Now, as we all know, with beauty services in Shanghai, you can pay a lot or you can pay a little. Two options. We're assuming you already know how to pay a lot -- beauty solutions for rich people, they're definitely out there. But for those of us looking to pay a little, there's time and a huge amount of risk involved in finding what's good and what's shanzhai. There's trauma, there's humiliation, there's the distinct possibility of never leaving your apartment ever again. Read on, then, for a bunch of budget beauty shop recommendations that we've personally vetted. We’ve gone through that trial-and-error process for you. We've tried all these first hand and walked away satisfied and ever so pretty, my goodness!
Here's some hidden gems in Shanghai’s beauty market that will have you looking your best.
Nail salons are a dime a dozen in Shanghai and range from 30rmb basic manicures to the extreme bedazzled fake nail promotions that can cost upwards of 400rmb. Nail shops are pretty low risk anyway, but Xian Yi Mei Jia is the one we like the go out of out way for because they know their craft.
Case in point: The desired look for today was matte nails -- that no-shine polish that first hit the runways in 2010 and has since resurfaced sporadically as a nail trend. In looking for a salon to pull this off, time and time again we walked into salons and were met with visibly annoyed technicians and prices of 150rmb or more. Xian Yi Mei Jia's manicurist ChuChu took a second-long glance at a photo of matte nails before reaching into her bag and pulling out various bottles, including some OPI papaya scented oil for the dry cuticles that always start occurring at this time of the year. Swayed by her confidence and by the price -- 55rmb -- we got started. The end result achieved the matte look to a T and we have yet to see a chip. Thumbs up.
Address: 132 Weifang Lu, near Laoshan Lu | 潍坊路132号崂山路口
Other suggestions (coming from the author, our staff, and sisters we know):
We like Red Nail Salon at 1129 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Shaanxi Bei Lu, for artsy fake nails. Sometimes you want little mustaches individually painted on your nails, just go with it.
In the Jiaotong Uni / Dada hood, we've always had good experiences at Perfect Nails on the corner of Xinhua and Panyu Lu for basic manicures and pedicures.
Also in that hood is Shawty Manicure. We haven't been, but the name alone warrants mention, and the Dianping reviews are solid.
EYELASHES - The Semi-Perms
East Apparel Gifts is a far cry from the city center, but this outlet offers a truly impressive selection of beauty services and products. For your eyelashes needs, you're looking for Xixi Nails and Lashes (English sign might say Sissy Nails), located on the third floor. Xixi specializes in one of the most popular beauty trends in Asia: semi-permanent false eyelashes. Individual eyelashes are glued on the eyelid one at a time to create a fuller, doe-eyed look. Prices vary from 120-380rmb depending on the quality, style, and type of eyelashes used. They are placed until the look is determined complete, without setting a numerical limit, unlike many places that charge by the number of eyelashes. The process takes approximately 30 minutes per eyelid, and the quiet atmosphere and deft hands of our eyelash technician had us snoring within minutes.
We woke up an hour later to some fuller, longer and eyelashes that eliminate the need to wear eyeliner or mascara. These false eyelashes last for up to three weeks if kept dry and undisturbed.
Xixi Nails and Lashes offers free removal services, although they warn us that some original lashes may be lost in the process. A non-oil based cream is applied to the lashes and they are gently removed. Eyelash perms are also offered for 80rmb -- an adhesive chemical that reforms the bonds of the hair is put on the eyelashes, causing them to curl without the use of heat (definitely not FDA approved).
Address: 3/F, 20 Guoji Lu, near Xiangyin Lu | 国济路20号3楼, 近翔殷路
Waikiki 69 at 370 Changle Lu, near Maoming Lu, is good for long-lasting false eyelashes. It is cute, clean, and Hawaiian themed. They specialize in nails but also have a good reputation for lashes.
Lastly, Yuan Jing Eyelash Salon on 515 Hankou Road Room 806-808 is good for all things lashes. On the pricier side, but gives you a real salon experience with nice and quiet facilities.
One thing Chinese women take very seriously is their complexion. Spa treatments can get really pricey here, with prices ranging from a couple hundred to thousand of kuai at high-end and hotel spas. If you're on a budget, Xiang Man Li Er spa is both a spa and health and wellness center for women, and they do great facials. In an exclusively female environment, for just 120rmb you can get an hour long facial, complete with gentle massage, cleansing lotions, and pore extractions. The salon almost exclusively uses Charmeleur products, a French skincare line popular in China that incorporates oriental herbs and ingredients. Free eyebrow shaping is also available upon request with any service.
A gentle moisturizing mask is applied at the end of the facial, as soothing, meditative music plays softly in the background. As it sets, the hands and arms are massaged with aromatic oils. Hui Yuan Spa is, above all else, an advocate for female health and also offers massage services to alleviate menstrual cramps and muscle pain, acne, and anti-wrinkle treatments, and by no uncertain terms the ultimate in Chinese beauty -- facial lightening. You might not be looking for that, though...
Xiang Man Li Er spa is difficult to find because the street numbers appear to stop short. After reaching the intersection of Lujiabang Lu and Nanchezhan Lu, walk down Lujiabang until you see a sign on a gate that says "富南大厦," turn left and walk around the building to locate the entrance.
Address: Rm 607, 976 Lujiabang Lu, near Nan Chezhan Lu | 陆家浜路976号富南大厦607室, 近南车站路
We also like Oyi Spa at 608 Xikang Lu for hot stone massages and facials. Most rooms come with personal bathrooms and showers, and they have good discounts on Dianping, too.
Although it is possible to find standard eyebrow maintenance services in Shanghai at popular spots like Browhaus, it can get a little pricey if you've got consistent brow issues. (100rmb for a basic tweezing job.) The most popular and surprisingly cheap method of brow upkeep by locals in Shanghai is to shape them by shaving. A small razor is used to shape the eyebrow, and scissors are used to trim any stray hairs. This method is considered superior to the more popular techniques of waxing, tweezing, or threading unwanted hairs because the Chinese believe that other methods pull on the skin too much, causing it to loosen over time. Take that how you will. Droopy eyebrow flaps don’t sound very appealing, though, so we decided to give eyebrow shaping a shot.
At In Beauty Salon, the eyebrow shaping -- for only 10rmb -- is on point. The technician cleaned her razor thoroughly with some rubbing alcohol before she got started and had the brows finished in under 5 minutes. Although this method will require more upkeep in the long run as the hair will grow back more quickly, it was a nice change to not have red marks around my eyebrows or tears squeezed out of the corners of my eyes when it was all over. They also offer permanent eyebrow and eyeliner tattoos for 300-600rmb.
Which is... esh. Up to you really.
That being said, a harmless and cheap eyebrow shaping is well worth your time. Also, next door at 212, there's a Korean-style spot doing temporary eyebrow tattoos, which is popular right now.
Address: Rm 215, 2/F, 8 Dapu Lu, near Xujiahui Lu | 打浦路8号二楼215室, 近徐家汇路
Brow Show at 2F, 1138 Pudong Nan Lu, near Zhangyang Lu. Upon request, technicians can offer advice on maintaining eyebrow shape and show you techniques on how to best fill eyebrows in with make up.
While it is generally quite amusing to try out different beauty trends in Shanghai, there is one thing we don’t want to get experimental with, and that is our hair. Haircuts at a clean, professional Chinese-language salon generally start at 120rmb, and a lot can be lost in translation -- including your identity when you walk out in tears without the haircut you wanted.
The hunt for the perfect no-nonsense and no-fear haircut lead us to the Shanghai Hairdressing Association Beauty Center. A glance inside won’t immediately reveal what services are offered here. Around 30 middle-aged people wearing white collared shirts, mostly well into their late forties, lounge around until they are given something to do. For just 60rmb you can get a full service hair cut. You pay up front, get your ticket, and are directed to different stations for your service, starting with a head, neck and shoulder massage. This place has been open for over 30 years and many of the employees have been there from the very beginning. None of the employees are young and hip, with the trendy haircuts or their hair dyed strange colors that you see around town.
But here's the thing: For that reason, we can guess that they don’t even have the capability to majorly fuck up your hair. They're not going for pyrotechnics.
If you're looking for a simple haircut with nothing fancy, SHABC is the perfect solution. We got a nice upper body massage, wash, trim and blow-dry that we were completely satisfied with. It isn’t terribly hip and they won’t treat you like a celebrity, but it is neat and professional and they will get the job done for a reasonable price, without any hassle.
Address: 28 Yandang Lu, near Huaihai Lu | 雁荡路28号, 近淮海路
If you're in the Lujiazui / Dongchang Lu hood, a solid place is the Dongying Salon. Nothing special, but good service and consistent.
BONO Salon on 870 Wuding Lu is very popular with laowais for its good service and decently priced haircuts, although some locals complain that the prices keep going up. No appointment is necessary.
Some tips for dealing with beauty treatments in China:
- It is best to bring a photo of the exact look, size, and shape you're after, just in case there is a miscommunication or the artist decides to take their own creative liberties.
- Check if the store has a warranty that allows you to come back within a certain period to get touch-ups.
If you know of other good places, leave 'em in the comments. Good luck, girls!