Blowout bars rolling out across the Triangle

cbolling@charlotteobserver.comMay 14, 2014 

  • Making a blowout last

    Depending on your hair type and scalp oil levels, blowouts can last from two to five days. (Women with curly hair, or thick hair that doesn’t tend to get as oily, can stretch their blowouts the longest.) Stylists offered tricks to keep the blowout looking good longer:

    Use a silk pillowcase, or wrap your head in a silky fabric. Cotton tends to catch on hair strands, so sleeping on a silk pillowcase will help the blowout survive the night.

    If you have long hair, sleep with it piled on top of your head in a large alligator clip. This will keep it away from the oils and warmth of your head and neck, and when you take it down in the morning it should fall into place.

    Don’t fiddle with your hair. The less tucking behind your ears or finger combing you do, the better. Your hands have oils that transfer to your hair, plus you are breaking down products that are layered in to give it volume.

    Freshen the look in the morning with dry shampoo and a warm hairdryer. If the roots are oily, sprinkle dry shampoo on your scalp to freshen and plump up the blowout. Use a round brush and a brief shot of warm air at the roots to restore the shape.

Juggling two young children and three local restaurants that she owns with her husband, Lauren Smith doesn’t have time to wash, dry and straighten her hair into a stylish ’do every day.

So every Thursday around 11 a.m., she checks into Parlor Dry Bar on Lake Boone Trail in Raleigh for a $30, 30-minute blowout that will last her until Sunday.

“It usually takes me an hour to blow-dry my hair and straighten it, but it doesn’t look nearly as good so I put it up in a ponytail or bun,” says Smith, 34, who, with husband Jason, co-owns the restaurants 18 Seaboard and Cantina 18 in Raleigh and Harvest 18 in Durham. “This probably saves me two hours a week, but more than that, it makes me feel great and my hair looks so good when it’s done.”

For the uninitiated, blowout salons – often called blowout bars – are one of the nation’s fastest-growing trends in hair. From $30 to $60 (the price depends on the complexity of the hairdo), patrons have their hair washed and blow-dried in a style that’s designed to last from two to five days.

There’s nary a scissor or tube of hair dye in sight.

The specialty salons have been around for years in cities like New York and Los Angeles, where homemakers and high-powered executives can be found perched side-by-side in rotating chairs.

“It is a luxury for most, but it’s become less of a luxury and more of a necessity for some,” akin to women’s growing reliance on nail salons, eyebrow waxing bars or massages, says Holly Carter, beauty director for PeopleStylewatch magazine.

“It’s become a part of some people’s daily routines,” Carter says. “We’re all so time-crunched, and anything that can save us a half an hour, or even five minutes, we are willing to allocate resources to do it. It’ll definitely be around for a long time to come.”

In cities like Raleigh, the trend is taking flight.

Expanding landscape

Emily Cutts and Allison Rohde Conley are among the blowout trendsetters in the Triangle area. Not content to wait for their Parlor Dry Bar to open its permanent location in Cameron Village in June, they opened a pop-up salon on Lake Boone Trail in February. While they waited for the pop-up location to open, they were sending their lead stylist to customers’ homes and hotels.

Cutts and Conley had both worked in fashion for years, Cutts as a fabric coordinator for Tory Burch in New York and as an assistant designer at Raleigh Denim. Conley worked in buyer and manager jobs at local boutiques including Gena Chandler. Last year, the two puzzled over why blowout bars were so popular in other cities but nonexistent in Raleigh.

“We said, ‘We cannot believe there isn’t one here yet,’ ” Conley says.

(The B. Out the BlowDry Bar Salon offers a mobile blowout service. They hosted a blowout boot camp, sharing tips and techniques for perfecting blowouts, earlier this week in Raleigh. And the Alter Ego salon on Hargett Street in Raleigh is opening a blow dry bar within their full-service shop this week.)

Business has been brisk at Parlor. Clients include busy businesswomen, ladies looking for a fun escape and out-of-town visitors. Weddings and other special events are also big draws, Conley says. The salon uses Bumble & Bumble products.

They’ve been called on to style a couple of celebrities, Conley says, including Dina Manzo of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” in February and Trina Turk in March.

At the pop-up location and the upcoming permanent one, which will have eight chairs and eight to 12 stylists, Conley says the goal is to provide a “fun, laid-back” atmosphere.

“Sometimes people are in there wanting to chat, and sometimes people come in and want to zone out for a little bit,” Conley says.

Becoming a habit

About 5 miles away in Raleigh’s North Hills shopping center, two other blowout entrepreneurs, Julie Burris and Jenny Beaudin, are preparing to open Blown Away in June.

The women, sisters-in-law and former educators, say they decided to take the leap into salon ownership after Burris visited a blowout bar in New York City in 2012. They talked over the concept and agreed that Raleigh women would likely go for the service. To boost their business skills, the two enrolled in small business classes and a mentoring program called SCORE, and went on research trips to cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, and Charleston, S.C. to see what they wanted their salon to look like.

“Don’t imagine a salon where you sit in front of stations,” Burris says. Instead the salon will have a long counter with chairs at the bar. “We’ll have a TV or two on the wall to play fun girlie movies, loud music and a really fun atmosphere. There will be complimentary drinks to get the party started.”

The two also envision mommy-and-me offerings, girls’ night events and blowouts for men, which they saw on the menu at some of the salons they visited.

“There’s no better feeling than leaving the salon,” Burris says. “Your hair feels great, and you look great.”

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