Nestled inside a cozy brick house rests Salon Serenity, where slate-hued walls lettered with an inspirational saying and light-strewn hardwood floors set the soothing tone that permeates the beautifying emporium. Maroon curtains and a stately fireplace pop out against the turquoise background of the waiting area, and a large canvas portrait of a zebra greets clients and confused lions in the haircutting room. Led by owners Stephanie and Neal Flower, a skilled team of beauty-industry professionals wields handpicked products while snipping, coloring, or straightening hair or prettifying faces with makeup applications.
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.
GNC's opulent aisles display a wide variety of vitamin and mineral and herbal supplements, as well as sports nutrition, diet, energy, bodycare, and other health products. The Mega Men Sport multivitamin ($19.99 for 90 caplets) supports muscle recovery and energy levels while aiding speedy male metabolisms without dangling steaks in front of their treadmills. Fuel feats of female strength with the Women's Ultra Mega Active multivitamin ($19.99 for 90 caplets), ideal for vigorous women. Two pounds of Pro Performance 100% whey protein ($35.99) distract taste buds with the flavor of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry while smuggling 20 grams of high-quality protein into the body in each scoop. Promote healthy bones with a calcium supplement, such as coral calcium, sustainably harvested from the Okinawan Sea to provide a healthy 2-to-1 ratio of calcium and magnesium.
Stylist Toni Hunt knows that no two heads of hair are exactly alike. And so, before taking out her scissors, she takes the time to carefully consult with each client about their hair and lifestyle to ensure they get the most appropriate cut or the styling treatment that will deliver the best results. Beyond being well versed in styles and color services ranging from classic to avant-garde, Toni offers several different types of smoothing treatments, including the Brazilian keratin formula and BioIonic Kera Smooth. But the choices don't stop there. She can also add extra length using two different extension methods: wefted extensions use a no-braid, no-glue process to secure hair for 6–8 weeks, while strand-by-strand extensions which last 3–5 months are a better choice for those in search of styling versatility, or those who like to get to know each new hair on a first-name basis.
Located inside More Norman, Merle Norman Cosmetics and its team of beauty consultants use a full line of skincare and beauty products to highlight clients' best features. The cosmetics experts make an effort to get to know each guest personally, allowing them to better understand the beauty needs of the client in front of them, such as creating fuller lashes, highlighting cheekbones, or concealing a birthmark that's shaped like another person's birthmark.
To call The Body Shop a mere skin and body care store is to miss half of what makes it special. Late founder Dame Anita Roddick was a pioneer for ethical business practices; upon opening her first store in Brighton, England, in 1976, she developed company values such as "Defend Human Rights" and "Protect The Planet." She somehow balanced principles and profit, partnering in global campaigns with UNICEF, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and the United Nations, all while ultimately expanding her brand into 2,500 locations in over 60 international markets. After her death in 2007, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “She campaigned for green issues for many years before it became fashionable to do so and inspired millions to the cause by bringing sustainable products to a mass market. . . . She was an inspiration.”
Indeed, the Body Shop exhibits an eco-friendliness and social consciousness that's hard to come by in a company of its size. Its products have been fair-trade since 1987, and its Against Animal Testing movement led to an EU-wide ban of animal testing of cosmetics. The products are made from ingredients harvested from around the world: shea butter from Ghana goes into body scrubs and butters, and Indian artisans craft wooden massagers and tote bags that are screenprinted by hand. But all that isn't to say the company's production practices overshadow its final products. Skincare treatments such as the brand’s iconic body butters, facial products, and gift collections often appear in Allure, Marie Claire, Lucky, Seventeen and other national publications.