Don’t get me wrong: Being treated to spa and salon services—all in the name of research, of course—is one of my job’s biggest perks. But whereas a mediocre massage may fail to set my world alight, the results aren’t visible to the outside world; on the other hand, a slip of the hand by a stylist and there’s not much I can do about it until my hair grows back. The evidence is there, writ large, for everyone to see.
Still, I’m usually willing to take the chance, because more often than not, it pays off. Such is the case with my recent discovery: RA_ungaar Beauty in West Hollywood, California. Tucked away in a lovely little cottage just off Santa Monica Boulevard, this boutique salon can be a little tricky to find. But, like any hidden gem, it’s worth tracking down.
RA is a small salon with a big story. It was founded by three former Warren Tricomi master stylists and colorists with more than 30 years’ experience between them: Whitney Olson, Audrey Ray and Kennedy Van Dyke. After Tricomi’s WeHo outpost closed in 2014, the trio freelanced for their loyal—including celebrity—clientele while searching for the perfect location to open a collaborative salon. Finally, they hit upon this spot, which opened on December 2, 2015 (I visited the day after their one-year celebration).
And the name? It’s pronounced Ra (“rah”), referring to the Ancient Egyptian god of the sun. As the explanation on the salon’s website points out, “The three of us, female founders, came together to create a positive space where one was lacking. Not only the warm-giving-light aspect of Ra (personification of the sun) exemplifies our mission, but the powerful, masculine energy brings us balance.”
RA’s main room is decorated with oversized, dark wood-framed mirrors, and a side room stocks haircare products by Oribe and Kevin Murphy, among other luxury brands. As well as cuts, color, extensions and other hair services, the menu encompasses makeup applications, brow and lash tinting, and organic spray tanning.
I was lucky enough to enjoy the services of two parts of the so-called “Trifecta.” First, Kennedy got to work covering my (significant) gray roots and adding in some warm caramel tones for winter. As I sipped my latte from the aptly titled Scrumptious Café & Bakery across the street, we chatted about our plans for the holidays and I snuck in a quick cuddle with a client’s service dog.
Sergio then led me to the basin area, where I laid back on a comfy chaise-longue-style chair. As a 10-minute treatment, he applied a generous amount of Gold, RA’s own brand “miracle oil,” packed with 100 percent organic avocado, argan, vanilla, jasmine and sandalwood oils. (Again per the website, “Ra can also be pronounced ‘raw,’ referring to the raw-organic oils we use to treat hair and scalp issues and, well, the general feeling of who we are as people.”) I definitely noticed a difference—and the softness and shine lasted for days.
After a final shampoo and rinse, it was Whitney’s turn to tackle my style. She pointed out that my existing cut was “not good,” a previous stylist having left it uneven after apparently failing to tilt my head down while cutting around the back (Who knew? Not me, clearly! I’d been sporting a misshapen haircut for weeks!) But Whitney was more than happy to rise to the challenge, and first dried, then snipped and shaped my hair. Time seemed to fly by as we discussed our plans for Christmas and New Year’s, and somehow ended up on the topic of politics—technically a no-no, but it was testament to how comfortable I felt in the company of such a talented yet laid back staff.
Her work finished, she unveiled my flattering but easy to maintain style. Even my husband commented—unprompted!—on how great it looked when I got home.
Feeling ready to take on the world, I sashayed back out onto Santa Monica Boulevard, grateful that these three women hadn’t settled for second best while searching for the right spot to showcase their talents. Their perseverance paid off: I’ll be back!
—by Lesley McCave