The Vietnamese-American beauty establishment can be traced back to actress Tippi Hedren’s 1975 California refugee camp visit. According to the tale, the women at the camp fawned over her ornate nails, and seeing their interest, she had her makeup team train a group of the women in manicuring, whose descendants make up 50 percent of all nail technicians in the US.
This new-world industry had some kind of effect on its old-world corollary; when Vietnam opened back up to the world in 1986, returning salon workers would buy sturdy, inexpensive tools in Vietnam and take them back to the US. This boosted an industry contending with the country’s recent emergence from poverty and the attendant survival logic.
Anyway, today in Vietnam cheap beauty and hair salons are everywhere. And locals aren’t only after quick fixes — in 2017, the spend on imported beauty products jumped 300 percent from the year before, to US$6 billion. Plastic surgery is on the rise, and some women are even tanning — which is traditionally avoided out of a fetish for white skin.
People also like to take selfies, particularly with those filters that change your face into a monkey’s.