AN EARTH-FIRST PHILOSOPHY is migrating from the fringes to the mainstream, as consumers are demanding salon products and services they consider safer for themselves, their families and the environment. While some skeptics see marketing hype prompting an undeserved panic, others feel that going green makes good sense. But what does it mean for the salon owner?

“I am not sure if consumers are more environmentally conscious or that they are beginning to see the repercussions of past consumer behavior, but what I do know is they are now being given a large selection of choices. And, with more choices available, they are opting for eco-friendly products,” says Gina Dominguez, owner of the Bird’s Nest in Chicago, an alternative salon dedicated to green living and wellness. Use Me! Products, an eco-chic hair care line, has found a soft landing at Bird’s Nest where their “refill, reuse, repeat” philosophy aligns with Dominguez’ own.

“Everyone is concerned about the environment. In Tucson, we have an abundance of solar energy and even though there is not an abundance of ‘green choices’ most of our clientele have an eco-friendly mindset,” says Irene Fernandes owner of Brio, A Salon. “At this time, we are perhaps 80 percent eco-friendly in our product mix.”

At Bird’s Nest, the same holds true. “Our retail products consist of Onesta, Use Me!, and Moroccanoil. The color we use is So Pure by Keune and Beth Minardi Signature Hair Color,” says Dominguez. “While not all of our products are officially eco-friendly, they all share similar eco-friendly concepts.

In a crowded playing field, Troy Raszka, director of marketing for Organic Color Systems says offering earth-friendly alternatives attracts attention. “Anything that can set a salon apart is a good thing. And if that unique selling point is actually something that is healthier for the stylist, client and environment, then even better,” says Raszka. “The industry as a whole is moving toward a more eco-friendly stance. If a salon can grab that market share early, then they can become the go-to place in their community.”

Phillip Wolff, co-owner of Shades Salon in Beverly Hills, California, offers its own Natural Color Process or NCP and Neuma styling products. “Our salon is boutique, more of a destination place, so you have to look for us. And people are finding us from all over the world by searching on the internet because they are researching their own concerns—allergies, cancer recovery, safer hair color during pregnancy.”

When salons have an eco-conscience, stylists in the salon must be educated about the product and service options, plus be aware of ingredients. This is a good thing, says Inga Tritt, a hairdresser and founder of Original Sprout, because it puts stylists back in the position of being an expert. “I felt like there was this moment in time when the stylist was just cutting the hair or doing the work, but by carrying our line you become the experts again,” says Tritt. “I’m not going to go to the lady at the health food store and ask her what to use on my hair, I’m going to go to my salon. It’s direct empowerment to the stylist.”

Raszka says the more you know about your client, the better because even “natural” and “organic” can cause reactions. “If stylists can learn about ingredients, formulation and manufacturing that helps to build a different level of trust with the client. If presented in a caring way, it shows both concern for the customer and the environment which, in turn, will make retail recommendations and sales much easier.”

 “I think of every hairdresser as my sister—I want to make this world a better place even if it’s through shampoo.” —Inga Tritt

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