Make Me Beautiful

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You know the old saying that beauty is only skin-deep. Who came up with that howler? You don’t have to be one of the Real Housewives of Orange County to want to look your best. Beauty is a vital, necessary part of life. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, life is beautiful.  •  Unfortunately, the Sacramento region gets an unfair rap as the land of mom jeans and $25 haircuts. In fact, it’s home to a thriving beauty business. There are hundreds of hair salons and day spas offering the latest beauty treatments, from glycolic facial peels to eyelash extensions. A few rise like cream to the top. Here’s a look at 10 of them.

Article Salon and Med Spa—Fountains at Roseville, 1182 E. Roseville Parkway, Roseville; (916) 780-4200; articlesalonspa.com
This is a one-stop beauty shop. You can walk in looking like Britain’s frumpy singing sensation, Susan Boyle, and walk out looking like edgy British model Agyness Deyn. Article does it all: hair, nails, body treatments, makeup, even dermal fillers. (A board-certified plastic surgeon comes in twice a week—Thursday and Saturday—to administer Botox, Restylane, Juvéderm and other injectables.) Designed by Sacramento modernist Curtis Popp, the 7,000-square-foot space also is an apparel boutique, so you can update your wardrobe after you update everything else. Flat-screen TVs play Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City” while the salon owners’ dog, a boxer named Britney, lounges on a floor cushion. The 26 hair stations are manned by a rotating crew of 40 stylists (including two who commute from the Bay Area). On the spa side, there are three treatment rooms. Here’s something unusual: Two of the four aestheticians are male.
Vibe: Mod boutique that channels both Austin Powers and Lady Gaga
Clientele: Everything from club kids to cougars
Services: Massage, facials, nails, waxing, dermal fillers, makeup, brow and lash tinting, eyelash extensions
Specialty: Botox: 20 units, injected by a licensed M.D. ($250)
Hair services: All salon services, including hair extensions and Japanese straightening
Extras: Article plans to serve alcohol and appetizers once it gets its food and beverage license (still pending)
Deals: Frequent promos, including 40 percent off haircut for first-time walk-in clients

Esthetics by Jeanette Salon & Day Spa—2322 Butano Drive, Sacramento; (916) 486-8338; ebjspa.com
Almost 30 years ago, Dutch aesthetician Jeanette Dolce opened a one-woman skin-care operation in Elk Grove. She’s since expanded to luxurious 6,500-square-foot digs in a medical office building across the street from Country Club Plaza, complete with 60 employees, nine nail and 17 hair stations, four pedi chairs, four massage rooms, a co-ed steam room and two tiled “wet” rooms for Vichy water treatments. Dolce no longer works as an aesthetician. (“Unless I have to,” she says.) Instead, she’s the spa’s military general, keeping the place running like a well-oiled machine. Her staff includes stylist Nita Smentek, who does hair extensions using virgin Russian hair—“the very best,” says Smentek. (And pricey; they’ll set you back about $1,000.)
Vibe: European-style salon crawling with staff
Clientele: Mature, professional and affluent
Services: Massage, facials, body wraps, nails, waxing, lash and brow tinting, makeup, airbrush tanning
Specialty: Honey Dip: After a five-jet water massage and salt exfoliation, your body is packed in hot honey and wrapped in plastic ($80)
Hair services: All salon services, including hair extensions
Extras: Complimentary fruit and muffins, herbal foot soak
Deals: Monthly specials; check website for details

Hoshall’s Salon & Spa—6608 Folsom-Auburn Road, Folsom; (916) 987-1995; hoshallsfolsom.com
Hoshall’s is the daddy of them all: a big, booming, bustling salon and spa. Its leonine, silver-maned owner, Bill Hoshall—“Hosh” for short—is to Sacramento what Vidal Sassoon was to London in the Swinging Sixties, bringing a cutting-edge approach to beauty in sleepy old River City. His 6,800-square-foot pride and joy (designed by his interior designer wife, Joyce) is divided neatly in two: The salon side, with 28 stylists and three manicurists, throbs with energy, while the spa side, hidden behind a 285-pound tempered-glass door, is hushed and dreamy. The spa is staffed by 10 aestheticians, six massage therapists and three nail techs, all garbed in black, who glide noiselessly down darkened corridors as they attend to your every wish. Eight treatment rooms include a couples room, a “wet” room for the messy stuff (such as mud wraps) and a massage room equipped for Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy.    
Vibe: Busy as a beehive
Clientele: Locals of all stripes, plus visiting celebs (Tyra Banks got her nails done here during her Chris Webber phase)
Services: Face and body treatments, waxing, nails, microdermabrasion, medical peels, LED Lumi-Light Therapy, teeth whitening, makeovers, makeup, airbrush tanning
Specialty: Heated Sea Shell Massage: Similar to a hot-stone massage, it uses South Sea tiger-clam shells instead of stones ($140)
Hair services: All salon services, including hair extensions
Extras: Nuts, dried fruit, tea and coffee, lemon-cucumber water
Deals: “H-Points” frequent-flyer plan allows you to redeem points for products or services
 
J. Christiaan Salon + Spa + Product Bar—Quarry Ponds Center, 5520 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; (916) 774-0440; jchristiaandayspa.com
The first thing you notice is the quiet: There’s no in-your-face music pumping out of the sound system and drilling into your brain at this 2-year-old Granite Bay salon and spa. “It’s not a party atmosphere like you see at a lot of salons,” says owner Joanna Christiaan-Lundt. “I didn’t want it to be loud and crazy.” Located in the Quarry Ponds shopping center, the 3,200-square-foot facility employs five hairstylists, two aestheticians, three massage therapists and a nail tech. There’s a couples room for his-and-hers massages, a eucalyptus steam room, and an outdoor patio for relaxing before and after treatments. If beautifying yourself makes you hungry, order in lunch from one of a trio of Quarry Ponds restaurants: Hawks, Pizza Antica or Toast. 
Vibe: A hip, modern salon with the volume turned waaaay down
Clientele: Granite Bay yummy mummies and their spawn
Services: Massage, facials, microdermabrasion, nails, waxing, lash and brow tinting, makeup
Specialty: Holistic Thai Spa Treatment: a full-body salt exfoliation, followed by a massage with lavender-filled linen bundles and application of rehydrating oil ($100) 
Hair services: All salon services except perms and extensions (not good for your hair, says the owner)
Extras: Pretzels, smoked almonds, cookies, water and juice
Deals: $100 gift certificate for $70, available on quarryponds.com

LaLé Hotel Spa—4350 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 379-5980; spalale.com
When you’re at this 1,800-square-foot day spa, located in Le Rivage Hotel on the Sacramento River, you could be a million miles away from Sacramento. Thick carpeting underfoot and a neutral color scheme of silvery blue and beige make you feel like you’re at a very chi-chi resort (which you are). When you arrive, decompress on a heated-stone lounge, then head outside to the Jacuzzi and infrared dry sauna before toddling off for a skin or body treatment. (Spa guests also can use the hotel pool.) There are four treatment rooms, including two for couples, and during the summer, the spa sets up an outdoor cabana for river-view massages. If you wish, make a day of it: Hang out at the pool and order lunch from Scott’s Seafood on the River next door.
Vibe: Gender-neutral décor designed not to frighten away guys 
Clientele: Brides, businessmen and boaters fresh off the river
Services: Massage, facials, ultrasound dermabrasion, LED Corrective Therapy, waxing, makeup, airbrush tanning
Specialty: 24-Karat Gold Luxury: Following ultrasound dermabrasion, your face and neck are covered with 24K gold leaf to brighten, firm and smooth the skin, then treated with hydrating Gamma PGA ($400)
Hair services: None (but they’ll bring in a hairstylist for bridal parties)
Extras: Free arm and hand massage; guy movies like Superman play on the TV in the men’s locker room
Deals: Membership program set to start this summer; check with spa for details

New Attitude—701 Howe Ave., Suite H-59, Sacramento; (916) 920-1068
Sacramento magazine readers looove this hair salon; it consistently appears on our list of top salons in the annual “Best of Sacramento” poll. Located in an office park near the Woodside condo complex, it’s a tiny operation: just two stylists—owner David Casagrande and Deane Calvin—and manicurist Jobi Marchand. The three, friends for decades, have lots of fun—and so do their clients. (Calvin, an actress who performs with the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival, sometimes breaks into song.) With 45 years of hairstyling under his belt, Casagrande is known for his bridal work. “Dave is the wedding updo king,” says Calvin.
Vibe: Intimate, superfriendly and old school
Clientele: Longtime Sacra-mentans
Services: Nails, facial waxing
Specialty: Spa pedicure ($50)
Hair services: All salon services
Extras: Wine, coffee and bottled water
Deals: Nope

Serenity Spa—
8300 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville; (916) 797-8550; serenityspaonline.com
Frazzled habitués of this Roseville day spa don’t let off steam by screaming “Serenity now!” like Frank Costanza on the old “Seinfeld” TV show. Instead, they come to Serenity Spa, in the Douglas Ridge shopping strip, for professional de-stressing. While two nearby spas recently went kaput, victims of the recession, this 3,000-square-foot operation is still doing a brisk business. Its seven treatment rooms are often booked for bridal and baby showers, bachelorette parties, and pre- and post-prom primp fests. (Yes, Roseville moms spring for facials before and restorative massages after the Big Event.) Serenity is known for competitive pricing—a brow wax is only $15—and an accommodating staff. “If you want an after-hours appointment, we make it happen,” says spa director Andrea Tagamolila. “We’ll move mountains.”
Vibe: The Far East meets the ’burbs 
Clientele: Well-heeled Roseville matrons and their teen- and tween-age daughters
Services: Massage, facials, nails, waxing, makeup, eyelash extensions, airbrush tanning
Specialty: Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy massage: A technician hangs from bars suspended from the ceiling and massages your back with her feet ($100)
Hair services: None
Extras: Complimentary foot soak   
Deals: Ritual membership ($70 a month; 12-month contract required) gives you a one-hour Swedish massage (normally $74), plus additional massages for $59, a free birthday massage and 10 percent discounts on other spa services

The Spa at Arden Hills / Salon Cabochon—
1220 Arden Hills Lane, Sacramento; (916) 482-6111; ardenhills.net
This is the ne plus ultra of Sacramen-to beauty emporia: an überelegant,
10,000-square-foot spa and 1,600-square-foot jewel box of a salon, located within the lavish Arden Hills country club. At the spa, you undress in the locker room, slip into a robe and relax in the Serenity Room, a light-filled, vaulted space with palm trees and a waterfall. From there, head off to one of 11 treatment rooms, including a couples room (complete with fireplace), “wet” room and laser room staffed by a laser nurse. In the women’s locker room, you can take a steam bath or watch “Oprah” on a flat-screen TV while lounging in a massive thermal whirlpool. (Ladies only; bathing suits optional.) Spa packages include lunch at Mangos, the club restaurant, where you can dine in your robe. Nonmembers are welcome at the spa and salon; for an additional $50, you can use the club facilities (tennis courts, pool, exercise equipment, etc.) all day.
Vibe: Luxury with a capital L
Clientele: Arden Hills members fresh off the tennis courts, bridal parties and Ladies Who Lunch
Services: Facials, massage, laser skin treatments and hair removal, waxing 
Specialty: Passport to Wellness package: yoga or Pilates class, deep-tissue massage and acupuncture treatment ($230)
Hair services: All salon services, including Japanese hair straightening
Extras: Health-food bar with fresh fruit, mini muffins and granola bites; child care (for a fee)
Deals: 20 percent “friends and family” discount for first-time spa clients

Space 07 1421 R St., Sacramento; (916) 444-7474; space-07.com
This hipper-than-thou hair salon offers its fair share of spa services, but don’t call it a spa. “We don’t like that word,” says co-owner Ken Schultz. “It sounds watery and floating. This is a work space.” The 6,000-square-foot salon, on a rapidly gentrifying block of downtown’s R Street Corridor, occupies two floors in an old brick warehouse next to Randy Paragary’s R15 complex. In the ground-floor “express” salon, you can grab a $15 no-shampoo cut without an appointment. (It’s Supercuts for cool people.) Upstairs, the cavernous space features 23 hair stations, three facial rooms and four mani-pedi stations. The furniture’s on casters, so it can be rolled aside for Second Saturday events and blowout parties for 400; Schultz and co-owner Shane Zade bring in DJs, live bands, even a roller derby. Zade splits his time between Sacramento and SoCal, where he has coiffed celebs—do the names Tori Spelling and Paris Hilton mean anything to you?—and worked on the TV makeover shows “How Do I Look?” and MTV’s “Becoming.”
Vibe: Industrial loft; more SoHo than Sacto
Clientele: People from all over the region, but heavy on the downtown crowd
Services: Facials, nails, waxing, lash and brow tinting
Specialty: Brow wax by “eyebrow guru” Kristi Streicher, who works in New York, L.A. and Sacramento ($75)
Hair services: All salon services, including hair extensions
Extras: $3 valet parking
Deals: $15 “express” clipper cut

Wink—1127 24th St., Sacramento; (916) 606-3337 (hair); (916) 532-0624 (skin)
From the sidewalk, Wink’s buttoned-up exterior gives it the look of a very tiny, very exclusive private club. The blinds are drawn, the door locked, and a sign firmly announces “By appointment only.” Inside, white-painted brick walls and whitewashed oak floors give the space a feminine airiness, and a petite chandelier is a pretty complement to the modern halogen spotlights. Sisters Tina Esposito (a hairstylist) and Corrie M. Seifert (an aesthetician) opened the 400-square-foot spa and salon in February. “It was a dream we’ve always had,” says Seifert, who specializes in pharmaceutical peels, custom facials and camouflage makeup for post-op laser-resurfacing patients who can’t afford the seven- to 14-day downtime. Wink is definitely a family affair; in addition to Seifert and Esposito, a third sister does false-eyelash application.
Vibe: If Shabby Chic mated with Design Within Reach, this salon is what their love child would look like
Clientele: Hip Sacramentans
Services: Facials, waxing, lash and brow tinting, regular and camouflage makeup
Specialty: Pharmaceutical facial peel: Aesthetician Corrie Seifert uses GlyMed Plus skincare products ($85)
Hair services: All salon services
Extras: Tea and chocolates
Deals: First-timers get free hair-cut with color, $5 off all aesthetic services 
                                            

   The Latest and Greatest: Hot products seen at local spas and salons:

LipTox Sheer Lip Plumper—Lip color with Dermaxyl (to smooth wrinkles) and sodium hyalauronate (to moisturize and plump)

Minx —Solid nail coverings that look like nail polish but don’t chip; they come in cool colors (like metallic silver) and patterns

Botinol—A topical skin treatment alleged to give better-than-Botox results—without needles

Moroccanoil Treatment—Alcohol-free product for chemically treated hair that restores shine and eliminates frizz

 

     Beauty on a Budget

Local aesthetician Jeanette Dolce offers tips for these recessionary times:

• Do your own glycolic facial peels. Dermalogica Daily Resurfacer costs $66 for 35 doses, or about $1.90 per treatment, compared to $45 for a single glycolic peel at the spa. Savings: $43

• Give yourself a hair conditioning treatment. Unite Eurotherapy’s Stronga Treatment is $45 for 20 applications, or $2.25 per treatment, compared to $20 for a salon treatment. Savings: $17.75

• Light a candle and take a relaxing, moisturizing herbal bath. Dresdner Essenz aromatherapy bath powders are $3 each, compared to $35 for a bath treatment at the spa. Savings: $32

   The Eyebrows Have It

Once upon a time, women plucked their own eyebrows. But these days, they outsource the job to a new breed of beauty professional: the eyebrow stylist.

“Brows are the focal point of the face,” says Cisco, a 38-year-old “master eyebrow designer” who divides his time between Sacramento and Los Angeles. Years ago, while working as a makeup artist, he found himself devoting a lot of time to perfecting his clients’ brows. People started taking notice, and before long women were calling him just to get their brows done the Cisco way. Now, he spends most of his professional energy on those two little slashes of hair decorating the tops ofhis clients’ faces.

Cisco (just Cisco; he declines to give his full name) has a pretty rockin’ pair of highly groomed jet-black eyebrows of his own. They go with his goth-rocker attire: black pants, black leather chaps, black shirt, sleeves rolled up to reveal tattooed forearms, black sunglasses perched on top of his shaved, black-bandanna’d head.

Sweet and soft-spoken, he loves nothing more than to give a woman eyebrows that will make her feel beautiful, young and sexy.
“People are amazed at what I can do with such a small area,” says Cisco, who employs a special green wax (his favorite tool for sculpting brows) and a little pair of Japanese shears, which he uses to layer, feather and remove bulk and weight. He prefers a full, natural, classic arch (think Angelina Jolie), and he likes to elongate the arch to create a lifting effect. “It’s like an automatic eyelift,” he says.

Three weeks a month, he works out of AJF Salon on J Street at the eastern edge of midtown, charging $25 for a brow wax. The rest of the month, he’s at Giuseppe Franco Salon in Beverly Hills, where his services cost $75. Clients, male and female, come to the Sacramento salon from as far away as San Francisco and San Diego. He’s booked solid for months.

Cisco is proud of his eye-raising work. “A great brow is the finishing touch,” he says. “It’s like the perfect pair of shoes—it makes the whole ensemble pop.”

Brow Don’ts:
Don’t overtweeze. You can’t put those hairs back.
Don’t tweeze the grays. You’ll end up with bald brows.
Don’t do your own brows. Brows are not a DIY project, says Cisco.

 


We Tried It! Bronze Like Me: Adventures in Spray Tanning

I have the kind of pale Irish skin that looks as though I bathe regularly in the milk of virgin ewes, then bundle up in a head-to-toe beekeeper’s outfit. Not that I wouldn’t love to have a tan: In my 20s, I once spent an entire month baking on the beaches of Greece in a vain attempt to get a bronze glow. So when I heard about airbrush tanning, I said, “Sign me up.”

Plenty of local spas offer spray tanning. But then I learned of something even better: mobile spray tanning. So I called Casey Gray, owner of SunBlast Mobile Tanning, and summoned her to my East Sac home.

Gray’s a pro: Her clients include competitive bodybuilders, several Hooters girls and a Hustler model. While she set up a pop-up tent in my family room and lay towels on the floor, I stripped to my panties and placed a shower cap over my hair. (Earlier that day, I’d showered and exfoliated with a loofah mitt, per Gray’s instructions.) Then I stood inside the tent while Gray, wearing a plastic polka-dot apron, went to work.
Using a spray gun hooked up to an air compressor, she sprayed my skin with a solution of bronzer (for instant color) and dihydroxyacetone, a burnt-sugar compound that darkens the skin in about eight hours and lasts between seven and 10 days. I felt a little like a car in a spray paint booth getting a new paint job. At Gray’s instruction, I turned this way and that, bending my knees and raising my arms over my head, so that she could get every part of my body. Fifteen minutes and she was done. Cost: $45.

For the rest of the day, I wore a loose nightie to keep the bronzer from rubbing off on my clothes. “Don’t shower for at least eight hours,” Gray had told me.

The next morning, I hopped in the tub and rinsed off the bronzer. To my astonishment, the skin underneath, once a whiter shade of pale, was Bain de Soleil brown. How’d I look? Pretty damn good. I was afraid I’d resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger—preternaturally orange and obviously faux-tanned—but instead I had a very natural, very pretty tan. “You look chic,” my friend Ann said, regarding me critically the next day. “Like you just came back from the Bahamas.”

For the next week, I heard the same thing over and over. “Did you go to Hawaii?” one friend asked, looking at me quizzically. “You look healthy and sexy,” said another.
The only person who didn’t like the new tanned me: my husband. “You look like a Desperate Housewife,” he said.  I guess he likes me as I am, pale skin and all.
—Marybeth Bizjak
 

We Tried It! Got Manscaped

I was the only man in the place.

Recently, I went to Article Salon and Med Spa in Roseville for a bit of manscaping: a facial, followed by a manicure and pedicure. My aesthetician, Nicole, said it was nice to have a guy in to “mix things up a bit.”

I chose the Fire and Ice facial more for the novelty of the name than for anything else. I was taken to a small, private, dimly lit room filled with the sound of New Age music and the scent of perfumed candles. Nicole placed me under an industrial-looking metal wand that shot steam into my face to open my pores. She then applied a light solution to my face with an appliance that felt vaguely like an electric toothbrush. Next came the “fire.” As she smeared viscous lotion onto my face and neck, Nicole warned there would be “a bit of a tingle.” A bit of an understatement: It felt like my face was being melted off. I apparently hadn’t done myself any favors by shaving right before coming in. Hint to dudes: A freshly shaved chin does not like a highly astringent facial peel.

Nicole then applied another lotion—the “ice” in Fire and Ice—that immediately cooled down the burn. I felt refreshed, relaxed and pretty flattered as Nicole and the receptionist both told me several times how nice my skin was. Do they say that to everybody?

After the facial, I was turned over to Sabrina for my mani-pedi. I was her first male client in quite a while, she told me. In this economy, she said, men are more likely to give up their manicures than women.
Sabrina broke out some manly scented scrubs, such as fresh grass and sandalwood, for me to choose from. She then directed her attention to my hands and nails. As she washed, massaged, trimmed, buffed and filed my paws, I chatted away about TV shows and restaurants, smiled politely at the other customers and in general found fascinating all the little things—from cuticle cutters to paraffin wax—that most women probably take for granted when they go to a salon.

My last stop was the pedicure station, located in a small, private room off the main floor. I loved the relaxing foot massage, the bubbling foot bath, the rough pumice stone Sabrina rubbed on my feet to slough away the dead skin. I thought to myself, “This is something I could get used to.”
Now I find myself counting the days until I can break out my sandals and show off my newly pampered feet. —Greg Sabin

We Tried It! Me and My Brazilian

When my editor called a staff meeting and asked for a volunteer to get—and write about—a Brazilian bikini wax, I agreed to take one for the team. Times are tough. Getting a Brazilian seemed like the ultimate job-security move. My bosses at SacMag wouldn’t lay off somebody willing to lay down her private parts for the good of the company, would they?

A colleague advised me to book an appointment with Elena Morelli, owner of The Spa Simply Skin on Fair Oaks Boulevard. “I wouldn’t trust my nether regions to anyone else,” my co-worker said.

Driving to the spa, I realized I’d forgotten to take a Motrin like Morelli had advised on the phone. Too late. In the treat-ment room, she instructed me to undress from the waist down and lie on my back on the table. “Cover yourself with this,” she said, handing me a “privacy towel” the size of a sheet of loose-leaf paper.
Morelli removed the towel (so much for privacy) and applied heated wax to a small area on my inner thigh. Once the wax cooled, she gave it a quick, small tug. It came off with nary a bit of pain—like pulling a strip of Scotch tape off the back of your hand. Not bad, I thought.

She continued waxing and tugging, moving closer and closer to my center of gravity, occasionally using tweezers to remove the “stragglers.” The nearer she got to ground zero, the more it hurt. Morelli was kind and gentle—well, as gentle as you can be when you’re ripping out the hair Down There. Still, once she was on top of my pubic bone, I couldn’t help yelping every time she ripped away. (Women yelp during waxing, said Morelli; men scream.)

Fifteen minutes in, Morelli announced she was halfway done. “I’ve gotta take a look,” I said, picking my head up off the pillow and gazing southward. What I saw shocked me: It looked like a Rock Cornish game hen perched between my legs, all pink and mottled and bumpy.

Feeling faint, I lied back on the pillow. Morelli had me rest my right foot on my left calf, so that my right leg formed a V. This was awkward. The last time someone got this close to my nether regions, I married him. I started chattering nervously. “There’s not a lot of dignity in this, is there?” I asked. No, she said, tugging. I yelped louder this time. 

The only thing left to wax was the area between my buttocks. Some waxers make you get up on all fours for this, like a crawling baby, but Morelli had me remain on my back. I drew my legs up to my chest and held them aloft by clasping my hands together under my knees. I felt more exposed than Paris Hilton exiting a limo with no panties on.

I was super nervous. If this hurts, I warned Morelli, I’m going to call a halt to the proceedings. “Don’t worry,” she assured me. “The nerve endings there are different. It won’t hurt much.” Morelli was right: It didn’t hurt. (How is that possible?)

Finally, 25 minutes after Morelli started, it was all over. I now had the pubis of a 7-year-old. It looked weird on my 50-year-old body, juxtaposed with my faint Caesarean section scar and rolls of postmenopausal flab.

Whatever. I’ve got my Brazilian, baby.
—Marybeth Bizjak

The Brazilian Bikini Wax: Once Exotic, It’s Now Mainstream

A decade ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a salon or spa in the Sacramento region that offered Brazilian bikini waxing—the removal of all hair in the pubic area, front and back. But Brazilians are now practically as commonplace as the monthly cut and blow-dry.

“We do a lot of Brazilians,” says Stella Chung, owner of LaLé Hotel Spa at Le Rivage Hotel in Sacramento. Five years ago, her Brazilian clients tended to be mostly “the younger generation.” Now, she notes, all kinds of women—young and old, urban and suburban—are opting for the procedure.

Why would a woman get a Brazilian? Accordingto aesthetician Elena Morelli, owner of The Spa Simply Skin in Sacramento, it’s a cultural thing. Our society, she says, has “an aversion to hair” and “a heightened sense of cleanliness.” Waxing is easier to maintain than shaving, and it results in fewer complications, such as ingrown hairs. Furthermore, Morelli explains, our notions about grooming are shaped by Hollywood actresses and models, who’ve been getting Brazilian bikini waxes—and bragging about it—for years.
The procedure first became hot in 1994, when seven sisters from Brazil introduced the treatment to Manhattan’s elite at their salon, J. Sisters. Their fashionable, high-profile clientele (including Gwyneth Paltrow) swore by the sisters, and soon magazines were hyping the exotic Brazilian bikini wax. From New York, the Brazilian spread to big urban centers like Miami and Los Angeles before hitting smaller cities like Sacramento. Now, it’s become so mass market that two waxing-salon chains are set to open soon in Sacramento.

In this region, a Brazilian costs about $60 and requires “touch-up” maintenance every four to five weeks. If you don’t want a full Brazilian (aka the Telly Savalas), you can opt for a little triangle or “landing strip” of hair (known as the Rio). Many aestheticians can even wax the area to create a design, such as a heart or a star.

Hearts and stars: It sounds like good fun, right? But Morelli admits the procedure can be uncomfortable, even painful, both physically and emotionally. She, like all the aestheticians interviewed for this story, says a good bedside manner is imperative. “It’s scary, especially for a first-timer,” she notes.