So you're not a diva who travels with a makeup artist in your entourage?Well, there's hope for you yet. In major cities, a new class of beauty boutique is cropping up where personal attention and expert advice are the hallmarks. As antidotes to the assault of the department-store counters, these cosmetics meccas have plush furniture, large mirrors, and a refreshing play-all-you-want attitude.
Despite its Scandinavian name, Face Stockholm is a trendy Manhattan store in SoHo, filled with delightfully irreverent beauty accents. A row of molded heads from Sweden occupies a shelf. The cash register is stacked atop an antique altar holding large gold candlesticks. One case displays a huge selection of false eyelashes; another cabinet is devoted to a technicolor array of nail polish.
Counters are crammed with blush brushes and silver-tubed lipsticks. And because this is New York, where everyone vies for media attention, the shop's funky names broadcast loud and clear: Blue Silver (lipstick) and Angel Pink (eye shadow). Among the celebrity devotees who snap up these brazen beauty accessories are Marisa Tomei and Gwyneth Paltrow. Makeup artist Gary Greco, who has no qualms about discussing his star clients, will proudly show you the favorite nail polish of Bette Midler (Violet #78) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Bronze #40)—and then give you the same treatment the stars get. If you're uptown, visit the store's second location, on the Upper West Side. Face Stockholm 110 Prince St.; 212/334-3900.
The spacious cosmetics area of Stanley Korshak, a specialty store adjacent to the Hotel Crescent Court, is where you'll find Texas socialites, Saudi princesses, and, generally, the kind of women who already know a thing or two about personal upkeep. They come for Korshak's limited-edition labels and the shop's extraordinary array of Shu Uemura sable makeup brushes.
Along with the top brands (Chanel, La Prairie) is the Cellex-C skin-care line, available mainly through dermatologists. (Plastic surgeons have been spotted replenishing their supplies.) For a makeover, book an appointment with chief artist Audrey Elliott, who works wonders. And don't leave without buying one of the store's elegant black velvet cosmetics bags. Stanley Korshak 500 Crescent Court, Suite 100; 214/871-3631.
Before hopping the lift on Ajax, the glitterati often stop at Cos Bar, a European-style emporium. Exposed brick walls, stained-glass windows, and maple trim are offset by high-tech display cases and Italian chandeliers. The shop carries an exhaustive selection of products from top lines like Bobbi Brown, Borghese, Chanel, Clarins, Clinique, Lancôme, and Origins. But the line of the moment is Laura Mercier, created by the woman responsible for Madonna's Evita look. Her Secret Camouflage concealer is already a best-seller, as is her blood-red lipstick called (what else?) Madonna.
Spa services include body wraps, lash tinting, and makeup application (prices range from $12 to $100). What keeps Bogner-clad clients coming through the door, however, is a product they can't get anywhere else: Prescriptives' High Altitude Cream, which acts as a lubricant, an SPF-15 sunblock, and a wind-burn preventive. (It's also available by mail order.) Cos Bar 309 S. Galena St.; 800/722-8982.
When you enter Estée Lauder's white-and-gold boutique-the first free-standing one in the country-you may be greeted by petite, dark-haired "beauty ambassador" Alisa Castillo. (No kidding: it's an official company title.) She is also a former Miss Nevada, a noteworthy distinction in a state where six-foot-tall showgirls are the norm. Not surprisingly, when Castillo's clients come in for a makeover, they're seeking a dramatic change. "They want something glamorous. Our specialty is eyes; lots of eyeliner."
Since this is Vegas, many of the beauty advisers are trained in theatrical makeup. If you want to look like an assistant for Siegfried & Roy, this is the place for you. Naturally, the store carries Lauder's entire range of makeup and skin-care products. If you're in town just for the action, stop by anyway and buy a compact-in the shape of a roulette wheel. Estée Lauder Forum Shops at Caesars; 702/737-9011.
Celebrities like Jessica Lange and Teri Hatcher have beaten a path to Valerie Beverly Hills. The salon, which expanded two years ago, carries a huge range of makeup and accessories. What's the buzz these days?According to owner Valerie Sarnelle, brow styling is big business; she shapes, highlights, and dyes eyebrows for about $35. Not all of Sarnelle's disciples are women—James Caan has been spotted.
The showcases display Sarnelle's line of custom-blended cosmetics (200 colors to choose from). Regulars love the lipstick packs—Melrose Place's Heather Locklear picked up a "Kissing Kit." Makeover appointments are hardest to come by just before the Academy Awards. If you're publicity-shy, a makeup artist will visit your hotel room. Now, that's superdiva status. Valerie Beverly Hills 460 N. Cañon Dr.; 800/282-5374.
Shane Mitchell, a freelance writer living in New York, contributes to Bride's and Saveur.