Express Beauty

Christina Parrella

The modern woman who shops at Sephora or MAC might not think of it, but she is continuing a tradition of beauty that stretches back some 8,000 years. In the past, beauty regimens were more far more involved—women of Mesopotamian society, circa 3500 BC, ground semiprecious jewels and applied them to their lips and around their eyes, while Cleopatra is said to have used a mixture of crushed bugs to paint her lips red (a manufacturing method that is still used today by certain cosmetics companies).

People of long ago—or even from recent centuries past—might have spent hours on their beautification routines. Today's women just don't have the sort of leisure time for such elaborate techniques, but for many the art of the beauty regimen remains, needless to say, essential. With that in mind, a number of local salons, spas and even transportation hubs have introduced express grooming services and mobile experiences for those seeking to integrate beauty rituals into their hectic lives.

Women who want a manicure but don't want to leave their cubicle can call on Manicube. This mobile operation offers basic 15-minute manicure treatments (longer ones, too), at your workplace, for about the price a regular salon would charge. The service is currently limited to select corporations, so check Manicube's website for details. A service available all throughout the five boroughs, MySpa2Go, similarly brings treatments to home or office, allowing customers to indulge in manicures and pedicures, facials, massages or even a soothing yoga session.

If you're looking for a well-crafted yet expedient blow-dry in an elegantly hip setting, a number of “anti-salons” sprinkled throughout the City can fill your needs. Drybar was one of the first to emerge in NYC, and focuses on precisely that signature service. For $40, customers can choose from a menu of hairstyles—named after cocktails like the Manhattan, the mai tai and the cosmo—or get a simple blowout. Other possibilities include moisture treatments, appropriately called “shots,” and a 10-minute head massage known as a “floater.” Upon arrival at DreamDry, customers are offered champagne and can flick through iPads equipped with a slideshow of possible styles. This mini-chain, owned by celeb-stylist Rachel Zoe, serves up more than just blowouts: the beauty shop's artisans can shape hairdos such as fishtail braids, messy ponytails and sleek buns. Blow, which has an express outlet on the first floor of Macy's Herald Square, is another innovative blow-dry and styling destination. Shoppers can rest their feet and treat themselves to no-wash hairstyling for $20, choosing from looks that might be sleek and smooth or wavy and textured.

There are other beauty outposts that have popped up in unexpected places throughout the City. If you want to look just right upon arriving at your destination, or want to add some glow while traveling with your beau, pick up the raw materials for a touch-up at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Benefit Cosmetics has opened up beauty kiosks, named Our Glam Up & Away, at terminals 2 and 5. The kiosks carry Benefit products such as mascara, foundation and blush, allowing for instant beauty fixes. Benefit also offers quick brow treatments at its Brow Bar location in Bloomingdale's (there's also one at Bloomingdale's SoHo). At this bubblegum-colored nook on the first floor of the department store, customers can achieve the perfect brow arch from waxing, plucking and tweezing procedures, which are fast if not entirely painless.

If you need a refreshing massage before your flight (or, for that matter, right after it), head to one of the XpresSpa locations at JFK. As the name implies, these outposts provide everything from massages and manicures to facials.

Finally, if you're just looking for a quick midday escape from the hustle-and-bustle of City life, YeloSpa offers a number of spa and wellness treatments. The most popular service, however, is the napping session, which takes place in cocoonlike rooms with customizable features; one such room, the YeloCab, is equipped with a reclining chair rather than a bed. Naps cost $1 per minute and can be reserved for 20- to 40-minute sessions, which is always better than falling asleep at your desk. A little beauty rest can go a long way.