HowTo Find Beauty at a Bar­gain

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Source - By Rachel Machacek

UEye­brow Wax

Sand­wiched be­tween boarded- up busi­nesses on a strip of H Street NE that’s not so up- and­com­ing, Dee and Kim’s Nails is on the lower end of the nail salon food chain. The staff isn’t su­per- pro­fes­sional or wel­com­ing. And the small space, decked out in a mix of coun­try- flo­ralmeets- Pat- Benatar chic, is, well, not very clean.

So while ly­ing on the sheet- cov­ered wax­ing “ bed,” I’m sure I’m ei­ther go­ing to end up eye­brow- less or, worse, skin­less. But my young waxer has her game face on and ex­am­ines my brow crit­i­cally be­fore jump­ing on the bru­tal wax, strip, rip train, which ac­tu­ally isn’t so bru­tal. She works me­thod­i­cally and with pre­ci­sion, and the post- pluck­ing to catch er­rant hairs is nom­i­nal. I’m in and out in 10 min­utes.

The Bar­gain: Quick and ef­fi­cient; su­perb brow shape; lots of park­ing.

Hid­den Cost: Dingy space ( go to the bath­room be­fore­hand); not- so- friendly staff.

Re­turn?: Yes, if I lived closer or hap­pened to be in the area. Dee and Kim’s Nails, 526 H St. NE. $ 7. 202- 548- 0499.

Man­i­cure- Pedi­cure

nless you’ve seen first­hand re­sults or have the word of a trusted friend, bar­gain beauty treat­ments can seem a very risky busi­ness. Some­times it’s eas­ier to shell out the ex­tra bucks at a high- end salon as an in­sur­ance pre­mium, be­cause you just won’t know whether that $ 7 eye­brow wax was worth it un­til the rip­ping is done and your left brow is there — or it isn’t. Well, think of me as your new trusted friend. I called on hole- in- the- wall and strip- mall sa­lons and snooped out five beauty bar­gains: a mani- pedi, an eye­brow wax, high­lights, a one­hour mas­sage and air­brush tan­ning. In to­tal, I rang up $ 162 ( not in­clud­ing tips), cheaper than my last cut and color.

Sac­ri­fi­cial lambs in­cluded pam­per­ing ( there wasn’t a glass of cham­pagne wait­ing for me at the door), cus­tomer ser­vice and my time. Is there any­thing you should never sac­ri­fice? Ab­so­lutely. “ Al­ways ex­pect clean­li­ness, know ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing and [ ex­pect to] be man­aged in an or­ga­nized way,” ad­vises Cary O’Brien, a mem­ber of the Pro­fes­sional Beauty As­so­ci­a­tion’s board of direc­tors.

They say you get what you pay for. Let’s find out.

From the win­dow, Per­fect Nails in Chan­tilly looks clean and serene. Inside, the pedi­cure mas­sage chairs have seen hap­pier days ( the re- motes look as if they’ve been han­dled by leagues of stressed- out soc­cer moms), but a cou­ple of clients are wear­ing lots of big, shiny bling — a good omen in my book, be­cause if any­one knows where to go for solid pam­per­ing, it’s a rich lady. What is not a good omen: soak­ing my feet in bub­bly wa­ter for 15 min­utes while wait­ing for a tech­ni­cian on a Tues­day at lunchtime. Once un­der­way, though, my tech­ni­cian doesn’t rush while com­plet­ing the typ­i­cal mani- pedi for­mula, from fil­ing to pol­ish.

The Bar­gain: No snick­er­ing over my ragged fin­ger­nails; healthy pol­ish se­lec­tion; big- screen TV; pedi­cure’s pol­ish was still kick­ing three weeks later.

Hid­den Cost: No pain or blood loss, but they were a bit overzeal­ous when scrap­ing my left heel; forgotten sec­ond coat of OPI’s Chick Flick Cherry on my left toes; thin mag­a­zine pile.

Re­turn?: Yes. De­spite the pit­falls, this was still one of the bet­ter mani- pedis I’ve had in the area. Per­fect Nails V, 14406 Chan­tilly Cross­ing Lane, Chan­tilly. $ 25 Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, $ 30 all other days. 703- 378- 5672.

High­lights

Hair Ex­pres­sions, just off mi­graine- in­duc­ing Rockville Pike, has the hushed and ex­cited buzz of a happy learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Ca­pablelook­ing stu­dents with funky dos snip, curl and color the tresses of a spec­trum of clients. Seated in my chair, I pull out a pic­ture and ex­pla­na­tion I found on­line of a take on high­lights called pan­el­ing. My stylist con­sults with her su­per­vi­sor, and to­gether they piece to­gether a three- part process that in­cludes foil high­lights, a darker color in back and an over­all toner. The re­sult: While it’s not the hair I en­vi­sioned, I’m now rock­ing an up­dated color that flat­ters my skin tone.

The Bar­gain: Re­lax­ing at­mos­phere; solid com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­e­cu­tion; huge sav­ings.

Hid­den Cost: Ice- cold wa­ter at one of the sham­poo sta­tions; more than three hours of my time. ( Pa­tience is key, owner Ed Ruiz says. Work­ing with stu­dents can take “ twice as long, some­times two and a half times as long.”)

Re­turn?: Yes, for high­lights and to try out the $ 10 cuts. Hair Ex­pres­sions, a Paul Mitchell Part­ner School, 12450 Park­lawn Dr., Rockville. $ 45 ( add $ 5 to $ 10 for blow- dry). 301- 984- 8182.

Tan­ning

When I signed up for an air­brush tan at Nail Stu­dio and Day Spa in Re­ston, I knew the ef­fect was sup­posed to be more Caribbean bronze than tan- in- a- can be­cause it’s ap­plied by a hu­man. ( The hu­man doesn’t have to be cer­ti­fied, though, owner Lut­fiye Yil­maz says, so ask how many air­brush­ing hours the salon’s tech­ni­cian has logged when you make an ap­point­ment.) I had no idea, how­ever, that I’d be stand­ing on a wet wash­cloth in the mid­dle of a rel­a­tively Zen mas­sage room, wear­ing only a pa­per thong and hair cap and hang­ing on dearly to my dig­nity while be­ing hosed down with ( chilled) veg­etable dye by a wo­man wield­ing a spray bot­tle that calls to mind a blow­torch. The process takes 15 min­utes, as does the dry­ing, dur­ing which I stand on the same wash­cloth in front of a box fan read­ing Peo­ple mag­a­zine and lis­ten­ing to New Age tunes.

The Bar­gain: Clean space; ex­tremely per­son­able and pro­fes­sional tech­ni­cian; nice com­pli­ment on my faux tan from the guy at the front desk.

Hid­den Cost: No in­struc­tions to wear old, dark cloth­ing for the ride home ( my sweater was stained but did wash out); no warn­ing be­fore the face spray.

Re­turn?: No, but only be­cause I’m much hap­pier in my nat­u­ral ashy skin. I’ll leave the air­brush­ing to Jen­nifer Anis­ton & Co. Nail Stu­dio and Day Spa, 1484 North Point Vil­lage Cen­ter, Re­ston. $ 35 for a full body ap­pli­ca­tion; $ 15 for half body ( waist up or waist down). 703- 481- 6245.

Mas­sage

Af­ter com­plet­ing a health his­tory with me at Po­tomac Mas­sage Train­ing In­sti­tute, a quiet, friendly grad­u­ate of the school ( you can des­ig­nate male or fe­male when you make an ap­point­ment) leads me to a Spar­tan room equipped with mas­sage ta­ble, chair, a CD player that skips and a very loud clock. We dis­cuss my mus­cu­lar chal­lenges and over­all health, and he ex­plains how he’ll pro­ceed, in­struct­ing me to let him know if some­thing doesn’t feel right. This is key: Clearly stat­ing what you’re feel­ing will prompt the prac­ti­tioner “ to say, ‘ Tell me a lit­tle bit more,’ and they’ll try to ex­plore that so they can change what they’re do­ing,” says Demara Stam­ler, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute. My ther­a­pist’s approach is text­book ten­sion re­lief, and he moves from head, neck and decol­letage ( flip) to arms, legs and back.

The Bar­gain: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism were the best I en­coun­tered dur­ing this project; ex­cel­lent fa­cial mas­sage.

Hid­den Cost: The tech­nique felt fumbly and awk­ward ( I didn’t speak up be­cause I didn’t know what he could do dif­fer­ently); af­ter the mas­sage, the ther­a­pist stood right by me as I filled out the com­ment card.

Re­turn?: Yes. The price is worth find­ing a stu­dent with a style I like. Po­tomac Mas­sage Train­ing In­sti­tute, 5028 Wis­con­sin Ave. NW, Suite LL. $ 35 for a one- hour mas­sage with a stu­dent while an in­struc­tor watches through a win­dow in the door, $ 50 for a one- hour mas­sage with a grad­u­ate. 202- 686- 7046.

BY DAYNA SMITH FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

At the Hair Ex­pres­sions school in Rockville, stu­dent Stacy Mar­go­lis works on Ha­ley Marr’s tresses un­der the su­per­vi­sion of owner Ed Ruiz.

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