Wax works: Hairlessness, infrastructure, and the air that we breathe

Rondel, Louise. 2023. Wax works: Hairlessness, infrastructure, and the air that we breathe. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Working across urban sociology and critical beauty studies, this thesis examines the materials, spaces, infrastructures, and embodied forms of labour which effect the production of ‘feminine’ bodies in London’s beauty salons. Interrelatedly, it explores the toxic harms imbricated in this beauty work. Given the increasing ubiquity of extended hairlessness for a ‘feminine’ appearance, the thesis focuses on the journey of depilatory wax to and through the beauty salon and on how wax works. In particular, the role of oil is underscored: as a key raw material which affords the product and its packaging certain ways of performing; as powering the wax’s diesel-fuelled journey to the salon; and as enabling its easy disposability and replacement. The thesis also considers the spaces upon which this work is predicated: salons but also ports, wholesalers’ warehouses and stores, light industrial estates, and waste facilities, and the road networks and waterways which connect these. Following wax and other beauty products across London, the materials and places necessary for beauty work to actually happen are put into relief. As are the forms of potential toxicity which are co-extensive with beauty practices, for the products’ application in the salons, the journeys they make through the city, and what is released as they are incinerated are replete with petroleum-originated emissions. Taking materials, places, and bodies to be in de/generative interchanges, the toxic harms are epitomised in the air that ‘we’ breathe where vulnerability to these is patterned by intersecting structural disadvantages. Petro-permeated air circulates through spaces and into lungs and is inhaled and metabolised on starkly different terms. Drawing these together, the thesis argues that the production of ‘feminine’ bodies in the beauty salon is materially and spatially effected, heavily permeated by oil, and inseparably entangled with unevenly distributed toxic harms.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Beauty work; hair removal; labour; infrastructure, air pollution; urban spaces; following; waste; toxicity; bodies

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR)


31 March 2023

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Jun 2023 15:29

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2023 14:49



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