In the late 1920s, the Great Depression was rendering most Americans professionally and financially paralyzed. But in a small California kitchen, Merle Nethercutt Norman was putting a plan in motion to formulate her own skincare products and share them with family and friends. She truly believed in her formulas, knowing that by getting them on as many faces as possible, she would develop a following of customers. She was right—within a few years she and her nephew were opening their first studio in Santa Monica, and they eventually unveiled a series of independently operated stores that enabled women to take ownership during a time of gender-based limitations such as men-only restrooms.
Today, in approximately 2,000 stores across three countries, the three basic principles of Merle's original vision still apply. Each studio is independently owned and fosters an in-depth knowledge of the company's own line of makeup and skincare products. Just as Merle shared her creations with close friends and sallow mannequins more than 80 years ago, today's aestheticians embody the business's "try before you buy" philosophy. A menu of complimentary studio services—from foundation checks to express facials—allows patrons to sample the lauded brand before committing to the purchase of products or full spa treatments.
The Barber Crew's rich leather couches and dark stained wood welcome men looking for a smartly decorated salon and a dapper cut. The warm and masculine environment fosters comfort and camaraderie, as customers sip on a complimentary beer or nonalcoholic beverage and shoot the breeze with their stylists or fellow males whose hair doesn't cut itself. Guests recline back, keeping one eye over the TV at each station as hot towels open pores and stylists shape scalps to one's preference. The hair experts trim or remove all the sundry hairs that creep up on a man, from waxing brows to trimming beards and mustaches. Their sessions can include a dash of testosterone-friendly products from American Crew or Paul Mitchell, and stylists offer paraffin hand treatments to restore digits to equilibrium before thumb wrestling a grizzly bear tilts the scales back toward unadulterated masculinity.
Under the leadership of founder Christie Shumate, the licensed aestheticians at Transformations Spa and Skin Care Center perform custom skin treatments with detailed analysis. Shumate was inspired to form Transformations Spa and Skin Care Center after paying a visit to a plastic surgeon who, she discovered, donated his summer months to helping those who couldn't otherwise afford treatment to recover from burns, as well as working with children who were born with facial defects. She brought together a collection of less-risky aesthetic services designed to help her clients look and feel good about themselves, and now her staff offers laser cellulite reduction, custom facials, organic chemical peels, ear candling, and aqua foot detox.
Owner and aesthetician Katrina Barringer opened Skin Essentials Laser and Medical Spa in 1999, and has since recruited an elite team of eight that includes a physician and a licensed acupuncturist. Each of the women on staff boasts a specialty such as bamboo-fusion massage, eyelash extensions, or aromatherapy that smells like colors. Barringer's interests are of an academic complexion, as she penned an award-winning paper and is one of 67 laser technicians without an M.D. degree to be accepted into the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.
Housed within an inviting red-brick home, Cassandra’s Family Salon and Day Spa ushers clients into spacious rooms filled with natural light. Hair services commence at sleek white porcelain shampooing stations, and facials and body-sculpting treatments transpire in private treatment rooms dimmed by sturdy curtains. The salon also comprises a toddler-friendly playroom with books, toys, and a racecar activity rug where kids can get an early start on parallel-parking skills.
Licensed massage therapists with a minimum of 10 years' experience each knead curmudgeonly knots and help correct postural imbalances with massage modalities influenced by a variety of international techniques. In Tribal sessions, therapists grab bamboo sticks to smooth out tight muscles and communicate lullabies to sinews via Morse code. Zen sessions employ hot stones and towels soaked in green tea and essential oils to release deep muscle tension and restore bodily balance. Specialists pour warm, organic coconut oil over stressed sinews to facilitate the Cashmere massage while calming nerves, fighting fatigue, and softening skin to hush sensitive sweaters. Clients revel in deep-tissue primordial pampering during the Ancient of Days massage, which is performed on a floor mat and combines Fijian barefoot massage with Thai, Hawaiian, and Persian techniques.