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.
The brand American Apparel, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, conjures up images of stylish and well-fitting fashion basics. It also likely brings to mind sassy advertisements featuring long-haired beauties in natural makeup posing in skin-bearing bodysuits and loungewear.
But what many don't know about the brand—despite its name and the slice of apple pie that comes with every purchase—is that all of its clothes are made in America. Everything from sewing and cutting to accounting and marketing happens in one building in downtown Los Angeles, and the rest occurs within a 30-mile radius. Not only that, every slim-fitting pair of pants, spandex bodysuit, and v-neck T-shirt is made in a sweatshop-free environment.
Plus, keeping everything in house means the company eliminates unnecessary and wasteful factors, such as shipping fuel and packing materials, as well as provides jobs to Angelenos, instead of outsourcing them.