There are many ways to discover, or rediscover a city. Through its restaurants. Through its wine bars. Through its parks. And, through its beauty boutiques and pharmacies. Last week I spent three days in the Big Apple, and I had the opportunity to return to many of my favorite New York City beauty boutiques – beauty destinations you can only find in the Big Apple. Next time you go there, stop by any of these and discover the wonderful beauty products they source from around the world.
Aedes de Venustas (9 Christopher Street)
This is truly one of the most beautiful, elegant, magical beauty boutiques I have ever visited (indeed, Aedes de Venustas means Temple of Beauty in Latin). The décor is decadent, dark, and velvety. I always imagine I am walking in to a German medieval castle when I enter. Karl Bradl, the owner, specializes in unique, hard to find, exquisite perfumes, candles, and home fragrances. My two favorites, which make perfect holiday or hostess gifts, are the Feu de Bois by Dyptique (my mother’s favorite), and the Aedes de Venustas candle that was a collaboration with L’Artisan Parfumeur (I always save the beautiful purple candle container once the wax is gone).
Carnegie Hill Pharmacy
There are two locations, one on 1331 Madison Avenue and one on W55th and Broadway, recently opened. Owned by David (the pharmacist) and Valerie (his model-like business partner and wife), this pharmacy stocks European brands first and foremost, including such favorites as Nuxe, Caudalie, Gewhol, Natura Bisse, and of course Alchimie Forever. Go there too for hard to find supplements, and the perfect cure for any ache or ailement.
Clyde’s Chemists (926 Madison Avenue)
Pharmacy meets boutique department store is how I think of Clyde’s, a beauty institution on the Upper East Side. The back pharmacy area is extremely well stocked and feels like a beauty supply store, filled treasures waiting to be discovered. The front of the boutique, however, feels like the beauty floor at Barney’s. European favorites have their own counters, including Clarins and Guerlain, while you can also find niche boutique brands such as Clark’s Botanicals. Their fragrance selection is significant, and their men’s section your go to for Zirh, Anthony Logistics, and more. The best part? The team that makes your shopping experience civilized, pleasurable, and fun. And the fact that sometimes clients walk in and know of Alchimie Forever and my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, because they have visited him at Forever Laser Institut in Geneva!
C. O. Bigelow (414 Sixth Avenue)
Ian Ginsberg owns and runs this beauty destination, which has been in his family for three generations, and was initially opened in 1838. This store is such an institution that it has is own Wikipedia listing. Not surprising… you just need to list to Ian speak for 5 minutes to understand his passion and know-how. A pharmacist by trade, he likes to work with brands that are hard to find and nice to work with. His team has been with him for 10+ years, a testament to both management and the staff. Go there for the experience, and for the best selection of NARS, Rilastil, and Oribe.
New London Pharmacy (246 Eight Avenue)
The owner of New London, Abby Fazio, a Greek pharmacist, fascinates me. She knows her customer like the back of her hand, loves skin care above all (in particular oils and balms), and has a passion for bringing foreign lines to the US (she was the first to offer The Organic Pharmacy). She believes in the balance of body and mind, and in the need to treat both for optimal health and wellness – through medical services, homeopathy, and natural remedies. She also works with her husband (they have been involved in New London since 1977), and listens to her daughter’s preferences when selecting new brands. When you visit, make sure you take the time to meet the delightful Wesley, who always has the perfect answer to all of your beauty and grooming questions – and always answers with a smile.
Shen Beauty (315 Court Street, Brooklyn)
Yes, you have to leave Manhattan to visit Shen Beauty, but it is well worth it. Opened in 2010 by Jules Stringer and Jessica Richards, this boutique carries exclusive lines, many from the UK. That might have to do with Jules’ UK origin, and previous career as a beauty journalist in the UK. Look for Amanda Lacey and Jemma Kidd. Also, if your brows are in need of some TLC, this is the place to go.
Whitney Chemists (50 University Place)
Somehow, this boutique reminds me of my grandmother’s stash of goodies she always had beautifully displayed in her bathroom. It might be because of the Grether’s Pastilles (my Nana’s favorites) which I can’t help but purchase every time I go there. Or it might be because of the lovely German accent I hear in Christine’s English. Either way, no trip to NYC is complete without a visit to Whitney’s, the best trip down memory lane.