My favorite New York City beauty boutiques

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.

Wisdom from WWD's Beauty Summit

Back in the office after a day and a half of WWD Beauty Summit, my head is so full of information, ideas, and inspiration that I can barely think straight. My mother’s advice when that happens is to write things down: lists, to-dos, key learnings. Putting things on paper, she always told me, will clarify your thinking. So that’s what I am doing… for myself, and also partly for you who might not have been able to attend.

While it is impossible for me to say who was my favorite speaker (well, of course, other than Leonard Lauder who was the keynote speaker of the dinner), it is easy for me to share the one liners that resonated the most with me…


On Digital

“The digital world is like the air we breathe; we only notice it when it is not here.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s pretty damned crowded on that Google highway.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“The beauty industry is not leading the way in digital innovation.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Today is not about brand loyalty, but about brand advocacy.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Digital should never be an afterthought, a project… digital is the way we live.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“We can’t let digitization sanitize the essence of beauty.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“Never think you can fool the customer; the bloggers with get you!” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder

“No brand is going to survive if it does not have a digital component to it.” Deb Henretta, P&G

“It’s very last century to think of digital media as isolated from the rest of your marketing strategy.” Gina Boswell, Unilever


On Bricks and Mortar

“The internet is not going to kill retail.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Every great city needs its iconic department store.” Corinne Jacques, Rive Gauche

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.” Charles Revson, as quote by Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I go to other people’s stores to find out what pisses me off and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“JC Penney needs a little therapy.” Norma Kamali

“We need retailers in the US to believe here is a 3rd way, somewhere between department stores and mass.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe

“Be a destination, not an obligation or an inspiration.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“When you grow too fast, you lose your soul.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Age and Beauty

“This baby will live to be 120.” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Most people see the ideal age as 31.” Linda Wells, Allure

“I am 47 and I still think in my brain that I am somewhere between 28 and 36.” Brooke Shields

“I have to choose my ass or my face… when I am heavier, I look younger.” Brooke Shields

“I have clearly chosen my face over my ass.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“A facelift without treating skin is like reupholstering a sofa with dirty fabric.” Tina Alster,  MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“We all believe that we look younger than we are.” Linda Wells, Allure

“Men want to look like they are old enough to have the job they have, so they don’t come to me asking to look a decade younger.” Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery

“How do you look your best at 75 when you are trying to find your 3rd life partner?” Gordon Farquhar, Alliance Boots

“Put older women on the pages of your magazines.”  Tina Alster, MD, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery


On the Beauty Consumer

“We could be in danger of having a bored beauty consumer.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“American women want instant gratification and quick fixes.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“American women do not understand the subtleties of French packaging.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie

“One in two households has a Suave product in their households.” Gina Boswell, Uniliver

“When it comes to how she looks, the biggest pressure is the pressure she puts on herself.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“We see firsthand everyday how hard women are on themselves; there is a lot of crying in the fitting room!” Claire Chambers, Journelle

“Only 4% of adult women think they are beautiful, which is deplorable.” Gina Boswell, Univelever

“People identify with people, not ingredients.” Ian Ginsberg, CO Bigelow

“Listen to your customers; sometimes they know more than you do.” Leonard Lauder, Estee Lauder


On Trends

“What is new and unique today is likely to be irrelevant tomorrow.” Ded Henretta, P&G

“The beauty business is on the verge of new prosperity.” Peter Born, WWD

“I find the idea that the era of single digit growth in the luxury beauty market has arrived unacceptable; I am quite convinced that the luxury beauty segment can continue to sustain double digit growth.” Carol Hamilton, L’Oreal

“Treating the body from top to bottom is the next step.” Ed Burstell, Liberty London

“The holistic approach is the next big thing.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Skin care is by far the largest category in China, but men’s grooming has great potential.” Hua Fang, Shanghai Jahwa United

“About our spas: no big news here today, we have not yet found the recipe to making them profitable.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Today’s world is VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.” Gina Boswell, Unilever

“Red is still the highest selling lipstick color.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“Focusing on cities will be the unique way to achieve growth.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“We sell one Huile Prodigieuse every 6 seconds worldwide.” Aliza Jabes

“It’s about launching less products and opening fewer doors.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie


On Emotions

“There is an emotional deficit in the world that we as brands can fill.” Wende Zomnir, Urban Decay

“Beauty is personal and emotional, and will always be that way.” Marla Malcolm Beck, Bluemercury

“Inspiration can come from anywhere, as long as you have your eyes open.” Julia Goldin, Revlon

“I like to get really emotional on the data.” Wende Zomnir, Urban decay

“Better be lucky than smart.” Michael Kaplan, Fashion to Figures Stores

“There isn’t a woman in the world who can’t be taken down by a bad hair day.” Norma Kamali

“Happiness is like eyelashes; it is so close to your eyes, sometimes you can’t see it.” Francis Kurkdjian


About the French (from the French!)

“The French consumer is more reasonable.” Aliza Jabes

“We have to stop thinking like typical negative French people.” Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie

“Paris is the most beautiful city on Earth, but in wealth it is #4, whereas New York is #2.” Nathalie Remy, McKinsey

“I became obsessed with pleasure of use, with texture, with fragrance.” Aliza Jabes, Nuxe


More Words of Wisdom from Leonard Lauder

“A business without a vision isn’t a business, it’s just a pastime. You have to have a vision.”

“When a person with money meets a person with experience, pretty soon the person with experience has money and the person with money has experience.”

“Accountants and lawyers make good accountants and lawyers. Period. Make your own decisions.”

“You’re never too far ahead to lose or too far behind to win.” (quoting Arla Specter)

“Over-distribution will get you every time. We never let distribution run ahead of demand.”

“Start small and become important to one customer. Then 2. If you think you can be important to 100 customers in 100 cities, it will never work. Be an acorn and you will grow into a great oak.”