Dubai knows a good blow-dry, that much is true. It’s also a dab hand at Shellac mani/pedis, a fantastically arched set of power brows and the kind of eyelash extensions that have people doing a double-take before asking what mascara you use.
All these beauty rituals, however, often come with an extortionate price tag, a one-in-one-out, conveyor-belt facelessness and a cup of very average coffee for the privilege. Not so at Yin Yang The Salon; a small, Brit-run operation in an unexpected corner of JBR, presided over by Margaret Raffan, an Essex-born den mother whose coterie of hand-picked beauty talents are quickly earning themselves the reputation of the best in Dubai.
“Walk in on a Friday morning and the atmosphere is electric; akin to getting ready for brunch with a group of your most excitable – and glamorous – besties”
After taking over the place in March last year, Margaret took an ailing business with four employees and turned it into a jam-packed girly paradise that now boasts 21 staff and an overflowing client list. Walk in on a Friday morning and the atmosphere is electric; akin to getting ready for brunch with a group of your most excitable – and glamorous – besties. Gossip rises over the sound of hairdryers busily doing bouncy blow-dries, ring-light selfies are taken in front of what is now probably the most famous flower wall in the UAE… it’s something of a club, and if you know, you know. But in a place like Dubai, where salons are ten-a-penny, how on Earth did she do it?
“It’s definitely not boring. I often describe it as organised chaos!”
“It’s like a family,” Margaret explains, audibly passionate about putting 100 percent into every small detail.“It’s definitely not boring. I often describe it as organised chaos!” she laughs. “People like familiarity. The girls that come to us are often single, living on their own and they don’t have their mothers or that family mechanism, so when they come to us they love it – they get really excited!”
That alone may well have been enough to catapult Yin Yang into fully booked territory, but Margaret is staunch on quality and affordability, too – music to, well, everyone’s ears, surely? “The formula is being friendly, but we also always try to better ourselves and the treatments. It’s back to basics really – you just have to give people value for money and a smiley face,” she shrugs. “It doesn’t work if you don’t care about the client.”
It’s not just the clients she cares about, either. “The girls working here know I’ll look after them,” she tells us warmly – and we believe her. It’s no wonder everyone’s queuing up to join the club.
Natalie Murphy, Receptionist and Lash Technician
“I first came to Dubai on holiday over a year ago and just fancied a change, so I came over from Dublin, where I used to own a dance school, to test the water. I loved it. I’ve worked here for four months; I used to come down to get my hair done, met all the girls and then got offered a job. It’s a really happy workplace; everyone is laid-back. And the customer service is second-to-none; if you really welcome the clients then they’re always more likely to come back.”
Faye Truman, Nail Technician and Artist
“I’ve only been in Dubai for six weeks but I’m loving it. I had a salon for five years back home in Liverpool, but I messaged Margaret on Instagram for some advice and she replied saying she wanted to employ me, so it went from there. I’ve been doing nails for nine years and what I love about it the most is the creativity… and all the glitter! The craziest nails I’ve ever done were covered in Swarovski crystals, but it’s not just all about the bling here. People love it as – apart from the atmosphere – the salon is really current, keeps up with trends quickly and has things like the flower walls by Victoria Lauren or the sweets on all the desks. Little touches like that make a big difference. We’re also the first salon in Dubai to stock Lola Lee, which is an amazing gel-based polish that dries in 30 seconds.”
Megan Wheatley, Hair Stylist and Extension Specialist
“I’ve been a hairdresser since I was 14 and I really believe that in order to be a good one you need to be passionate about your job. I’m also quite nosy and love hearing people’s life stories, but my favourite part of it is doing shoots, extensions and colour. I think when girls come in here they feel like they’re in a salon back in the UK, and the reason it’s been such a success is because you get a lot for your money. For example, our massages are Dhs189. Word of mouth is really powerful, too. If they see a friend with hair extensions they’ll go, “Oh, I want those,” and come in. Girls here are quite impulsive – it’s good!”
Nicole Connon, Lash and Brow Technician and Make-Up Artist
“I’ve been in Dubai for just over a year now. I studied Theatrical and Media Make-Up in the UK before working for Chanel and then got the job at Yin Yang by messaging Margaret, as I’d seen the salon a lot on social media. The best thing about working here is the whole vibe – it makes going to work so much easier when you’re heading into a positive atmosphere every day. That’s one of the secrets to its success really – it has a great team and everyone is truly amazing at what they do, be that hair or nails or lashes. It’s not overpriced – we do a full set for Dhs249 – and all the staff are down to earth. What more could you want?”
Beth Sturdy, Hair Stylist
“I always wanted to do hair – I grew up doing my friends’ and my own all the time. I’m from Liverpool, been in Dubai five weeks and already noticed a difference in styles in what girls here want. I think people come to Yin Yang because they love the atmosphere. All the girls are so nice and everyone is just having a conversation with one another. In other salons, you go in, get your nails done and leave. There’s no relationship between the clients and the staff. So much of what it takes to be a good hair stylist is the relationship you have with your client. It’s all about how you make the client feel, at the end of the day.”
- Yin Yang The Salon, Sadaf 3, JBR, Dubai. Follow them on instagram @yinyangsalondubai
Photos: Fritz Asuro