Blind, partially sighted women find independence through hair and makeup

WATCH ABOVE: Fifteen women got a crash course in doing hair and makeup without relying on their eyes, thanks to the CNIB Foundation Saskatchewan.

It’s easy to get lost in the vast world of hair and makeup, and that’s part of the reason why Becki Zerr wanted to bring it all to one place.

But her Saturday gathering in downtown Regina wasn’t your average ladies’ day out.

“I really suddenly lost my sight five years ago,” Zerr explained. “I went from being functional, driving — I’m a nurse — to somebody who didn’t have the confidence or competence to do any of those types of things.”

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Zerr was inspired to organize a free event that gives tips and tricks for doing hair and makeup to blind and partially sighted women after seeing a friend post a picture on social media.

“She was put together really nicely, wearing a pretty dress, her hair was done, and the caption said ‘I feel so beautiful.’ I sat and I thought, ‘You are beautiful! You should feel beautiful!’” Zerr recalled. “If a little extra pampering and fine-tuning makes you feel beautiful and boost your confidence, we should do something about it. Just because you’re visually impaired doesn’t mean you can’t feel and look beautiful as well.”

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The 15 women who came together thanks to Zerr and CNIB Foundation Saskatchewan are among the roughly 25,000 Saskatchewan residents who have some type of visual impairment. Their relationship with hair and makeup is about more than the way they look.

“A lot of the population that is blind or partially sighted avoid it,” CNIB Saskatchewan Foundation’s Ashley Nemeth said. “They’re not sure how they’re going to put on mascara or put on eyeliner. If they don’t have someone talking them through how to do it, they just kind of avoid it.”

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Many of them say it represents confidence and independence.

“I used to wear makeup a lot,” said participant Nellie Walker. “Now, having limited eyesight, it’s difficult to ask ‘Do I want to do it? Could I actually do it?'”

Events like this one prove it’s not impossible but rather a matter of practice and embracing mistakes.

“I’ve worn lipstick and eyeshadow before but I looked like Pennywise, the dancing clown from It,” 13-year-old Kaitlynn Lenius joked.

Instead of relying on sight, the group focused on feel, smell and sound.

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Things like marking makeup containers was also encouraged to prevent colourful mix-ups.

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“It’s like learning any new skill. You have to be willing to give yourself a bit of a break and you have to ask around, too. Does this look right? Does it feel right? Does it feel balanced?” Zerr added. “I’ve enlisted my husband and eight-year-old son to be my sounding board.”

The event is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, and organizers hope it isn’t the last.

Zerr would like to see it grow to other cities and provide more tips for young women entering the workforce.

While it may be intimidating to start, Lenius had one piece of advice for others: “Go for it. You won’t regret it.”

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