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Issue Date: April 2006 Issue

The Gorgeous Guide

Spring has finally arrived, and we're celebrating.  It's the time of year when the days have a shimmer of anticipation, when we remember how exciting it is to dress up and play with our look.  So, we primped, cut, colored, waxed and pampered our way through 34 salons.  we found beauty, freshness, rejuvenation -- and you can too.

Party Makeup

The Stylist: Kylee Nicole Cook, Maple Heights

The Service: Using eyeliner seems so simple, but whenever I attempt to define my eyes with that messy kohl pencil, I end up looking like a raccoon. This makeup stuff is tough, so it was a relief to sit back, relax and let free-lance makeup artist Kylee Nicole Cook worry about everything from my mascara to my lip gloss. She even showed me a few tips along the way.

I always envy women who can pull off a smoky eye with ease. The evening’s event was a restaurant preview party, and for once, I wanted to show up with a look that might get a few lingering stares.

And the best part is, Cook came to me — one less hassle in all the chaos associated with getting ready for a big night out. With her makeup tool belt slung around her hips and a rolling case of products, Cook can whip out a stylish look from bee-stung lips to those smoky eyes I craved with a few precision swipes of her brush. She’s only 22, but already a pro, touring the country as the sole makeup artist for the Budlight/Maxim Magazine Double Exposure Tour and showing off her skills on “What Not to Wear: Wannabes.” She confessed an obsession with blending eye makeup, turned me on to her eyes-before-foundation technique (so flecks of eye shadow aren’t sticking to the makeup) and lined my lips before applying lip gloss, something I’d never thought of doing.

The Special Touch: Cook needs only 24 hours’ notice for house-calls (or office-calls).

The Stats: The hour-long makeup session costs $100-plus, depending on the services. (440) 503-6905;

— Kim Schneider

Thrifty Mani/Pedi

The Salon: La Barberia, Mayfield Height

The Service: I can usually only afford manis and pedis for special occasions (big date, big vacation, etc.). But I’ve discovered a way to sneak them in a little more often: La Barberia.

Everything about my experience conveyed a price range that I was happy not to be paying for:The Mayfield Heights outpost of the local chain features modern decor, professional staff and spa-quality treatments at prices that are unbelievably affordable. And my nail tech, Renee Gardiner, has talent: She’s been “in the biz” for more than 13 years.

It was a cold and rainy day, but Gardiner made sure my experience was relaxing. She was easy to talk to, and from the way she interacted with her co-workers, clearly a good-hearted soul. My pedi included a soak, nail shaping, pumice-stick softener and spa exfoliation lotion. She took her time, a little more than an hour, to make sure the job was just right, and afterward, my feet were baby soft. She used OPI polish (yeah!) and suggested a color I absolutely loved: Pompeii Purple.

The manicure was just as relaxing; she shaped my nails, as I requested, into perfect square-shaped tips, massaged my hands with intense moisture lotions and did a flawless polish job.

The Special Touch: The salon staff is pleasant and close-knit, and they work hard to make every visit enjoyable. I was asked five times if I’d like something to drink.

The Stats: The Rejuvenating Manicure and Top of the Line Pedicure totaled $57; 6645 Mayfield Road, Mayfield Heights; (440) 442-0229

— Lyndsey Walker

Nail Styling 

The Salon: Hair Innovations, Hudson

The Service: Turning rough, raggedy-nailed hands into soft, supple works of art is the manicurist’s raison d’etre; so maybe I’m just too picky, but I’ve never found a technician who could also apply polish to my satisfaction — that is, until I met nail specialist Holly Ratta. When she asked me to pick a polish color, I resignedly pointed to a pale pink shade, something that would make both my painfully short nails and the expected gaps between cuticle and polish less noticeable. Holly asked me to pick again.

“You have long nail beds, so if you want a real color, it’s OK,” she encouraged.

I selected a more daring shade of frosty lavender, prepared to go home and take the stuff off if the results were anything less than perfect. Holly didn’t disappoint. When the warm mitts came off after my moisturizing wrap, she went to work with ridge filler and base coat, entertaining me with a story about how the people at the manufacturer of the nail polish I’d chosen (Will You Mariachi Me?) actually went drinking to come up with such creative color names. For the first time in my life, I walked out of a salon with 10 glass-smooth little paint jobs, each covering the entire nail from cuticle to tip. More importantly, they survived an entire week that included a marathon house-cleaning without rubber gloves.

The Special Touch: Instead of rushing me out the door, Holly invited me to sit, hands under the nail-dryer, until my polish was impervious to smudging.

The Stats: Manicure with a moisturizing wrap, $21. 1315A Corporate Drive, Hudson; (330) 655-2239

— Lynne Thompson

High-end Mani/Pedi

The Salon: Head Quarters Salon & Spa, Westlake

The Service: Pampering your hands, feet and nails for three hours may seem a touch decadent, but it’s a lot less expensive than the Caribbean vacation you probably deserve.

From the moment I shook Lauren Mitchell’s hand, she focused on making my mani/pedi experience relaxing and invigorating: a luxurious Caribbean manicure and pedicure with all the perks, including a Caribbean bath soak, flower-water mist and hand and foot massages. I’d barely received my mug of herbal tea in the stylishly petite Aveda salon when Mitchell came to escort me into a private room where the footbath was already bubbling. The Caribbean experience included a purifying breathing session and the choice of a “singular note” scent (I chose vanilla oil) to be used in all of the products throughout.

Mitchell carefully trimmed, filed and buffed my nails and patted on the Caribbean therapy flower-water mist. She followed with a massage using Aveda hand and foot relief and then smoothed on two separate exfoliating scrubs followed by steamed towel wraps. Finally, she expertly applied the clear nail gloss that I had chosen and finished with perfect French tips.

A Special Touch: This wasn’t just your typical mani-and-pedi, in-and-out experience. This was truly a spa treatment that enveloped the senses and allowed me to throw all worries and cares aside for three hours of luxury.

The Stats: The manicure was $35 and the pedicure was $60. 189 Main St., Crocker Park, Westlake; 1-800-338-6511

— Renee Rall

Boutique Pedicure

The Salon: Cory’s Hair Studio & Day Spa, Middleburg Heights

The Service: No self-respecting chocoholic can pass up the promise of guilt-free gluttony. “We give you chocolate, minus the calories,” tempted stylist and nail technician Wendy Quesenberry, introducing me to the Chocolate Spa Pedicure, a treatment that blends the confection’s soothing qualities with its flavorful aroma for a decadent morning at the day spa.

As my feet soaked in a chocolate mineral bath, Quesenberry couldn’t help but chuckle at the expression on my face: The treatment’s additional luxuries –– the massage chair kneading my back, the paraffin wax warming my hands –– had left me practically comatose with bliss. She followed the foot soak with a chocolate scrub exfoliant, then brushed on a hydrating, dark-chocolate mousse mask, its texture as creamy as pudding.

After washing off the dried mask, Quesenberry slathered my feet with a chocolate butter cream that smelled good enough to eat (alas, none of this is edible), and then topped off my toenails with a cherry-red polish, ending an hour-long indulgence that felt sinfully good.

The Special Touch: Between the mugs of hot cocoa served at the day spa and the container of chocolate butter cream I got to take home, Cory’s left me with a sugar high and a sweet scent that lingered well into the night.

The Stats: Chocolate Spa Pedicure: $60. 7216 Pearl Road, Middleburg Heights; (440) 888-8864,

— Jennifer Haliburton

French Manicure

The Salon: Spa West, Westlake

The Service: Using the word “French” to describe a beauty process usually denotes simple, sophisticated results. Sadly though, I’ve seen many French manicures go horribly awry. So, although I was well aware of Spa West’s stellar reputation, I was thinking skeptical thoughts as I sat down with Amanda Barty for the pristine white tips I coveted.

“I love doing Frenches,” Amanda said as she began soaking, lotioning and filing. It turned out she was sincere — even after more than two years at Spa West, she maintained a refreshing enthusiasm. I immediately liked her; she was attentive and friendly — the kind of person you’d want to try to fix your brother up with.

She made sure the size of the white tips was what I’d had in mind before finishing my left hand and, as she moved on to my right, I realized that my fears of a tacky, unnatural-looking paint job were gone. This could be the beginning of an expensive addiction.

The Special Touch: Always the impatient customer, I expected a French mani to take longer than the regular manicures I’ve had. But Amanda wielded those tiny brushes swiftly and with impressive attention to detail.

The Stats: French manicure: $30. Spa West Day Spa and Salon, 29109 Center Ridge Road, Westlake; (440) 899-SPAW,

— Clare DeCapua

Curly Hair

The Salon: Michael Stefan Salon, Willoughby

The Service: I’ve been told that I have “amazingly wild and sexy hair.” It’s thick, coarse and very curly — a gift from my Lebanese heritage — and the thought of parting with even an inch of one strand makes me cringe. So when I do succumb to my once-a-year cut (just to banish the split ends), I need someone who won’t be intimidated.

Michael Stefan is my man. The 10-year owner of his salon, Stefan is a second-generation hair stylist and a former Toni & Guy who traveled the country working for the internationally known hair pros.

The salon has a chic atmosphere, with dim lighting and local artists’ work for sale on the walls. Stefan is delightfully unpretentious.

We looked through hair books, and he gave me great tips (my cherished bottle of mousse is, apparently, not always the ideal route to soft, uncrunchy curls — for that, he advocates less washing and more leave-in conditioner).

I wanted to keep the length but create a new style. So he angled the curls around my face. With super-fast cuts he created shortened layers in the back and a face frame.

The Special Touch: Stefan took off the length that I love so much, but my hair’s so bouncy and healthy now, I want it to stay this length — and I never thought I’d want hair this short! I will not wait a whole year ever again.

The Stats: Conditioning and haircut: $38. 4082 Erie St., Willoughby; (440) 946-6644

— Tina Shaerban

Thin Hair

The Salon: Lipstick and Razorblades, Cleveland

The Service: Over the years, I’ve cultivated a deep frustration with my fine, pin-straight hair. The routine goes like this: I sit down in the chair of a stylist with lustrous, curly locks who solves my hair conundrums by making me look like one of the mid-’60s Beatles. And since my favorite stylist moved out of town more than a year ago, I’ve been floating around, coupon in hand, to cheap walk-in chain salons, just to avoid shelling out $50 for a cut my mother can do.

Then I found Lipstick and Razorblades, an eclectic salon tucked away in a warehouse on the Superior Viaduct, overlooking the Flats, staffed by three stylists known for their thin-hair specialty. Alyson Moss sat me down in the lounge area to talk about my hair. I provided samples of indie rockers with edgy yet business-appropriate hair — styles I wasn’t sure my hair was capable of handling.

Moss painted black lowlights on my medium brown hair, creating more definition, shine and texture. The layering in her cut helped provide more body, while the blunt, nonsymmetrical ends made it trendier and a little more rockin’.

The Special Touch: Filled with trendy retro furniture and painted in deep reds and purples, the salon even includes a rack of vintage clothes so you can pick up a hip new outfit to complement your new do.

The Stats: Whole-head lowlights are $85, the cut and style is $45. 2206 Superior Viaduct, No. 202, Cleveland; (216) 687-8115

— Missy Abel

Bang Cut

The Salon: J Romer Salon, Cleveland

The Service: Whether it’s the dreaded “triangle bangs,” a stylist who casually lops off an extra couple of inches or the time we cut our own (big mistake), we all have a bangs horror story. That strip of prime real estate sings a dangerous siren song.
When I railed against my one-length do recently, I decided not to take any chances; nothing but a 100-percent vote of confidence would persuade me to let a stylist near my forehead.

“Michelle Smith,” a friend whispered to me, promising “she understands, she listens, she will give you awesome bangs!” Tempting.

J Romer Salon is a smallish studio tucked into a tiny storefront near Lakewood. With well-appointed stylists’ chairs taking up the bulk of the space, its focus is clearly on hair. And my friend was right — Michelle understood my need for seriously fashionable bangs and listened to me explain how extreme I wanted to go.

She cut them on an angle, working with my cowlick to shape the style. Her approach was meticulous and choosy: The 20-minute process was a symphony of tiny snips, consultation, contemplation and giggling (we were both getting really excited about how my new bangs were fitting in with the hair cut she’d just given me). I ended up with a milder version of the sultry, piecy California-style swoop across the forehead that I never thought I could pull off. My best friend is soo jealous.

The Special Touch: Michelle didn’t even flinch when I described the look I was going for as “a Japanese schoolgirl cut as seen through the eyes of the French.” Now that’s professional.

The Stats: My visit included a wash, blowout, haircut and bang cut and cost $50. 10904 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland; (216) 961-3000

— Amber Matheson


The Salon: Cheveux Salon, Parma

The Service: The older I get, the darker my hair seems to grow in. Gone are the days of natural highlights from the sun. These days, Bobbie Vespoli is my ray of sunshine. She does natural-looking highlights (people are always surprised when they find out I get them) with a weave comb and foil — and she does them for less than the price most stylists charge for a simple cut.

Vespoli divides my hair into sections and weaves out about half the hair in each section to highlight, so the light and dark strands blend together seamlessly. Whether it’s the middle of summer or the dead of winter, I always feel like my hair has been sun-kissed after my visits — just like when I was a little girl.

The Special Touch: After enduring the harsh chemical highlighting process for more than a decade, my hair remains healthy; it’s a tribute to Vespoli’s expertise and experience (she’s been doing hair for 27 years).

The Stats: Included in my 2 1/2 hour visit: a partial highlight (top and sides), wash, cut and blow dry for $47. 6066 Broadview Road, Parma; (216) 661-1200

— Jennifer Dugan

Long Hair

The Salon: Enchantress: The Long Hair Salon, Olmsted Falls

The Service: I love my waist-length hair, but finding a stylist who is willing to listen when I ask for “no more than an inch off the ends” is almost impossible. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to salons for a trim and wound up looking like a hedgehog with bangs. Thanks to owner-stylists Lance Melin and Jody Nisula, those hatchet jobs are ancient history. Enchantress, a small salon across from Grand Pacific Junction in Olmsted Falls, is Cleveland’s long hair expert: Melin and Nisula have studied with international long hair master Dr. George Michael.

I wanted to grow my hair out as long as possible, so Melin assessed its condition (pretty good, but with some split ends) and showed me that about 3 inches needed to be trimmed in order to even out the ends. It would preserve the overall length while eliminating the weak spots that make hair appear straggly and less full. On subsequent salon visits, only “dusting” trims — which remove small amounts of split, dry ends — are needed, helping the hair grow longer and healthier. In all, Melin didn’t cut off more hair than I agreed on. Finally, a stylist who works with me in my quest for ever-longer hair!

The Special Touch: For the finishing touch, I sat under a bright light and Melin, wearing glasses with magnified lenses, twisted sections of my hair and trimmed any split ends up and down the length of the section, which left my hair tangle-free, glossy and full.

The Stats: Haircut with split-end cut: $45. 8061 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls; (440) 235-8550,

— Geli Valli


The Salon: Dante Lucci Salon, Rocky River

The Service: I am one of those women “blessed” with naturally curly hair; add a hint of moisture, and I’m cursed with the frizzes. How I long for smooth, sleek locks. Lately I’ve tried straightening it myself; now my hair is damaged, rough and … still frizzy.

That’s where Nora Swift at Dante Lucci Salon comes in. She’s lived my pain: Swift was also blessed with a full head of ringlets. So when I arrived at the trendy, full-service Rocky River salon for a blowout and style, I was delighted to have a well-educated stylist on my side.

Dante Lucci prides itself on being the only Bumble & bumble concept salon on the West Side. Though other salons in the area carry some B&b products, only Dante Lucci carries the full line.

All Dante Lucci clients get the full B&b treatment: a consultation, cleansing, conditioning and the special ProComplex, a potent dose of nutritive ingredients for your scalp and hair. Swift used the Damage Therapy line of products, which, she explained, actually repairs the hair. She talked me through each step and provided lots of helpful hints specific to my hair type. After she blew my hair dry and gave me chunky ringlets, I was a Bumble & bumble believer.

The Special Touch: My hair stayed soft, supple and frizz-less during an entire night of dancing in the Warehouse District and walking from bar to bar in the rain!

The Stats: My wash, optional deep conditioning masque treatment, blowout and style cost $45. 19365 Detroit Road, Rocky River; (440) 331-7222

— Sara Lepro

Hairstyle Overhaul

The Salon: Dawn Nicole Salon & Spa, Bainbridge

The Service: We all remember that horrible cut and color that had our friends staring at us with pity in their eyes and a secret thought in their minds: “thank God that’s her hair, not mine.” My bad hair experience occurred back in ’99, and ever since I’ve kept an eagle eye on my stylists. Recently, though, I looked in the mirror and realized my hair is so 1999. What’s a girl to do when she needs an overhaul? Head to Dawn DeVincentis for her innovative approach to styling.
The salon breathes bold, vibrant colors with splashes of leopard print. Upbeat music pumps from the speakers. This place has energy.

DeVincentis looked into my eyes as I sat in her chair — and I mean right into my eyes. “Your eyes are cool,” she said. “You have so many colors, we can go almost anywhere with your color.” She asked me what type of clothes I wear, what I do for fun, whose hair I would have if I could have anyone’s hair … then she went to work.

Over the next 2 1/2 hours, color went everywhere: DeVincentis matched some highlights to the colors in my eyes, and used tons of different hues. The cut fits the shape of my face and I’ve found I can really work with it. I feel 25 again, but not stuck in the ’90s.

The Special Touch: She never even picked up a pair of scissors. The entire cut was done with a razor.

The Stats: Color placement analysis, wash, deep condition, scalp massage, blow dry and UV protectant mask: $120. 17800 Chillicothe Road, Bainbridge; (440) 543-9854

— Michelle Lawson

Men’s Cut, Color and Style

The Salon: Laura Lee Salon, Cleveland Heights

The Service: I’m an active, on-the-go professional. Back in my days as an active, on-the-go college student, Hackin’ Harry’s, in Waynesburg, Pa., was good enough for me. But now I need a cut that complements my suit-and-tie lifestyle. For that, I turned to a real salon.

After my visit with Heidi Salkin, a 11-year industry veteran, I felt like a distinguished gentleman walking a red carpet. The successful haircut and highlighting had everything to do with Salkin’s confidence, experienced power of suggestion and her talent for listening. If only our elected officials were so competent. As a conservative Republican, the thought of introducing dark blond highlights into my light brown hair is kind of like inviting Ralph Nader to a GOP fund-raiser. But Salkin painted the highlights as if she were building a bridge between the red states and the blue states. The haircut gave me a suggestion of bipartisanship, a blend of my current look with a touch of open-minded new ideas. The cut was razor sharp, the highlights subtle and the overall look presidential.

The Special Touch: The charming and witty banter in the halls of the salon made me feel right at home. If I closed my eyes I could have been back home at the family table. And for a guy from a big family, I felt as if I had just been adopted into theirs.

The Stats: A wash and haircut were $35 and highlights were $42. 1797 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights; (216) 371-9607,

— Mike Maleski

Stylist to the Stars

Ahh, the glamour and style of Hollywood stars. How do they always look so good? Better yet, where can I get my hair done like that?

I found my spot for the “I want that look” style right here in Cleveland, with Edwin Fontanez — he’s styled the coifs of the guys from Maroon 5 and models who walked the catwalk at New York Fashion Week.

I stepped into his trendy Flats studio and felt as if I were in a Greenwich Village space shut down just for me. A comfy couch, track lighting and the single sink placed right in the center of the open, airy studio gave this space a cool feel.

Fontanez is calm, the picture of sophistication: He was undaunted when I showed him a picture of Reese Witherspoon torn right from the pages of People. He showered me — and my hair — with compliments throughout the cut and dished the kind of gossip you can only get when you’re a fixture on the industry circuit. (Sorry, but what’s said in the salon, stays in the salon. You’ll have to sit in the chair yourself to get the good stuff.)

He cut my hair with layers that allow my naturally straight hair to get that full-volume look Reese has at a movie premiere or that edgy, blunt look for a fun night out. Overall, my new look can be elegant and stylish.

What really matters is that he has the skills to draw celebs. If you were wondering, my hair turned out just like the photo.

The Stats: He styles hair in two private studios by appointment only; his fees range depending on your personal needs. (216) 926-8287 (West Side), (216) 765-1088 (East Side)

— Michelle Berry

Hair Styling

The Salon: Ladies & Gentlemen Salon and Spa, Legacy Village, Lyndhurst

The Service: I made my appointment for a salon-caliber hairstyle with one caveat: I did not want to look like a prom queen. Enter Ken Novak, a master stylist and Aveda Hair Designer of the Year Finalist. “I’m turning 30, and I’m going out,” I told him. “I’m thinking sultry, sexy waves,” he responded. I was sold.

Novak skillfully maneuvered the blow-dryer to give my locks volume. He wrapped chunky sections around a wide-barrel curling iron for modern waves. After shaking out the curls, he teased the crown for runway-ready glamour. It was Farrah Fawcett meets Brooke Shields meets 2006. During dinner that night on the town, I caught the appreciative glances from patrons passing; my date pretended he didn’t. I was 30, and I was hot.

The Special Touch: Expect more than the standard quick shampoo and towel-dry. Hair-care patrons also receive a scalp, hand and arm massage, plus a mini-facial. As part of the regular service, they also provided full Aveda makeup application before I debuted my look. Bonus: This spa does not accept tips — if you like your service, they just ask that you tell a friend.

The Stats: A Ken Novak hair transformation starts at $85, Legacy Village, Lyndhurst; 1-877-888-9670,

— JB

Cut From a Local Celeb

The Salon: Charles Scott Salons & Spas, Rocky River

The Service: Like many people who find their way to Chaz Henline’s chair, I wanted a haircut that was “something different.” (After all, he’s a one-name celebrity in these parts thanks to his amazing cuts.) Other big-name stylists might have taken that as carte blanche and left me looking like a hair model for the day, never caring whether I could duplicate it. But not Chaz. The words “something different” opened the door to a barrage of questions and comments instead.

Henline declared my shoulder-length hair an “OK cut” for me, with the caveat that I could do better if I went for a shorter, face-framing cut to show off my long neck — something easy to care for so I wouldn’t be tempted to pull it back in a ponytail while chasing after my toddler.

He thinks like an artist but works like an architect: He expresses his vision but only builds something you’ll like and be able to care for. And he taught me how to take care of my new do as he styled it. (Wait until it’s almost completely dry to style it with a curling iron, because hair is more vulnerable when it’s wet and easier to damage.) And he urged me to call him if I had any trouble making it look that way.

I didn’t. It’s the easiest, most versatile haircut I’ve ever had. It can be serious and sophisticated or messy and fun. Just like my life right now.

The Special Touch: Chaz calls you about a week after your visit to make sure you’re not having any problems. He’ll bring you back in if you’re unhappy with something or need a styling lesson.

The Stats: The first visit with Chaz includes a consultation and costs $70. Subsequent visits are less depending on several factors. 19025 Old Lake Road, Rocky River; (440) 333-7994,

— Jacqueline Marino

Hair Extensions

I’m jealous, I admit it. Celebs’ long, luxurious locks taunt me every time I open a magazine or turn on the TV. I want that hair! I’m sick of looking in the mirror and facing my mediocre, shoulder-length cut.

Then I discovered Sandi Donafee of Reve Salon in Strongsville. As the education director for the Midwest branch of SO.CAP Hair Extensions, Sandi has been working with SO.CAP for two years and teaching other stylists how to apply hair extensions for six. She meets with me first for a consultation. Discussing why I want extensions, my hair color and what kind I should get — straight, wavy or curly. She explains that she likes SO.CAP because the hair is real (it comes courtesy of India and Europe) and the keratin bond (a protein already found in hair) doesn’t damage the hair like welding, waxing, gluing or knotting can. She mentions that Jennifer Aniston wears the same extensions I’m getting. There are a lot of rules to follow — no towel turbans, no combs, no salt water — but, she warns me, I will become addicted.

The four-to-six-hour application begins at the nape of my neck. Donafee uses a small heating tool to bond the keratin to my hair. When she is done attaching the extensions, she trims off the extra length and gives me some long layers. I look in the mirror and my heart skips a beat: My hair looks amazing. And I am instantly addicted.

The Stats: The hair, application, cut and style can run $1,000 to $1,500 depending on the amount of hair, and the extensions last four to six months. Reve Salon, 17578 Pearl Road, Strongsville; (440) 878-5077

— KS

Growing Out a Short Cut

The Salon: Frizz Hair Experience, Cuyahoga Falls

The Service: Hello. My name is Kelly, and I have a short and funky haircut: platinum-chunked front sections, ultra-short mod bob with long wisps and thick, jagged bangs. I also have a new job complete with a computer, deadlines and an office adjacent to the boss, so I’m not really feeling this punked-out do any more. My mission is to grow out my mop; I need someone who will hold my hand until I get there.

Melissa Lisuch is my guru. A masterful foiler, Lisuch loves taking risks and excels at creating choppy, brightly contrasted and strikingly unique styles. A punk rocker-esque hippie chick herself, Lisuch is trendy and cool. She expertly thinned out the weight of my hair and razored off all the poofy, dead weight, trimming the ends without hacking off all the progress I’d made in growing it out thus far. The result was a style so striking, I was asked to pose for the salon’s portfolio. How fabulous!

The Special Touch: I can count on her for the long haul. She listens patiently to my opposing demands — “I’m growing it out … but look at this adorable pixie cut … no! Only a trim …” — and then gives wise counsel on what will work best for me, my face shape, hair thickness and what’s hot right now.

The Stats: The wash, color (bleach and dye), haircut, blow-dry and style is $100. My visit took about an hour and a half. 3253 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls; (330) 940-2568

— Kelly Wiggins

Ethnic Haircut and Color

The Salon: Noire Blanc, Cleveland

The Service: Some women get goose bumps at the mere thought of getting their hair cut or colored –– they hang on to their dos with an iron grip, fearful that a too-eager stylist will leave their heads looking like science experiments. Not me. “Do whatever you think will look best,” I halfheartedly told the experts at Noire Blanc, echoing the usual indifference I have about my hair. Of course, I knew that here, I’d have the luxury to be nonchalant: Noire Blanc’s name (French for “Black White”) and slogan (“One people, many colors”) suggested my hair type was in good hands. (You want frustration? Try calling a new salon to schedule an appointment, only to be told that no one there is experienced with styling African-American hair.)

With only the vaguest guidance from yours truly, stylist Sunny Smallwood and master stylist Sheena Evans employed their great senses of taste to devise a flattering style with caramel-colored highlights and a layered bob. From the cute look to Evans’ helpful coiffing tips –– wrapping hair in a silk scarf at night: good; using oil-based products: bad –– Noire Blanc managed to get even me enthused about my hair.

The Special Touch: With a bank of flat-screen TVs and clients under hair dryers typing on laptops, Noire Blanc certainly boasts an upscale atmosphere. But their soothing hair-washing room could also have this chic spot doubling as a day spa. Clients are led through a pair of soundproof glass doors into a space where tranquil tunes supplant the salon’s hip world music, the lighting is soothingly dim, and the sinks adjust to your level, rather than forcing you to lean all the way back into a bowl.

The Stats: Cut and style by master stylist: $55; partial color by stylist: $65. 13109 Shaker Square, Cleveland; (216) 991-9992,

— JH


The Salon: Pamplemousse, Chagrin Falls

The Service: I wanted my home-colored medium blond hair to look sexier. To Stephanie Giallombardo, sexy is either very light or very dark … and she wanted to take me to the dark side. But I was nervous. So we compromised on a color between dark blonde and light brown with golden tones as the base or her “canvas.” She then added two different shades of brown as lowlights to bring out richness and depth. (I was hoping my new look would attract the musician-type — and talk about results: I met one the next night).

Stephanie works fast. Separate hair, add foil, brush on color, wrap foil. I was there for 2 1/2 hours, but it sure didn’t seem that long. At 22, she is surprisingly experienced. Stephanie grew up watching and admiring her mother (who also works at the salon) style hair. She started working on her friends’ hair, attended cosmetology school and, at 17, began working at Pamplemousse.

When she finished with my locks, I loved the new look. My hair appeared thicker and shinier than I ever thought possible. Though, due to the darkness of my new hair color, my eyebrows looked too light. So Stephanie quickly brushed on some dye. And minutes later, my brow color was a perfect complement to my hair.

The Special Touch: A little nervous? Ask for a glass of wine (I recommend the red). Plus Stephanie showed me some styling tips that would make my hair part where I wanted it to and stay that way — something I’d rarely achieved on my own.

The Stats: My visit included a single process color application followed by lowlights, wash, blowout and a brow tint: $140. 100 N. Main St. 200, Chagrin Falls; (440) 247-3535,

— Laura Chadwick

Single-Process Color

The Salon: Color Nation, Rocky River

The Service: I strolled into Color Nation on a beautiful fall afternoon, thinking in the vaguest terms about lowlights, bright red streaks and why goth girls’ hair always looks so cool. Angie Pirtle, foil in hand, stood behind my chair, looked into my eyes and had a last-minute change-of-heart: “I’m going to do something different,” she said, pushing the foil cart out of the way. Months later, I’m still grateful for her insight.

Pirtle put a single-process color on my mousy-brown hair; the rich auburn was a far cry from the punky red highlights I’d been musing over, but she saw right through my whims and gave me an elegant, grown-up look that, while subtle, garnered tons of compliments. Plus, it faded naturally and never showed my roots.

The Special Touch: Nothing’s better than a salon where I can feel comfortable on my first visit, and Pirtle and her friends at Color Nation have created a great atmosphere. After years of working together (a large percentage of them came together from another salon), their vibe is relaxed, as if it’s a bunch of super-savvy sisters hanging out, chatting about hair and makeup.

The Stats: A single process color and blowdry starts at $45. Color Nation Salon & Spa, 20033 Detroit Road, Rocky River; (440) 333-HAIR,

— AM

Brazilian Bikini Wax

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she must ask herself: How bare do I dare? When I decided to go all the way, I was feeling a bit naughty but downright scared about my first Brazilian bikini wax. But Kim Rogers, Maxelle’s spa manager and a 10-year veteran of aesthetics, had the perfect soothing-yet-professional demeanor. Think: your favorite aunt when you were a kid.

Kim coached me through the 40-minute process with breathing techniques on the more painful strips and misted my face with cool water when I got too nervous. Sound like childbirth? It wasn’t that bad. The pain was exactly like you’d imagine it, hard but fast.

A week after the procedure, I’m in love with my clean new look and feeling like I must go back next month.

The Stats: The Brazilian wax cost $75. Maxelle’s, The Old Arcade, Hyatt Regency Hotel, 401 Euclid Ave., Ste. 135, Cleveland; (216) 621-4600,

— Jocelyn Jones


The Salon: IBI David Salon & Spa, Westlake

The Service: You know how nobody sympathizes with people who complain about not being able to gain weight? It’s pretty much that way for me, except my problem is that I have too much too-thick hair that just kinda hangs there. The obvious solution is to layer, but five minutes after I step out of a salon with a “layered” cut, someone will helpfully suggest that I ought to try layering my hair. I need a layered cut that actually works.

I was skeptical that stylist Alicia Allison could do any better. But she did, snipping off the heap of hair that lay at my feet and following up with a good deal of texturizing. Other stylists have employed the same trick, but where Allison went right was knowing exactly how much layering and texturizing my hair needed — a lot. The result is that my hair finally has some style. It doesn't just hang in the dreaded wedge shape, but actually frames my face. The added texture does mean my hair is a little frizzier now, so I’m curling and straightening more; but it’s worth it if I have the time. If I don’t, I usually resort to a ponytail. Allison does great work, but the reality for most of us is that great hair takes a little effort of our own.

The Special Touch: Allison does additional cutting after she dries your hair. “The hair lays so much different then,” she explains.

The Stats: Cut and blowout: $45. 30590 Center Ridge Road, Westlake; (440) 871-7440

— Colleen Mytnick

Lash Tinting

Back in the late ’90s, when most of us were still trying to shake off the flannel shirts and low-maintenance looks of the “grunge” era, Mary Tujaka of CC Salon and Spa in Westlake was performing her first lash tints.

Ten years later, she’s an old pro, while the girls in the office are just starting to buzz about the procedure. Who better to go to for my first experience?

The lash tint took about 10 minutes, and can last from four to six weeks. For the next two months, I don’t have to worry about raccoon eyes, clumpy mascara or reapplying.

Tujaka applied black vegetable dye (much safer than the old ammonia-based hair dyes) to my top and bottom lashes with a disposable mascara brush, and they’re noticeably darker now. She knows how to give a great, relaxing lash tint: dimmed lighting, Zen music and a personable, trustworthy demeanor.

The Stats: Lash tint: $20. CC Salon and Spa, 1650 Crossings Parkway, Unit A, Westlake; (440) 835-3200

— Susan Hunter

Eyebrow Waxing

The Salon: John Robert’s Hair Studio & Spa, Solon

The Service: “Eyebrows are my passion,” says Lisa Adams. You’ve probably heard of her (she’s been credited for her work on our pages before) or seen her work: Adams is Cleveland’s go-to gal for the perfect arch. After my last phenomenal aesthetician was deported to Canada — seriously — I figured it was time to settle in with a waxer with staying power, even if it means monthly trips to Solon.

Adams has learned all the tricks during her nine-year tenure at John Roberts; her cool, focused, spot-on wax was the least painful I’ve ever received. Midway through, she stopped, asked me to stand against the wall and did the rest of the procedure upright. She explained that it’s the only way to get an accurate view of how the eyebrows compare to one another, since when I lie down my face shifts a millimeter or two.

The Special Touch: After three rounds of consultation to achieve my final arch, Adams gave me a light touch of makeup — nothing heavy, just a little concealer — so I could face the world without worrying that everyone would see the lingering redness I always get from my waxes.

The Stats: Eyebrow shaping with Lisa starts at $20. John Robert’s Hair Studio & Spa, 33705 Station St., Solon; (216) 839-1430,

— AM

Body Waxing

The Salon: Esthetics by MZ, Woodmere

The Service: When I picked up the phone to schedule my first full-leg wax with esthetician Janet Trivelli, I flashed back to that scene in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” where Renee Zellweger’s eyes widen in surprise and agony as she rips off the first strip of an at-home waxing kit, and desperately wanted to hang onto my razor.

My first experience with mass root-to-tip hair removal, however, was surprisingly bearable. Sure, I gasped — OK, screamed — when Trivelli tore that first length of muslin off the top of my right calf. (“It always hurts most on the bony parts,” she reassured.) But the pain was tempered with periodic applications of a 1-percent cortisone cream, each administered with the care usually reserved for diapering a baby’s bottom and diplomatic tips for improving the skin on my legs. By the time she finished, I was relaxed enough to take a nap.

The Special Touch: Want smooth? Janet inspected her work by running her fingers over each just-waxed stretch of flesh, then removed stray hairs with a pair of tweezers.

The Stats: Full leg wax, including bikini line: $80. 27629 Chagrin Blvd., Woodmere; (216) 591-0420

— LT

Body Bronzing

I still have nightmares about my first “instant tanning” experience. In one hour, I managed to trash my bathroom, flash my best friend and transform myself into a citrus-colored zebra. You can imagine my hesitation before signing up for my first professional body bronzing. So it was comforting when Cheri Heinzerling of Dino Palmieri Salon and Spa in Beachwood talked me through the two-hour process. I was slightly intimidated with going nude, but Heinzerling’s professionalism was reassuring, so I went for it.

The one-hour body scrub/massage from head to toe moisturized and exfoliated the skin to better hold the bronzer. After the scrub, I was left to take a shower and rinse.

Heinzerling returned to apply the bronzing spray, massaging it into my skin while giving me tips to make it last. (Remember: When refreshing the tan, use lotion on dry areas of the body — elbows, knees and feet — before applying tanning spray or these areas may absorb more and become too dark.) I left the salon slightly tan and, per Heinzerling’s recommendation, went to bed with the bronzer on. (It won’t stain your sheets or clothes.) As promised, I woke up a “golden goddess.” The tan was natural looking, safely applied and a therapeutic experience.

Bronzing lasts about seven to 10 days, but as a parting gift Dino Palmieri gives you a bottle of bronzer to freshen and lengthen your tan.

The Stats: Body Bronzing: $125. Dino Palmieri Salon and Spa, 2101 Richmond Road #100, Beachwood; (216) 765-1400

— Lisa Bodrock

Eyebrow Threading

Waxing leaves my brows red and puffy for days. Then my skin rebels and goes into breakout mode. And it hurts. I needed an alternative, and I found it in eyebrow threading.

The first thing I noticed about Aditi Bhatnagar, an aesthetician at Mario’s International Spa in Aurora, was how impeccable her own eyebrows were. Bhatnagar was born in India — that’s where she honed her techniques — and was threading her legs more than 20 years ago.

For my brow shaping, she held a spool of thread in one hand, pulled the loose string taut with her other hand and wrapped it through her fingers into a “V” that whipped out the hairs. At first it pinched, but I quickly relaxed; compared to the eye-watering pain of waxing, this experience was easy. Bhatnagar had complete control over the hairs she removed, perfectly sculpting brows with minimal redness. An hour later, there was no sign of irritation.

The Stats: The eyebrow threading took about five minutes and cost $18. Mario’s International Spa, 35 E. Garfield Road, Aurora; (330) 562-9171;

— KS

Chemical Peel

I’m usually easy to read. When I’m frustrated, a deep crease forms between my eyebrows. When I’m tired, the skin under my eyes gets dark. Alia — just “Alia,” like Madonna, so you know she’s gonna be good — an esthetician at Zen Salon and Spa, recommended a chemical peel because of its superior exfoliation benefits. The peel she uses combines alpha and beta hydroxy acids and helps rejuvenate almost all skin types.

Alia impressed me right away: She addressed my No. 1 question straight up. “Will it hurt?”

“Yes,” she said. “You’re putting acid on your face.”

But before my inner wuss could intervene, she assured me I’d see an immediate benefit from the peel: smoother, clearer skin that feels tight and clean.

So Alia cleansed, rinsed and applied acid to my face. Except for three minutes when my face felt as if it had been powdered with ashes from an inferno, the treatment was tolerable. The Lifting Eye Contour I tacked on to the service definitely increased the relaxation quotient: Alia massaged me while “active marine ingredients” restored the skin around my eyes.

Less than an hour later, it was over. My face looked a little red and felt a little sensitive, but it was even softer than I expected — and those circles around my eyes were nearly invisible. My skin was flaky for a couple days (Alia assured me it’s normal) but by day three, the only indication that I’d had a peel was the glowy radiance in my skin.

The Stats: The chemical peel cost $65. The lifting eye contour treatment cost $20 because it was added to another service. Alone, it’s $35. Zen Salon and Spa, 2718 Lorain Ave. (at West 28th), Cleveland; (216) 939-1760,

— JM

Lifting Facial

The Salon: The Spa at Yellow Creek, Bath

The Service: Jeni Peker’s training is in spa-resort-style facials and body treatments, and it shows. My goal when I booked the Signature Lifting Facial was fresh, youthful skin that would radiate a healthy glow and require less makeup; I didn’t expect the upscale experience that Yellow Creek offers, so it came as a bonus.

Peker, Yellow Creek’s lead aesthetician, introduced my skin to a relaxing series of gourmet treatments (no extractions in sight!), including a deep-cleansing, refreshing masque and moisturizing process. She used an exfoliant made of crushed sunflowers fermented with the essential oils of lemon, thyme and clove to gently buff and renew my tired skin cells. It turns out this facial is good for the body, too. Pekar combined a shoulders and neck adjustment with massage for a sinfully soothing morning, all spent on a cloudlike heated spa table. “You look like an angel,” one friend observed later. “Your skin is glowing,” another said of my firmed, toned complexion. Mission accomplished.

The Special Touch: The Spa at Yellow Creek is the only spa in Ohio that uses Carita products from the House of Beauty in Paris.

The Stats: My morning of pampering was $198, including gratuity already added to the bill. 3636 Yellow Creek Road, Bath; (330) 665-2555,

— JB


“You look better already,” Michael Wojtanowski, M.D., complimented as he swabbed my forehead and “eye squints” with alcohol. “That stings,” I remarked, referring to the harsh feeling of the cleanser, not the reassuring dialogue he maintained during the five short minutes it took to inject 75 units of Botox into my furrowed forehead and experienced eyes.

I was only a little anxious when I parked my car in the lot of the Atrium of Westlake, where his office is intentionally located in the back of the building on the first floor. Privacy is important in his practice. Forget any post-op elevator rides with strangers.

I knew I was in good hands when Wojtanowski told me a patient had traveled from Italy for an appointment earlier that day. And judging from the clean lines and smooth leather of the contemporary furniture in his office, I realized that flawless style is the well-instituted mission.

I felt a series of tiny bee-stings as he administered the Botox, but they stung for just a second. Relaxed and precise, he worked his way around my eyes and forehead.

“Beware of Botox parties,” he warned, noting that a clinical setting is the only appropriate place for such procedures, even though they are faster than a facial wax and far less painful. For that, I’m willing to return in three months for another dose.

The Stats: Botox: $500; Ohio Clinic for Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery, 30400 Detroit Road, Westlake; (440) 808-9315

— By Sue Harmon, as told to Kristen Hampshire

Makeup Lessons

The Salon: b.fazio salon, Lakewood

The Service: I can still remember the drugstore-brand makeup my mother first bought for me when I was a teenager, and the simple tutorial on application she gave me at our bathroom mirror. Now, more than a decade later, besides the addition of a few Cosmo and Vogue tips, I’m still basically doing the same thing. That’s why I jumped at the chance for a personalized “Makeup 101” session taught by celebrity hair and makeup artist Barbara Fazio, who has worked the locks of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities and styled models and celebs in the pages of Lucky and Town and Country.

Her b.fazio salon is a clean, airy studio neatly tucked away in the Huntington Bank building on Clifton Avenue. She wasted no time getting to work — beginning with an eyebrow plucking. Her tweezers whizzing well over what I thought to be the legal plucking speed limit, I was amazed at how many rogue eyebrow hairs it was possible to have. In no time, my face looked instantly brightened by the tamed brows.

Fazio, who has worked in Paris, Madrid and New York, didn’t balk when I spilled out the contents of my makeup bag, thoroughly analyzing what I currently owned, taking her brushes to them when she thought they could work, and judiciously bypassing them for her own when necessary. Starting with a wonderful foundation/concealer duo, she evened out my skin tone. Then, after a hint of loose powder and a quick swipe of an eye-lining pencil, Fazio spent a good amount of time sweeping layer after layer of eye shadow onto my lids, giving me a natural but bold evening look with lots of depth and intrigue. She finished the session by writing out all the products she used onto a worksheet for me.

The Special Touch: Don’t expect any gimmicks here — Fazio’s strategy is to enhance what you’ve got while maintaining a natural, not trendy, look. She’s an advocate of the basics — quality brushes, good products and the cardinal rule: Blend, blend, blend!

The Stats: A one-hour makeup tutorial, which includes an eyebrow shaping: $80. 11742 Clifton Blvd., Lakewood; (216) 529-6050;

— Christine Coolick

Jet Peel Facial

I’m no 22-year-old. My skin is sensitive, problematic and uneven. I try to use natural and/or very mild products, and while I’ve wished for a professional treatment that would make my skin look a little fresher, I’ve always been hesitant about the abrasiveness and recovery times entailed in the procedures.

At Bella Derm Medi-Spa in Westlake, I discovered a gentler alternative to knives, needles and acid.

Skin specialist and owner Richard Annabella met with me for a consultation. He explained several of the spa’s facial rejuvenation options and advised the Jet Peel, a process that directs a stream of oxygen/saline micro-droplets against the skin to oxygenate, hydrate and exfoliate. The procedure, new to the United States, is replacing microdermabrasion in many places because it’s easier on the skin, says Annabella.

Take it from someone who still goes to a kid’s dentist: There was no pain involved with the treatment. It’s like having a high-pressure wash of cold liquid on your face, with the sensation of air blowing through it. If I was uncomfortable at all or needed a break, Annabella said all I had to do was raise my hand — but I never felt the need. The Jet Peel took about 40 minutes and left my skin feeling firm and moist; after a few days my pores appeared much smaller. Annabella explained that while you can’t shrink pores, the treatment reduces the outer layers of skin around the pores, while the infusion of oxygen thickens the dermis to provide smoother skin. One other benefit is that my problem area, the bridge of my nose, is a lot smoother now.

The effects of the treatment can last for months, but Annabella did recommend that in order to get optimal results, I should come back sooner for a couple more treatments.

The Stats: The Jet Peel is $99. 24461 Detroit Road, Westlake; (440) 617-1111;

— Sheila Redifer

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