, including one specially designed for people with reduced mobility.
Equipped with tables as long as they are wide and a dressing table with a triptych mirror, "so that you can close it if you don't want to look at yourself," says Sophie Gaudens, there is also a wig holder and even a small slate. "A deaf and dumb person can communicate easily with the socio-aesthetician. A blind person can also come with his guide dog into the cabin without any problem. We tried not to forget anything and to make sure that everyone finds their place," she adds.
"We didn't want anything to be a worry, whatever your particularities. Here, we don't want you to feel them. Are you in a wheelchair? No problem, you can go to the bathroom alone without an attendant. You are not in hospital or in consultation with the doctor, but in a context of well-being, relaxation, and pleasure. You are a client, not a patient. We have therefore tried to anticipate so that everything is planned, and absolutely nothing should be a problem. The goal is that during the time of a treatment, people forget their handicap, their illness or other", explains Laurent.
In terms of services, clients can benefit from treatments for the face, body, manicure and/or pedicure, or a beauty makeover with cosmetic products specially designed for sensitive skin. Thus, "women undergoing anti-cancer treatment, whose nails are weakened and need to apply a special varnish containing silicon, do not have to take a bottle with them and can enjoy a beauty makeover for their hands like anyone else," adds the founder.
Zali listens to Awa's precious advice ©Boris Mvondo
Humanity and benevolence as a leitmotiv
Another specificity of the institute is the presence of socio-aestheticians. Specialized in the care of vulnerable people, these experts usually work in hospitals, prisons, or retirement homes. "They know how to manage an ostomy pouch, a catheter, an insulin pump, or hair removal on burned and grafted skin," explains Sophie Gaudens.
Julie Le Touche is part of their team. After ten years of practicing in pure esthetic centers, where the turnover counts more than the human, this mother of a little boy could no longer make sense of this profession. "Here I meet people all touching in their own way, each with their stories, their wounds and their desire to fight. It's a lot of emotions, a lot of tears. What's great is that you have the opportunity to accompany them with kindness and gentleness. By taking the necessary time."
A place to heal the soul and reconnect with a "wounded" body.
One of her clients was Muriel, who earlier participated in the scarf knotting workshop. "It's quite an encounter," says Julie, moved. An impression we share with the socio-aesthetician.
"Before I got sick, I wasn't the type to wear make-up," Muriel tells us. All this is very new for me. One morning I cried a lot and I decided to come to the institute. It was the first time, I broke down in tears, Julie reassured me and told me that it was normal to be sad. Even today I collapsed and it was nice to be able to confide in her. Here, I'm reconciling myself a little with this body that I'm angry at. Besides, there are no images everywhere that make us come out like shit (laughs). I'm more at peace with my femininity and it's partly thanks to this place I think. For a moment I'm not sick anymore, I become me again."
Muriel passes into the expert hands of Awa ©Boris Mvondo
Zali, diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2017, is equally satisfied. Touching, she too confides in us after having tested a treatment for the first time. "Basically, I'm not at all open to beauty treatments, I didn't like massages, I didn't use make-up, I didn't take care of my body, I found it futile. The hair loss was a very painful moment, but it allowed me to rediscover my face. After losing everything, I thought, 'Gee, for 45 years you didn't even notice you were pretty. I wanted to feel good about myself. By testing a socio-aesthetic treatment, I discovered the pleasure of being pampered and cared for. I'm not yet ready for a full body treatment, so today I had a facial, but the socio-aesthetician still offered to take care of my skull, feet and hands. And I loved it. She did it gently. What's great here is that the staff is trained, asks questions a beautician wouldn't even think of, isn't surprised by an absence of hair and eyebrows, doesn't look at you sideways. It's nice to be taken as a client and not as a sick person".
When she left that day, Muriel gave a kiss to Sophie Gaudens. Zali, it, passes between the expert hands of Awa. She tests a pretty scarf with wax print matched with her skirt. Laurent and Sophie Gaudens are very satisfied with this first workshop and intend to repeat the experience. The couple is also struggling to offer solidarity care through partnerships with associations. Aware that their concept can be useful to others, they would like to be able to decline it in other cities. And we wish them every success.
Dulcenae, 60 rue de Caumartin 75009 Paris
Telephone: +33 (0)1 81 69 49 25
Opening hours: 9:45am-7pm