The next time you pass by a neighbourhood salon, don't be surprised if you spot a famous face or two getting their beauty fix.
More people are heading to the heartlands to get their hair cut and coloured, nails primed and eyebrows groomed.
We aren't talking about just housewives but also working professionals and the young and trendy.
These cult favourites are housed not in glistening white-washed malls but in modest shophouses and HDB estates.
Their neighbours aren't designer boutiques but provision and coffee shops.
Yet, loyal customers are more than willing to put up with a wait of up to six months.
If you want your eyebrows embroidered by the best, you'll have to wait till June for Amy Sim of Salon #1 Hair and Beauty School in Bishan Street 13.
She opened the 1,200 sq ft set-up about 15 years ago and counts local celebs among her clients.
Housewife Chua Chen Peng, 31, is a loyal customer who has been travelling an hour from her home in Jurong for facials and eyebrow embroidery regularly since 2000.
'With Amy, you're paying for more than a service. She and her staff make me feel so comfortable. I also get a longer facial massage at her salon at a cheaper price,' she says.
You can also forget about getting instant nail art from the technicians at Tiong Bahru's Nails In Love because they were booked out a good two months ago.
In fact, some outlets have such a long waiting list they declined to be interviewed, fearing that they won't be able to cope with the crowds.
There is, for instance, a dermatologist in Chinatown who has about 30 people waiting in line before the doors open each day.
A big draw of these heartland havens is the competitive pricing as they pay lower rents.
At Nails In Love in Jalan Membina, for instance, a manicure and pedicure cost $55, compared to $80 at some salons in town.
The value-for-money service was one reason financial consultant Vanessa Tan, 25, switched from getting her nails done at a parlour in Suntec City to Nails In Love nearly two years ago.
'The staff at those posh places seem to be more pushy about selling packages to you,' she adds.
'At Nails In Love, the staff are friendlier and the service is more personalised. My manicurist remembered my name on my second visit.'
Neighbourhood joints are quick to point out that suburban doesn't spell shoddy work.
Anthony Lee, 33, co-founder of Nails In Love, says the two-year-old salon sends its four beauty therapists for internationally recognised courses and competitions to polish their skills.
The salon has seen its clientele grow from 300 to about 500 in the past year.
'Singaporeans are willing to travel for good food, and the same goes for services,' says Lee.
Not everyone is willing to forsake her stylists and therapists in the city, though.
Says housewife Alice Cheong, 46: 'Many of these places are out of the way and I'd rather pay more for quality than go somewhere that I don't trust.'
She frequents O.P.I nail salon in Forum The Shopping Mall, where she pays $78 for a manicure and pedicure.
Their central locations offer convenience and ambience that people don't mind paying extra for, say beauty haunts in town.
'Most of my customers are working adults, so we have to go where they are,' says Cheryl Ou, 24, director of Polished Divas Nail Lounge in Bugis Village.
Her customers like the fact that they can pop over during their lunch breaks, she adds.
She even has pampering touches like personal DVD players, massage chairs and complimentary alcoholic cocktails served from Thursdays to Saturdays.
Ow Shin Yann, 33, director of nails and waxing salon Honeypot, which has outlets in Clifford Centre and Pacific Plaza, says she would consider opening an outlet out of town if it is an area that is popular with her target crowd of young and image-conscious women - such as Holland Village.
'Heartland malls have more 'auntie' customers who wouldn't be interested in Brazilian waxing,' she says of Honeypot's most popular service.
Celebrity hairstylist David Gan, who is in his 40s, also laughs at the idea of opening a salon in the heartlands because he feels it would not gel with the upmarket image of his salon, Passion.
'Hairdressing is not like selling hamburgers,' he says. 'I'm not like a hawker centre or a foot massage place that can just move if the rent goes up.'
He believes his clients pay $359 for a haircut from him not only for his skill, but also his salon's location and expensive touches.
'People who want to buy a designer dress won't go to Toa Payoh.
'Besides, people would think I am crazy if I hang a chandelier in Toa Payoh.'
HE'LL BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE
COLOR BAR FOR HAIR
Where: 1 Jalan Jamal (along Upper East Coast Road, next to Starbucks), tel: 6441-1136
Price: Haircut from $38, colour from $60 and highlights from $70
Star attraction: Gene Niu, 24, leading stylist
With his long floppy fringe, bleached hair styled into a helmet shape and over-sized black framed glasses, Gene Niu looks the sort who would hope for you to be as trend-conscious as he is.
But the Johor-born hairstylist is actually shy by nature. He won't force a look on you, but he will speak up if he thinks your current style can be improved.
'I won't bluff the customer into getting a style that doesn't look good,' he assures.
What he loves about the job, he says, is how he can boost a person's confidence by making him or her look better with a few snips and a colouring job.
'That gives me a confidence boost too,' he says with a laugh.
Proficient only in Cantonese when he moved to Singapore in 2005, he would get the message across to non-dialect- speaking customers with the help of his colleagues or by pointing to pictures in magazines.
'I understood yes or no, want or don't want.'
He is now comfortable speaking in English and Mandarin.
A perfectionist, he usually sees customers through the entire cut, wash and colour process, scrutinising them for uneven or stray hairs every step of the way.
He specialises in Japanese styles and short hair cuts.
He picked up the shears seven years ago in Johor after stints in tailor shops and as a waiter.
He lives and breathes hairstyling, and keeps up with the latest trends through international magazines.
The extra effort has paid off. Most of his customers are referrals from existing clients and he sees up to 15 clients a day.
But he brushes this off, saying: 'I don't think I'm the best here. My four other colleagues are equally good.'
CUSTOMERS ARE HER FRIENDS
SALON #1 HAIR AND BEAUTY SCHOOL
Where: Block 513, Bishan Street 13, 02-518, tel: 6258-3822
Price: $150 for eyebrow embroidery
Star attraction: Amy Sim, 42, eyebrow embroidery expert
There's certainly no shortage of eyebrow embroidery services around the island. But if you want yours done by the best, you'll have to wait at least four months for Amy Sim.
The wait can stretch to six months during busy periods like that leading up to Chinese New Year.
She is so busy she works seven days a week and sometimes stays up till 1am at her simply furnished salon, which she set up about 15 years ago.
In fact, the mother of two teens jokes: 'I don't have time for friends so all my customers are my friends.'
And her friends range from students and maids to local celebrities and even foreign dignitaries, whom she declines to name.
Everyone is treated the same though. Despite some offering to pay her double, she maintains a strict policy that bars queue-cutting.
In her more than 20 years in the trade, she has never advertised.
'I don't need to when all my customers are walking advertisements,' she explains.
While some customers flare up at the long waiting time - they sometimes have to wait up to two hours for their turn despite prior appointments - she says their anger almost always subsides when they look into the mirror after she's done.
And no wonder, because she can work magic, making sparse brows look full and correcting previously botched jobs in 15 minutes flat.
She even uses feng shui philosophy to create the most 'lucky' shape while taking into account your face shape.
She is so popular with her customers that they ply her with treats like doughnuts and homemade cakes.
She started out with eyebrow tattooing, which she picked up in Japan more than 20 years ago.
Now an expert in creating 'natural-looking shapes with no visible outlines', she says the trick is to know 'how each customer's skin will absorb the dye because everyone is different'.
Plant extracts are used to dot the skin with colour and there is no bleeding - she has never had any customer who developed an allergic reaction.
The fact that she does not charge any service fee for touch-ups but just $30 for the use of a new needle could also explain her popularity. Touch-ups are required as the colour fades after one or two years.
While she has done well enough to afford a shop space 'in a more high-class area', she says: 'I'm comfortable here in Bishan where the feeling is more relaxed and it's more convenient for my customers.'
PERFECT BROWS IN FIVE MINUTES
Where: 24/26 Buffalo Road, tel: 6291-6789
Price: Threading for brows, $7, upper lip, $5, bikini line, $20
Star attraction: Vincy, 31, brow guru
The 14-year-old shop's tagline is 'the brow gurus', but it is just one woman who has threaded about 10,000 faces in her decade of threading who deserves the title.
Tucked away above provision shops across from Tekka Market, Rupini's is a cosy sanctuary where women go to beautify themselves.
Vincy, a mother of two, is a walking advertisement for her services. She has long silky tresses, soft smooth skin and, of course, beautifully groomed brows.
She picked up the skill in 1993 after watching her aunt do it.
She can thread unruly brows in five minutes, and customers are so comfortable with her that she also threads bikini lines.
Her customers, she says, range from students to housewives.
Male customers also ask to have their facial hair threaded.
Threading entails twisting a special cotton thread and rolling it over a row of unwanted hair to remove it.
Despite the fact that the shop doesn't advertise, Vincy and six other colleagues can serve up to 300 customers a month, thanks to word of mouth.
The main advantage of threading over plucking, she says, is that the hair grows back finer which makes it easier to create a more defined shape.
RELAX AND WATCH THE MAGIC
NAILS IN LOVE
Where: Block 18 Jalan Membina, 02-01 (opposite Tiong Bahru Plaza), tel: 6271-3130
Price: $33 for a pedicure and $22 for a manicure
Star attractions: Nail technicians Olivia Chua, 25, and Sharon Goh, 27
Don't be put off by its tiny 200 sq ft of space. You'll soon warm up to the cosy ambience of this immaculately clean and tastefully decorated nail spa, which fits just three customers at any one time.
Customers are served in a plush armchair in a private corner and treated to cookies and a selection of 15 drinks, including herbal teas and soft drinks.
The star draws, though, are Olivia Chua and Sharon Goh, the two pretty therapists who are so popular they were booked out two months ago by those eager to prep themselves for Chinese New Year.
Chua has 61/2 years of experience while Goh has been in the line for four years.
The certificates and qualifications displayed prominently at the front desk attest to Chua's skill.
She has participated in nail competitions in Malaysia, and though she has not won any, she says she has learnt much from observing her competitors.
She will also head to Las Vegas and Taiwan later this year to pit her skills against the best.
Goh, on the other hand, is known for her superb foot massages, which come with every pedicure.
Have badly chipped or weak nails? Fret not. With a wink, Chua and Goh assure you that they will 'do magic'. Just sit back and relax.
And the results are amazing. Their acrylic or gel falsies look so real nobody will know they aren't the real deal.
The spa uses O.P.I nail polishes and products from the United States and scrubs and lotions from American brand Creative, which are known to be the best in the business.
The shop also offers a wide variety of nail art, including 3-D designs ranging from the cute (flowers) to the edgy (fantasy characters) to the festive (Christmas trees). These are updated regularly.
The duo started working at Nails In Love two years ago when the salon opened.
While there is only one outlet at the moment, co-founder Anthony Lee plans to open another later this year, also in the heartlands for the cheaper rental.