Best of Atlanta 2018: Beauty & Fitness

Best of Atlanta 2018: Jaimee Ratlif

Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones

Best person to watch: Jaimee Ratliff

Jaimee Ratliff didn’t see many bodies that looked like hers in local yoga studios. As a woman of color, she wondered why yoga seemed to have become so homogeneous and, perhaps, elitist. So, she created her own hip-hop yoga class. Since it’s a pop-up, customers sign up for her email list and then get blasts with the day, time, and location. She’s led classes at Topgolf, Athleta, and City Winery Atlanta.

Best nail salon: Les Mains Nail Bar

Minimalism meets industrial chic at this Buckhead salon, where white walls and exposed ceilings provide a cool backdrop for manicures, pedicures, and nail art. Les Mains offers traditional polish and gel treatments, with a vegan option for manis and pedis as well, but is perhaps best known for nail art: powders, stickers, and custom, hand-painted styles, which start at $3 per nail.

Best of Atlanta 2018: Soul Cycle

Photograph by Kelly Kline

Best cycling fad: SoulCycle

You’ll sweat, and possibly cry, while you pedal to the thumping beat at this Buckhead outpost of the New York City–based fitness cult. Exercise aficionados were begging SoulCycle to bring its beloved brand of mind and body–connected indoor cycling to Atlanta, and the 12-year-old, 80-studio chain answered their prayers this year.

Best motivational coach: Hannah Beth Millman

Some fitness instructors coddle, while others push, but few manage to balance the two as adeptly as Hannah Beth Millman, a coach and the Atlanta studio manager for Solidcore. This Megaformer Pilates bootcamp (said to be Michelle Obama’s favorite at its D.C. locations) is one of the city’s toughest workouts, and Millman is an energetic, inspirational guide.

Best free bootcamp: November Project

You just gotta show up. That’s the mantra for this free, twice-weekly bootcamp that has more than 40 “tribes” across the globe. Meeting at 6:27 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, the local branch of the Boston-based November Project takes attendees through cardio, plyometrics, and games that might make you forget the early hour and the exertion. Locations vary; hugs are required.

Best of Atlanta 2018: Swag Shop

Photograph by Cori Carter

Best barbershop: The Swag Shop

Michael Render (aka Killer Mike) opened this vibrant Edgewood Avenue barbershop as a place where men could go not only for a proper shave but also for lively conversation about cars, sports, politics, and more. The idea caught on, and Render opened a second location at State Farm Arena this fall.

Best splurge spa: Remède Spa at the St. Regis Atlanta

A high-end spa in a classic hotel, Remède Spa doesn’t have the midcentury-modern furnishings or selfie walls of newer, made-for-Instagram spots. But what it lacks in popular trends, it more than makes up for in service and luxury. Each treatment here is customized: Guests choose the pressure of massage, the aromatherapy oils, and add-ons like reflexology, scalp treatments, and more. There’s also a steam room, sauna, and lounge room available for use with any treatment.

Best of Atlanta 2018: Race For Beer

Illustration by Ryan Snook

Best race for beer: It’s a tie! Three Taverns 5K and Monday Night Brewing Westside 10

It’s tough, in a city chock full of runners who love to drink beer, to choose just one brewery-sponsored running race as the best. So, we picked two: the Three Taverns 5K (May 2019), which is still small enough to allow less-elite runners to place; and the Monday Night Brewing Westside 10 (December 8), which features a band and outdoor party to rival any Atlanta festival.;

Best esthetician: Amy Leavell Bransford

One of the city’s beauty pioneers, Bransford founded her ecofriendly spa and salon, Aviary, in Studioplex long before green beauty—or the neighborhood—were constant conversation topics. She offers a number of facial treatments, but the standouts are the Microderm and the Oxygen Facial, which infuses dry skin with pressurized oxygen and antioxidants like Vitamin C and green tea. In its nearly 10-year history, Aviary has also become a beauty incubator of sorts: Past employees have gone on to open Creature Studio, Kindred Studio, and Vagabond Studio.

Best salon suites

Rising rents—and a rising focus on individual stylists instead of salons, thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms—mean many of the city’s beauty and wellness professionals are leaving big-name salons and opening their own businesses in one of the many salon-suite complexes popping up around the city. These spots, which look like apartments, are often small in size (think 100 square feet, give or take) but big in opportunity for individual stylists to customize their space and offerings. “Because we both started in large, hectic salons with a lot happening around us, we were looking for something more intimate so we could spend more of our energy focused on the person in our chair,” says hair stylist Patrick Cochran, who cofounded PAIR Studio with his wife, Blair Smoker, this spring. Here are a few other stylists who’ve downsized:

Ayisha Phillips of Mystic Lotus Salon
Salons by JC Suites

Abra Weeks of Graceful Glow Spa
Beya Salon Studios

Chaz Anderson of Dragonfly Salon

Best hair color salon: Melrose & McQueen

This Inman Park salon has an almost cultlike following for its high-impact color options and Instagram-famous stylists, including Abby Andree and founder Kristo Willson, who built out the space himself. From platinum blonde and deep denim to fiery reds and every shade in between, Melrose & McQueen is the go-to stop for clients who aren’t afraid if their color doesn’t look natural.

Best of Atlanta 2018: Estelle Harford

Photograph by Kelly Kline

Best stretcher: Estelle Harford

As the owner of Stellar Strength and Wellness in Atlanta, Estelle Harford is the only Master Trainer in Ki Hara stretching in Georgia. Stretching and pushing as you push up, she uses concentric and eccentric movements to dynamically stretch, strengthen, and lengthen your muscles. Benefits include increased flexibility, better range of motion, better posture, and fewer injuries.

Best brows salon: Tamara Samara Salon

This Sandy Springs salon offers traditional waxing, shaping, and tinting services, as well as harder-to-find treatments like eyebrow henna, in which henna powder is used to form a dye to create fuller, darker brows. Total hair removal options for men and women are also available.

Best of Atlanta 2018: Creature Studio
Stylist Maurice Webb

Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones

Best of Atlanta 2018: Creature Studio
Waiting area mural by Yoyo Ferro

Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones

Best new beauty concept: Creature Studio

Opened this year, Creature Studio is the brainchild of hairstylist Jenn Jones and her photographer husband, Raymond McCrea Jones, who wanted to rethink what a salon environment could look like. For the Joneses, this meant an uncluttered, minimalistic space with white walls and mobile stylist stands on the main floor (which doubles as a photography studio), where Jenn treats hair with Oway organic products, as well as an upstairs space that hosts ecofriendly nail salon Petite Sparrow and massage company Ritual Body Work.

Best cardio and weight training mix: Barry’s Bootcamp

Running and strength training make up most of the 1,000 calorie–killing workout at a dimly lit, club-like Buckhead studio that’s like Orange Theory’s cooler cousin. You’ll alternate from treadmills to dumbbells for a sweat-drenched, full-body workout that tones muscle and is said to boost your resting metabolism by as much as 15 percent.

Best fitness influencer: Umama Kibria

As her Instagram handle and YouTube channel suggest, Umama Kibria is small but mighty, with a busy feed to prove it. Her relatable and friendly photos, videos, reviews, tutorials, and recommendations appeal to everyone from the exercise newbie to the fitness fiend. No judgments here; you can follow her gym-hopping adventures from the comfort of your own couch.

Best of Atlanta 2018: City Surf

Photograph by Amber McDonnell

Best offbeat workout: City Surf

No ocean? No problem. You can practice surfing in landlocked Atlanta thanks to workout studio City Surf Fitness. The Dallas, Texas–based chain offers 50-minute classes that combine cardio with weight training and moves that mimic what you’d do out on the waves, all while balancing atop an unstable surfboard. A session at this Monroe Drive studio is said to burn more than 200 calories.

Best hair stylist: Dyana Nematalla

After nearly a decade in New York styling the locks of Mick Jagger, Rachel McAdams, and other celebrities, Nematalla returned here to her hometown a couple of years ago. Her aesthetic is “New York City street chic meets Parisienne cool,” and at Melrose & McQueen, she specializes in texture—“Yes, thin hair is also a texture,” she says—teaching clients how to style and maintain their cuts.

Best running club: runningnerds

Calling itself a social forum, resource, and service for the contemporary running community, this club, founded in 2011, puts on races like the ATL Relay, 10K & 20K, and the Monday Night Brewing Westside 10. The inclusive and friendly group is also known for hosting long group runs, including the “Big Ol’ Group Run” that draws hundreds of runners and walkers.

Greatest hits

Best muscle blast workout
Blast (Buckhead)

Best salon and shop
Woo Skincare + Cosmetics

Best yoga studio
Highland Yoga

Best hair salon

Best small group training
Acceleration Fitness with Amber Ramga

Best brows salon
The Cosmetic Market

Best nails salon

Best hair removal studio
Sweet Peach Wax Studio

Best green beauty store
Fig & Flower Natural Beauty

Best strength training
The Training Room

Check out our other Best of Atlanta 2018 winners:
Food & Drink
Style & Design
Arts & Culture
City Life