NEW YORK — Kérastase has broken new ground — literally.

The upscale salon hair care brand, which is operated under the L’Oréal Salon Product Division umbrella, recently celebrated the opening of its first East Coast Treatment Institute at Butterfly Studio in Manhattan. Kérastase, which grew 28 percent in sales for 2003, last year opened an Institute in Fred Segal Beauty in Santa Monica, debuting its spa-like hair treatments for the first time in the U.S. The brand, which is in 610 salons, is projected to grow 30 percent in sales for 2005.

Like its West Coast sister, the new Kérastase Treatment Institute looks to serve as a destination within a salon, representing relaxation and luxury, where consumers can receive customized hair and scalp treatments, along with near-sleep-inducing massages. Stylists are trained to deliver the Kérastase scalp massage, as well as which of the brand’s 39 products and seven treatments are right for certain hair types.

Treatments include Masque Age Recharge (a mask used for thinning hair), Masque Oléo-Relax (for thick, unruly hair), Concentré Vita-Ciment (for weak, damaged hair) and Aqua-Oleum (for dry hair).

At Butterfly, Alirio Sanchez, a stylist and certified masseuse, leads all of the Institute’s treatments. Formerly of John Barrett salon in Manhattan, Sanchez was first introduced to the Kérastase brand in 1999. He believes the Institute concept is a nice, private place where customers can relax and get pampered. They also get to experience immediate gratification.

“They see the changes right away in their hair. They don’t have to wait several weeks. The products work instantly,” Sanchez said.

Treatments come in varying time lengths. A 30-minute service starts at $50, which includes a 15-minute treatment application and 15-minute massage. An Extended Treatment costs $175, which includes a 15-minute treatment application, a 30-minute massage, a blow dry and three Kérastase products.

One of the newest Kérastase treatments, set to hit Butterfly and Fred Segal Beauty this fall, is the Cure D’Élasticité, Kérastase’s answer for clients with curly hair seeking an alternative to smooth styling. The treatment, specially made for dry, curly hair, consists of an effervescent powder that is mixed into Kérastase’s Elasto Curl Crème and then whipped to a soufflé texture and massaged on the scalp. It is designed to transform dry, curly hair into shiny, well-defined hair without frizz.In addition to top-shelf products and massage, special care has been made to ensure the Kérastase Institute environment exudes a spa-like, well-being feel. Philippe Starck-designed white leather chairs where customers spend most of their time are equipped with remote controls to change position from reclining to upright, and also have a foot rest. Hair is rinsed in sinks also designed by Starck. The Institute itself is enclosed from the rest of the salon in glass, which has the ability to frost over to cocoon visitors from prying eyes and the usual salon chatter and background noise.

Approximately 10 Kérastase Treatment Institutes are planned for the U.S. over the next five years. Currently, there are nine in Europe, with five in Italy, two in Spain and one in Portugal and France. Outside the U.S. and Europe there are a total of 18 Institutes: six in Brazil, five in Japan, two in Korea and one each in Peru, Thailand, South Africa, Uruguay and Indonesia.

— Andrea Nagel

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