It was a highly stressful job at IBM that led Barshop to become obsessed with spas and skin care. She began trying different treatments and surfing the Net for better ways to remove hair and even out pigmentation. “I was fascinated with the technology of beauty,’’ says Barshop, who opened Completely Bare five years ago on Madison Avenue. Her own skin is now flawless, and the casual but trendily dressed Barshop opened a second spa in 2002 and is about to open a third in Barneys. Her focus was originally permanent hair removal and technology to diminish dark spots, but now she offers myriad facials ($135–$450), from a stimulating paprika cleansing to a high-tech polish with intense pulsed light. 764 Madison Avenue, at 65th Street; 212-717-9300. 103 Fifth Avenue, at 17th Street; 212-366-6060.
When Japanese native Shizuka Ikeuchi, a single mom, took her two young sons to see famed Upper East Side dermatologist Robert Bernstein, she and the doctor struck up a friendship that eventually led to marriage. “The boys were really in need of a father figure,’’ remembers Bernstein. She became fascinated with her husband’s field, and in 1995 she started doing facials at his office, as well as at a spa in Glen Rock, New Jersey. By 1999, she was so busy that she opened a space in New York, a Zenlike setting that reflects her own tranquility. Her original following was largely Asian, including well-known Japanese actors, but a wide range of clients has since discovered her luxurious facials and treatments, including Shiatsu foot, hand, and neck massage ($115), a protein-and-mineral-packed pearl mask ($115), and an aromatherapy-infused body wrap ($100). 133 East 58th Street; 212-644-7400.
Office of Dr. Aron Kressel
Bicaj’s blonde curls and porcelain skin give her an angelic aura a bit at odds with the high-tech machines she operates, like the splotchy-skin-fighting Perfecter ($210), which has improved the complexions of Sofia Coppola, Ivana Trump, and Lenny Kravitz. Before coming to New York in 1992, she taught European literature at university and worked as a cosmetician in her native Kosovo. “Coming to me was the only escape most of these women had,’’ she says. Her first job here was with Biologique Recherche, the French company that pioneered the electronic muscle-stimulation lifting technique. The company sent her to Paris to learn the machine, and now she trains the facialists who come through the program and sees clients in plastic surgeon Kressel’s offices. 629 Park Avenue, at 65th Street; 212-772-6968.
Piercing blue eyes and exotic good looks didn’t keep Djerradine from being dubbed “Mrs. Frankenstein” when she was one of the first to use electric current on Manhattan faces. “People were used to steam and masks; all of a sudden they saw wires,” Djerradine says with a laugh. She began by giving seaweed wraps when she moved here from Paris in 1986 and has been innovating ever since. At her skin-care salon, which has catered to high-profile New Yorkers from Nina Griscom to Jerry Seinfeld, your legs can rest in lymphatic drainage boots, said to increase circulation and prevent varicose veins ($60), while you receive one of Djerradine’s famous facials (from $120). She also caters to post-op plastic- and laser-surgery patients, helping restore movement and reduce swelling. But she isn’t totally high-tech; she still offers acupuncture. “My grandmother was a healer, working with herbs," she explains. “I think it's just in my genes." 30 East 60th Street; 212-588-1771.
After working as a makeup artist for seventeen years, first in her native London and then in New York, Tracie Martyn went to beauty school and started doing facials out of her home in Brooklyn. She built up quite a fashion following, and soon John Galliano, Valentino, and Steven Meisel were coming to see her for her age-defying combination of microdermabrasion and electronic muscle stimulation ($265), or microdermabrasion and oxygen-mist finish ($200). Galliano sent flowers after his session, and Meisel sent Linda Evangelista five times before her big comeback Vogue cover. Martyn opened a salon on Fifth Avenue in 2000, and now that the Hollywood set has discovered her, it's hard to go for an appointment without bumping into the likes of Renée Zellweger, Meg Ryan, or Sandra Bullock. Gwyneth Paltrow gave her mother, Blythe Danner, a gift certificate for Martyn facials. 59 Fifth Avenue, at 13th Street; 212-206-9333.
Unlike some aestheticians, who speak in whispers and barely have a pulse, Regina Viotto is a bundle of positive energy. Being low key probably wouldn’t have worked in a household with four girls, all of whom went into the beauty field. “My poor father. Our house was beauty central,’’ she says. Viotto got a license to do skin care while she was still in high school and began helping people with problem complexions. She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, worked in the garment district for a spell, and in 1990 opened her own small skin-care center in Soho. But in 1995 she went to work for Paul Labrecque, helping him open his salon in the Reebok Sports Club on Columbus Avenue. Now a partner there and at the location on East 65th Street, she creates all the spa’s treatments. Her signature is a thorough cleansing facial ($125). She has worked in product development for both Estée Lauder and dermatologist Dennis Gross, and counts Queen Noor and Diane Lane among her clients. 160 Columbus Avenue, at 67th Street; 171 East 65th Street; 212-988-7816.
Karla Khouri has always been an athlete. As a child, she played sports with her father, who is Jamaican, Syrian, and Indian. “We had a chin-up bar in the house,’’ she recalls. At first she planned to be a coach or trainer but found, she says, that “I like to ease emotional stress, which people hold in the muscles. For some clients, it’s like a therapy session; they talk about their problems. By the end of the massage, their muscles feel completely different—even their breathing patterns change.’’ Next, she’s planning to become a physician’s assistant in surgery. “I understand motion, and I want to really understand muscles and joint movement. I’m ready for the next step.’’ $75 per hour. 47 West 57th Street; 212-371-4542.
Grace Gao Macnow
If you’ve heard of qi gong but don’t get what all the fuss is about, one session with Macnow will create a memorable understanding. Her shop, tucked away on an unslick midtown block, is decidedly no frills, but the experience is not. As Macnow explains it, the qi, or energy, she and her staff direct through clients’ meridians (central points on the body), as they lie on heated-and-padded tables, opens up the blockages that cause pain. The work is deep and completely clarifying. It’s qi, says Macnow, that gives strength and intensity to kung fu punches; it’s apparently also a force to heal and relieve insomnia, anxiety, and tension. “New Yorkers,” she says with a sigh. “They work so hard.” Her clients come from as far away as Ireland, Canada, and Japan—“lawyers, bankers, TV executives, Kevin Bacon!” she adds, noting, “The good price doesn’t hurt.” $60 per hour. 1097 Second Avenue, at 58th Street; 212-593-9904.