Mirror Images: spa and salon on a budget

Austin Beauty School Clinic.jpg

Home of beauty on a budget.

By Laura Northrup

Mirror Images is a full-service salon, barber shop, and spa located in midtown Albany, where a large percentage of the clientele are severed heads. This sounds more off-putting than it actually is.

Let me explain.

Mirror Images is the "beauty clinic" for students of Austin's School of Spa Technology. The French Revolution ambience comes from the abundance of mannequin heads with rooted human hair. Students practice on those when real clients aren't available.

When they're ready, under the careful supervision of their teachers, they move on to hair still attached to actual humans. Here's where you come in. If you're willing to give them your head to practice on, you can get a haircut for about a quarter of the cost. With a student discount, my haircut cost $10 (before the discount it would be $14, but it's less if you skip the shampoo and blow dry.) Men's haircuts are $7. Color services range from $3 (temporary rinse) to $35.

Then there are the spa services. You can get a mani/pedi for $15. Not each, total. A spa facial goes for $7. No, that is not a typo. Prices for massage therapy vary -- but based on the other prices, it's pretty promising.

The catch, of course, is that the stylists, massage therapists, estheticians and manicurists are all students. But they're well trained. And, you know, somebody's got to be first.

My hairdresser had nearly completed her required 1,035 practice hours, and was close to taking her exam. She washed and conditioned my hair, carefully combed and sectioned it, and then cut, periodically checking with me to make sure that the length of a certain section was correct and what I had in mind. I was thrilled with the result. In the past, I've paid much more for much worse haircuts from already-licensed hairdressers.

Mirror Images is probably not the place to go when you're in a hurry. My shampoo, haircut (a layered bob) and blow-dry took just over an hour. Also, don't go if you're litigious--you need to sign a waiver stating that you understand it's a student clinic. Remember, though, the students are well trained and always supervised.

Don't expect soft lighting and fancy artwork on the walls. Do expect to be treated and styled well, and to help train the Capital Region's next generation of stylists.

Find It

Mirror Images -- Austin's School of Spa Technology
855 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12206

(518) 438-7879


Sounds great! I am always curious about student-based places, but it sounds like a steal - $15 for mani/pedi!? That's amazing. Thanks.

The link for massage prices doesn't work- and that's what I'm most interested in. :(

Editors: the link should be fixed now.

I love going to these types of places. I've gotten my hair cut a few times at student salons, and they put more time and effort into a hair cut than any other place I've been to. Thanks for this article, I am new to Albany area and hadn't heard of it yet!

Actually, there are no massage prices on the website. You've got to call and ask about them. But if they're anything close to the facial prices, they'd be a good value.

Sounds great...are students able to accept tips?

Yes, you can tip the students.

My toes will be getting some loving for sandal season! ...anymore snow in the forecast?

Oh, why hello toes. Yes I think I will be treating you this summer. Sweet!

Definitely call ahead to schedule an appointment. I tried walking in on Saturday afternoon and they didn't have any students in that could give me a haircut (they aren't required to be in on Saturdays even though Mirror Images is open).

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