Cut, $50 and up
3131 W. Logan Blvd.
The place: This eco-friendly salon is fairly bare-bones, with teal walls, a few vintage birdcages, and a product-refilling station where customers top off empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
What we were after: We were open to suggestions—as long as they would remedy an uneven, overlayered cut that left our hair frazzled.
What we got: Using long-bladed scissors, Dominguez did away with our wrecked ends and suggested flirty Brigitte Bardotlike bangs.
Bottom line: We walked in with our hair hidden in a messy knot, but after Dominguez rescued our botched cut, we were excited to show off a healthier, sexier style.
An earth-first philosophy is migrating from the fringes to the mainstream, as internet-educated and social-media savvy consumers are demanding salon products and service that 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 Arizona, specifically 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 ecofriendly mindset,”says Irene Fernandes owner of Brio, A Salon in Tucson.“We are always reaching to be better. At this time, we are perhaps 80 percent eco-friendly in our product mix.”
At Bird’s Nest, the same holds true. “Our retail product line up consists of Onesta, Use Me!, and Moroccan Oil. The hair color we use is So Pure by Keune and the 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 that 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. “Let’s face it, the industry as a whole is moving towards a more eco-friendly stance. So, if a salon can grab that market share early, then they can become the go-to place in their community for those products and services.”
Phillip Wolff, co-owner of Shades Salon in Beverly Hills, California, offers their 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 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.”
Raska 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.”
And while clients pay attention to cost, most salons stocking eco-friendly lines find that it’s not their first consideration. “Consumers generally don’t mind paying a bit more for eco-friendly products, especially if they perform well,” says Meghan Moran owner of Alainn Salon in Watertown, Massachusetts. “As a salon owner, it gives peace of mind knowing that carrying eco-friendly products is better for staff, clients and the overall environment.”
For two months, 3131 W. Logan Blvd. had nothing more than an intriguing image in its storefront. Now with a company sign and bird cages lining the upper window pane, it is Logan Square’s first eco-friendly hair salon, The Bird’s Nest (@birdsnestsalon).
Above three black chairs, hair dryers hang from the ceiling in a neat row, not only creating a beautiful façade, but also emitting low-electricity light. Seeking refuge from the dreary Sunday morning, I found it in the warm, robin colors on the wall, the fresh pot of coffee being poured into my cup and the inviting nature of the three brunettes, who comprise the salon’s full-time staff.
Throughout history, the products used to beautify actually cause damage. With health-conscious and green-friendly living sweeping the nation, synthetic products have become more taboo, as organic ones have become a more viable and appealing option.
Inspired by this growing popularity, master stylist Gina Dominguez took a blossoming fad and turned it into a practice. As a long-time Logan Square resident, Dominguez saw the building as the perfect location to create a space that inspired people to give back to the community and be responsible for the decisions they make and how they affect the world we live in.
The Secret Ingredient to Expanding Green Practices
Rather than opt to carry popular organic and eco-friendly brands such as Aveda, Dominguez wanted to explore how companies were embracing sustainable living, starting with the product lines she carries and how they’re dispensed.
Instead of selling products that cause waste, the Bird’s Nest invested in a refilling station. One of the main product lines, Use Me is the first one to create and implement the idea. Use Me supplies The Bird’s Nest with pumps so that when clients have finished their products, they can come back to the salon and purchase them sans packaging. Dedicated to expanding sustainable practices, The Birds Nest is the first eco-friendly salon to offer this line within Chicago. They also carry the PETA-approved line Onesta.
Dying Without Dying
Above the stylists’ chairs hang hair dryers that emit a low-electricity light. Photo: Amanda Elliott
Originally an innocuous practice where Egyptians used the henna plant to conceal their grays, the hair dying process today uses pungent, damaging chemicals that transform hair into shades of copper red and golden blonde, but at a cost. Over the years, the hair industry has responded to customers’ requests to carry eco-friendly products that still provide plentiful options beyond henna’s limited effects.
At The Bird’s Nest, the stylists found that transforming your hair doesn’t have to be toxic, in fact they prefer it not to be. They found when you subtract toxins, add delicious ingredients such as sandalwood and jasmine found in the So Pure by Keune line, you not only provide a sensuous experience for the scalp, but a healthy experience for your entire head of hair.
Stylist Maya De La Fuente explains that, “Sandalwood doesn’t just smell good, it acts as a barrier for your skin so that when you dye your hair, it will continue to moisturize your cuticles and promote healthier hair.”
A Guide to Haircuts
Stylists recommend getting a haircut every six to eight weeks for women and every three to four weeks for men. Choose from two full-time stylists, a part-time stylist specializing in ethnic hair and a stylist that accommodate kid’s haircuts every Wednesday.
Offering the only ethnic stylist in the neighborhood and the only salon in Chicago to use a refilling station, The Birds Nest is a truly unique addition to Logan Square.