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Best Apothecaries

Photograph courtesy brentwoodcountrymart.com

Best Apothecaries, January 2008

Marie Mason was a beauty buyer for Studio at Fred Segal for 15 years before opening her apothecary in the Brentwood Country Mart. The shop, with its cream-colored silk curtains and Tiffany blue walls, is smaller than most Beverly Hills bathrooms, so the selection of products—a mix of heavy hitters like Kate Somerville and niche players like Diana B. crammed onto whitewashed shelves—is discriminating by necessity. A circular cosmetics bar and 100-scent blending station allow for unimpeded sampling. Mason’s recommendations have earned her a loyal flock of customers (her in-house fragrance Hippie Chick has been particularly popular). » 225 26th St., Ste. 1, Brentwood, 310-394-5710. 

Look past the strip-mall surroundings: Melange Apothecary is as chic as any stop in the 8th Arrondissement. Elegant wrought-iron tables, crystal chandeliers, and pharmacy-style cabinets show off bath, body, and home products packaged to resemble delectable confections. Venerable manufacturers Potter and Moore shoulder up against newer arrivals like Mor, though custom fragrances are the draw: More than 60 scents with such heady names as Casis Noir and Casablanca Lily—many of them exclusive to the shop—are arranged on mirrored trays, where customers can experiment, infusing neutral lotions, gels, and salts with scent. Weekend and evening blending workshops are more like girly sleepovers than classes in chemistry. » 20929 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, 818-703-8481. 

Beauty Collection Apothecary is the city’s behemoth, carrying more than 250 brands in a sprawling warehouse space. Despite the vast inventory—from established brands like Dermalogica to the hard-to-find line Zona to renowned cosmetics such as Jane Iredale—the space is airy and easy to navigate, with tidy displays on industrial metal shelves. Try anything you wish: Testers are available for almost every product, and clerks oblige requests for take-home samples (members of the beauty and entertainment industries receive a 10 percent discount on purchases). An adjoining full-service salon features a barber who uses products from the array of men’s lines in the main shop. » 110 S. Fairfax Ave., L.A., 323-930-0300. 

You won’t find a huge selection at Apothia, and that’s the point. Since 1981, owner Ron Robinson’s spare, modern shop has stocked a tightly edited collection of trendsetting brands. On the shelves can be found Czech & Speake, celebrity lines like Susan Posnick, and standbys from around the world (Apothia was the first boutique in L.A. to carry Kiehl’s). The knowledgeable staff has a talent for sizing up customers’ needs. The store’s own line of scents might as well be called “eau de premiere” for its ubiquity at Hollywood events. » Fred Segal, 8118 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-651-0239.