S.F. Beauty Black Book: The Locals' Guide To Getting Gorg

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on August 14.]
Are you sick of trolling through endless Yelp reviews attempting to find a trusted place to get beautified? Well, you can step away from the laptop (we know, we know, some of those snippets are mildly entertaining). We realize that searching for the city's top salons is daunting, so we've done the research for you and created the ultimate San Francisco Beauty Black Book for all of your get-gorg needs.
Our all-encompassing list includes every beauty-related service you need to know, from nail-art meccas to facial spots catering to problematic skin. It’s all here in this little virtual Rolodex. We suggest you bookmark this baby now.
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Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Drybar, Christine Ting
Best Hair Cut For Short Strands: Oxenrose
One peek into Oxenrose’s striking, edgy Hayes Valley interior and you’ll instantly get the inkling these coif pros don’t mess around. And gals with shorter strands are guaranteed to find hair refuge in this standout salon. It specializes in out-of-the-box styles and quirky cuts and truly has everything you could ever want if you’re thinking of snipping your locks. Trust us, this is place you need to know for any and all short-haired needs.
Oxenrose, 448 Grove Street (between Gough and Octavia streets); 415-252-9723.
Best Hair Cut For Long-Haired Ladies: Wendy Newsome At Dreamers And Make Believers
There is no shortage of long-tress experts at Dreamers and Make Believers, but co-owner Wendy Newsome is shear perfection. Known for her calm demeanor and unparalleled scissor skills, Wendy set up shop in the Mission with Megan Morales and is known for keeping locks long and layered, resulting in major sex appeal. Haircuts are a cool $80 and if she’s booked up, you’re in good hands with any of the dreamers on staff.
Dreamers And Make Believers, 487 14th Street (between Guerrero and Valencia streets); 415-235-7037.
Best Salon For Girls With Curls: Deb Czerwinski At Devil’s Hairhouse
While we personally would kill for a head full of curly locks, we know it’s not a cinch to nab a stylist that can fully cater to stellar spirals. Well, Deb at Devil’s Hairhouse totally gets it and won’t let you walk out with that “triangle head” or “step ladder” look. Nope, she knows how to give your mane just enough body and jazz, while still preserving the organic wave and bounce. Plus, she can advise you on which products your ringlets actually need.
Devil’s Hairhouse, 3386 18th Street (between Capp and Mission streets); 415-367-5666.
Best Salon For African-American Hair: Hair Play
Hair Play gives real good hair — no doubt about that. This Castro salon simply understands the art of crafting sick styles, no matter the type of locks. It's all about playing up natural textures to their prime effect. From relaxer and texturizer services to various coloring procedures, the stylists will spare you the panic of early A.M. bedhead and transform you into a bonafide babe. We hear that Hair Play master stylist and owner Fritz will be happy to step up to all important mane events in your life.
Hair Play, 211 Church Street (between Market and 15th streets); 415-863-0703.
Best Blowout: The Drybar
Red-carpet-worthy tresses don’t just appear out of thin air. Nope, instead you need to call in the pros in the form of an expertly styled blowout. When the special time strikes, we turn to our trusted pals at Drybar to assist with the star styling. This posh Fillmore Street venue offers an array of different ‘dos (from Hollywood waves to back-from-the-beach curls) in an inviting space. In fact, we shamelessly admit we guzzled down a cold glass of champagne whilst watching 27 Dresses and getting our hair did. How’s that for multi-tasking?
The Drybar, 1908 Fillmore Street (between Pine and Bush streets); 415-347-8908.
Best Hair Color: Michelle Sandoval At Di Pietro Todd
Known as one of the very best when it comes to hued hair, Michelle specializes in corrective color and is a twenty-year veteran at one of our fair city’s most respected salons. With a knack for creating envy-inducing rich, shiny color, her work makes heads turn and was even given major props by beauty bible Allure magazine when they crowned her best color in S.F. While an appointment can tend to be a little pricey (they start at $195), she is worth every cent.
Di Pietro Todd, 2239 Fillmore Street (between Clay and Sacramento streets); 415-674-4366.
Best Highlights: Sylvie Simon at Population Salon
One of the best-kept secrets in scoring the ultimate sun-kissed highlights is a technique called Balyage, in which dye is painted on freehand and keeps hair looking au natural. Housed in an epically hip salon on the buzzy lower Divisadero strip, Sylvie Simon at Population takes the ombre-esque look up a notch with her signature no-foil, long highlights that will evoke beach days and sun rays, no matter what the weatherman says.
Population, 537 Divisadero Street (between Fell and Hayes streets); 415-440-7677.
Best Fancy Updo: Alandria Sheffer of Jungle Red
Who would've thought you could get dolled up right in the heart of the Castro? (And only a couple of blocks away from Castro MUNI stop if you're on-the-go!) Even mega-star Gwyneth Paltrow agrees that Jungle Red is a must-try! Whether you're marching down the aisle for a well-earned diploma or to meet your main squeeze at the altar, you'll want to book Alandria of Jungle Red if you want a smokin' updo that will turn heads. While she's also no stranger to the messy-tress look of beachy waves, a one-hit wonder she's not! She has the magic fingers and years of practice to braid, pin, twist, or curl your mane into an affordable, lavish look.
Jungle Red, 4233 18th Street (between Diamond and Collingwood streets); 415-934-9755.
Best Bang Trim: The Pretty Pretty Collective
Anyone sporting bangs knows how important it is to have that oh-so-perfect length, grazing the brows or lids just right. Of course, quick trims between visits is a must for maintenance. Thankfully, The Pretty Pretty Collective understands the urgency when it comes to keeping bangs in check and provides clients with free snips and charges non-clients $15 to keep that face frame fresh all day, everyday.
The Pretty Pretty Collective, 3290 22nd Street (between Valencia and Mission streets); 415-282-2002.
Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Pretty Parlor, Benefit Cosmetics, Katie Nash, and Beauty Company
Best Makeup Application That Won't Break The Bank: MAC Cosmetics Counter
For that special night, when you want to pull out all the stops there is only one place you need to get your face done right: The famed MAC Cosmetics counter. Pop in looking drab and come out totally fly! Make an appointment, stock up on some makeup, and the artists will provide flawless application in a snap — at multiple locations around the city. If you’re going to do it, go big, right?
MAC Cosmetics, Nordstrom Westfield Centre, 865 Market Street (between 4th and 5th streets); 415-243-8500. 1833 Union Street (between Octavia and Laguna streets); 415-771-6113. 2011 Fillmore Street (between California and Pine streets); 415-885-2966.
Best Bridal Makeup: Katie Nash
If you read R29 San Francisco regularly, you know we have a thing for mega-talented hair and makeup artist Katie Nash. The cool Bay Area native has not only schooled us on chic helmet hair and the best beauty splurges (and their cheapie drugstore counterparts), she's also proven herself a pro at wedding-day makeup. Luckily, starting at $400 (although prices vary), you can have Nash whip up the bridal mug of your dreams on your big day. Trust us, she'll do you right.
Katie Nash, call 530-400-9468 or email.
Best Brow Shaper: Bhavna Patel at Cinta Salon
When choosing how to de-fuzz those arches, threading is the way to go! Threading means less upkeep than waxing (read: four weeks!) and you'll see no more of those accidental burns or red splotches. Some say the pain threshold is a wee-bit higher, but not if you hit up veteran Bhavna Patel at Cinta Salon. For over 20 years in India and the Bay Area, she has the form and ouch-free technique of brow-shaping down pat. After an eye-framing session that didn't even need a spritz of toner, we learned no one touches our brows but Bhavna.
Cinta Salon, 23 Grant Avenue (between Geary and O'Farrell streets); 415-989-1000.
Most Helpful Beauty Team: Benefit Cosmetics
As seen in our recent romp at its S.F. headquarters, Benefit Cosmetics is our beauty-mecca of choice. As a one-stop shop, the Chestnut Street location does the trick when you need a walk-in brow tweeze, spray tan, or makeover-to-go. But, it's the staff's knack for every in-store and upcoming item, and every step in primp-prep routines that we give them major props! So, when you want a crash course in color and product, know that you can head over to Benefit Cosmetics to get schooled.
Benefit Cosmetics, 2219 Chestnut Street (between Pierce and Avila streets); 415-567-1173.
Best Place To Find Cool New Products: Beauty Company
Confession: One of our fave things to do is troll around for new, must-try beauty items. And Polk Street’s Beauty Company is like a product-lover’s Disneyland. Here you’ll find an expansive collection of high-end hair, makeup, skin, and nail goodies from Bumble + Bumble, Mason Pearson, Seda France, and more. It’s definitely worth taking a stroll to (plus it offers nail, hair, and tanning services), but know you will not go home empty-handed.
Beauty Company, 2325 Polk Street (between Green and Union streets); 415-567-8740.
Best Lash Extensions: Pretty Parlor
Ready to make a bold leap and say sayonara to mascara for good? Flutter by Pretty Parlor in the Mission, stat. Lash extensions are a brand-new add to its buzzing menu (which includes out-of-this-world waxing), and we like what we see. The salon's stylists — former Benefit Cosmetics veterans — will slather on the most subtle and natural-looking falsies, the way these extensions were truly meant to be applied. The best part? They pile it on solid, so the upkeep is only every four weeks!
Pretty Parlor, 3150 18th Street (between Folsom Street and Treat Avenue); 415-556-2883.
Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of International Orange, SenSpa, International Orange, and Nob Hill Spa
Most Relaxing Facial: International Orange
If you’re looking to get an all-encompassing facial that gets deep down while still offering up an ultra-zen experience, don’t go anywhere other than International Orange. Try the Deep Cleanse Facial and add the Resurfacing Mask on top and you can literally feel your facial toxins getting released. But the soft music, gentle aromas, and luxe spa setting may make you forget you are even getting a derma-centric procedure — it’s that tranquil.
International Orange, 2044 Fillmore Street (between California and Pine streets, 2nd floor); 888-894-8811.
Best Facial For Girls With Screwed Up Skin: Craig T. Shishido At Gentle Star MedSpa
Battling problematic skin of any sort is a struggle. And whether the damage is stress- or diet-induced, finding the recipe for glowing skin is an uphill battle for some. Gals with an acne-prone complexion know that upkeep and routine facials are an absolute must. But, if you think you’ve had a satisfactory cleaning, just wait until you get a load of the skin services at Gentle Star MedSpa. Co-owner Craig Shishido gets down and dirty, cleaning virtually every pore with this own two hands for two hours (we are not kidding). This isn’t your fluff facial folks, he’s serious about skincare. If there’s one person who can get your skin smooth and glowy — it’s Craig.
Gentle Star MedSpa, 14 Mint Plaza, Suite 110 (at Jessie Street); 415-618-0108.
Best Spa To Hang Out: Nob Hill Spa

When visiting this over-the-top-luxe spot, you have your pick of three different chill-out spots. Guests can gather round the indoor relaxation pool and whirlpool (both with sweeping Nob Hill views), curl up with a magazine and eat lunch on the roomy balcony (weather permitting), or head to the pin-drop-quiet Zen Room. At the latter you'll find super-plush seating, cozy blankets, and an eye mask perfect for some after-treatment Zzzzzz.

Nob Hill Spa, 1075 California Street (at Taylor Street); 415-474-5400.
Spa Treatment Worth The $$$: International Orange Essential Oil Massage

Home to some of the best massages (and facials) we've ever experienced, this Fillmore Street spot is truly an oasis smack-dab in the middle of the city. To ease major muscle tension, we suggest booking International Orange's Essential Oil Massage ($125 for 60 minutes) and topping it off with all the extra fixin's, like a hot-stone add-on (perfect for those foggy days), and a pre-rubdown yoga session. Another spendy (but totally worth it) runner-up: The $225 Four-Handed Massage, featuring two practitioners for 60 minutes. Plus, a hot tip: Don't miss the bamboo-lined patio outback!
International Orange, 2044 Fillmore Street (between California and Pine streets); 415-563-5000.
Coolest Spa Treatment: Sixth Sense Massage At SenSpa
If you're one of those S.F. gals who reads AstrologyZone on the first of the month religiously (guilty as charged), then this massage is sure to satiate your mind and body. SenSpa's Sixth Sense session includes a stellar massage and reflexology, coupled with an intuitive reading that is supposed to get to the source of any energy and emotional blocks you're having and help you figure out how to overcome these obstacles. In essence, it's a massage and therapy session rolled into one. Major bonus: It all goes down in an epically dreamy location, situated on the edge of the Presidio.

SenSpa, 1161 Gorgas Avenue (in the Presidio); 415-441-1777.
Best Organic Spa: Pure Organic Spa
Just one step into this Union Square oasis will give you an instant natural high. From massages to mani-pedis, every ingredient drenched in your treatment of choice is completely organic and eco-friendly. Thai flower pollen, lemongrass, camphor, cinnamon, Ylang Ylang, orange oil, even black pepper — you name it, pretty much herb is in stock. If you'd be keen to try this day spa for the first time, start off by getting your pretty visage slathered with their Seven Pollen Face Spa Ritual.
Pure Organic Spa, 518 Sutter Street (at Powell Street); 415-576-9600.
Best Waxing: Cocoon Spa
Most waxing places will ask you to strip down to your skivvies, and just grin and bear it. Awkward. Not Cocoon Spa. Its team of trained smooth operators live up to the name and will wax any spot on your bod that needs de-fuzzing in the most gentle way. Those with a low threshold for pain need not worry. The spot offers the "No Scream Cream," a sweet anesthetic with their signature bikini wax — for free! With only a few days of summer left, it's high time you dare to bare it all.
Cocoon Spa, 2nd Floor, 330 1st Street (between Folsom Street and Guy Place); 415-777-0100.
Best Weird-Ingredient Facial: The Caviar Facial At Spa Radiance
We took one peep at the menu and asked ourselves, "Why?" Meanwhile, we're not gonna lie: Our curiosity is definitely piqued. Something this whacked doesn't run cheap. For a whopping $750 and three hours, Spa Radiance's therapists will do something real solid on your face with a diamond peel, followed by lymphatic drainage, and a non-surgical facelift to increase collagen. Then the therapist will lather on a rich mask of caviar and Omega-6 eye treatment all over your face, and finish it off with LED light. You'll be pampered every step of the way to your freaky nirvana, with massages after the procedure, too.
Spa Radiance, 3011 Fillmore Street (between Union and Fillbert streets); 415-346-6281.
Photos (clockwise from left): Courtesy of Bisou Nail Lounge, Polished Lounge, Bisou Nail Lounge, and Zen Spa
Best Mani: Polished Lounge
Worth the trip down to SoMa, Polished Lounge is set back from the bustling street in a cozy and warm environment that practically screams relaxation. This is the place where you go for the manicure and stay for the fashion magazines and free candy bar. The manicure du jour is the Milk and Honey, featuring a soak, crème massage, hot mittens (yes please!), and is followed by your favorite polish from Essie, OPI, Sparitual, or Zoya.

Polished Lounge, 407 Third Street (between Bryant and Harrison streets); 415-543-0993.
Best Pedi: Zen Day Spa
Get your toes primped in this Haight Street space, seemingly made for pedicures. Pick from a plethora of pretty polishes, then head to the balcony level, which features calming music and a row of plush leather seats. If you want to double up with a pedi and people-watching, ask for the seat by the window. Otherwise, lean back, kick up those feet, and trust that your below-the-ankle game will be improved in a snap.
Zen Day Spa, 775 Haight Street (between Pierce and Scott streats); 415-558-8886.
Best Nail-Art Haven: Bisou Nail Lounge
There’s no denying that nail art has reached its fever pitch, but we’re still always looking for new ways to jazz up our digits. And Bisou Nail Lounge takes the cake for all art-centric nail creations. Not only is this East Bay haunt eco-friendly, but it's one of the few Bay Area nail spots to use Calgel and Bio Sculpture to craft jaw-dropping designs. This is the place to hit for nail art — period.
Bisou Nail Lounge, 5292 College Avenue (between Bryant Avenue and Clifton Street); 510- 655-6363.

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