With concerns about plastic-free growing and veganism becoming an increasingly popular lifestyle choice, making your salon and barbershop “free from” chemicals, animal products and plastics is gaining in popularity. We spoke to salons who have successfully tapped into this trend without cutting corners on quality or profitability.
From being something perhaps seen as a bit niche or unusual, going vegan is becoming increasingly mainstream.
The Vegan Society has estimated that Britain’s vegan population has increase by 350% in a decade, from 150,000 people in 2006 to 542,000 in 2016. According to research firm the Local Data Company, the number of vegan restaurants opening in 2017 went up by a whopping 61.5%. The social media platform Pinterest has reported a boom in searches for the term “vegan beauty”, with a 50% increase in the past 12 months. For hair and beauty salons and barbershops, there is a potential business opportunity here, not just around veganism but also in terms of tapping into growing public awareness of, and interest in, environmental issues and sustainability.
WORRIES AROUND PLASTIC
For example, since June, retailers in England and Scotland have been banned from selling rinse-off cosmetic and personal care products such as face scrubs, toothpaste, soaps and shower gels that contain solid plastic “microbeads”.
The Government has also indicated that the 5pc levey on single-use plastic bags will be extended to all retailers, not just larger businesses. Coffee shop chains such as Starbucks have pledged to stop using single-use plastic straws. And wet wipes that include plastic could be phased out within the next couple of decades, the government has said.
What this all adds up to is the idea of being an “eco” or “free from” salon or, at the very lease, “doing your bit” for the environment is something that can increasingly chime with what your clients are looking for these days.
We spoke to two salons that have gone down the “free from” route to see how they have made it work.
Liz Dunne runs Barnet & Belle Organic Hair and Beauty Salon in Poole, Dorset
“I’ve been a hairdresser for 30 years and during my career I gradually came to the conclusion I no longer wanted to be working with chemicals. I’d had some health issues myself that I was certain were related to chemicals and allergies, and so I decided last year it was time to seek an alternative.
“I opened Barnet and Belle in July 2017, and I try as much as possible to make the salon’s offering 100% natural, organic and vegan. On the hair side, we use Organic Colour Systems (OCS) and Maria Nila and for beauty we use Neal’s Yard Remedies.
“We offer both hair and beauty sevices – hair, nails and brows. It is a bijou salon, and we recognise that many of our clients are time-poor; so the fact they can get their hair, nails and brows all done at the same time is a big selling point. Our beauty therapist also offers mindfulness and relaxation sessions in the salon which are very popular.
“Clients come to use because they are interested in our vegan / organic ethos. About half of them have, or have had, some form of long-term illness or allergy-related condition. Sometimes they have experienced cancer and so cannot have chemicals used on their hair or skin. Also, our lady customers who are pregnant may want to minimise exposure to chemicals, so our product range is the perfect solution.
“OCS is, as I understand it, the only colour house endorsed by Cancer Research UK – so having it as our brand is such a good selling point; it is a real reassurance. We use eco towels and eco heads on the washbasins, we try to recycle everything that we can, which is also something clients are quite interested in.
“It has been a steep learning curve, as you have to learn how to us organic products and every head is, of course different. We also have to explain to clients that it is not going to be as quick a service as in a ‘normal salon. It probably takes 25-30% longer to do than a regular chemical service.
“Despite organic products taking slightly long to apply than usual, I’m confident that the salon offers great value when compared to the traditional salons in the local rea. Our prices are similar – customers get great value for money and peace fo mind that their personal values are aligned with our business ethos.
“When you’re moving to vegan products, which are not, of course, tested on animals, it can be quite hard to find the product range that suits you. A lot of younger clients are very interested in this area too, it is something they are very focused on.
“For me, the key to going down this route is to be open-minded about the changes you’ll need to make. And do not think it is something you do quickly, or that it is a quick fix. You have to want to embrace it; you have to actively want to move away from using chemicals.
“It is a learning process but it also feels like I have come home, come back to where things feel right.”
Luke Hopkins runs The OS Hair Salon, based outside Ipswich in Suffolk
“I’ve worked in the industry for about ten years. I’m allergic to gluten and so have always been interested in the ‘free from’ scene; I’ve always had to examine the labels on everything carefully.
“The catalyst for me was when, soon after my niece was born – who is nw five – we all went on holiday to Cornwall. Every single day she had an allergic reacion to something; she was in hospital and we were all freaking out; it was just terrifying.
“It made me thing ‘what the hell is going on?’. As well as being gluten-intolerant, I’m asthmatic, get hayfever and since birth, have had exzema. And it was all just getting so much worse. So many hairdressier you find are asthmatic or have dermatitis, it’s frightening. And you’re applying chemical hair colur perhaps ten times a dy.
“I began to feel uncomfortable with using chemical colour products, both for my oun health but also because I really care for my clients and what it is I’m putting on their hair, many of whom I’ve known for many years.
“I’ve been vegan myself for the past two years and I just watned to do something that joined everything together, and where I was able to do the duty of care that I wanted to do for clients and family.
“So that is what led to ‘The OS. We’re located between Ipswich and Gloucester on a complex of converted barns that were once part of pig farm. It is a totally environmental site – there are electric vehicle charging points, solar panels, and wind turbines; the rainwater is also harvested.
“Even the paint we’ve used inside is clay-based. All materials are Forest Steward Council-approved. The furniture is all bespoke, and we use oils on the wood rather than varnish. The salon stools are by the sustanible designer Ilse Crawford. For me, it’s all been about the detail.
“For example, our refreshments are served on sustainable bamboo trays; we’ve taken plastic out as much as we can. Our teapots are glass – because China has bone in it – our coffee machine uses fairtrade and organic loose-leaf teas and ground coffee.
“We have no single-use plastic filters on the tops of our cups; milk is in stainless steel jars, the sugar is in glass, the plates and bowls are all glass. We use organic towels and hemp napkins and hand towels. We have a bookshelf instead of magazines, although we also have good Wi Fi.
“When it comes to product, I’ve gone for Italian brand Organic Way. It is certified by the animal welfare group PETA, it is totoally organi, and even present in amber galss so you repurpose the bottles. Even the laels are made from waste from sugar cane. They’ve also recently launched tint brushes that are made from straw and are plastic-free.
“It was important for me the salon wasn’t all sandals and dreadlocks; it is a luxury salon and I wasn’t prepared to compromise on quality. The end result for the hair has to be as good; in fact I feel we’ve smashed the quality of everyhing I used to do before with conventional products. In terms of performance, it has way exceeded my expectations.
“We’re not the cheapest. We charge £54.50 for a 45-minute consultain. But I still think we offer real valuefor money; we’re on par with wha a lot of salons around here are charging. It is just about changing the mindset. “For me, the best advice, especially if you’re finding the whole thing a bit daunting, is just start with one change. For me, it was switching from plastic trays and coffee cups. There are so many alternatives now out there.”
FACTS AND FIGURES
350% – increase in the number of vegans in the UK, from 150,000 in 2006 to 542,000 in 2016
50% – increase in searches for “vegan make-up” on Pinterest in the past year
61.5% – growth in the number of vegan restaurants in 2017
21 million – number of people in the UK estimated to have an allergic disease
(source: The Vegan Society, Pinterest, Locl Data Company, Allergy UK)
DON’T FORGET TO … CHECK OUT DISPOSABLE TOWELS
One visible and relatively easy way to show your commitment to being greener is to switch to biodegradable disposable towels.
Using a disposable towel can save you thousands of litres of water per year compared with washing and drying cotton towels, says Easydry Chief Executive Anne Butterly.
“The average four stylist salon can save up to 64,000 litres of water by using Easydry towels versus traditional laundry,” she says.
It is worth checking, however, they are 100% biodegradable / compostable (and Easydry for example is Forest Stewardship Coucil-approved) and that they don’t contain plastic, as some disposable towel brands do.
It’s not just environmental concerns that can play their part in this sort of switch, says Sophia Hilton of London salon Not Another Salon.
“I had just opened up the salon and I was terrified about whether I would have enough time and space for laundry. Easydry towels basically meant that I didn’t need to have an extra junior and that made a huge difference,” she says.
Reproduced with kind permission of Salon Focus.