NYC Beauty Black Book: Your Insider Guide To Looking Amazing



New Yorkers definitely aren't at a loss for beauty meccas: Pretty much every corner boasts some kind of nail, skin, hair, or makeup haven for you to peruse. But, not all primping palaces are created equal—and finding the one that's right for you can be a total drag. But ladies, we're telling you now: It doesn't have to be this way.

Bypass the bad haircuts, crazy clownface, rude sales staffs, and downright abysmal mani/pedis with our ultimate insider guide to getting gorgeous in the Big Apple. From the best affordable (we swear!) cut and color to the most effective facial ever, check out our fave get-fabulous destinations, each one tried and tested by R29 staffers. So, now all you need to worry about is snagging an appointment.

hair

Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Rita Hazan, Drybar, John Barrett Salon, Shampoo Avenue B

Best Hair Cut For Short Strands: Rodrigo Padilla At Sally Hershberger Downtown
With a client list that includes Uma Thurman, Joan Jett, and Mary Louise Parker, Padilla has been mentored and trained personally by the Queen of the Shag herself, Sally Hershberger. As such, Padilla really understands the specific technique required to make short strands lay just so, while still providing versatility and styling options that let hair's natural texture and growth patterns blend in seamlessly.
Sally Hershberger, 425 W. 14th St; 212-206-8700.

Best Hair Cut For Long-Haired Ladies: Bumble and bumble
Girls with long hair can tend to suffer from mane malaise, especially when their stylist keeps doing the same basic cut at every visit. Thanks to their backstage presence at New York Fashion Week and their in-house University, Bumble and bumble stylists are never at a loss for cool and innovative things to do with long locks. We're particular fans of the charming Q, who makes you feel confident and at ease when you sit down in his chair — something that comes in particularly handy when dealing with girls who have snipping anxiety.
Bumble and bumble, 415 West 13th Street, 8th Floor; 212-521-6500.

Best Salon For Girls With Curls: Hair Rules
The problem many stylists have when dealing with girls with curls is that they either are completely clueless on how to cut them, or they don't pay nearly enough attention to the natural curl pattern and texture of each individual client. Recognizing that one woman's kink is different from another gal's curl, the team behind Hair Rules approaches each head of hair as texture-specific, rather than ethnic-specific, paying close attention to your curls and devising a plan of action with them in mind, not just using your skin tone as guide.
Hair Rules, 828 9th Avenue, 212-315-2929.

Best Salon For African-American Hair: Edris Salon
Caribbean-born, Warren-Tricomi-trained Edris Nichols' salon in the Meatpacking District is like the U.N. of hair: She doesn't care where you or your hair came from because she's come one, come all textures. While she can do pretty much any type of hair, many African-American women have pronounced Edris as their cut of a lifetime, simply because she understands not only what ethnic hair needs, but also what just plain looks good. Thanks to her backstage work at Fashion Week and her bold-faced client list, Edris knows not only how to style your mane, but how to showcase its natural texture to best effect.
Edris Salon, 430 West 14th Street, 3rd Floor; 212-989-6800.

Best Blowout: Drybar
While there's no shortage of blowout joints in our fair city, that doesn't mean you have to trust your mane to any salon with a blowdryer and a spare chair. We're big fans of the blowout-only salons — they do nothing but dry and style, so you better believe they've mastered the art of the round brush — and after careful, repeated testing, we have to throw our lot in with Drybar. What sets this styling haven above the rest is their careful attention to atmosphere — from the chick flicks playing on the screen to cocktail-bar decor, a visit to Drybar feels like a treat, but at just $40, you won't feel like had to empty out your bank account for a visit. We also love their style menu, which guarantees you get exactly the look you were envisioning, rather than some junior stylist's interpretation of smoothed-out strands.
Drybar, 4 West 16th Street, 212-561-5392.

Best Highlights: Rita Hazan Salon
Ask any well-coiffed blonde in the city where she gets her sunkissed streaks and you can almost bet the answer will be Rita Hazan. At this Fifth Avenue hair palace, discerning light-haired ladies flock to get their flaxen fix from the pro behind Michelle Williams, Jennifer Lopez, and Renee Zellweger's red carpet color. Hazan's technique guarantees that your hair comes out with dimension that looks au natural, thanks to an almost painterly understanding of the importance of blending and mixing.
Rita Hazan, 720 Fifth Avenue, 11th Floor; 212-586-4343.

Best Hair Color: Marie Robinson Salon
At Marie Robinson's expansive Flatiron salon, clients undergo strand transformations at the hands of the famed celebrity colorist, who counts Rachel McAdams, Natalie Portman, and Anne Hathaway as clients. Robinson can not only whip up any color you can literally imagine, she has also perfected her technique so well that she can make it look like that hue sprang from your head at birth.
Marie Robinson, 155 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor; 212-358-7780.

Best Fancy Updo: Braid Bar at John Barrett
Watching the master weavers work at this chic salon, nestled over top Bergdorf Goodman, is enough to give you a very powerful appreciation for braiding. Using little more than their imaginations, their excessively flexible fingers, and a handful of bobby pins, the stylists here can twist and manipulate your mane into an intricate, mind-bendingly complex 'do that not only looks good, but actually stays in place — we've gotten gorgeous updos from the talented Kaylee that lasted us through two cross-country flights, four sleepless nights, a rowdy wedding, and an uncomfortable hair patdown from airport security (the one downside of wearing such a complex, pin-heavy style). Braids are just $50, and starting this month, the salon will also offer customers the new Ponytail Bar, where they can have stylists concoct sculpted tails with the same level of artistry.
John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue, 9th Floor; 212-872-2700.

Best Bang Trim: Michael Angelo's Wonderland Beauty Parlor
While many salons offer their customers a free bang trim, we chose Michael Angelo's as our top fringe benefit thanks to his no-BS attitude towards bangs. Michael Angelo understands the art form that goes into a perfectly-cut, face-framing fringe, but he's also not above teaching you how to do a DIY trim at home. Most stylists would drop dead in horror if you casually mentioned cutting your own strands, but Michael Angelo will tell you straight up if your 'do needs a professional hand or if you could save yourself some time and effort with an at-home cut. We appreciate that kind of honesty, especially when it comes to our hair.
Micheal Angelo's Wonderland Beauty Parlor, 418 West 13th Street, 212-524-2800.

Best Eco-Friendly Salon: Ion Studio
Hair salons are by nature a giant meet-up for various harsh chemicals. If spending an afternoon inhaling the toxic fumes coming from your neighbor's keratin treatment isn't really your idea of a good grooming experience, SoHo-based Ion Studio is your new green oasis. Built from mostly recycled materials, the salon uses organic styling products from Davines, plus natural hair color. Add to that a trio of Italian imports —Leonardo Manetti, Marco Santini, and Pasquale Ferrante — with legit editorial credentials, and you are guaranteed to get a flattering style that won't kill your lungs, or the environment, in the process.
Ion Studio, 41 Wooster Street, 212-343-9060.

Most Affordable Cut and Color: Shampoo Avenue B
Located in the heart of the East Village, Shampoo is the go-to destination for high-end, yet still affordable service. We love that stylist Clara could not only take our multi-tonal, ombré (RIP) hair to one blended shade of golden chestnut, but she did so using a non-damaging gloss, and still managed to keep our long locks at a length we were happy with — even after cutting off inches of damage. All that and with enough $$$ left over to take home a few posh products. The tiny space is filled with chandeliers, graffiti, Bumble and bumble, and Kevin Murphy products, along with a super-friendly staff that will make sure you feel right at home. And in true East Village fashion, students get 20% off of all services.
Shampoo Avenue B, 42 Avenue B, 212-777-2031.
skin

Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Shizuka NY, Bliss, Trump Spa, Union Square Laser Dermatology

Most Relaxing Facial: VerryBerry Glo Facial at Townhouse Spa
Finding a place where you can truly relax and escape in this bustling metropolis can be harder than it looks — too many spas hover too close to busy roads, so you hear the incessant song of sirens while you're trying to de-compress. Townhouse Spa's treatment rooms are nestled deep within the building, so you're safely cocooned in silence. Our go-to is the VerryBerry Glo, an exfoliating treatment that's packed with berries and enzymes and comes with a relaxing shoulder, neck, and arm massage while you wait for your skin to get its glow on.
Townhouse Spa, 39 West 56th Street, 212-245-8006.

Best Facial For Girls With Screwed-Up Skin: Christine Chin Spa
If you're the kind of girl who likes some spa music, some idle chit chat, and a bunch of essential oils slapped on your skin, this isn't the place for you. Christine Chin, who's earned herself the nickname "Mean Christine," does not screw around on pointless treatments. The woman behind the flawless visages of Rachel Weisz, Naomi Campbell, and Hilary Swank means business when she gets to your skin, doing what can sometimes amount to hours of meticulous microdermabrasion (to "clean off [skin's] plaque"), followed by some way, way deep extractions that would make a grown man cry. When you leave the spa, usually with a few admonishments from Christine about what you've been doing wrong and how to fix it, your face might look like you were on the wrong end of a fight with a meat tenderizer. But after a few days time, what you find underneath those angry red marks is some of the most perfect skin you've ever seen. Smooth, soft, clear, and literally poreless and free of blackheads, we credit Chin for singlehandedly clearing up our breakouts better than any dermatologist, lotion, or laser ever could. We think those kind of results are worth a little bit of tough love. Word of caution: This skin-transforming facial doesn't come cheap, but if you're the type of girl who struggles with problem skin, Christine's price tag is well worth the extra $$$ for peace of mind and skin.
Christine Chin Spa, 82 Orchard Street, 212-353-0503.

Best Spa To Hang Out In: Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa
We've yet to find a spa lounge we didn't love loitering in — fruit water, magazines, and free cookies? Yes please! But the Caudalie spa at the Plaza takes the art of the lounge into stratospheric zones with their wine room. That's right, after indulging in a Honey & Wine Wrap or a Red Vine Bath, you can saunter over to a lounge area literally stocked to the rafters with bottles and enjoy a complimentary glass of vino as you continue on your path to total bliss.
Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa, The Plaza Hotel, 1 West 58th Street, 212-308-3550.

Most Pampering Spa: The Spa at Trump SoHo
Of course Trump would have the market cornered on luxury spas, but for once, we really don't mind. Featuring gemstone spa treatments (yes, really), two authentic hammams for detoxing, Kate Somerville's famous facials, and a Spa Attaché to cater to your every whim, this gorgeous spa allows you to become completely immersed in the art of relaxation, a rarity in the action-packed life of your average New Yorker.
The Spa at Trump Soho, 246 Spring Street, 212-842-5500.

Coolest Spa Treatment: Bliss FatGirl Shrink Treatment
Walking into the treatment room at Bliss Spa SoHo for their new FatGirl Shrink, a detox treatment that promises to help you lose inches instantly, is a bit like walking into Dr. Frankenstein's lair — there's a lot of wires and some weird substances you're not quite sure you want to ask the origin of. After stripping down and donning paper skivvies, your technician will measure your hips, waist, and thighs. They then apply a thermal clay mask to your tummy, butt, and thighs and have you lay down on a table, where cool cloths are draped over you and small, wire-connected pads are strategically placed around your body. The technician then flips on the machine and you are struck by a gentle stinging sensation, akin to being attacked by a very tiny, very angry hoard of hornets. This sensation is the stimulating current that's coursing through your muscles, tensing and toning them as it encourages the lymphatic drainage of toxins. After 30 minutes of this mildly annoying sensation, the pads are removed and your technician will measure you again. This is where things get nuts — after just one treatment, we saw an overall reduction of 2.5 inches off of our entire body. Inches people. Of course it doesn't last for more than a few days, but the feeling of being able to comfortably slip into those too-tight jeans for the first time is so gratifying that you might find yourself signing up for a frequent buyer package.
Bliss Spa Soho, 568 Broadway, 2nd Floor; 877-862-5477.

Best Weird-Ingredient Facial: The Geisha Facial at Shizuka New York Day Spa
There's no real way to ease into this one so we'll just have at it: This facial has bird poop in it. Based on the traditional rituals of ancient geishas, it uses powdered nightingale droppings to create a treatment that softens, brightens, and nourishes. The story goes that the lead and zinc in the geishas white face makeup caused them to suffer horrible breakouts, until they discovered that smearing nightingale poop (no word on the first gal that gave that one a try) would brighten, heal, and retexturize their complexions. Shizuka's version consists of cleansing and light extractions, followed by mixing the powdered droppings with rice bran and applying it on the skin. This is followed by a camellia oil massage and an antioxidant green tea mask, two jarringly normal accompaniments to an otherwise "did I really just do that?" experience.
Shizuka New York Day Spa, 7 West 51st Street, 212-644-7400.

Best Quickie: The Radiance Facial at Great Jones Spa
As much as we wish we had two hours to spend on pampering, sometimes we're looking more for the In 'n Out version. But just because your short on time doesn't mean you should sacrifice quality. The Radiance Facial at Great Jones Spa is a lunchtime treatment that revives your skin with a glow-giving peel that works rapidly, but doesn't scrimp on the spa experience. The technicians move at a brisk pace, but never to the point where you feel rushed or like you're taking too much time. After just 30 minutes you'll emerge with soft, radiant skin and fine lines that look minimized, and you'll still have a few minutes to actually, you know, grab some lunch.
Great Jones Spa, 29 Great Jones Street, 212-505-3185.

Best Place To Get Zapped: Union Square Laser Dermatology
Sometimes a girl needs a little something extra for her skin — something of the high-tech zapping variety. Dr. Anne Chapas at Union Square Laser Dermatology can provide just such a boost with her menagerie of skin-correcting lasers. Her team is trained to use everything from the spankin' new Clear + Brilliant Laser — an anti-aging treatment for the early 30s set that's like Fraxel with training wheels — or the just approved Liposonix, which literally melts away fat. The brand new facilities are clinical without being depressing and our favorite feature is their photo room, where every patient stops by at the start of their treatment to get the picture taken of the area they are treating. After you finish your sessions, which could be anywhere from weeks to months later, you then take another round of photos and the team will show you exactly how and where your treatments made improvements.
Union Square Laser Dermatology, 19 Union Square West, 5th floor; 212-366-5400.

Best Natural Spa Treatment: The Ginger Coconut Body Melt at Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa
We equate this tropical delight to a fruity cocktail come to life. Once you strip down and lay yourself out on a table, your technician will rub you down with a freshly-made scrub composed of organic ginger, brown sugar, lime juice, and essential oils. The scrub is left on the skin and the technician then pours warm, organic coconut milk over your entire body and wraps you up in a heated blanket to help the oils penetrate into the skin. As you stew in your tropical cocoon, your technician will apply a hydrating facial mask and massage your face and pressure points to stimulate lymphatic drainage. After you shower off your organic concoction, your skin is left brighter, dewier, and smelling delectable.
Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa, 171 East 65th Street; 212-988-7816.
makeup

Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Space NK, Browhaus, Woodley & Bunny, Laura Mercier

Best Makeup Consultation: Laura Mercier Locations
Finding the right makeup can be hard. Even harder when you're having to fight through crowds and fend off snarky counter people. Enter Laura Mercier: At any of the six department store locations in the city, you'll find a team of capable and talented artists, all skilled at finding the perfect products for you. You may even be lucky enough to land in the hands of one of their global or national artists, all handpicked by Mercier herself. While we don't recommend taking advantage of their time to get a free makeover, they do not require a minimum purchase for a consultation. But be warned: You'll love your new look so much, you'll be hard pressed to walk out of there empty handed. Ask them about their signature flawless face and tight-line waterproof eyeliner, but don't blame us if you get hooked.
Laura Mercier at Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue, 212-753-4000.

Best Makeup Application That Won't Break The Bank: MAC
The problem with most affordable makeup experts is that you can wind up looking either crazy or like you have absolutely nothing on at all. The pros at MAC have no shortage of ideas for fun, inventive, amazing things to do with cosmetics, which means booking an appointment with them will actually yield chic results. For just $50 you'll get the undivided attention of a MAC artist who will whip up the makeup masterpiece of your choice, and throw in a free mascara for your troubles. It also helps that they don't fall into the usual aggressive sales spiel and try to sell you every single thing in the store while they work on you — we hate feeling pressured, especially when we're getting pampered.
MAC, 1 East 22nd Street, 212-677-6611.

Best Bridal Makeup: Kimara Ahnert
Say the word wedding in this town and it's immediately followed by this legendary makeup artist's name. That's because Kimara Ahnert practically wrote the book on bridal makeup, specializing in the type of soft and pretty looks that seems easy, but are actually enormously challenging to pull off. in addition to her coveted technique for giving brides their signature blush, Ahnert's deluxe Upper East Side digs, furnished in lush decor, adds that extra touch of specialness that many of her clients crave from every aspect of their wedding prep.
Kimara Ahnert Cosmetics, 1113 Madison Avenue, 212-452-4252.

Best Brow Shaper: Browhaus
This Singapore-based brow HQ turns threading into an art form, thanks to a staff of meticulously-trained techs. An appointment at Browhaus means walking out with arches that were shaped to fit your face shape and features, not a cookie-cutter idea of what brows should be. It also doesn't hurt that the plush chairs are relaxing enough to nap in and the after-threading treatments ensure you won't leave the salon looking like you got slapped upside the face. For those looking for a bit more brow TLC, they also offer brow tinting and the intriguingly named Brow Resurrection — semi-permanent brow enhancement for those suffering from premature brow loss (yes, that's a thing). And, if the de-fuzzing mood catches you, Browhaus also shares a space with their sister salon Strip Ministry of Wax, so you can hop across the aisle and take care of your below-the-belt growth, all in the same visit.
Browhaus, 56 Spring Street, 212-431-1124.

Most Helpful Beauty Team: Space NK
The American flagship of this hip British beauty mecca boasts an amazing mix of across-the-pond rarities and cult-classic essentials alike. But it's the staff's encyclopedic knowledge of every SKU in the store that keeps us coming back to the bright and airy SoHo store. Not only does owner Nicky Kinnaird have to give her blessing to every product before it graces her shelves, she requires her team to know each item backwards and forwards. Just tell them your desire and someone from the unfailingly pleasant team will lead you to your exact product match. Another great perk: Once you've finished draining your bank account on Lipstick Queen and Rococo, head to the on-site spa for an indulgent Eve Lom facial.
Space NK Apothecary, 99 Greene Street, 212-941-4200.

Best Place To Find Cool New Products: Woodley & Bunny
We credit Woodley & Bunny for introducing us to the under-the-radar brands that are now absolute staples in our repertoire. Co-founder Misha Anderson has a knack for uncovering the beauty industry's best hidden gems, testing and personally trying out each product before it lands on shelves. When we're looking for the next big thing, we don't flip through the covers of the latest glossy — we jet over to Brooklyn to pick Misha's brain and find out what's got her Spidey sense tingling. And then we leave the salon with our wallets much lighter, our bags full of promise, and the euphoria that comes from whiling away the hours sorting through one of the most expertly curated beauty assortments known to man.
Woodley & Bunny, 196 N. 10th Street, Brooklyn, 718-218-6588.

Best Lash Application: Soul Lee at Kiehl's Spa 1851
Somewhere down the line, lash extensions went from being something that made people think you had naturally lush lashes, to the equivalent of putting a small caterpillar on your face. The point of lash extensions is not to make every person in a 10-mile radius aware that yes, you've got fake lashes on. That's why we appreciate the subtle art of Soul Lee, Kiehl's Spa 1851's resident brow and fringe guru. Instead of piling on the tarantula lashes, Soul will artistically apply each individual lash around your eye in a way that makes it look like you grew that enviable fringe all by yourself. People will notice your delicately framed eyes, rather than wondering if you're a deranged Vegas showgirl who got lost on her way to the airport.
Kiehl's Spa 1851, 157 E. 64th Street, 1-888-SPA-1851.
nails

Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Jin Soon, Valley Nails

Best Manicure: Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa
Between the cushy pedicure chairs, communal farm table for manicures, toxin-free products, and all around delicious concoctions aimed at pampering your nails (Honey Walnut manicure anyone?), there's a lot to love at this shabby-chic salon. We're particularly smitten with the sleepover vibe we get when we first walk in, like a bunch of our BFF's all got together at someone's house and decided to throw a rad mani/pedi party. It doesn't hurt that the all-organic treatments are doled out in an efficient, yet friendly way, so you have the choice to loiter at your leisure, or move along if you've got somewhere to be. We suggest the former, if you've got a few minutes to spare.
Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa, 222 West Broadway, 212-925-5441.

Best Pedi: Jin Soon Hand & Foot Spa
A pedicure at nail master Jin Soon Choi's East Village outpost is like a facial for your foot, complete with mud masks, essential oil baths, and handmade scrubs. Located around the corner from R29 HQ, we'll admit we've had more than our fair share of luxe appoinments here. The spot may be tiny, but it more than makes up for its size with attentive technicians, who go to great pains to make sure you feel exceedingly relaxed and at ease — no wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am rushing about here. And polish hounds take note as this pedi palace serves up decadent hues for your digits in a variety of brands, from OPI to Givenchy.
Jin Soon Hand & Foot Spa, 56 East 4th Street, 212-473-2047.

Best Nail Art Haven: Valley Nails
We don't even know where to begin with our love for Valley Nails. The Werman sisters have assembled a top-notch staff in nail art creativity to give you anything from reverse french mani's, to glitter ombré and ice-cream cone digits that look shockingly chic. If you can think it, they can create it. Karen gave us the cleanest, longest lasting gel mani we've ever gotten and Kuniko and Ayumi were on hand to take us into more daring nail-art territory (we're talking 3D, crystals, and the tiniest, most intricate floral pattern you can imagine). Although these designs can be pricey, considering the gels last almost 3 weeks, it's totally worth it. Go see the girls at Valley, and tell them we sent you.
Valley Nails, 198 Elizabeth Street, 212-274-8985.