Best of Atlanta 2020: Beauty & Fitness


See all Best of Atlanta 2020 winners

Food & Drink

Work & Play

Style & Design

Arts & Culture

Yizclusive Experience
The luxurious Yizclusive Experience

Photograph by Diwang Valdez

Best New Men’s Spa: The Yizclusive Experience

Where do Atlanta’s male celebrities and athletes go to get pampered? This traditional barbershop-meets–high-end spa, tucked inside the Beacon development in Grant Park. Founded by entrepreneur and master barber Yisrael Wright, the space offers haircare and nail services as well as face scrubs, massages, and hot steam face shaves, all using products from local and Black-owned grooming brands. Try the 24K gold glo facial, which includes an alkaline steam, deep cleanse, detoxifying scrub, and 24-karat gold foil collagen mask.

Best High-energy Classes: E.F.F.E.C.T. Fitness

If your Instagram feed has featured an unbelievably bouncy bunch of people doing what looks like step aerobics—but on cinderblocks—you’ve seen what this bootcamp and spin studio does best. Located on Metropolitan Parkway, the facility calls itself a “performing arts gym.” With hot hip-hop beats and a grueling pace, these calorie-torching classes are a favorite of Atlanta fitness coaches, so you know they’re good. (Limited spots and virtual options available, masks required for check-in)

Best New Salon Gift Shop: Hawkins & Clover Gift Shop

Inspired by the bright but minimalist Scandinavian shops she frequented during her prepandemic travels, owner Erika Audrey converted the front half of her Grant Park salon into a cozy gift shop. Decorated in white and blush tones, the space is stocked with haircare products as well as candles, housewares, luxury loungewear, and gifts sourced predominantly from woman-owned, sustainable brands like Teaspressa and Kitsch.

Best New Spa Concept: Waldorf Astoria Spa, Buckhead

This March, the Waldorf Astoria launched its new City in the Forest spa concept, complete with a private garden, 60-foot saline lap pool, 13 treatment rooms, and products from luxury brands like Biologique Recherche, Deborah Lippman, and Georgia-based Sapelo Skincare. Treatments at the 15,000-square-foot space include the Forest Therapy experience, a massage using a custom essential oil blend of pink pepper, cypress, and juniper followed by a mud mask and soothing scalp massage, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting local nonprofit Trees Atlanta.

Best Friendly Fitness Bootcamp: Pace23

Don’t get it twisted—“friendly” doesn’t mean “easy” at this Decatur studio, best known for indoor cycling and TRX classes. Pace23’s bootcamps are challenging, but you won’t encounter any drill sergeants when you run through the gym’s ever-changing mix of agility drills, pushups, ball slams, lunges, boxing, and ab work. Want to make that sprint a jog instead or add heavy kettlebells to your walking lunges? Pace23’s coaches say “you do you”—and, refreshingly, they say it with a smile. (Outdoor and virtual classes now available.)

Best Use of Covid-19 Testing: Georgia Tech

As reports of college outbreaks poured in, Georgia Tech launched comprehensive surveillance testing of asymptomatic students. By pooling saliva from multiple subjects, they tested as many as 1,500 students, faculty, and staff per day. That aggressive approach—along with diligent contact tracing, isolation, and mask wearing—allowed the campus of more than 10,000 to reduce its positivity rate from nearly 5 percent early on to less than 1 percent, where it has remained as of our press date.

Best Fitness-Studio Expansion: MADabolic Chamblee

Clients traveled from all across Atlanta for the 50-minute boxing, functional training, weightlifting, and cardio workouts at MADabolic’s original location on the BeltLine. Now, those from the north side don’t have to travel so far for the chain’s heart-pumping workouts and top-notch trainers. Both studios get bonus points for keeping things squeaky-clean during the pandemic.

Best New Local Beauty Product: Inga Bailey Brows Cosmetics

With face masks the new necessary must-have accessory, natural yet well-defined brows are now the most important part of your social-distancing makeup regime. Celebrity esthetician and makeup artist Inga Bailey created a trio of vegan, cruelty-free products—an eyebrow gel, highlighter, and smudge-proof, retractable pencil, available in a range of shades—to help your brows look their best, no other makeup required. Do it yourself or nab one of the now-limited appointments at her Dunwoody salon.

Iwi Fresh
Iwi Fresh founder Yolanda Owens

Photograph by Ben Rollins

Best New Community Wellness Space: Iwi Fresh Farm Oasis

This fall, the local skincare brand known for its plant-based ingredients launched its latest project: a 12,000-square-foot wellness center, housed in a historic brick building in Lakewood Heights. Inside, details like oversized windows and large, plant-inspired murals reflect the company’s all-natural ethos, while appointment-only services like body scrubs, reflexology, and plant therapies utilize the brand’s signature products. Communal areas include a Himalayan salt meditation room, crystal wall, and reflection “huts.”

Glossier Atlanta pop-up
Inside the Glossier pop-up at Ponce City Market

Photograph courtesy of Glossier

Best Beauty Pop Up: Glossier

Devoted fans line up for hours at Glossier’s outposts in other cities, and the scene was much the same for the brand’s highly anticipated Ponce City Market pop-up this spring. With Instagram-worthy decor inspired by Atlanta’s music industry—think millennial pink foam walls modeled after a recording studio, a playlist curated by DJ Ohso, and a mirrorball photo booth—the temporary store gave locals an opportunity to shop cult favorites like Cloud Paint blush, Brow Boy pomade, and Balm DotCom. Look for them to return soon.

Best New Nail Salon: The Water Room

An extension of cofounder Jessica Morse’s Bare Beauty blog, Charleston-based the Water Room opened its first Atlanta location in Buckhead this summer. The company specializes in nontoxic treatments like the “waterless manicure,” which uses glass nail files and cruelty-free, vegan polishes. Purchase the brand’s signature products, like CBD restorative bath salts and unscented body butter, to recreate the spa experience at home.

Best Tough Strength and Endurance Class (Outside): Equilibrium H.I.I.T. Athletic Conditioning

This minimalist gym, located next to the BeltLine, offers one of the most challenging strength and cardio classes in the city. Sign up with Henriette Steffensen, and you’ll meet in the parking lot for 60 relentless minutes of socially distanced push-ups, running, bear crawls, squat presses, and the like. Choose the size of your dumbbells, then get set to work—hard.

Best Cardio Newcomer: CityRow

The rowing machine—that thing that used to collect dust in your parents’ basement next to the NordicTrack—is having a moment. Indoor group-rowing studios now dot the Atlanta fitness landscape, and it’s no wonder: Experts say that one stroke uses almost 85 percent of your muscles and that you can burn about 200 calories in 30 minutes. We love CityRow’s modern and clean facilities in Midtown, their instructors who focus on form over frenzied pulling, and the chalkboard where you can record your personal records. (Limited capacity currently.)

Best Playful Way to Work Out: Double Dutch Aerobics

At 9 a.m. every Saturday, husband-and-wife team Sean and Michelle Clark offer a double-dutch jump rope class for adults at their Bolton Road facility—no experience necessary. Learn how to turn the ropes, bounce in rhythm, and put together combinations. Go from stumbling newbie to talented superstar in a one-hour workout that can burn as many as 700 calories. (Among other precautions, the 16-foot ropes help maintain social distancing.)

Best New Dance Workout: AKT

Dancing in the dark is more than just a Bruce Springsteen song—it’s part of what makes the cardio-fitness classes at AKT in Sandy Springs so much fun. Founded by abdominal wonder Anna Kaiser, a former professional dancer who trains stars like Kelly Ripa and Shakira, AKT has brought its disco balls to Inman Park and Perimeter. Your stumbles are less obvious under low lights, so put aside any inhibitions and shake what your mama gave you. (Limited spots by reservation currently.)

Best Gentle Outdoor Yoga: FORM Yoga

You might not think that practicing yoga on a strip of pavement next to a preschool in Decatur would be very peaceful. But FORM Yoga’s “Embrace the Elements” flow class manages to feel personal, calming, and downright kind—the perfect counter to our collective anxiety around the pandemic and politics. Peer at the birds in the trees as you lie in corpse pose. Just keep your (third) eye out for falling acorns.

Best Virtual Trainer: Kamilah “Coach K” Williams of FLY GIRL FITNESS

A former flight attendant, Coach K experienced eating disorders and bullying before discovering a love of fitness. She went on to lose 40 pounds and decided to make health and wellness her career. Her virtual workouts have inspired and motivated the stuck-at-home set with a variety of bootcamp-style classes, circuit training, and cardio.

Best New Emergency Care: Wellstar Kennestone Hospital’s New Emergency Department

Talk about good timing. In July, Wellstar opened its new 263,000-square-foot Level II Trauma facility—the nation’s second-largest emergency department and Georgia’s largest. Kennestone has separate areas for patients who arrive with infectious diseases, as well as dedicated zones for behavioral-health crises, chemical contamination cases, and pediatric patients. This traffic flow has helped the hospital accommodate all types of emergencies during the pandemic. Automatic texts keep families who have to be separated from their loved ones because of the pandemic updated. It is now one of only four comprehensive stroke centers in the state and Georgia’s only Joint Commission–Certified Comprehensive Cardiac Center.

Best of Atlanta Groundbreakers

Alliance Theatre and Atlanta Ballet
In early spring, when there was a critical shortage of masks, the costume shops at the then shuttered Alliance Theatre and the Atlanta Ballet almost immediately started cranking out hundreds of face coverings daily, filling standing orders from Grady, Wellstar, and Emory hospitals—inspiring amateur sewers, fabric houses, and others to follow suit.

Global Health Crisis Coordination Center
Launched with seed funding from the CDC Foundation and Microsoft in April, the Atlanta-based Global Health Crisis Coordination Center helps coordinate the response to Covid-19 by companies like UPS, Delta, and Verizon. Early on, GHC3 leveraged its partner network to acquire and distribute supplies like Chromebooks, ventilators, and masks. By fall, they were expediting mental-health resources, researching how to manage Covid-19 vaccine distribution, and curating best practices for Covid-19 tracking, contact tracing, and getting communities back to work, school, and worship—all with an eye to addressing racial and socioeconomic inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.

Arthur M. Blank Hospital
In October, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation announced a $200 million donation to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to launch a $1.5 billion hospital—to be named after Blank—on North Druid Hills Road near I-85. The gift marks the single largest naming gift to a freestanding pediatric hospital in the history of the nation. Moreover, the facility, which is expected to open in 2025, represents the largest healthcare project ever in the history of Georgia.

Open Hand
Michael Edwards-Pruitt founded Open Hand in 1988 to deliver meals to friends who were dying of AIDS. Its mission has expanded over the years and, in 2020, during the first six months of the pandemic, they saw demand spike. In addition to the 19 counties Open Hand serves annually, they delivered or shipped meals to 38 more counties in rural Georgia, partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Grady Health System to open a market, distributed fresh produce to hundreds of families impacted by Covid-19, and delivered more than 150,000 additional meals.

Save Our Selves
On Juneteenth, community leaders including the Charles Barkley Foundation, Morehouse School of Medicine, and SynsorMed—an Atlanta-based, Black-owned, digital health company—announced the launch of the Save Our Selves (SOS) Council to document and address Covid-19-related disparities experienced by Black Americans. In July, they launched a nationwide, anonymous survey of 50,000 Black Americans. A second phase, already in process, will analyze trends and mobilize resources, while a third phase will focus on policy changes.

Best of Atlanta Reader's Choice

Best day spa
Utopia Foot & Shoulder Massage, Grant Park

Best hair salon
Van Michael Salon, multiple locations

This article appears in our December 2020 issue.