San Francisco-based startup StyleBee allows clients to book appointments with professional cosmeticians and stylists who come to you, not the other way around.
Since it launched four years ago, StyleBee has earned the moniker “Uber for beauty” for its on-demand styling services that can come to you at your office, home, or anywhere you choose.
A slew of these “beauty on-demand” apps have cropped up in the past few years, including New York-based Glamsquad – arguably the most popular – which is now also available in the Bay Area. The salon-less concept is one that’s been around for a while, but the on-demand service via an app is relatively new.
A personal need for one such service arose during a workday recently when I learned that a post-work event I was attending was a tad dressier than I had prepared for. I had packed a change of clothes, but had covered up my bedhead with a hat that morning.
So I booked a conference room in the WeWork building where I work to have a StyleBee stylist come and fix the monstrosity that was my hair.
Here’s how it went.
Though there’s a StyleBee app, I actually ended up using the website for the most part.
Frustratingly, the app crashed multiple times while I was trying to use it. Choose the wrong service and want to go back? Too bad, the app will buffer and you’ll have to start all over. The same thing happened when I needed to correct my credit card number.
I was a little surprised that the app of a company founded in 2014 was basically nonfunctional.
When I first logged on to book a 3:45 PM appointment, I fiddled around before securing my spot – and after a few minutes of idling, my 3:45 PM spot had been taken. I chose the 4 PM spot instead.
But it was actually a weird sense of relief that, despite the wishy-washy app performance, the service I’d enlisted to do my hair up was so in-demand, I had lost an appointment slot.
I proceeded to use the website to book my appointment and to upload a headshot and some reference photos of how I’d like my hair to be styled.
For context, I wanted something easy, off-the-face, and geometric, not unlike Daisy Ridley’s character in the recent “Star Wars” installments. I wasn’t joining an intergalactic resistance that night, but I was on a photo assignment. I needed my hair to behave.
Right on the dot at 4 PM, my stylist strolled into the WeWork lobby where I was waiting for her.
She was clad in black – as StyleBee stylists are instructed to be – and carried a suitcase filled with equipment and hair products, which made things even easier on my end. She had everything she needed to pin my hair up, even though there was an option listed on the website for clients to provide the stylist with their own preferred products. I led her up to the conference room I had booked for our session.
My stylist, Cameo, is a part of a team of professional stylists vetted by a StyleBee team. StyleBee stylists are supposedly available 24/7, according to the website.
She laid out her tools and immediately got to work, as did I. I set out my laptop and worked on a story …
… which was my favourite part of the entire StyleBee experience. Besides a 10-minute window where I had to receive my stylist in the lobby, I barely skipped a beat in my work flow that day.
To be able to continue doing your work wherever you are and have someone come to you to prepare you for an occasion is an appealing concept, and this kind of service is definitely conducive to leading a lifestyle with a work-life balance.
While we both worked, we casually chatted periodically, despite the fact that I had just met her. The interaction gave me déjà vu – it’s the same feeling I get when I hop in an Uber with an unfamiliar person.
The “Uber for beauty” reputation instantly felt accurate.
The process of stylists coming to clients instead of vice versa has a few drawbacks though.
Cameo told me that stylists can run into issues at times, like getting past security to meet clients, and finding a private place to perform the service. A previous client guided Cameo to a bathroom to do her hair so that the client’s colleagues couldn’t see her.
I could empathise — I purposefully booked a conference room on a separate floor from mine to be out of sight from the people I see every day.
All StyleBee stylists have different variations of expertise, too. Cameo has 10 years of Bay Area styling experience under her belt and specialises in styling, Keratin treatments, and, like in my case, updos.
The full range of StyleBee services span from blowouts to makeup to manicures and pedicures with different deal packages and price points.
One of the most popular and appealing services is the blowout, which is really just a fancy way of describing the way in which each section of hair is meticulously blow dried and styled to minimise frizz and maximise volume. StyleBee charges $US50 for one, compared to blow dry salon Drybar’s $US45 blowout, which includes a shampoo and conditioning.
But, again, you have to go to a Drybar salon to have it done.
My updo cost $US85, amounting to $US105 since the tip was automatically added when I completed my transaction at the time of booking my appointment.
Despite the convenience, and everything else I liked about the service, I did take issue with how my hair turned out.
I had a clear idea of what I wanted, which I discussed with my stylist prior. I had envisioned a tri-bun updo like the scavenging, Force-sensitive protagonist herself, Rey …
… but instead I got a style that looked like, as my co-worker put it, “if Rey went to prom.”
It was a classic, more upscale look that I was not going for in any way. I didn’t feel myself and felt off-kilter the whole night, but at least I looked polished, which was the purpose of booking the appointment.
And I couldn’t deny how much I enjoyed being pampered and groomed for a whole 40 minutes. Mediocre updo aside, it was nice to be primped while I got some work done.
The end result wasn’t terrible. I had a productive afternoon in the office while I simultaneously prepared for a more formal event on such short notice. It was one of the most useful services I’d ever paid for.
It will also be interesting to see how StyleBee compares to Glamsquad, which is probably what I’ll try out next time.
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