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Expat Salon Review

How do you say perm in Russian? Those who havent worked out all the nuances of the Russian language, or simply long for a beauty salon like back home, flock to Toni Lockhart-Saydkhuzhins Expat Salon, which opened its second outlet last month. The friendly South Carolina native started the enterprise in 2003 with the hunch that expats and Russians alike would welcome Western-style beauty services. By all accounts, she was right. Within a two months of opening the first salon on Skaterny Pereulok, they broke even; within two years, another location was needed, as they were turning away customers in droves.

In the second week of June, that second, larger Expat Salon opened in the vicinity of Patriarshiye Prudy. It offers the same range of services, creature comforts and on-site English-language assistance that loyal customers have come to expect plus a few new gadgets.

When Passport visited, the month-old salon, tucked away on leafy Maliy Patriarshiy Pereulok, was already bustling with customers.

The set-up is even better, says the owner, who splits her time between the two locations. From the reception desk I can see the salon area, and move quickly to intervene if theres a language miscommunication between the stylist and the customer.

The open layout also fosters an expat sorority atmosphere thats one of the salons main draws: between procedures, ladies sip complimentary tea, read Western magazines and catch up. Men, however, arent excluded from the club. According to Lockhart-Saydkhuzhin, they account for 25% of the clientele. When we dropped by, several men were enjoying the standard 1,350-rouble shave and haircut.

The new Expat Salon, like the first outlet, positions itself as a beauty clinic as well as a salon. Off the main hair area, there are separate rooms for nail, massage and cosmetic procedures, which are cleaned and sanitized to a degree that eludes other salons. I was taken under the wing of the white-coated Darya, a licensed dermatologist, for one of the salons most popular procedures, the basic facial (2,500 rubles). As a soothing New Age soundtrack played in the background, she cleansed my pores and hydrated and moisturized my skin with products from French skincare line Payot, then finished the procedure with a relaxing massage.

According to Darya, the main advantage of hiring a licensed professional is they are able to diagnose the patients exact skin type and problem. More advanced procedures such as chemical peels (2,000 rubles), microdermabrasion (from 2,400 rubles) and varicose vein removal (275 rubles per pulse) are available, and the clinic will add Botox and collagen injections to the list of services once it receives the necessary license.

Receiving most attention at the new Expat Salon is one of its most expensive additions: the LPG Endermologie machine. The latest in non-invasive anti-cellulite technology, it massages the cellulite out of the skin. Does it work?

It better work: it costs 28,000 euros! laughs Lockhart-Saydkhuzhin.

Predictably, time with the miracle machine does not come cheap. One 45-minute session is 2,500 rubles, and patients are encouraged to make up to 20 visits for best results. According to their dermatologist, despite its hefty price tag, anti-cellulite therapy is one of the most popular procedures at the Expat Salon, next to electrolysis.

Business must be good if they are able to expand into such hightech beauty territory. In three short years, Expat Salon has achieved the status of a beauty salon chain, making it one of the success stories in the expat business world. Though running a business in Russia, a country notorious for its red tape, can be difficult, Lockhart-Saydkhuzhin says that it is ultimately incredibly rewarding.

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