Wax on, wax off. Ouch.

A look at the range of services offered by a few of the many spas and salons in Reno

Christy Mahone at Purity Medical Spa preps a client for treatment in the Hydrotherapy Capsule.

Christy Mahone at Purity Medical Spa preps a client for treatment in the Hydrotherapy Capsule.

Photo By David Robert

Patricia Mansfield arguably performs more Brazilian waxes than anyone else in Northern Nevada. “I see more women’s private parts than most gynecologists,” she said.

Mansfield, who owns Paragon Salon, 550 W. Plumb Lane (826-3555), is what is known as an aesthetician, which is today’s term for what used to be known as a beautician, before creating personal beauty became so complex that it involves, among many other things, removing unwanted hair from highly sensitive body areas.

She works in a private room on a table that adjusts to almost any position imaginable. The table is covered in down padding, flannel coverlets and plush white sheets. The lighting is subdued and dances off the French-inspired deco artwork on the walls. The room is accented with medical-looking equipment. A facial machine sends out a gentle hiss of steam. A waxing device wafts the gentle aroma of vanilla-scented wax. It is, all in all, the perfect place for such an intimate service.

A Brazilian wax is the art of hair removal from a woman’s private parts, both vagina and anal area—you know, “down there"—and Brazilians require a great deal of professionalism, accuracy and someone you can, ahem, trust.

“My clients have to get down on their hands and knees, so I can reach the parts that need to be waxed,” said Mansfield, who is warm and petite with stylish blond hair. Her softness and matter-of-factness make a person instantly comfortable when talking about what shapes they want their pubic hair trimmed into. Mansfield is not the kind of person you would imagine spending the majority of her day below other people’s waistlines; after a dozen years performing Brazilian waxes, however, she claims a unique place in the pantheon of Reno’s beauty industry.

That industry has exploded in recent months. According to the Nevada State Board of Cosmetology, in 2003 it issued nearly 500 licenses to beauty salons, hair-cutting establishments and spas in Northern Nevada.

Reflecting national trends, Reno’s local beauty industry has expanded the idea of what it takes for the average hottie to look even hotter. Consider:

Patricia Mansfield at Paragon Salon will wax parts of your body that the light of day will, or maybe, rather, should, never touch.

Photo By David Robert

1. Day spas: Day spas provide mini-vacations from the doldrums of everyday life, specializing in multiple-hour treatments including massages and body wraps. Day spas are quiet places to escape from daily stresses. Paragon is considered a day spa. Another is Salon Neaz and Day Spa, 770 Smithridge Drive, 826-1888.

2. Mega salons: Mega salons, like the name suggests, provide salon services on an epic scale. A mega salon needs at least 30 stylists and technicians under one roof. Revelations, 5045 S. McCarran Blvd., 826-1400, and Genesis, 250 Crummer Lane, 828-9797, are two local salons that have more than 50 stylists on staff.

3. Hotel and casino spas: Hotel and casino spas are in a separate category, as they cater predominantly to tourist patrons and benefit from mass-marketing campaigns. They offer all the services—a little hair cut and a lot of day spa.

4. Boutique salons: Boutique salons are smaller in stature and offer hair, nail, skin, tanning and retail services. Reno enjoys a surprising number of upscale boutique salons focusing on high-end, world-class artistry.

5. Medical spas: Medical spas operate under a doctor’s supervision and provide Botox injections and laser treatments. These spas do not cut hair or do manicures. If you thought Botox happened only in Hollywood, boy, are you wrong! Medical spas are a multi-million-dollar business right here in Reno.

Tamara Schnarr owns the boutique salon Aslan, 635 Sierra Rose Drive, 829-9922. Aslan’s 14 stylists cut, color and treat all kinds of hair, perform Japanese hair straightening and offer extensions “just like Britney Spears and Mandy Moore.” They are unique because they specialize in hair only.

“We made the decision to make hair our focus,” says Schnarr, who’s in her mid-30s and today is dressed sharply in black. She has inviting brown eyes and the kind of stylish hair generally seen only in magazines. “Lots of other salons cross over into other services, but we felt by investing in a salon that only did hair, we could raise the bar for all other hair salons in Reno.”

Ellen, a 50-ish call center worker with badly damaged hair, and Darcey, a late-20s computer analyst with thick, brown hair, recently visited Aslan.

Trina Kowatch, one of 14 stylists at Aslan, styles Michelle Dotson’s hair. Aslan is one of the few salons in town that does hair and nothing else.

Photo By David Robert

Darcey’s full hair was cut and trimmed; she had so much of it, it took two sweepings to remove all the hair from the wooden floor. Aslan is one of Reno’s more beautiful salons, with warm wood fixtures stained to match the light maple floor. The space has many windows that provide unlimited natural light. There’s a private patio out back where a garden, fountain and other amenities for client relaxation are being added. Darcey went from a mop of hair to a stylish, easy-care cut that framed her face and took a good 10 pounds off of her appearance.

Ellen’s hair was a greater challenge. First, Schnarr conditioned Ellen’s hair using an admittedly expensive product called Kerastase. Ellen’s hair was so damaged you couldn’t pull a comb through it—it looked like fake fur from an old Chevy dashboard. After an hour of treatment, Ellen’s hair was transformed into a tawny, buttered blond that looked healthy and strong.

“I can’t believe it’s my hair,” Ellen exclaimed. In a testament to Aslan, both women made appointments to return in six weeks. “I didn’t think I could afford it,” Ellen said, “but I realized what I really can’t afford is to have terrible looking hair—my hair never looked so good.”

Aslan’s staff is a group of well-educated stylists—many have trained in San Francisco and New York—invigorating the local scene. Other boutique salons of merit include Blue, 1170 South Wells Ave., 329-4555, and Metro, 121 California Ave., 786-7720.

Purity Medical Spa, 640 W. Moana Lane, 827-2828, is adjacent to the Skin Cancer and Dermatology Institute. Like clinics in Hollywood, Purity benefits from strong referral relationships with local dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.

“We offer our clients state-of-the-art medical services, whether they be Botox and Restylane injections or laser removal of hair and veins in the face,” said Holly Hagen, spokeswoman for the clinic. “There is no reason to go to San Francisco—we can perform those treatments right here.”

Anyone who has picked up a Vogue magazine or enjoyed Extreme Makeovers knows about Botox, an injection procedure that relaxes facial muscles to reduce the effects of aging. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that the Botox industry alone is a billion-dollar business. This and other procedures are so popular at Purity, they are open six days a week and stay open after normal business hours three days a week.

Purity also offers body wraps, makeovers and the city’s only hydrotherapy capsule, a procedure in which a person receives moisture treatment, exfoliation and a mini shower in a cylindrical device that looks like something that got Ethel and Lucy into trouble on I Love Lucy.

As a medical spa, Purity is mostly white and antiseptic and the kind of place you would expect to operate under a physician’s supervision, although medical spas are not exclusively in hospital-like settings. Genesis, a longtime presence in the Reno beauty market, offers traditional hair cutting, skin care and manicure services in addition to medical-spa services. Medical spas are literally where cutting-edge science merges with the art of being beautiful.

Whether you prefer a Supercut, have gone to the same hair dresser for 10 years or like your beauty on the edge, both artistically and technologically, Reno is far from being in the dark ages. Everything that exists in a major city is here in our own back yard and that is a good thing—so long as you don’t mind Patricia Mansfield, the Brazilian waxing queen of Northern Nevada, approaching you with a tub of hot wax and telling you to get down on all fours.