I Went to a Clean Air Salon

by mathhbratt

My body hates most things. It especially hates man-made chemical compounds used in cleaning products and personal hygiene products. One of the top offenders on the list of chemical aggravators is usually listed in ingredients as “fragrance.” Given the right combination of synthetic fragrance and other chemicals (such as the combination in hand sanitizer – yes that awful scent is intentional – and window cleaner), and I could be dealing with a migraine after just a moment of exposure. Other symptoms are brain fog, difficulty breathing, and other miserable reactions, but the migraine is always the hardest to get rid of. Granted, asthmatic reactions are never fun, but they are generally much more short-lived than the migraine headaches seeking to rob me of life.

Imagine dealing with these sensitivities or allergies or whatever they are and trying to do anything in public. The other day my husband talked me into going to Bed Bath and Beyond for a lamp. BIG mistake! I barely made it into the entrance of that store before the headache hit. I cannot watch movies in movie theaters, eat out on a Friday or Saturday night, brunch on Sunday mornings, or enjoy anything in a shopping mall anywhere near any of the stores that spray their clothes to smell like teenage boys trying to get girls. I also cannot get my hair done in a salon. Well, that last one recently changed.

I wish I could remember how I found this place. I am sure it was through google searching for organic salons or maybe organic hair care products. My hair was so much more beautiful back when I could wear the synthetic products on it, but I cannot have that stuff on my head, so close to my face, or even in the house, really, so I have to make due with all natural products. There is a lot to be said for shea butter and coconut oil, but my hair really did look a whole lot better when I could use Paul Mitchell and TiGi products. Sigh.

Anyway, in my searching I found a salon in Guilford, CT called Everlastings. The owner of this salon, Arlene Bouley, suffered from lymphoma, and in her battle and becoming educated on her condition, she learned how toxic the chemicals she was using every day as a cosmetologist were. She sought to create a hair and make up salon and spa using natural products and to educate people on how harmful many of the products they are currently using are to their bodies and their environment.

From an article posted on the Everlastings website “…the atmosphere at Everlastings is like a typical beauty salon’s parallel universe, where, rather than being slammed by caustic chemical vapors, there is the soothing fragrance of natural, essential oils; instead of the pounding beat of pop music, there is blessed silence; and a soft and simple interior replaces overdone, trendy décor.” http://everlastingssalon.com/wp/about/ 

Guilford is an hour drive from me, and large parts of it are heavy traffic. To go after work on a work day would be stressful driving in both directions. Saturdays are usually not that ambitious for me. I need a lot of down time to recover from the work week before and to store up for the work week ahead. (The fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia is not the easiest thing to manage, and I have found I need to not be too ambitious on the weekends if I want to have a somewhat decent week ahead.) I decided to schedule my appointment during an upcoming Spring Break. And then I waited for that day to arrive.

Normally, as a planned day like this approaches, I end up growing closer and closer to cancelling it and then staying home. This most likely would have happened if I had scheduled on a normal Saturday. I scheduled this on the Tuesday of my break, expecting I would have gotten plenty of down time by then to gear up for the drive and the social interactions. I was also worried I may have built this place up too much in my head during the month’s wait between setting the appointment and the day of. I was worried about the drive, and the parking, and that I’d be expecting a miracle and walking away sad. I even worried that she’d discover head lice on me and send me away empty-handed. (Isn’t anxiety fun?) Meanwhile, my hair was continuing to break off and fall out at rapid speed. It was becoming stringier and stringier.

My hair used to be super thick and gorgeous. It was usually the first thing people would notice about me. After losing my thyroid, I have lost a lot of my hair. I don’t have bald spots, but I am shedding way too fast. Add to this it is becoming more and more fragile, and clumps are starting to break off. I can no longer wear it down to my bra strap, because too much is falling out or breaking off, and the hair that makes it to that length is just not enough to look okay. The texture is also becoming very fine and fuzzy. None of this matters as far as the point of my adventure (finding a salon where I can breathe and not have to wash my hair the second I get home and spend the rest of the day with a migraine anyway), but it played a big role in all of the hope and expectations that flooded my brain as I awaited my appointment. I kept trying to tell myself to stop expecting a miracle and to be more realistic….that it was just a hair cut but at a place that wouldn’t make me sick…. no more… no less. But my brain doesn’t really listen to me, so…

The night before my appointment, I studied the google maps. My wallet was full of the cash I had been saving here and there during the weeks leading up to the big day. I planned what I’d wear, what time I’d shower in order for my hair to dry in time, which smoothie I would drink, and so on. My anxiety gets in the way of a lot of things, but it also helps me to be extra prepared for things as well (remember my 6-minute DMV visit?).

On the morning of, I left thirty minutes before the maps said I needed to, because I wanted to leave room for traffic issues and then the very real potential of me driving around in circles trying to find its parking area and door. My husband came with me. I had planned out way ahead of time other things I’d want to do while down there so that all the effort and time of driving could be used on more than a haircut. One of my favorite beaches is down there, but I did not have beach energy. We were going to do the salon, then lunch, then our favorite book store. I had also planned on a market near there, but we spent too much time, money, and spoons on lunch and books for that to happen. (Confused by “spoons?” Find “The Spoon Theory” on butyoudontlooksick.com)

Traffic went well, and the gal who booked my appointment did a great job of telling me how to find their parking. I ended up the entire budgeted thirty minutes early. That didn’t seem to matter to those in the salon. Nobody was annoyed by me showing up so far outside my appointment window. We were immediately greeted with warm smiles and welcomes.

The salon is beautiful. There is a massage room, a boutique, a wig room, and three or four stations for cutting, coloring, perming, etc. All of this is done with natural products, so there is none of that toxic smell in the air. They also do make up, nails, and a host of other spa services there.

The consultation was amazing. I said the phrase many hair dressers hate (“I really don’t know what I want. I’m hoping you have ideas.”) She was giddy when I said it! I had started by telling her lengths I am comfortable and uncomfortable with, but when it came to the style part of it, I was hoping she’d have an idea, and she smiled and was so excited to say, “I do!” She told me she knew the second I walked in the door what haircut I needed. I easily put my trust in her. There really wasn’t much risk, considering how much I hated my hair at this point, and as long as she didn’t go shorter than where I showed her, everything would be fine. She sent me with her assistant for my scalp treatment.

A haircut with Arlene automatically comes with a scalp treatment. Boy was I in need! My scalp had become super dry over the winter. My fatigue and tendinitis join forces to make washing my hair an enormous chore, so I really only wash it once per week. Apparently this practice has contributed greatly to the problems I am having with my hair. Arlene told my husband he should wash my hair for me so that I can wash it every other day. I don’t see him obliging, but I can add that to my life and figure out what to exchange for it.

Once the cut started, it seemed like I blinked, and she was done. She didn’t rush or anything. She was just that good. Shawn was baffled until I compared for him his speed at cooking at our restaurant vs. the speed of our Chef d’Cuisine. Shawn has been cooking for 38 years and can whip out amazing dishes in what seems like the blink of an eye. Our Chef d’Cuisine makes food that tastes equally amazing, but he needs more than a blink to do it. Arlene has been cutting hair for 38 years. She made it seem like nothing. And every hair on my head did exactly what she told it to. And I loved it! It looked fuller, healthier, stronger, and as if she had performed the miracle I had been hoping for! I couldn’t even believe it.

So now, not only have I found a salon that will send me home without a migraine, a salon where I can breathe freely without fear of a coughing fit, but I have also found somebody who can make my hair look pretty again. Granted, it is still thinner and finer and falling out and breaking, but she made it look like none of that is happening. I was pretty much, “take all my money!” as I was buying her hair products and booking my next appointment.

I forgot to mention I remember reading somewhere about the products she has made for her salon. I am foggy on the details, but I think her husband is a chemist and her close friend is an ayurvedic something or aromatherapist….? The part I remember is Arlene’s products are made naturally and organically by them. I was tired of my health food store hair care products and loaded up here. (Meanwhile, Arlene was swooning over my new car, because she loves quirky as much as I do.)

This post is already way too long, so I will wait and write about my post-haircut adventures while still in Guilford (and Madison) in a later post. I’ll include a before and after photo below, but to be fair, the “before” photo was also before coffee, before a shower, before makeup, etc. If you look closely at the lower half of my hair, you can see how thinned out and straggly it is. Well maybe you can. I definitely can. It used to be probably six to eight times as thick! But yeah, that photo was pretty much “before” everything that day. And the “after” photo was immediately after an amazing Italian lunch and a belly full of tiramisu, so not only does it have make-up and coffee, it also has lots of risotto and tiramisu. I am not trying to use trick photography or anything. It’s just how the day played out…