December’s arrival can mean a full calendar of events from family gatherings to work soirees to other special festive occasions, all wrapping up with a New Year celebration. With so much happening, there are plenty of reasons to get glammed up during the holiday season.
For those who may agonize over maintaining the perfect look throughout the season, or if you simply enjoy a bit of pampering, you’re in luck. Wilmington’s beauty bar scene has gained some new faces in the past few months that specialize in everything from hydro facials to lashes.
And long-time favorites are changing things up – reimagining their salons into sustainable shops offering an array of beauty and hair products that are vegan and cruelty-free.
Whether for a holiday card photo shoot or a winter wedding, these businesses will have you looking festive in no time.
Beauty Bar by Kristina Ruggerio
Since opening its doors in June, Beauty Bar by Kristina Ruggerio has proven to be a beauty staple in the Brandywine Valley.
Located just off Augustine Cutoff, Beauty Bar by Kristina Ruggerio has completely transformed its 6,000 square foot home inside the former The Strand Salon and Spa, offering a full range of hair, skin and makeup services for men and women and a retail area filled with salon products, clothing, jewelry and accessories.
Just a few steps from the Alapocas neighborhood, the sleek, polished exterior of the salon has a fresh and inviting appeal. The renovations were managed by Kristina and her husband Mark Borsello of Borsello Companies.
Though the business is new to the area, owner and namesake Kristina Ruggerio is far from a beginner. Ruggerio, 31, has been experimenting with makeup her whole life, and at 18 she became a full-time makeup artist after graduating from Ursuline Academy.
As a licensed esthetician, Ruggerio says her knowledge about skin is essential to her makeup artistry.
“I always loved doing makeup and making people look and feel a little bit better. All it takes is enhancing their features with a quick tinted moisturizer or quick eyeliner and pretty lip gloss,” she said. “It just made me so excited to make them feel good about themselves. That’s when I knew I wanted to follow this path.”
Ruggerio, who was voted Makeup Artist of the Year by Delaware Today in 2013, offers an impressive number of services at her salon. Her full-service beauty bar employs about 7 makeup artists, 10 hairstylists, 3 aestheticians and 3 lash technicians.
Their services include facials, hair cut and colors, makeup lessons, brow styling, on-site bridal services and more. Though her business has diversified, Ruggerio believes that she is most well known for her makeup skills. She even carries a collection of makeup hand-selected products at her salon.
“I started out with makeup; it’s really what the Kristina Ruggerio brand stemmed from,” she said. “When people see my name, they’re going to kind of correlate that to makeup. Now I also have this phenomenal team of hairstylists, aestheticians and other makeup artists and lab technicians who have all been picked by me.”
As she designed her salon, Ruggerio aimed to create a calming space for her clientele and employees. The two-floor salon features open space and light colors, giving it a comforting atmosphere that invites visitors to browse Ruggerio’s makeup line or relax with a glass of wine.
As a business owner, Ruggerio’s motto is inclusivity. “We want everyone in each department to come to together for each client,” she said.
Along with makeup, the medical-grade hydra-facial offered at the Beauty Bar is a huge draw. This skin treatment with a cult-like following isn’t offered just anywhere – it takes an experienced technician to do it right.
All Hydra-Facials cleanse pores and hydrate skin, but the Beauty Bar offers services ranging from Signature to Platinum that target specific skin issues. Ruggerio’s staff of aestheticians use a vacuum-like device that both clears your pores and applies enzyme serums, resulting in glowing, holiday-ready skin.
Moving forward, Ruggerio plans to expand to her practice to include permanent makeup and medi-spa services.
She has high hopes for the beauty industry, which she says is constantly changing and always a necessity. “People always like to have contact. They like to come in here and take a couple hours to just take care of themselves.”
DeCourcy Beauty Lounge
Brynn Gray officially opened the doors to DeCourcy Beauty Lounge on October 1st, and since then she’s set out to empower both clients and fellow beauticians.
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue on the ground floor of the 1401 Condominiums in Wilmington, the Lounge is owned by Gray, but offers space to other professionals who want to offer their services. Gray, who graduated from Tower Hill just down the street in 2017, opened her salon as a way to expand her already successful lash extensions business.
“I already had a strong clientele, but I felt like the only option for me to go further was to have my own space,” said Gray. “I’m very driven, and this has really helped me become even more independent.”
Before the Lounge, Gray had already made her foray into the beauty industry. She began practicing two years ago, and from there built up a loyal clientele.
Gray also started her product brand, DeCourcy Beauty, which includes handpicked lash and brow products. “DeCourcy Beauty was not only created to share my love of lashes and cosmetics with the world, but also to empower my peers and help them feel beautiful and confident in every situation,” she writes on her brand’s website.
Gray currently offers services in lashes, brows, tanning and makeup but has plans to expand her offerings in June to include facials and skincare.
Tatnall and UD grad Alexandra Pettinaro has joined DeCourcy Beauty as a licensed esthetician, bringing with her several clients who enjoy makeup, microblading, facials, waxing and lash extensions.
According to Gray, being a young female business owner comes with challenges, but also is filled with rewards. “People are very supportive, but of course there was some skepticism at first. One because I’m 20, and two because I’m a girl. It’s different to be a business owner. It comes with a level of stress because I’m very much a perfectionist,” she said.
Her perfectionism shines through in the salon’s spotless interior – all of which Gray designed herself. She describes the space as chic and cozy, filled with white, rose and marble.
She also carries her own line of cosmetics and her own DeCourcy beauty lash shampoo, which she recommends clients use daily to keep their lashes clean.
According to Gray, creating a welcoming space and being active on social media were keys to building her already successful business. When she looks at her progress, she is proud she did it herself and she is confident for what’s next.
“My prediction is that lashes will always be popular. I have clients who say they want lash extensions for the rest of their lives,” she said. “They enhance natural beauty and give people confidence.”
Beauty Bar by Saiko – A “Green” Salon
With more than three decades in the Wilmington area, stylist Saiko Imai is a go-to beauty resource for hundreds of clients, most of whom take a bit of joy in simply saying her name, which is pronounced “psycho.”
Originally from Japan, Saiko says she came to Delaware to learn English as a young adult and never left.
After spending eleven years at Perry Anthony in Pike Creek and another eleven at Salon by Dominic in Lantana Square, Saiko decided it was time to open her own business.
So, eight years ago, she purchased a former home and two-story nail salon on Old Lancaster Pike in Hockessin and turned it into Beauty Bar by Saiko, where she and her staff of 15 (plus assistants) offer a complete range of salon and spa services.
She has ten stylists — four with the highest level of training possible, two nail technicians, one cosmetologist who also does eyelash extensions, a message therapist, and an aesthetician with 15 years of experience in the industry.
A few years ago, Saiko hired a team to construct an addition to the house to provide a more spacious and relaxed environment to nail clients and customers whose salon services required longer visits.
It was then that Saiko decided to install a new, efficient HVAC ‘clean air’ system that also reduces fumes and unpleasant odors. She also installed energy-saving lighting and water devices, new rotating halo-like rings that help color and chemical treatments penetrate deeper and faster and use less energy than blow driers, and she has a strict recycling program.
“Salons are notorious for consuming large amounts of energy,” says Saiko. “And at large salons, it’s a pain to recycle. But that’s one of the first things I wanted to do when I opened my own space.”
“Many of the products we use and sell come in biodegradable plastic packaging and support the environment. One product in particular – Eminence Organic Skin Care – plants a tree for every product sold. And I am proud to say that our business has planted over 4,000 trees since we opened!”
Beauty Bar by Saiko also abandoned plastic bags (for take-home salon products) years ago. Clients either bring reusable bags or the salon offers small paper bags.
An avid animal activist, Saiko has recently incorporated many more organic and cruelty-free animal products into the service and retail sections of her business. She spends time outside of the salon supporting animal rescue efforts, sometimes saving cats abandoned right behind her salon.
“My love for animals has played a significant role in my business. We look for labels like Neuma, Deva Curl and Kevin Murphy that are organic, promote sustainability and have never been tested on animals. And, with any little extra profit we have, we rescue cats and dogs and then we pay to spay and neuter them,” she said.
Like other beauty bars and salons in the area, the December appointment book at Beauty Bar by Seiko is filling up. “Some people come in and just need a little bit. And some come in and want everything. We’re here to make sure everyone looks their very best for this special time of the year.”
Editor’s note: There are several fine salons in and around Wilmington – many with a loyal customer following, full-service salon and spa options, and an eye toward sustainable practices. We regret that we are not able to include a complete listing in this article.