The Ugly Underbelly of the Beauty Industry, which I refuse to Participate in

The Ugly Underbelly of the Beauty Industry, which I refuse to Participate in

Published by Marissa Masterson on Feb 21st 2021

In my opinion, Green Beauty is a zone which should be free of Judgement, Hate, Censorship, Discrimination, and Cancel Culture. It's my belief that Holistic and Natural Beauty should be a safe haven for women, to feel welcomed, embraced, understood and unjudged. It should be a place where women can work on themselves while loving themselves, finding therapeutic measures which give them relief... relief of stress, relief of social contructs, and a place to build self confidence. Natural Beauty should be a breath of fresh air.

But, I have been exposed to an ugly underbelly of the beauty industry which is extremely disheartening and I feel called to speak about it. I am a peaceful introvert, but with fierce loyalty to those I love and respect. I will always defend those being bullied, misrepresented and mistreated. I have personally endured toxic situations which I will be speaking about below. This is my transparency, my honest experience and opinions, my truth and my individuality.

The Shaming of Women

The majority of social media posts in my beauty-community feed are well-intentioned and tout self-love, but every once in a while I see a post that makes me cringe. I sometimes see estheticians criticizing clients and displaying negative attitude towards the very women who keep them afloat.

If an esthetician or beauty practitioner is judging you in any way, don't accept it. These practitioners should welcome you with an open heart and kind feedback, never a wagging finger. The minute you feel judged, the trust is broken and how can you be expected to let them put their hands on your precious face? Nobody should be making negative comments about your appearance, your choice of product, your habits, or lifestyle. You deserve to be guided with love. I encourage you to ignore criticism, please find women whom your connect with and whom honor you.

The Destruction and Slander of Women

I had an extremely toxic experience nearly 2 years ago when I released my first Gua Sha Tool and original Gua Sha article. I've been private about it because I don't welcome negativity and friction, but with the way I see things unraveling on social media, I feel I am obligated to speak out, and deserve to unload about this experience and release this anxiety I have about it.

When I decided to introduce Gua Sha to my brand, I did a lot of research and tried out a few basic tools. My research brought me to a handful gua sha experts whom shared stellar information via their websites and social media. Excited with my newly found knowledge, I set out to write a comprehensive article about Gua Sha so that my customers could learn and understand the history and benefits. I provided sited references at the bottom of my article, giving credit to my sources of information. I was proud, I was excited, I was so happy to share this with my customers. It's extremely important to me to provide education with my products. Around the same time I published my article, I was approached by a gua sha manufacturer with several options of gua sha tools. I chose one that spoke to me, not thinking much about where the actual design had originated from. Afterall, I've seen the same tools sold by multiple brands, for example the standard heart or Y shaped tools that many brands carry, I mean they are literally everywhere. I did not know gua sha tools were able to be patented. The manufacturer produced my chosen design for me in 4 different crystals and I was over the moon with them! They were breathtaking!

Fast forward a couple weeks, I received an aggressive Instagram Direct Message from a woman who claimed I had copied her tool. She claimed it was her original design and that I had intentionally copied it. This woman turned out to be one of the experts I mentioned above, whom I had sourced some of my information from. She shall remain unnamed, but she is a well-known pro gua sha trainer(though very new to me). She claimed her design was patented and severely berated me, she said I had no integrity, she told me I wasn't even doing gua sha correctly, she accused me of stealing over and over with an ugly rambling of verbal diarrhea. She refused to give me a patent number or proof of her claim and said her lawyer would be contacting me. I was floored, I was shaking, my heart was racing. What was happening here?! Had the manufacturer actually sold me a tool which was patented and designed by someone else? She went on to rip me to shreds about the fact that I had referenced her information on my blog, she accused me of intellectual property infringement and plagiarism. I could not figure out what she was talking about. Hadn't I gone about this the right way? Hadn't I referenced her with credit? My article was about an ancient Chinese medicine, not a particular protocol, not this woman's protocol, nothing that was a secret. I double checked her website, there was no mention of her publicly published material being copywritten, private or behind any sort of paywall. Wasn't internet published information to be enjoyed by all?

I immediately went to the US Patent Database and looked everywhere for her gua sha patent. I found nothing, no patent, nothing of her name or company name. I scoured my article to figure out which intellectual property she was claiming I copied. I removed her name as she requested. I then received a cease and desist letter from her Patent Attorney. They demanded I take down my ENTIRE Gua Sha article and used intimidation tactics and words that made me believe I would be prosecuted if I continued to sell my gua sha tool. They informed me that there was a private Patent-Pending on this woman's design, with a filing date which was AFTER she had contacted me. This means she saw my tool and immediately filed for patent - she had lied to me when she said her tool was patented. Therefore I had NOT sourced a patented tool. In fact, I learned that it's illegal to claim a patent when an invention is not legally patented. I also learned that if a design IS patented, is must be made clear public knowledge with displayed patent number, in order for others to be informed or prosecuted for patent infringement. My tool was similar but slightly different, thinner, with fewer teeth and without a channel. They attempted to intimidate me and bully me, a one-woman show, working part time to make ends meet for my family. 

Ultimately, I agreed to unpublish my article and re-write it. I immediately re-wrote it with the same information worded differently, with very specific sources sited on each and every point... Proof that the information in my article was NOT specific to this woman's protocol, but widely accepted knowledge within the professional gua sha community. ***This woman can not claim ownership over an ancient Chinese medicine*** The egocentric nerve of one woman, to claim that everything written in my article was her information is beyond absurd. This was her attempt to destroy me because as far as I can figure, my affordable similar tool threatened the monopoly of her business. I agreed to sell off all of my tools and refrain from ordering that design again. I did this to rid myself of this toxic situation and proceed as respectably as possible. 

But, it didn't stop there. I and my followers became the victims of slander and harassment. This woman and her group of internet "trolls", plastered hateful lies all over my instagram feed and harassed my sweet customers AND my esthetician who made my video demo. She lied to many, saying her tool was patented when it was not. I was forced to block her and her internet trolls in order to protect my tiny brand and my customers. But it still didn't stop there. She took to a private esthetician group and slandered my name and my business there, spouting lies about my lack of integrity and alleged copying. I have no idea how many people saw her claims or who believes her. She is well-respected in the gua sha community, so unfortunately I have every reason to think that many believed her. Every time I meet a new esthetician, I wonder if they have heard lies about me, it stays with me. Still to this day, I feel sick in my stomach and start shaking when I see this woman's name or encounter chatter about this incident. It was a horrible, toxic experience that caused me extreme stress and anxiety. One woman tearing down another woman tainted the beautiful thing I was building, something I was building to benefit other women. 

Perhaps I was naive or ignorant to the way I sourced my tool and wrote my article, maybe I could have done better? I did my best, I feel I was not wrong. I didn't lie, cheat or steal and I remained civil throughout the entire process. I handled it the best way I knew how and moved forward as positively as I could. Since then I have designed my own original gua sha tools, proudly and with great care and input from experts I respect. I have no plans to patent them and I won't take it personally if they are copied. I am very careful about my words, permissions and siting credit. I have learned that some practitioners are well-respected for their expertise but filled with hate. Being in the beauty industry does not automatically make you a loving goddess with a pure heart and good intentions. There are people waiting to take you down because you're competition, there are toxic people more concerned with money than your wellness. You have to surround yourself with women who honor you and are transparent. Guard yourself from those who seek to silence and cancel you because they disagree or feel threatened. I and my brand are a work in progress, we are constantly evolving and trying to be better. I have a good heart with a strong mission and I will not let anyone keep me from delivering my message of wellness. I refuse to participate in tearing down other women in my industry, I refuse to stand by and watch others be torn down or berated. 

The Judgement of Cultural Appropriation

I'll start by saying, No One Person speaks for an entire race or culture. No one person can designate themselves as a judge. I think we all know that the racial climate is extreme right now, it's hard to even find the right words without risking being judged. This climate has seeped into the beauty industry and is slowly making its way from brand to brand, tearing down anyone who does not bend the knee to the false narrative that has been pushed.  

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been adopted into mainstream beauty in the form of Facial Gua Sha, a hugely popular modality which is being promoted by beauty brands, practitioners and influencers alike. It's here for a good reason, this therapeutic practice delivers a wealth of benefits that women want, not only for aesthetic purposes, but for overall wellness. Read about the Complete Benefits and Ritual of Gua Sha HERE.

Some people are not happy that this branch of traditional Chinese medicine has gone mainstream. Some feel that it's sacred ethnic roots are being diluted and tradition dishonored. I understand this train of thought, as I personally see it being demonstrated on social media incorrectly and with very little explanation. Every other beauty brand has popped up with a gua sha tool, which begs the questions, are we honoring this modality? Are those promoting it even qualified and trained in this practice? Must you be a TCM practitioner or of Asian heritage to use and enjoy this practice? 

I've given a great deal of thought to this, and I have come to the conclusion that Facial Gua Sha should be enjoyed by all people, from all places, of all races and ethnicities. Women NEED this. Women bear incredible burdens and need ways to get relief. I do not feel that promoting wellness to women is harmful when done with respect, mindfulness and appreciation. We are one human race, we travel the globe, we enjoy other culture's food, we breed together, we work together, we go through pandemics together. Why can we not share in this? In my research I discovered that the rubbing of stones on the skin dates back to the stone age, possibly even brought over to China from Africa - the jury is still out. 

To me and my brand, respect, mindfulness and appreciation means I procure quality gua sha tools from a Chinese Family-owned business whom are skilled crafters. It means I provide education and quality resources with each tool I sell, including my detailed article about the art of Gua Sha, Video Demonstrations and Training from Expert gua sha practitioners whom hold hundreds of hours of advanced training certificates and hands-on practice. 

I was recently blasted on social media for recommending gua sha training from a holistic esthetician with expertise in facial gua sha. The person who blasted me asked a question on my instagram post, about why I wasn't promoting training with an Acupuncturist. I politely replied in good faith with my answer and received no comment. This person then took a screenshot of my reply, placed it into her own post, and went on to rant about cultural appropriation, how brands are taking advantage, and how dangerous it would be to be trained by someone other than an acupuncturist. She went on about how much education and training she had, she went on... and on... and on about herself... clearly looking to prop herself up by taking me down. Using the excuse of cultural appropriation to showcase herself while harming others. It was a hurtful and inflammatory post which I found extremely offensive. Not only did she not initiate a civil discussion with me about the topic, but she didn't even know who I was or what my brand was about. This was a Bad-faith post without real history, context or care. It was careless. She saw my profile and assumed I was a big brand, she assumed I am using & abusing the modality of gua sha without integrity, she assumed 100% WRONG. I am a small fish, and there are much larger fish she didn't target, not that ANYONE deserves to be targeted. There are large non-asian, non-acupuncture experienced companies whom train and certify estheticians, there are non-experienced influencers giving demos, there are brands selling gua sha without any education. If concern is warranted, I should be least of concern. 

In fact, I explained to her that an acupuncturist could absolutely train others in gua sha, but that I personally recommend my Holistic Esthetician because most women also need guidance about proper skin care, products, diet and more... things that not every acupuncturist specializes in. I went on to explain that not every woman can afford the hundreds of dollars necessary to see upwards of 4 professionals: an acupuncturist, a facialist, a health coach and a holistic practitioner. I direct my customers to someone who has a wealth of experience and education in all of these areas and THAT is what's most beneficial for MY customers. Ultimately, if you're an adult, you have the ability to choose who you are trained from and that's your business.

So where did this backlash come from? Does it stem from fear of competition? Does it stem from low self-confidence? Is it this climate of cancel culture, inciting that it's ok to blast and silence people who you don't agree with? I'm not entirely sure, but not giving me the ability to have a conversation is definitely a form of cancel culture. Whatever the case may be, I do not accept being suppressed or slandered as a means to lift up another party. That's not helpful to anyone. I refuse to let the sick side of the beauty industry abandon my beliefs or stop serving women. I refuse to be brainwashed into thinking what I stand for is wrong.

These things have been hard, but they solidify my beliefs and strengthen my drive to serve women in a way that exceeds just their basic needs. I will not give up just because I've been at the center of friction. This may cause more friction, but I can't live with myself if I don't stand for what I believe it. I don't think women should be threatened by strong women, I think they should band together. I surround myself with strong women who have knowledge that I lack. I share my own knowledge with them, we are better together.

I ask you to look beyond the surface of glossy instagram photos and fancy words. Find your tribe and hug them tight, because they will support you in a way that you didn't know existed.

My 2 babes who support me every day, through business, motherhood and sisterhood... You know who you are and I love you. My sweet and loyal customers who try every new product and make my brand what it is, I love you.


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