Spa owner offers up a bit of Cleopatra’s favorite beauty technique

Ukraine Immigrant turns Successful Entrepreneur with Cutting Edge services

by Tina Johansson

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, so go ahead and do something special for yourself, or indulge your favorite girl or guy with the latest beauty treatment—the 24 Karat Gold Facial.

The 24 Karat Gold Facial is available at Sasha G's.
The 24 Karat Gold Facial is said to be beneficial for the health and beauty of skin. – Sasha G Salon & Spa photos

The luxurious facial therapy at Sasha G Salon & Spa in the north suburbs, one of only a few places around that offers it, has a multiple advantage: Packed with therapeutic benefits, the precious metal facial is said to tighten and tone the skin, remove fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, strengthen elastin and decrease inflammation which in turn helps slow melanin secretion and reduce age spots, all while leaving behind a radiant glow.

“Pure gold has been used in skincare and for healing purposes for centuries,” said Larisa Stupnitsky, longtime beauty expert and owner of Sasha G’s in Wheeling.

A Leap of Faith

The salon founded in 1992 by Stupnitsky, an immigrant of the Ukraine, flows with “positive energy.”
Larisa Stupnitsky works on a client’s hair at her shop Sasha G Salon & Spa in Wheeling.

Classically trained in piano, Stupnitsky and her husband Simon, a former historian, came to the United States nearly 37 years ago with their young son Gene in tow.

“We are Jewish, and although we were both educated, it was hard to find a job (in the Ukraine),” said the salon owner. Additionally, her husband was being pressured to teach for the Communist Party, which he did not want to do, she said.

“My mother-in-law had a cousin in Chicago, so we came here and stayed with her,” said Stupnitsky. The young couple made the move with Simon’s parents, and headed off to start from scratch. “We had nothing more than two suitcases. We had to leave everything behind,” said the salon owner.

Stupnitsky started out working as a shampoo girl in Marshall Field’s beauty salon in Water Tower Place, while her husband drove trucks and taxi cabs, she said.

Her second job was manicurist at a salon in Northbrook. She next went to work for Sam Martirano Salon & Spa in Glenview, where she also worked on nails. All the while she attended beauty school.

Martirano, her mentor, who  died several years ago, saw her as a golden girl early on.

“He used to tell me, ‘If I had more people like you I would be a millionaire,’” she recalled.

“And I would say, ‘I love you Sam, but I want to be a millionaire myself.’”

She continued to work hard, and made the jump into business ownership. The Stupnitsky’s children – Gene, 38, and Alexandra (Sasha), 30, learned the hard work ethic from their parents.

“It is what we instilled in them,” said Stupnitsky. “And because of it, they are now living the American dream.”

Gene, 38, is a recognized screen writer who works between L.A. and New York, and daughter Alexandra who was born in the United States, is a talented marketing consultant working for a boutique company in downtown Chicago.

Truth be told, though, Stupnitsky is the one who has achieved the American Dream.

Larisa and Simon Stupnitsky shortly after arriving in the U.S.
Larisa and Simon Stupnitsky shortly after arriving in the U.S. Mrs. Stupnitsky worked hard to create her own salon & spa which is known for its cutting edge services.

After buying a 1,500 square foot storefront and opening her salon, she “took a leap of faith” and expanded it to more than twice the size.

“I maxed out my credit cards, and built the place up. And slowly but surely we made it what it is today,” she said.

Now 4,000 square-feet, Sasha G’s includes a nail area, nine hair care stations, areas for makeup, facials and body treatments, and a fireplace. A staff of 17 specialized professionals make up her team.

Getting back to 24 karat facials…

Many skin care professionals swear by the precious metal’s uses, and a number of A-List celebrities including Cameron Diaz and Nicole Kidman are said to have indulged in the treatment for their famous glow.

Perhaps the greatest testament to placing gold on the skin however, comes from Cleopatra. Historians have found the Egyptian queen made sleeping with a gold mask on her face, a nightly ritual. “Ancient Ayurvedic treatments have always used gold,” noted Stupnitsky.

And after all these years gold is still regarded as beneficial by many skin care professionals. The latest process— the gold mask facial, started in Japan several years ago.

Generally in a gold facial the skin is softened with a fine mist, before the treasured metal is applied. Sasha G’s uses 24 karat gold leaf, a 100 percent natural ingredient, placed onto the face and neck. Eventually the gold is absorbed.

Stupnitsky who is known for her creativity, said she doesn’t want to simply be up-to-the-minute at her spa. “I want to offer services above and beyond the trends,” she said. “I am always searching for new things. When I brought in the gold facial, no one around here was doing it.”

According to Sasha G’s website menu, the 24 Karat Gold facial begins at $247. Though that might sound a bit pricey, it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to the treatment. Some top salons throughout the world offer gold facials for more than double, sometimes triple that figure.

Devotees say the luminous and rejuvenating treatment is well worth it.

A single gold facial takes only one hour, and can make your face look and feel firmer, fresher and appear more vibrant, said Stupnitsky.

Gold and Honey

If you aren’t quite ready for a gold facial just yet, why not try something else extraordinary at Sasha G’s—including an organic, 85 minute Warm Honey Massage and body wrap?

The use of honey as a wound dressing goes back to ancient times and has now been ‘rediscovered’ in spas across the country as massage therapy, as it’s anti-inflammatory action reduces pain and helps to improve circulation , according to Stupnitsky.

See the online menu for more information and pricing by visiting or call Sasha G Salon & Spa at 847.215.7033.

Coming up Sunday Feb.7 – Sasha G’s Valentine event

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Purple Sprout Café is teaming up with nearby Sasha G Salon & Spa for a healthful and beautiful one day only RED Event.

Treat yourself and friends for an afternoon of makeovers, champagne, and samplings of healthy and delicious vegan food.

Date & Time: Sunday, Feb. 7 from noon – 4 p.m.

Places: The Purple Sprout Café – 341 E. Dundee Rd.; and Sasha G’s Salon & Spa, 371 Dundee Rd., both in Wheeling.

At Sasha G’s there will be a glitzy Hollywood-like Red Carpet experience through glamorous makeovers, hands, feet, face and body treatments, champagne and photo shoots. Here you can experience a variety of hair and scalp treatments and try out new hair styles.

At the Purple Sprout Café you can learn how to make raw fruit tarts in a matter of minutes for only $5. All the delicious organic, sugar-free plant-based food and beverages will be 20 percent off.

Some of the specials include red crepes (gluten-free), red smoothies, heart-shaped cheesecakes and Red Velvet hot chocolate, all in honor of Valentine’s Day.

During the event, you can purchase gift certificates from Sasha G’s (for every $100 spent, Sasha G will gift you $25).

In addition, sign up for a couples cooking class at the Purple Sprout Café that takes place on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. Couples will learn how to make a fabulous three course meal and enjoy it by candlelight.



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