You use organic shampoo and conditioner, dab non-toxic eye shadow on your lids and sip organic gin and tonics at your favorite farm-to-table restaurant.
Well, don’t overlook your hair.
When I first moved to NYC, I got a recommendation for a Soho salon from a friend. My hairstylist has been nothing but great. But when Brian Wallis of the new-ish Soho Organics Salon emailed me offering a review haircut, how could I say no?
So on a warm Saturday I hopped on my bike and rode down through the West Village to the salon. Inside it’s exposed brick, three chairs, two hair-washing sinks, a front desk and a little table with organic teas.
With just the three stylists doing everything at this little nook of a salon, it feels friendly and not at all intimidating. When you walk in, your stylist is just as likely to be at the front desk to greet you or on the phone taking an appointment as fussing over a client’s hair.
Once Brian got me settled into a chair, we discussed what I wanted. I had been considering straight-across, blunt bangs for some time, but my current stylist had gently discouraged me over and over again. I’m sure Brian was nervous about my request (the risk of a blogger freaking out about bangs-gone-wrong–even if she asked for them–is a very real one) but I assured him it’s what I wanted. Bangs don’t take long to grow out, anyway. So he started to work, while telling me more about the philosophy of the salon.
“We’re green by default because we’re concerned with health,” he said. Just like in a nail salon, what’s good for the clients is better for the stylists. They are breathing in that stuff all day, you see.
Soho Organics’ Story
For Brian Wallis, who has had a lifelong interest in health, it was only natural for him to take a job at the original go-to organic salon by John Masters.
“Most hair stylists laugh at organic salons. It seems like a gimmick. But literally from the first time I walked in, it was so relaxed, so chill, no drama, no craziness.”
And the salon wasn’t just for hippies–Brian estimates 70 to 80 percent of the John Masters clients were pregnant or had started coming when they were pregnant. Other were cancer survivors or had other health issues that made them seek out a cleaner option.
And then Masters, ostensibly wanting to give his product line his full attention, gave six months notice to the stylists before he closed the salon. Brian and two other stylists, Jen Parker and Rod Rayson, scrambled to put together their own venture, pouring their savings into it. When they opened, almost all of their clients followed. “They didn’t have much choice,” Brian says.
(That has changed, as some other former John Masters stylists have recently opened a salon called Hale in Tribeca. It’s so new there are no reviews out yet on how nice it is.)
Some salons use some organic products on request, but for the picky customer, that’s just not enough because you are still inhaling the chemicals from other treatments. (Lesson: Don’t even frequent a salon that does hair straightening.)
At Soho Organics, all the shampoos, conditioners and even products like argon oil are John Masters, naturally. The hair color is by Organic Color Systems, which is free of ammonia and ammonia-like substances and odor-free.
Brian warned me off of so-called “ammonia-free” hair dye products offered by some salons. The trick is that they replace ammonia with another chemical that doesn’t have the same power, upping the levels to match the potency of ammonia. “I had a woman who came in who was going to get her hair done at a salon that was ammonia-free,” Brian said, “But her eyes were watering and her scalp was burning.”
I can’t personally attest to what this special hair dye is like, since I keep things natural. But a client of SO’s told me via email that her hair is super shiny after the treatment. “People stop me to comment, in fact,” she said. Brian says that it’s like your hair has never been treated.
Go ahead and ask your stylists about the ingredients in any product. Brian reeled off a laundry list of acronyms for me. “It contains a little MEA and no TEA, and doesn’t contain propelyne glycol. There’s a 4% cap on PPDs in Europe, but in America we cap it at 7%. It’s .4 to .7% here. You can’t have completely PPD free permanent color. It’s PTD free.”
Translation: We took out all the bad crap we possibly could. And we are super friggin’ knowledgeable.
Soho Organics also offers a treatment called Keragreen. “We call it a smoothing system or a defrizzer. It’s truly formaldyhyde free. Once you’ve gotten the treatment done, you just take a flat brush and hair dryer and run it through your hair and it’s straight. But if you just let your hair air dry, it is still the natural texture of your hair, just without frizz.”
It sounds like just the thing for beautiful summer hair.
When Brian finished with a blow dry of my hair, I was tentatively pleased. It’s always hard to see your look completely change. (“Is this too hipster?”) But in the last week I’ve grown to be absolutely in love with the bangs! I’ve morphed from a preppy girl to something a little edgier. It suits my mood and style much better.
I’m a convert. The stylists are passionate and knowledgeable about the ingredients in their products and treatments. And they are damn good at what they do!
Hot tip: Brian tisked my use of clarifying shampoo from my usual salon. “It’s just extra strong shampoo.” But I need to get rid of the buildup in my super thick hair! He recommends apple cider vinegar instead. Mix 1 part vinegar with 8 parts water, and douse your head with it. “It removes build up, is antibacterial, balances the PH and seals the ends,” he told me. Noted.
First appointments are at 11 AM, and last appointments at 6:30 PM. Prices range from $65 for a blow dry, to $105-125 for a haircut, hair color starting at $100, and Keragreen from $350 to $550.