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Head Turners

We Check Out the Region's 25 Best Salons.

Kathryn Landes, Pascale Lemaire, and Max Weiss. Additional Research By Stephanie Silver and Donna M. Owens. -

Head Turners

We Check Out the Region's 25 Best Salons.

Kathryn Landes, Pascale Lemaire, and Max Weiss. Additional Research By Stephanie Silver and Donna M. Owens. -


Bad hair days are crummy enough, but what about bad hair months? Or bad hair decades? (Okay, in the '80s, we all had a bad hair decade). That's why it's so important to have a good hairstylist. "A bad haircut can just be devastating!" laughs (the always perfectly coifed) psychotherapist Meadowlark Washington, now a devoted client of DK Salon. "Who hasn't been traumatized by a bad haircut?"Well, no one. (Except maybe Michael Jordan.) Conversely, is there any quicker way to make a woman's day than to compliment her hair? Of course, finding a good hairstylist is just half the battle. You also want a salon that hits all the right notes—whether it be a charmingly low-key boutique or a bustling hair factory. So we scoured the region, searching for the salons that offer the tops in service, atmosphere, and—above all else—quality. Because we believe it is everyone's right to look in the mirror, pause admiringly, and say, "Hello, gorgeous!"

Mane Events

Big salons that serve up "the works"!

About Faces Day Spa & Salon, The Shops at Kenilworth, 410-828-8666, www.aboutfacesdayspa.com

Don't let the location fool you. With its mocha and vanilla Neo-classical décor, Greek columns, and cushy furniture, About Faces is a finely tuned beauty machine that just happens to be housed in a mall. There's a mammoth retail boutique in the front with all the top-of-the-line hair products imaginable, plus a bevy of invigorating bath potions and custom makeup. In the next room, the hair stations buzz with activity as a whopping 30 stylists (clad in chic all-black uniforms) mill about. About Faces' artistic team can perform any miracle including extensions, Bio-Ionic Hair Straightening, formal hairstyling, perms, curl relaxers, and more. There is a separate color room and several nail spa areas complete with luxurious black leather recliners. Next, step into the darkened corridors of the "Spa" which offers massage, hydrotherapy, seaweed body masques, et al and even has its own concierge. You'll experience the wafting scent of essential oils and aromatherapy candles and the soft purring of noise machines, all designed to keep guests in a dream-like state. (Be sure to check 0ut About Faces' second location next to the Maryland Athletic Club in Timonium. 410-560-6600.)

Morgan Gerard Salon & Spa, 101 Annapolis Street, 410-263-1812

Morgan Gerard, named for salon owners Todd Morgan August and Michael Gerard Curry, is known as the chi chi salon in Annapolis. "It's a good reputation to have," Curry says, "but we don't want anyone to feel intimidated. Everyone is welcome." Renowned for its beauty treatments (you can take your pick from body therapies, massages, and makeup consultations) and consummate skill with hair, Morgan Gerard is a great place to visit if you want to be pampered. Clients flock from far and wide to put their locks into the hands of one of the salon's 16 stylists. The salon's philosophy of hair? It's not about being a slave to trends, it's about finding the right look for each individual client. Morgan Gerard accommodates tons of clients simultaneously, a necessity because of the salon's popularity. Clearly, the word has gotten out about this first-rate, full-spa experience.

Paul's Salon & Day Spa, 1809 Reisterstown Road, Suite 116, 410-602-0888, www.paulsss.com

Just walk into Paul's Salon & Day Spa and you'll feel the tension melt away. That, of course, is no accident. Owner Paul Skotarczak, a former monk, has studied the art of Zen and he strives to achieve a perfect balance between inner and outer beauty. From the trickling waterfall sculpture that greets you at the door, to the salon's overall cream-and-gold-hued design, Paul's was carefully designed to be a sensory sanctuary. One of the largest spas in the county—and one of the few salons authorized to sell the celebrated Kerastase line of hair products—Paul's features the usual menu of hair and color services plus a full range of spa offerings, including Darphin face and body treatments, stone massages, foot reflexology, and the unbelievably luxurious "Vichy" showers. And through it all, there is the infectiously cheerful Paul, the sort of pied piper of salon service.

"Paul is fun," says former NBC executive Amy Baker. "He's always got great stories to tell, but he's never gossipy. And people always tell me they love my hair—which for me is amazing!"

Robert Andrew: The Salon & Spa, 1328 Main Chapel Way, Gambrills, 410-721-3533, www.robertandrew.com

Yes, Gambrills, Maryland is a little bit off the Baltimore magazine radar (it's between Laurel and Annapolis), but we couldn't resist extolling the virtues of this luxurious, state-of-the-art salon and day spa. Designed to look like a Tuscan street—complete with a large fountain, beautiful murals, aged tile, cobalt blue "sky" accents, a grand staircase, and faux balconies—the 22,000 square-foot salon (the largest in the mid-Atlantic region) is simply breathtaking. Since opening in July of 2002, many Baltimore women have discovered Robert Andrew, both as a special-occasion getaway and even as their regular salon and spa. Robert Andrew has won many national and regional awards (Salon Magazine named it one of the top 200 salons in the country). It's almost needless to say that a salon this big offers the works: From hair care, to bridal services, to massage, body treatment, and hydrotherapy. Yes, they're a little pricey, but hey, you're worth it.

Salon by Debbie Day Spa, 8740 Belair Road, Perry Hall, 410-256-3400

It's not that Debbie Nazelrod—a 25-year veteran of the salon industry—necessarily wanted to expand the salon she opened in a Perry Hall strip mall three years ago. It's more like she had to. "Within three months, it was clear that we needed more space," she says. So she set up a separate day spa in the store two doors down. But customer demand was so great, laments Debbie, "within three months, we were out of space there, too!" The only solution? To open yet another salon, a few miles away on The Avenue at White Marsh. That salon is scheduled to open later this month. Of course, it's easy to see why customers have come to rely on the creative Debbie and her enthusiastic staff. The hair studio has a funky, quirky, jungle-woman theme, with wicker and leopard-spotted chairs and tiger-striped smocks for the stylists. They do all the traditional services, and a few new ones, too—including the Rusk thermal straightening technique (similar to the Japanese straightening—see sidebar). Two doors down, Debbie really lets her imagination run wild. Each separate treatment room is named for a tropical island (St. Lucia, Key West, San Juan, etc.) and is decorated accordingly. St. Croix, for example, has a mural on the wall that overlooks the ocean. The Vichy shower room is called—what else?—"Rain Forest." All rooms have candles, heated beds, muted music, and swooping ceiling curtains, to give it that island getaway feel. "I just want to give my customers that warm, wonderful, fuzzy feeling," says Debbie.

Zibazz Hair Studio, 9199 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, 410-356-2234

While Mt. Washington may be the Mecca of fine salons in the city, the Reisterstown Road corridor just north of Pikesville seems to have cornered the well-coifed county set. And Zibazz Hair Studio, tucked amidst business offices and restaurants in the Valley Village Professional Building, is one of the area's mainstays. "I work with women," says personal trainer Nancy Asch. "We talk about hair and makeup. And Zibazz is where women are going." It's no wonder. Zibazz offers all the major services, along with waxing, facials, manicures, pedicures, makeup, and skin care in the adjoining Studio of Make-up, owned by makeup artist Karen Weiner. "Karen is first-class," says longtime client Dorothy Rosenberg. "She's genuine and wonderful. She does a truly great job." Considering its size (there are 10 full-time, independent stylists) Zibazz remains tranquil. The blonde wood floors, muted cream walls, and streaming natural light soothes; the private stations, made up of wall-to-ceiling mirrors and wide mahogany cabinets, guarantee that not everyone can see your foil-filled hair or hear the private convo between you and your stylist. Zibazz is currently undergoing a cosmetic facelift—we've been assured that the makeover will be finished by press time—but even when surrounded by construction, there is a lot to love about Zibazz.

Cutting Edge

Fashion forward salons for folks who
follow trends

Bella! of Canton, 2809 Boston Street, 410-327-7872

Sassy! That's the word that comes to mind when describing this funky little hair shop with its sunny disposition and waterfront view. Located in a prime spot in Tindeco Wharf in Canton, Bella! is quickly making a name for itself among those "in the know." This three-person salon (plus one manicurist) is headed by owner Kristen Chandler, in-house hottie Jonas Grimm (who apprenticed under legendary New York stylist, Garren), and the very hip Lisa Jones-Butz (who you might have seen on Fox 45 doing morning makeovers). At Bella!, you can expect high quality hair care featuring Wella and Actyva products, cutting-edge hair cuts with all the trimmings, plus nail care. Bella has also been perfecting their Bio Ionic Japanese Hair Straightening technique.

"I go to Lisa Jones-Butz," reports news anchor Sally Thorner, who adds that fans used to be very critical of her hair. Now she gets raves. "The kind of call I get now is: 'who does your hair?'" she says happily. Other clients rave about Jonas's ability to give heavenly head massages and bone-straight blow-outs. "All I can say is, 'Oh my God!'" gushes school teacher Kathy Jakubiak, a loyal client who braves the 40-minute drive from Fallston to Canton to go to Jonas. Wow, those must be some head massages.

Glow Salon Day Spa Café, 2603 Housley Road, Annapolis, 410-571-6601, www.glowsalon.com

Part hipster club, part spa, part coffee house, Glow Salon has really brought a touch of L.A. cool to Annapolis. "Fashion evolves and so do we!" exclaims Cristina Sevin, perhaps explaining how she—along with husband PT and partners Steven and Kelly Fisher—has turned Glow into an Annapolis hotspot. This full service salon—now celebrating its third year—has a dreamy spa, painted hot pink and purple (where you can indulge in "Neo Nirvana" aromatherapy treatments, hot stone massage, or "Lemon Drop" pedicures), an in-house board certified plastic surgeon who will Botox you back to life, and hairstylists who can do magic with dreadlocks (mostly popular with the college crowd), Japanese hair straightening, and hair extensions (along with other, more traditional services). A really cool boutique offers up the latest in products like Bumble & Bumble, Kerastase, and John Sahag. Another temptation are the luscious lotions by Get Fresh and makeup by Dollface. "We wanted to have our clients feel like they were someplace exciting and energetic, more urban than suburban," says Sevin. Mission accomplished.

Kumbyah, 824 W. 36th Street, 410-235-3663

Being able to spot a great hair trend before everyone else (remember the Aniston?) is an excellent trait to have in a stylist. And Sue Ebert, owner of Kumbyah, has been styling ahead-of-the-curve hipsters for nearly 20 years. Ebert describes her two-year-old salon, located in the now hotter-than-ever Hampden, as "funky eclectic" and the space is kitschy, with its animal prints, beaded curtains, and playful décor. Marvin Gaye plays on the radio and the smell of candles envelops you as you walk in the door. The four-chair salon also has a charming sideroom filled with vintage clothes, jewelry, artwork, and bric-a-brac for sale. But Ebert and her other stylist, Jenn Nasuta, are serious hair pros. Kumbyah carries the newest products lines (including the exciting Ouidad curly-hair line) and offers many of the services of larger spas in a much smaller space. They even have massages in a back room that's adorned with billowy white fabric, star-shaped lanterns, and ruby-colored walls. Ebert, who has also been recognized for her excellent work on bridal headpieces and updos, says her clients "come here to decompress." They adore Kumbyah, she continues, "because it is a haven away from mass production where clients truly get one-on-one attention."

Nappy By Nature, 213 W. Read Street, 410-669-1675

When it comes to "natural" haircare for African-Americans, the leader of the pack is Nappy By Nature. This funky bohemian-style shop with its swirly yellow stucco walls, burnt orange accents, and natural wood floors makes its home in a two-story brownstone in Mt. Vernon. Catering to the growing trend in "natural" haircare by African-Americans, the salon offers everything from corn rows, Nubian twists, Bantu knots, to "locs" (their term for dreadlocks). Services include a myriad of styling methods, loc maintenance, and treatments geared to maintaining unprocessed hair.

"I never look at someone's work and do the same thing," explains expert braider Cory Petitt. "You always want to flip it and make it your own." He should know, he's been hired as the master corn row man for HBO's The Wire and braided Lynn Whittfield's hair on Head of State, the Chris Rock movie which filmed here last summer. The crowd is largely urban, but not exclusively so. "We get the Fresh Fields, Trader Joe's type of clientele too," says stylist Amira. "We cater to all ethnicities." Look for owner Troy Hendricks to open a brand-new, enlarged space in the coming months called Afrodisiacs.

Uno Salon & Spa, Greenspring Station, 10751 Falls Road, 410-821-9080

You could say that Unal "Uno" Tuluoglu, owner of both the new Uno salon in Greenspring and the original space in Pikesville, is quite the lady's man. No, not that kind of lady's man. This Turkish native with his long dark locks and thick accent, simply has a way with women's hair. "I work by feeling the hair," he explains. His new digs boast a cool receptionist area with a glass façade and edgy display units filled with Bed Head, Alterna, and Rusk product lines. One interior wall is painted a tangy terra-cotta shade against blond wooden floors, with trendy black leather stools and rosewood stations, accented in stainless steel. Arched windows allow for an airy environment. There's a full range of color services using Schwarzkopf, plus the Shinbi Japanese Hair Straightening system, and hair extensions. On top of their hair service, Uno offers European facials and anti-oxidant treatments. Dolling up may not be cheap, but at least at Uno, it's served with a sexy accent.

Intimate Escapes

Great salons in small packages

Atelier, 600 Wyndhurst Avenue, 410-464-9500

Off the beaten path, in leafy Roland Park, is Atelier salon and spa. Here, there is nothing loud or trendy: Atelier's soft mauvey decor and quiet atmosphere create a little barrier between you and the hustle and bustle of nearby downtown. Atelier is a place to unwind and pamper yourself. Laurie Glassner, VP of Louis Mazor Inc, has been going to stylist Theresa Chagouris for at least 10 years and she says the new age vibe suits her perfectly. "When I go in, I like the haircut, without the pretension," she explains. Atelier recently expanded into the adjoining office space and their soothing new spa rooms—dimly lit and minimalistic—are consistent with the salon's overall aesthetic. Choose from a variety of massages, body treatments, facials, waxing, or hair helpers (ask about their Moroccan conditioning treatment) before getting trimmed by a member of the expert staff.

Edward Amato Salon, 5722 Falls Road, 410-323-2222

Edward Amato exclusively carries the full line of Aveda products and the salon reflects Aveda's aesthetic of "connecting beauty, environment, and well-being." Upon entering the space, you can't help but succumb to its serene vibe. Taupe stucco walls and ivy-kissed windows set off the enormous hanging mirrors that designate the stylist's stations in the downstairs studio. Upstairs, there are additional rooms for cuts and color and nooks for facials and massages. There are seven stylists on staff and the salon is (blessedly!) open seven days a week. Edward Amato caters to both stylish 20-somethings and ladies-who-lunch. The secret, according to co-owner Laura Sweeney, is word of mouth. "We've never done ads, really. Our stylists' work speaks for itself." Indeed, as we left we overheard a first-time customer gushing about her new cut. "I didn't know what I wanted when I came in, but I am so happy with the result. I'm coming back. And I'm bringing my sister." High praise, indeed.

Hair Alexander, 1621 Sulgrave Avenue, 410-542-6768

Known as chemical relaxation experts, Hair Alexander prides itself in its quick and professional service. The small "boutique" salon with its black and white checkered floor, mellow jazz tunes, and classic ambience has been around for 15 years. The dynamic husband and wife duo of Jeffrey and Mia Alexander, both licensed senior cosmetologists, are the sole proprietors and stylists. Their novel approach of tag-teaming allows for "a little more control as to how we schedule and that's based on the cooperation of our clientele," explains Jeffrey. Women in the African-American community have notoriously had to deal with excessive stays at the salon (average 5-6 hours). Thankfully, the wait here averages a mere two hours for a relaxer, set, and cut.

"Do I love Hair Alexander?" says Tanya Black, managing editor at WJZ television. "That's an understatement. I love and adore them!"

Both Jeffrey and Mia perform sodium hydroxide relaxers, color processes, style and cut. There are no nail services or facials, just good old fashioned haircare. Maybe that's why they do it so well.

Indulgence, 6245 Falls Road, 410-321-1711

The Indulgence hair salon fills the first floor of an unassuming two-story white house off of Falls Road. Owner and stylist Natercia Jackson likes her clients to feel "at ease" when they step into her salon—and it shows. The space is tranquil and meditative—you'll notice the crystals and candles as soon as you step in the door. In operation since 1987, Indulgence caters to a chic professional clientele with services that run the gamut from highlights and relaxing to manicures, makeup, and tanning. It's comfortable but pretty, with hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and stone accents. There are seven full-time stylists and all attend regular in-house seminars to stay on top of color and cut trends. You can also pick up a beautiful bauble (jewelry cases surround the reception area and feature works by local artists) or visit the upstairs Stars Esthetics Spa, a full-service business (with enticing packages titled "Brilliance" and "Lustrous") if you really need an escape.

James Bryan Salon & Spa, 8012 Bellona Avenue, Ruxton, 410-828-7111

Did you catch yourself admiring Kendel Ehrlich's hair and makeup at her husband's inauguration? You might be surprised to find out where she got her sleek look. Not some large, chi chi salon in Annapolis or D.C., but the quiet, tucked away James Bryan Salon in Ruxton.

"We are the best kept secret in Maryland!" says co-owner Tricia Bernstein of the full-service salon that she and her partner, James B. Machniak, opened three years ago. The partners always perceived their salon as an antidote to the large, cold, modern salons that gained prominence in the '80s. "We wanted it to be warm, not sterile," explains Bernstein. As a result, James Bryan has a gold-hued, earthy feel, with faux-fresco walls and galvanized copper floors (all hand-painted by local artist Scott Steward). They offer all the usual hair services—Machniak trained with Bumble & Bumble in New York—plus manicures, pedicures, wig styling, and makeup. And since Bernstein is a paramedical esthetician (her background is in plastic surgery), the salon is equipped to do all sorts of advanced chemical peels and facials. "We're all about personal service at this salon," says Bernstein. "We want our customers to be completely satisfied."

The Salon At Mays Chapel, 12232 Tullamore Road, Timonium, 410-628-4247

A nice change of pace from some of the colder, harder-edged salons around town, The Salon at Mays Chapel- is best described as country chic. A vintage-looking American flag hangs proudly above the front entrance, while an antique church bench stands guard in the waiting area. An assortment of antique dressers serve as styling stations and women get their nails done over long antique sewing tables. Hip lines like Alterna, Big Sexy, Graham Webb, and Biolage are displayed in chippy architectural remnants or large antique armoires. Eleven stylists, two estheticians, and one cosmetologist offer up the works: highlights, nails, skincare, waxing, and even massages.

"We have a Northern Baltimore County clientele," says stylist Michelle Sheridan-Brunner, who co-owns the salon with husband Michael Brunner. Case in point, Katie O'Malley—who grew up in Baltimore County—is a longtime customer. "I've been going there for about six years," O'Malley says. "I like to look natural. Michelle has a good sense of the type of hair she's dealing with. She's really good with color." Other high-profile patrons include Debbie and Matt Stover, Baltimore County Police Sgt. Vickie Warehime, and news anchor Sally Thorner, who comes for Fanny's facials. What can we say? This quaint little salon packs a mean punch.

Signature Hair Design, 10132 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, 410-750-2200

Owners Skip and Bobbie Siperko wanted their upscale Howard County salon to "be big enough to provide all of the typical salon services, but not feel like a factory." They've succeeded. Their pretty little studio— which offers everything from facials to waxing and massage—is pristine and calming, with grey-hued walls, freestanding wrought-iron mirrors, and subtle floral arrangements. "It's classy but comfortable," sums up Bobbie. The 14 stylists at Signature may be some of the best-trained in the area. A few days before our visit, renowned hair guru Louis Alvarez (who has clipped mega-stars like Jennifer Lopez) held a seminar at Signature and Skip tells us that his staff regularly trains at the Redken School in New York. Like many salons, Signature counts color work as their specialty, and—if it's any indication—many of the stylists sport fantastically-hued (and styled) locks. "You live and die by your reputation in this business," Skip explains. From the looks of it, this little oasis is thriving.

Hall of Fame

The most beloved salons in the region—and with good reason!

Chas, 735 S. Hanover Street, 410-625-2427

What is it with these one-named hair dudes? Chas. Corbin. Uno. Engelbert. (Okay, we made that last one up.) Whatever the case, it takes a big personality to pull off one-name fame and Chas is definitely up to the challenge. For over 30 years, he's been working his magic on Baltimore coifs, and he's developed a fiercely loyal following. "I just love the way he moves around the chair and steps back and admires his work," says Sharon Bass, the wife of WJZ anchor Marty Bass. "He makes you feel really special. For that hour, you are solely his." Chas has always been something of a revolutionary when it comes to hair—he was among the first to coax men away from barber shops and into salons—and his 12-year-old, full-service Federal Hill salon is no exception. Although Chas has done the big, trendy, urban-style salon, his latest location is cozy, homey, and friendly—but still chic. Just like Chas, himself.

Corbin Salon at the Colonnade, 4 W. University Parkway, 410-662-8700

Corbin Salon has the sleek minimalistic look of a posh New York boutique hotel. "I like cleanliness," says Corbin. "Clutter creates a barrier between you and the client." Instead, there is spare pale grey space with lots of natural light, giant oval mirrors suspended above oval stainless steel stations, and sleek black leather chairs against a stainless steel wall. The only "organic" touches are large ball-shaped topiaries placed here and there. Clients can expect all the top-of-the line services, plus the new Yuko Japanese hair straightening method and amenities like Bumble & Bumble products, vanilla-infused water for sipping, and music to mellow out to by Buddha Bar. A celebrity stylist in his own right, Corbin has coifed the heads of such glitterati as the Food Network's Sandra Pinkney, artist Martha Macks, and philanthropist Suzi Cordish, to name a few. He was chosen by E!'s Fashion Emergency as the local makeover king. He's even on a first name basis with Oprah! (What do they discuss? How overrated last names are?). But people come to Corbin for his touch, his charisma, and his expert training at the prestigious Vidal Sassoon school in London. "I call him Corbin the Great! He's the best!" raves Sandy Hillman, a partner at Trahan, Burden & Charles. "You walk out looking fabulous!" beams Allison Parker, a VP at The Cordish Company. What else is there?

DK Salon, 6080 Falls Road, 410-377-4300

Say it: "DK Salon." OK, now, again: "DK Salon." Get used to it. This is the mantra that fell from the lips of many of our city's most fabulous when asked who they trust to perfect their color, cuts, and blowouts. "They do the best blowouts in Baltimore," gushes Ruxton resident Nathalie Beatty. Located in the quiet Lake Falls Village shopping center, a stone's throw past the hair epicenter that is Mt. Washington, DK Salon provides a sanctuary for big wig TV personalities and politicos who, in the words of co-owner Koula Savvakis, "want their private time." But rest assured that, celeb or not, the staff at DK knows how to give all of their patrons the star treatment. Wine, cookies, and other tasty treats are offered immediately upon arrival. They do their best to cater to professional men and women's schedules, opening extra early on Mondays (6:30 am) and have even opened up the salon on days off for special patrons. DK offers up the standard list of trendy salon fare—nails, waxing, massage, and facials of numerous persuasions—but Savvakis insists that their claim to fame is cut and color. She and her sister Denise Klicos (co-owner, stylist, and salon namesake) send their stylists to the Sassoon Salon in NY. And, with apologies to Sassoon: At DK Salon, if you don't look beautiful, they don't look beautiful!

Giuseppe's Hair Studio, 2616 Taylor Avenue, 410-665-4490, www.giuseppeshairstudio.com

Some salons are so intimidating, you feel like you need to get a haircut before your appointment. Not so with Giuseppe's Hair Studio. Since 1981, Italian born owner Giuseppe Castellano has strived to offer a welcoming, laid back respite for its loyal customers. The comfy pinky-beige décor is unintimidating and the talented staff—many of whom have worked at Giuseppe's for over a decade—is friendly and accessible. Giuseppe's offers all the basics plus excellent facials, bridal services, and great nail services by Pasqua.

"Success in this service relies on repeated visits to establish a relationship of expectations combined with reality," says stylist Dean Krapf. As well as being a stylist at Giuseppe's for 20 years, Dean is also an established hair and makeup artist for print and television. Some of his celebrity encounters include cutting Benjamin Bratt's locks, dolling up supermodel Molly Simms, and styling ER's Michael Michelle. But you don't have to be a celebrity to get the full treatment at Giuseppe's. It's kinda like home, but with more amenities.

La Clinica Salon & Day Spa, 1624 York Road, Lutherville, 410-828-7464

In every sense of the phrase, La Clinica is a family affair. Start with the owners: the ageless Joan Zulanch and her daughter, Jayne Gary. Then, extend that to the staff, many of whom have worked at the salon for over 20 years. Add to that, La Clinica's loyal customers, who just keep coming back again and again. It's no wonder the salon is so successful. Who wouldn't want to be embraced by this nurturing clan? "I just enjoy going there and being taken care of!" praises Elaine Pevenstein, a special assistant to Governor Ehrlich. "I can't say enough about the people—they are warm and professional." La Clinica takes its beauty seriously: The estheticians wear white, almost clinical smocks, the spa rooms are lit and decorated with discretion, and the salon's literature reminds you to turn off your cell phone before entering the premises (you go, girls!). After focusing almost exclusively on electrolysis and skin care, La Clinica has expanded its services to include hair, nails, waxing, and massage. Six years ago, they bought out the adjacent hair salon and today, they are completely remodeling it with hardwood floors, back-to-back stations, decorative glass panels, and halogen lights (the work is slated to be finished by the end of the month). "It's going to look gorgeous!" gushes Gary. Then she pauses, reflecting on the expense and effort: "It better."

Patrick's Hair Design, 9194 Red Branch Road, Columbia, 410-730-1700

We're definitely noticing a trend toward smaller boutique salons. And if that's your thing, Patrick's is not for you. This place is big, contemporary, bustling—in a word, a scene (the receptionist even has a microphone to help direct traffic). But don't let the size fool you. The folks at Patrick's are here to pamper you—whether it be with a cut and color, bridal styling, or any of the various spa services they offer, including aroma therapy, body wraps, and manicures. Patrick's has a reputation for attracting the best stylists and the most discerning clientele. After 20 years in the business, when it comes to Columbia hair salons, there's Patrick's, and then there's everybody else.

Studio 1612, 1612 Kelly Avenue and 1501 Sulgrave Avenue, 410-664-3800/410-664-3010

You could say we're showing favoritism by picking the salon that almost of half the women of Baltimore magazine go to. But then again, it's our job to assess the best that Baltimore has to offer—and we choose Studio 1612. Why? In a word: quality. Spend a few minutes at either of Studio 1612's two Mt. Washington locations, and you'll see a parade of fabulous hair cuts, sported by some of Baltimore's most chic and style-conscious women. Studio 1612 can do it all—from streamline conservative to wild and funky to drop-dead glamour. Simply put, this is one talented team of stylists, starting with the delightful owners, Karen Bialozynski and Judy Weidel, extending to the rest of the staff (in-house favorites are Joanne, Lesley, and Marcus), and capped off by the peerless Gabrielle Hart (check out her work on our cover girl). Of course, we're not the only ones who sing Studio 1612's praises. "I frequently change hair styles," says Susan Snyder, the VP of Diversions, a cultural arts and travel group. "And no matter what I want to do, they're able to do it!"

Honorable Mentions

Denise Christenson Design, 410-327-1300: Come hang with hair diva Denise Christenson, who has opened this welcoming boutique salon in Fells Point.

The Escape Day Spa, 410-602-1108: The well-heeled Pikesville crowd frequents Escape for the newest trends (like Japanese hair straightening), fabulous color, a facial, and some light shopping (jewelry, Mano Swartz minks, and bags) before picking up dinner at nearby Sutton Place Gourmet.

Sima's, 410-276-7462: Owner Sima Frazier has been dubbed the "curly hair expert" by those who flock to her tiny Canton shop.

Starz Stage Salon, 410-318-8333: Don't let the modest digs on Reisterstown Road fool you, co-owner Kalixto, a.k.a. Kal, is often hired to transform the locks of high-profile African-American women like rapper Lil' Mo or TV personality Sade Baderinwa.

The Next Wave

by Pascale Lemaire


Ever wonder how celebrities like Chelsea Clinton and Nicole Kidman tame their wiry manes? We first heard about the revolutionary Japanese hair straightening process last summer. At the time, it was mostly available at high-end salons in New York and L.A. like Frédéric Fekkai. But today, this chemical straightener—an intensive thermal treatment which will render your hair silky, pin straight, and super shiny for up to eight months—has taken Baltimore by storm (and is available at most full-service salons). It's a dream come true for women who have struggled with unmanageable curls. But the process does not come without drawbacks. For starters, the price: Get ready to plunk down between $400 and $800 depending on your hair's length and condition.

Also, the process is lengthy. You should expect it to take anywhere from four to six hours. The hair is first washed of all products, dried, then washed again with a pre-treatment. "You're breaking bonds", explains Kristen Chandler, owner of Bella! Salon. Next the thermal solution is applied and will stay in the hair about 30 minutes, depending on hair texture. A good stylist will check the hair by knotting it to see if the hair will slip out. This helps to determine the how straight the hair has become. Then it's back to washing and then drying and finishing off piece by piece, adding heat with a flat iron. But it's not over yet! There's still another round of neutralizer, more washing, and blow drying. After all the waiting and primping, you should look like a movie star with swishy, shiny, silky-straight hair.

But for some women, the end of the process is the beginning of the nightmare.

"If your hair is not in great shape, stay away!" moans a Glyndon woman who chooses to remain anonymous. After having the procedure done at a local salon, her hair fell out and she ended up having to cut it off.

"You should always get a consultation before undertaking this," agrees Uno Tuluoglu, who has been using the Liscio system by Shinbi International at his eponymous salon for a year. Virgin hair—no sodium hydroxide chemicals, no bleaching, no color—is the ideal candidate. But good luck finding a contemporary woman who has never had a chemical process done. Still, even if your hair has been chemically treated, that doesn't mean you can't get it straightened. It is crucial to trust your stylist and to make sure the salon has a reputable track record and practical experience under its belt.

The most prevalent brands on the market are Bio Ionic, Liscio by Shinbi International, Yuko System Repair, and Rusk's Thermal Str8. All stylists must be trained (usually taking a two day education class) and accredited before being able to do the procedure.

Once the process is done, it is wise to "protect your investment," advises Corbin, owner of Corbin Salon at the Colonnade. Clients must be diligent about following directions like no washing of your hair for 48 to 72 hours afterwards. Also, it's imperative to use the proper high grade conditioners and products recommended in order to make your straightening last.

Despite a few horror stories, many women are thrilled with the results.

"The texture of my hair is different," raves Mary Carole Curran (Joe's daughter and Katie O'Malley's sister), who recently had the Rusk treatment done at The Salon at Mays Chapel. "I almost feel like I have my son's hair on my head. And he's 6 years old!"

Shop Boys

By Curt Iseli

Has the salon backlash begun? Just when it was totally safe for a guy to go to a beauty salon (and even admit to it!), more and more of today's younger generation are seeking out the somewhat antiquated haven of barbershops. The red-white-and-blue-striped poles have never stopped spinning, so why the sudden resurgence in their popularity?

A visit to Baynesville Barber Shop in Parkville (colloquially known as "Stan's") offers some answers. It's a far cry from the impersonal racks of fashion magazines and styling products at some salons. Instead, you will be greeted by the laid-back familiarity and bonhomie that seems indigenous to any neighborhood clip joint. From the pleasantly worn leather art deco chairs to the musky smell of the barber soap, these shops have a comforting timelessness about them that makes anyone with a sense of humor or, at the very least, a grasp of the local weather feel right at home.

"Give me two hours to swap some stories and a big heavy old barber chair," comments 24-year-old shop customer Dustin Jones, an internet technology engineer. "There's nothing like the feel and smell of a real barbershop."

But the chatter isn't the only thing drawing the new group of loyalists through the shop doors. For some it is simply a matter of style. Across town at Tom's Barber Shop in Highlandtown, barber John Kalbskopf offers his insight as he snaps an apron around the neck of a second-generation customer.

"In the seventies, you had the long hair and the bobs," Kalbskopf explains. "[Barber] shops got by on the flattops and the regulars until the trend went back to short hair. That's when we get new customers—when the trend is short hair."

And it's that same cycle that has the bells above shop doors ringing today. The mousse and blow dryers of the '80s gave way to the assembly line cutteries of the '90s until guys realized they were paying $25 for a stranger to give them a cut equivalent—or often inferior—to the $8 "Men's Regular" at the corner shop.

"The last three or four years, we've had more young folks coming in," comments Sal DiVenti, owner of Sal's Barber Shop in Cockeysville. "They're getting away from the Hair Cutteries and stopping in the shops instead."

And so the cycle continues. There will always be a place for unisex salons and $40 bottles of men's styling gel, to be sure. But as long as there is weather to discuss and a good joke to be told, those striped poles will keep on spinning.

Here are five recommended barbershops in the Baltimore region:

Tom's Barber Shop, 410-675-2107, 404 S. Conkling Street

Baynesville Barber Shop (a.k.a. Stan's)

410-321-1342, 1644 East Joppa Road, Towson

Sal's Barber Shop, 410-666-1822, 84 Cranbrook Road

Albert's Barber Shop, 410-276-5660, 4005 Eastern Avenue

Hillendale Barber Shop, 410-285-8083

6857 Loch Raven Boulevard

Hair Do's and Dont's

We asked stylists to spill the beans on proper salon etiquette. Here's what they said.

DO

Show a photograph of the haircut you want

"People think stylists hate that," says Gabrielle Hart of Studio 1612. "But we don't. It gives us some idea of what you find attractive."

Know your hair history

"Do you swim? Do you use well water? Are you on medication? When was your last perm?" These are all questions that need to be addressed, according to Denise Christenson of her eponymous salon.

Come on time

Your stylist may be juggling several clients at once. "The timing in a salon is critical," says Christenson.

Tell your stylist how much time you have to spend on your hair every day

"If you only have 5 minutes, don't get a style that takes 45 minutes!" says Christenson.

Give your stylist a chance

"Some people expect immediate nirvana!" says Dean Krapf of Giuseppe's Hair Studio. "But there's a possibility that it's already there. You just need to let the relationship develop."

Ask about the salon's
apprentice program

So maybe you can't pay top dollar.
A lot of salons, like Studio 1612 and Columbia's George of New York, have a young staff of trainees who give quality cuts at a substantial discount.

DON'T

Wear a turtleneck

Duh! "It gets in the way!" says Christenson.

Talk on your cell phone the whole time

"That drives me friggin' crazy!" says Christenson.

Ask for a radical change that you're simply not ready for

"If you have dark hair and you ask to go blonde, prepare to be shocked!" says Hart. "I often suggest gradually easing into something more drastic."

Ask for the last appointment
on Saturday

"Believe me, you don't want that appointment," laughs Christenson.

Use home bleach-out kits

"You know those women you see walking around with yellow hair?" says Hart ominously. "Home bleach kits."




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