Salon Equipment: Lease or Buy?

by Karen Mcintosh on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It’s the age-old question when starting a business, lease or buy the necessary equipment? The truth is, both sides have their advantages and disadvantages and the decision rests solely on your personal needs as a salon owner.

Pros of Leasing

If you have limited capital or need equipment that needs to be upgraded every few years, leasing can be a smart option. A lease lets you easily refresh equipment with a relatively short shelf life before it becomes outdated or obsolete.

To acquire salon equipment and furniture through leasing, your initial outlay is minimal and lets you finance up to 100% of the cost for the equipment, including soft operating costs. Compared to loans, leases are relatively easy and fast to obtain, with short applications and 24-hour approval.

Lease payments free up capital and bank lines and provide more liquidity. Depending on how they are structured, leases can be fully tax deductible which reduces the net cost of your lease.

When You Should Lease

• If the equipment has a short shelf life, will be obsolete in less than 5 years
• If the equipment will rapidly depreciate in value
• You want to factor it as an operating expense
• Capital is limited, you want to avoid a large down payment and have a fixed monthly payment structure
• To update equipment frequently

Pros of Buying

Leased equipment is almost always more expensive than purchased equipment, given the higher total cost of ownership than if you purchase the equipment outright. In addition, if the equipment is essential to your business and hard to get, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to retain it at the end of your lease.

Purchasing can be the better option if the equipment has a long, useable life, is essential to your business operations and is irreplaceable or difficult to replace. If you can absorb the high initial costs, you own the equipment outright as a business asset, preferably one that keeps its value.

Tax incentives can also be a good reason to purchase outright. Check with the IRS or your accountant on rules that allow you to fully deduct the cost of some salon equipment in the first year, or whether you need to depreciate.

When You Should Buy

• If a significant upfront discount for a cash purchase if offered.
• The new equipment will appreciate in value.
• If you want to categorize the equipment as a capital expense.
• If you can absorb a large capital outlay or have a more economical line of credit.
• When the equipment is irreplaceable or vital to business operations.

Common Lease Types

There are 2 major types of leases—operating leases and capital, or finance, leases. An operating lease is used for short-term leasing of equipment that tends to become obsolete fast. With a capital lease, ownership of the equipment is transferred to you at the end of the lease and contains a bargain purchase option. This type of lease is good for salon equipment that will not lose value and that you want to keep. The Dollar Buyout is an example of a capital lease; at the end of your lease you purchase the equipment for a dollar.

A Fair Market Value lease can be structured as an operating or finance lease. It typically allows for lower monthly fixed payments than a buyout, with three options at the end of the lease term. You can buy the equipment at fair market value, return the equipment, or renew the lease.

Evaluating Financial Factors

Comparing the lease price to the purchase price is just the beginning of deciding whether to buy or lease salon equipment. Analyze and compare how leasing and buying will impact cash flow, future profits, taxes, and your current line of credit, and how long you need the equipment. Also calculate the total cost of ownership, factoring in tax breaks and resale value.

How will the new equipment increase your bottom line?

Determine the overall cost and lease payments, then calculate how many services you will need to sell daily or weekly to recoup the cost and profit. The income from the increased services should be greater than the cost of the equipment.


To calculate total cost of ownership, factor in not just salon equipment costs but also operating expenses such as insurance, maintenance, installation and training. If you choose, you can also include these costs in a lease agreement to spread out payments.

How long will you need the equipment?

Project your business needs and direction out for that length of time as well as the length of the lease. If your business changes direction and you no longer need the equipment, you still have monthly payments for the entire lease term. Some leases give you a cancel option, but also include hefty early termination fees.

Choosing a Leasing Company

Research your financing company carefully, especially if they have an Internet storefront. Most reputable leasing companies are members of the Equipment Leasing Association as well as regional leasing associations, and have referrals or testimonials from clients. A careful buyer will verify those references. Almost all salon equipment companies are partnered with a financing company and will make a direct referral. In addition, as with any large expense, get several competitive quotes to compare terms and cost.

Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog Starry Eleven Twins.

4 Steps to Salon Safety

by Karen Mcintosh on Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

4 Steps to Salon Safety

It is easy to see how unsafe chemical lab, mines or nuclear facilities can be. But in the soothing, comfortable, spa-like atmosphere of a hair salon it can be difficult to hone in on the harsh reality of the hazards employees face every day. Hazards that require a good salon safety plan.

Salon workers have daily contact with flammable, hazardous chemicals. They use high-voltage electrical tools in a water-rich environment, breathe harmful fumes from chemical solutions used in coloring, bleaching, perms and straighteners. And they handle and wear flammable products and clothing.

Stylists, shampoo staff and nail techs are at risk for contact dermatitis, eczema, asthma and respiratory illnesses, allergies, musculoskeletal disorders, slips, trips and other accidents. The World Health Organization has classified the occupation of hairdresser and barber as “probably carcinogenic”.

OSHA recently issued rules on the use of formaldehyde-releasing products. The safety organization is requiring employers to give employees appropriate gloves and other personal protective equipment such as face shields, chemical splash goggles and chemical-resistant aprons, and to train them on how to use this equipment while mixing and applying the products.

Using Positive Reinforcement to Motivate your Employees

by Karen Mcintosh on Monday, June 20th, 2011

Using Positive Reinforcement to Motivate your Employees

Being happy and productive at work is more than just the number of zeros on a paycheck, study after study has shown. People work for money, but they work even more to have their lives mean something to themselves and others. If money was the key motivator and you and all your competitors were paying industry standard wages, no one would switch jobs. Obviously that’s not the case.

If you are doing little more than paying a competitive wage, your company will not stand out as a great place to work. Employees also need a psychological paycheck. Being valued for their work, respected, trusted with responsibility, and given new creative outlets are as important as financial rewards.

How Not to Motivate

Negative reinforcement has very strong energy. Like a black hole, it can suck all the air and enthusiasm from the room and leave a bitter residue your customers will sense and want to avoid.

This clip from “Tabatha’s Salon Takeover” illustrates how to not use reinforcement:

This owner’s attitude and lack of objectivity is a painful example of how negative reinforcement affects the performance of her entire staff and the success of her business. If someone with the owner’s attitude walked in the door looking for work, do you think she herself would hire that person?

The Truth About Natural and Organic Beauty Products

by Karen Mcintosh on Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The Truth About Natural and Organic Beauty Products

The average woman applies up to 200 chemicals to her skin every day through cosmetics, lotions and hair-care products. Yet few question the reality behind the marketing promise on our favorite bottle or jar of cosmetic, hair or skin product. After all, they come from reputable companies, are bought by millions of women around the world, and their ads demonstrate how beautiful we can be if we use them regularly. What’s not to trust?

Standards for Natural and Organic Beauty Products

Mote and more consumers are buying natural products in supermarkets, drugstores, warehouse stores, online and in salons. But cosmetics are among the least-regulated products on the market, and products that are labeled organic or natural might not actually be. Major loopholes in federal law allow companies to use nearly any ingredient in beauty products—even chemicals that are known to harm human health and the environment.

The FDA does not review or regulate what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed to salons and consumers. It bans or restricts only 11 chemicals from cosmetic products compared to the 1,100 chemicals the European Union Cosmetics Directive bans from cosmetics.

But there are companies who care about the interests and safety of consumers, salon professionals and the environment.

Planet, People and Product

Nature is a cycle—of caring, taking and giving back—and producers of natural and organic beauty products share a deep respect for it. They join forces with nature, using its resources while sustaining them. They respect biodiversity, form long-term relationships with the people who actually cultivate the plants. And they follow fair trade practices.

Products with natural ingredients perform better without harmful chemical ingredients that enter the bloodstream by being absorbed through the skin. They also contain fewer irritants and allergens, and are earth friendly causing little to no negative impact on the environment.

Sales of natural and organic beauty products reached $7 billion in 2008 and accounted for $1 billion of growth in the cosmetic market. Sensing a tipping point, smart and responsible companies voluntarily began making safer products and adopted the triple bottom line of not just profit, but also planet and people. The ranks of companies who are adopting these practices are slowly growing with the support of organizations like NATRUE.

NATRUE – True Friends of Natural and Organic Cosmetics

A non-profit organization based in Brussels, NATRUE helps manufacturers maintain standards for natural and organic cosmetics (and their ingredients) by promoting industry-standard, global certifications for the usage of natural and organic beauty products.

Founded in 2007, NATRUE now represents two-thirds of the European natural and cosmetics market. Brands like Weleda, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, Kneipp, Logona and Lavera are NATRUE certified. Burts Bees is the first U.S. manufacturer to join.

Drawing a Line Between Conventional and Natural Cosmetics

Most cosmetics are full of synthetic ingredients that NATRUE doesn’t think are necessary. Their globally recognized certification label tells you which products you can trust by guaranteeing that a product is as natural as it can be. The NATRUE label means the organic and natural product actually contains certifiable ingredients.

To bear the NATRUE label, a product must have natural and organic ingredients and use soft manufacturing and environmentally friendly practices. NATRUE certified products do not contain synthetic fragrances and colors, petroleum derived products (paraffins, PEG-, propyle-, alkyle-, etc.), silicone oils and derivatives, or genetically modified ingredients. Furthermore, ingredients and products must not have been tested on animals. NATRUE certifies both products and raw materials, and maintains a raw materials database for products that bear their label.

The NATRUE label has three certification levels starting with the Natural Cosmetics certification. It sets a high base standard that must be attained before a product can qualify for the other two levels. The NATRUE certification process is transparent, independently managed and all certification criteria and information is available at their website.

Consumers and Salon Professionals Benefit

The NATRUE label allows consumers to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in the beauty products they use every day. Stylists can provide customers with safe, effective, non-toxic products and protect customers and employees alike from exposure to harmful chemical ingredients. They can also encourage manufacturers of brands they carry to clarify how they define their natural and organic beauty products.


Karen Mcintosh (Suburbanbushbabe in CurlTalk) is grateful to the straight hair gods who ignored her. Share your views with Karen in CurlTalk or her blog

Giving Back with Cause Marketing

by Karen Mcintosh on Monday, November 1st, 2010

Many salons and hair product manufacturers find space in their crowded agendas to offer help to philanthropic organizations. They find giving back earns the support and respect of other businesses, customers and clients who also feel strongly about the cause.

Why Give Back?

Despite a tough economy, consumers are more aligned to causes than ever. They will switch brands and even try an unknown brand to support a cause. 83% of consumers want companies to do more to support causes, according to the Cone Cause Evolution Study for 2010, which evaluates Americans’ attitudes and expectations towards companies. And 78% of Americans believe it’s important for the health and beauty industry to support social or environmental causes.

Social causes that you believe in and are compatible with your company’s marketing strategy and core values will earn you the support and respect from people who also support the cause. Some of them may be future customers.

What Do You Stand For?

Choose your cause from the heart, because it feels good and you feel that your business can make a difference. Is there a cause you care deeply about and would commit time and resources to, even if it would bring little or no return on investment? It’s important for companies to support issues that aren’t just good for their business but will win the hearts and minds of customers.

Give Your Efforts the Greatest Marketing Impact

In addition to raising money for a cause, integrate cause marketing into your overall marketing strategy. Examine what you want to achieve with your cause-related campaign and have clear goals you can write into your marketing plan.

Return on Investment (ROI) can be difficult to track without some sort of response mechanism in place, such as click throughs or contact/fulfillment forms on web sites. Rather than ROI, think of other ways you can measure bang for your buck. Increased awareness, greater exposure to potential customers, improved employee pride, retention or morale — all can be achieved when you give back.

Increase the Buzz

Both local and national nonprofit causes can funnel benefits like media coverage or advertising time that a single business could not have budgeted for on its own. Cause marketing will not match advertising dollar for dollar, but it can provide greater exposure to potential customers and give you the synergy of cross-promotion with other sponsors. Find out what the organizer partner is doing to create buzz: Any interviews with local media, radio or TV PSAs? What about social media, blogs, and other online presence or displays, promotional items and handouts? Make sure to get linked on websites, logo placement on collateral, and ask for free tickets for your key staff to sponsored events.

You can promote the event or cause to your own customer and prospect base through e-mail marketing, where you can schedule multiple drops and track your contacts and responses. Add a widget to your website for online fundraising. Social tools now make it easy to solicit donations using fundraising widgets or badges, social networks like Twitter and Causes (part of Facebook). Check out Socialbrite for more information.

Top 10 Causes — Or Closer to Home?

Millions of dollars for top charitable causes like cancer and AIDS/HIV research stream in every year through donations. HairRaising, Kiehl’s, Hairdressers Unlocking Hope, and Paul Mitchell Schools are companies whose individual efforts netted fundraising results in the multiple millions for these causes.

Top 10 causes are popular because they provide turnkey cause marketing at its largest and highest volume. They have a process for any salon or salon professional to easily get involved, are managed by communications companies, and feature instantly recognizable personalities.

While their high visibility may bring your salon attention and kudos within the industry, often it’s the more modest cause closer to home that can deliver greater impact and be more transparent to your potential customer base.

Giving Back to Your Community

When choosing an issue to support, consumers believe companies should consider one that is important in the communities where they do business*. And in this era of lower tax revenues and severe budget cuts, local sponsorship can help make up the shortfall. Local “give-back” partnerships impact and improve the community directly, and earn sponsoring businesses respect as responsible, caring “citizens”.

Local opportunities abound — in community centers, after-school programs, humane societies, health and fitness subsidies or scholarships for children, teens and adults at risk for obesity, green and sustainable initiatives, local charity events, food banks, mental health centers, homeless and domestic violence shelters, music and the arts, sports, libraries and many more. The list goes on and on.

Choose one or two reputable community organizations to start. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to connect with organizers and exchange ideas.

*Cone 2010 Cause Evaluation Study

Success Stories: Radically Different Cause Marketing Models

MAC Viva Glam – The Lipstick that raised millions

Legacy products like MAC Viva Glam, whose total sales are donated to the MAC AIDS Fund, have raised more than $150 million since 1994. Smaller web-based businesses can use this model too. Choose one product and dedicate the profits to your favorite cause. Or produce a special-label limited edition, like Ojon’s Limited-Edition Restorative Hair Treatment, which donates $5 of every sale to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Shea Terra Organics: Building a Sustainable Business Model and a Community

Tammie Umble, founder and CEO of Shea Terra Organics, decided to create a superior shea butter line with rare, indigenous, healing herbs and oils that was affordable and natural, without sulfates, parabens, fillers and artificial fragrances or colors.

While researching Africa’s ancient healing resources, Tammie experienced the extreme poverty and destruction of Africa. She vowed that Shea Terra Organics would offer significant long-term assistance to effective programs that provide African families with employment and education.

A portion of the proceeds for each Shea Terra Organics’ product are donated to self-empowerment and environmental programs. Tammie purchases many rare ingredients from communities throughout Africa with Fair Trade practices, providing significant income and employment to these areas. Shea Terra Organics has helped preserve the Miombo Rainforest from deforestation by paying local villagers and families fair trade wages for sustainable resources rather than buying lots of trees for a one-time fee. Tammie also co-founded the Otuke Shea Butter Project, to offer compensation three to five times the amount given to women in West Africa for producing shea butter. The women involved in the coop fled their villages with their children to escape violence in war torn Northern Uganda.

Through cause marketing, Shea Terra Organics is helping to stabilize a population in Africa and insuring the sustainability of its raw materials for years to come.

Cut it Out: Salons against Domestic Abuse

Research shows that most battered women never call the police or go to a shelter, but a hairdresser may be a safe lifeline. Often a woman in an abusive situation may feel comfortable confiding in her salon professional. The salon may be one of the few places that a battered woman is allowed to go without her abuser.

Cut It Out helps spotlight domestic abuse through free awareness materials salons can display. The program also trains salon professionals to recognize warning signs and safely refer clients to resources. Their Adopt-a-Shelter initiative involves salons in helping local domestic violence agencies. Salons can also donate directly to the Salons Against Domestic Abuse Fund.

Originally a statewide program for salons in Alabama, Cut It Out went national in 2003 with the partnership of Clairol Professional and the National Cosmetology Association.

Two Easy Ways to Give Back

1. Feature or recommend products for retail in your salon from manufacturers who donate the profits or have cause marketing programs. Here’s a partial list:

Cancer Research

Ojon – Breast Cancer Awareness Month limited edition
Onesta - 10% of net income to cancer research every year



The Environment

David Babaii for WildAid
Pantene Healthy Hair for Healthy Water

2. Join up with an Industry-sponsored Cause Marketing Team
Hairdressers Unlocking Hope (Behind the Chair) – Hurricane Katrina Relief and Habitat for Humanity

Hair Raising (to benefit Children’s Hospital Boston)

Paul Mitchell Schools FUNraising (various causes)

Karen Mcintosh (NaturallyCurly member Suburbanbushbabe) loves to write about curly hair, play with curly hair, and review products for curly hair. Curly hair is her hobby and passion…and possibly an obsession. Karen can be reached at or her blog.

Hope is Beautiful: Helping Clients through Hair Loss and Chemo

by Karen Mcintosh on Friday, October 1st, 2010

If you don’t have a client going through this experience, chances are you soon will. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. And the chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is a little less than 1 in 8 (12%).

A client going through chemo will have specific concerns and needs that differ from those of your regular clients.

Stylist and Client

Chemotherapy destroys quick-growing tumor cells but can also wreak havoc on other fast growing cells like hair and nails. A patient undergoing chemo may lose hair not only on her head but in other areas such as eyebrows, eyelashes, arms, legs and pubic area. From the onset of chemo until hair loss typically takes only two to three weeks.

The good news is you don’t have to start your own foundation to help your afflicted client.

Big Things Start with One Patient: Look Good . . . Feel Better

“Hope is Beautiful” is the slogan of the Look Good . . . Feel Better ad campaign, a free, non-medical, national public service program that began in 1989 with a physician’s request on behalf of a cancer patient. The woman, the doctor said, was so depressed and self-conscious, she would not venture outside her hospital room. Ed Kavanaugh, president of the Personal Care Products Council, made some calls and was able to provide cosmetics and a make-up artist.

Miraculously, the makeover transformed not just the woman’s look, but her outlook as well. She immediately felt happier and less burdened, laughing for the first time in weeks. The doctor credited the makeover with improving her attitude and emotional approach toward her treatment.

Look Good . . . Feel Better (LGFB) holds group workshops that teach beauty techniques to female cancer patients to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. LGBF has served over 700,000 women and is supported by more than 14,000 volunteers who commit three to five hours a month.

Volunteer cosmetologists are the voice of LGFB. Volunteers take part in 2-hour workshops that teach women the tips and techniques to improve their appearance and maintain a positive self-image. A four-hour LGFB certification class is required and teaches the basics of leading a LGFB group program, as well as understanding cancer and its physical and psychological impact. Go here for more information.

With a well-styled wig and cosmetics, it’s up to the patient to decide whom to tell. It gives a woman the choice of disclosing her illness only to those she trusts, and lets her protect her privacy. With help from trained cosmetologists and salon professionals, looking good is something a cancer patient can control.

In addition to the LGFB volunteers, other stylists, too, have jumped in to help clients through this very difficult time.

Ruth’s Free Wig Closet

For salon owners and cancer activists Janie Martz and Jeanie Thompson, beauty and hope for cancer patients facing hair loss is just a closet away.

“We wish mom could have had the chance to lose her hair. They told her it was only going to be two months and she ended up living 6 months,” says Jeanie Thompson. Jeanie and Janie’s mother died in 1995 from pancreatic cancer that advanced too quickly for chemotherapy.

“Look at it this way—losing your hair and having chemo means that you’re fighting it,” says Jeanie.

After losing their mother, salon owners and twin sisters Janie Martz and Jeanie Thompson put a notice in their local Aitkin, MN, paper asking for wig donations. In their small community of around 2000, they received 200 wigs, which they then washed, refurbished, styled and offered to cancer patients at no charge. And was born.

Hoping to raise $1,000 to buy new more stylish wigs for the younger women being treated for cancer, the sisters held a fundraiser at a local diner. They ended up raising $5,000.

Now Janie and Jeanie want to help more salons do what they have done and they welcome e-mails. “It’s a donation of your time mostly,” says Jeanie. “We have tons of wigs and we could share some. That’s how we got started.”

Jeanie Thompson and Janie Martz are also are certified with Look Good…Feel Better and do one workshop a month, alternating between Aitkin and Brainerd County in Minnesota.

Ouidad: Curls for a Cure

Ouidad, salon owner, curly hair business mogul and “the Queen of Curls,” is also a breast cancer survivor. Her own healing crisis and her mother’s death from breast cancer in 2001 energized her to create Curls for a Cure.

“I am proud to say, since its inception Curls for a Cure has raised over $280,000,” says Ouidad.

Not only in October but 365 days a year, Curls for a Cure is dedicated to matching donations dollar for dollar towards the ultimate goal of donating one million dollars. Each contribution of any size makes an impact on the race for a cure. And ninety cents of every dollar raised finds its way to research through The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Throughout the years Ouidad has worked with many clients who have had breast cancer. “As a survivor, my approach now is much different than it used to b— I fully understand the emotional and physical toll that this disease takes on a person and I take the time to listen to their needs and concerns. I feel like I have an immediate bond with these women and they look to me for advice.”

Chemo and Hair Loss…What You Can Do

Hair loss varies with different drugs and treatments. It’s very likely your client has discussed this with her doctor. Now she needs your help. Find out what treatments she is undergoing and what the anticipated effects on her looks and hair are. First and foremost, ask her what she needs, and:

    • Help her plan ahead; hair loss will happen in two to three weeks

    • Help her ease into hair thinning and loss with a transition cut

    • Save a lock of hair for your client to use as a reference color if she later decides to get a wig

    • It can be easier and more comfortable to shop for a wig before one is needed.

    • Learn what products and ingredients to avoid that could irritate or dry their sensitive hair and scalp

    • Know what chemical processes could accelerate the hair loss

    • Evaluate the use of heat and whether it will help or hinder your client.

    It helps to learn as much as you can about cancer treatment and how the disease affects women physically, mentally and spiritually.

    Breast Cancer . . . The Facts

    Currently there are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. And it is estimated that in 2010 about 39,840 women will die from breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 35 (about 3%).

    Karen Mcintosh (NaturallyCurly member Suburbanbushbabe) loves to write about curly hair, play with curly hair, and review products for curly hair. Curly hair is her hobby and passion…and possibly an obsession. Karen can be reached at or her blog.

Make your Curly Clients Happy to Build your Bridal Business

by Karen Mcintosh on Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Photo courtesy of Khamit Kinks

When it comes to curly brides, curl-knowledgeable stylists have the business and styling edge. Today’s stylists with special training in globally recognized curl-specific and natural styling techniques can give a curly or naturally textured bride a lot more options. Ultimately a curly bride should be able to walk down the aisle on her wedding day feeling truly confident about how her hair will look.

Katheryn Sirico and September Sirico, owners of Greg and Tony, a Ouidad-certified salon in Westport, Conn., agree. “So many people come in with straight hair for special occasion styling, and what do they want? They want you to curl it for them, right?” Curly girls “actually have more of the advantage than somebody who has straight, slippery, finer hair,” says Katheryn. Using Ouidad’s technique of the Rake and Shake and the Ouidad products, clients “have perfectly designed curls that lay like puzzle pieces, and are shiny, healthy, bouncy and defined.”

“Fewer and fewer brides come in wanting to alter their natural hair texture,” says Anu Prestonia, owner of Khamit Kinks in Brooklyn, New York, and stylist and innovator of styles for twists, locs, natural weaves and more.

So what strategies can you, curly stylist, take to enhance, sustain and increase your wedding business?

Be Inspired

For more bridal tips, check out NaturallyCurly’s article on the Wedding Dress and the ‘Do

“We specialize in making our clients happy,” says Prestonia. “This is the princess day . . . the day every woman starts planning for from age five. People are usually in a great mood. Our inspiration comes from wanting to really follow through with the energy, beauty and happiness.”

“You have to really know what you‘re doing and be passionate about it,” says Sirico, “or . . . it won’t come out right. Not only that it’s a whole attitude, it’s a passion.”

Encourage the Hair’s Natural Curl Personality

That’s part of Greg and Tony Salon’s culture and philosophy, according to the Siricos. “We encourage the bride to look like themselves. You wear your hair curly all the time and it’s part of your personality and how people know you. Then if for your wedding day you go straight, it doesn’t look like you. So looking like you and being yourself on your wedding day, even in the bridal party, is very important because the confidence is what falls behind this.”

“I am so happy that we are now in a day and time where [fewer] clients come in complaining that the bride . . . is requesting that they alter their hair texture to be in their wedding party,” says Prestonia. I‘ve known people to cut off their locs to be in a bridal party. Is it that serious for you to be in this bridal party?”

“Brides approach us that have curly hair….[they] don’t want regular stylists doing their hair for that day because they want to leave it as natural as possible,” says Cala Renee, stylist and owner of Cala Renee Salon, a DevaConcepts salon in Beverly, Mass. “And most salons tend to want to blow out and re-curl and they don’t tend to work with people’s natural curl like we do.”

Get the Bride to Think Ahead

September Sirico says, “You should go at least 3 months before to speak or think about your hair. The process is first you get your gown and then you start calling your salon to start doing trials or discussing how you would like to wear your hair—and then coming in for a trial.”

Be sure the bride-to-be brings her headpiece to the trial appointment and, if possible, a photo of her gown. “Bring me a picture of your gown; bring me your headpiece the day of the trial” says Cala Renee. “I want to see everything because if you don’t see it all together or if we design something and then the day of the wedding you put your dress on and realize . . . then I’m in trouble. So I say to them, “please go home and try your dress on now that your hair is done the way you think you like it. Make sure you like it all put together.”

Trial, and Trial Again

Photo courtesy of Greg and Tony

Trials can mean the difference between a stressful wedding day and a stress-free one because for better or worse, curls can have a mind of their own. Most brides who come in for a trial are willing to let the stylist do different designs on the hair, and that is why the trials are so important. It also allows the stylist time to better understand the bride’s hair and play with it.

For the Siricos, trials are also important for pricing and planning further services. “The trial determines not just what the hair is going to look like—timing, cost, etc., but also what you need to do down the road—if you need to do any highlights, if you need color or if you need to do another a haircut. And it can determine what the timing should be for those things leading up to the big day.”

Cala Renee cautions “Make sure you understand the curls you are working with prior to the day of the wedding. Because if they want to be a little bit frizzy, you’re going to have to know how to calm them down and not just jump to the curling iron. People want their natural look in today’s day and age.”

Trials are different. Because they are a work in progress and the client may be working with a new bridal stylist, trying different styles, getting to know one another can take time. “Someone may not be from this area and they’re coming in cold,” says Katheryn Sirico. “It takes a little more time.

“We never combine the trials with the actual day, never,” says Katheryn Sirico. “Those are two separate days entirely and separate services.

“Our styles [natural weaves, braids, twists, locs and updos] are usually done ahead of time,” Prestonia says, “sometimes as far as 3 days beforehand.”

How many trials is the right number? It depends on the bride. “Normally I would say one,” say the Siricos. “We have done two and for some people we have done several. But I would say the norm is one.”

And since trials are not free “people sometimes try to limit them to one, sometimes two,“ September Sirico says. “ But I have had brides come in over the years, they come and they’ll do a couple of things. They want to actually go and live with this for the night. And then they come in a few weeks later and want something entirely different.”

Whether it’s one or more than one, the right number of trials allows the bride to see various styles and be confident that the final one she chooses is the best one for her.

Staff Accordingly

To have a good bridal business you have to have good bridal stylists.

“We are very fortunate; we have four people here who are fabulous bridal stylists and their work is great,” says Katheryn Sirico. “They have a very good reputation. The people who don’t do it don’t touch it—they can’t.”

Make sure that you have the staff to back the business up: stylists who are creative, patient and caring for brides and who know how to do bridal design. Other salons may not want to turn away the business, but if the stylist is not a bridal expert, customer satisfaction problems can pop up.

Be prompt, professional and flexible

As a wedding client, Prestonia learned first-hand how it felt to be disappointed—on her wedding day. “I had someone arranged to do my hair for my wedding and she didn’t show up. And that was the most horrific thing I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “I had looked for her to do my hair the day before my wedding. She assured me that she would come into town from Philadelphia to do my hair and I waited all day for her. The day of my wedding I had to call somebody who wasn’t even a hair stylist to do something quick for me.“

With an experience like that, Prestonia is meticulous about providing a high quality of service and enhancing the beauty of her bridal clients. “I’ve never seen an ugly bride. Every bride is beautiful and it flows from the inside out. She’s aglow, she is happy, she has her support with her, her friends and her family and you just want to follow through with that in the best way you can.”

Use off-hours to boost income

Many salons step up their service for an existing client or a bridal party. “If it’s a client of our own, we will come in on a Sunday and put the time aside for them. It really depends on what day the wedding is,” says Renee.

Book a trial at the end of the day so if you run over, you don’t have to worry about the next client.

Have a Digital Camera on Hand

Photo courtesy of Cala Renee

“And encourage your clients to take their own photos as well. We actually encourage them to bring cameras, take pictures from all sides, take it home and think about it, and if they need any changes give us a call,” advises Cala Renee. “We can either have you come back again or we can just make changes the day of the wedding—if they’re not major.”

Use the Atmosphere of your Salon to Pamper and Relax the Bridal Party

When the bride comes in with a wedding party, that should be the salon’s priority for the entire time booked that day. “My favorites are the ones where the bridal party comes and it’s a really upbeat, festive occasion, says September Sirico. “Sometimes we set up a table with things for them to nibble on and mimosas. Sometimes a photographer follows them because they want it recorded right from leaving the house to coming here.”

At Cala Renee Salon, “if you have a full wedding party come in, we have everybody just dedicated to them,” says Renee. Sometimes if it’s just morning, we’ll pick up some munchies and try to make it a really relaxed atmosphere for them. We have coffee and tea made… And we try to make sure that the wedding party is the only client here so you’re not having pieces of hair flying around. The whole atmosphere is a little bit different. Tthey come in and they’re ready to relax and let you do your thing. They’re trying to zone out, actually. Most brides are.”

Whether at the salon or at the wedding location, the best bridal bookings are when the bride and her party are calm and relaxed. One of Prestonia’s favorite bookings was on location at a hotel in Brooklyn. “Everybody was just so friendly and calm and respectful. That was the day of [the wedding]. We did her hair before but we were onsite to style and do touchups and help with the placing of the headpiece.” She has also provided sparkling wine and chocolates for bridal parties at Khamit Kinks.

Take Advantage of Continuing Education

Stay abreast of opportunities to enhance your knowledge. Hair products manufacturers and top hair salons often offer hands on work classes and showcase the latest techniques during certain times of the year or at hair shows like IBS. Khamit Kinks Salon, for example, offers Monday seminars and classes in hairstyling techniques like textured weaves, locs and two-strand twists. And throughout the year, Greg and Tony Salon offers Ouidad workshops.

Bridezilla – A Myth?

There are surprisingly few, the stylists interviewed for this article agreed. “If anything, I would say from my experience we’ve never had a Bridezilla,” Katheryn Sirico says. “All of our brides have been really great, whether they have been our regular clients or someone who has just come to us for the day.”

On the flip side, bridal stylists should be prepared to diffuse tension and occasionally be a diplomat and peacemaker. Difficulties may not come from the bride. But sometimes they come from members of the bridal party, a mother or mother-in-law who forgets that is not her day, it’s her daughter’s or daughter-in-law’s.

Prestonia advises, “Be open and flexible because brides can be fickle or bridal parties and the people connected to the wedding can switch up on you.” Her challenging situation was when the bride (a regular client) brought her sister in after several trials. “And her sister just changed up the whole vibe of the relationship that we had been having with her. She was very demanding and . . . that was a bit stressful. Well, we just decided—you know when it’s a wedding and it’s a bride, the last thing we want to do is add stress. So we just dealt with it. But it changed the molecules in the room.”

Renee hasn’t had a Bridezilla either. However, a long-time client and bridal client was once a Promzilla. “I actually started doing her hair when she was 8 years old,” Cala Renee said. “And the day she got married she had her whole bridal party here [at the salon], and I knew her mom. And it just made everything just very, very special. I actually was invited to the wedding.

“But, the day of her senior prom, the newspapers came and everybody was here, they were writing, and she broke down in tears. She was so upset about it; her hair didn’t come out exactly how she envisioned it. So I was mortified. Right before her wedding I said ‘you are coming in multiple times because we are not having another episode like we did for your prom.’ So I made her come in 3 different times and we took pictures. And thank God, because she did change her mind after the first trial visit.”

More Great Tips from the Bridal Experts:

Katheryn Sirico and September Sirico of Greg And Tony Salon:

1. Have just one person handle/organize the client; that way you know exactly what’s going on. “The bride shouldn’t call the front desk and talk to 8 different people to make the appointments or change the appointment or ask questions,” September Sirico says. In our salon they’re directed to Katheryn. If for some reason she’s not here then they’re directed to me. And no one else handles them at all.”

2. Keep a binder and never throw away your notes. Whether you keep a manual binder or on computer, a binder helps keep everything straight and organized, and lets you have everything at hand. Says Katheryn, “We have a section for each bride or bridal party. That way we can refer to everything we discussed right there. And never throw your notes away from the first time you talk with them. You think you’re going to remember, but you don’t.”

3. If possible, work with another local business in town for referrals. An event planner, florist or photographer can refer the brides to you and in return you can refer clients to them.

4. Follow up a couple of weeks after the wedding. Don’t do it the day of the wedding. Wait until the bride has calmed down and returned from her honeymoon. Following up lets you see any photos. And it lets you know if you have any weak points and what the highlights were.

Anu Prestonia of Khamit Kinks:

1. Collaborate on a photo shoot with other consultants. ”We’re doing a bridal photo shoot next month. It’s for the artists who are involved. I will be managing the selection of the hair styles and my stylists to do the hair. There is a person who is the headpiece designer. There is a gown designer, makeup artists and photographer. So we’re all working together to make this happen.”

2. Make sure to the final style will work on location without the stylist, and fits the bride’s comfort zone. “A bride I once worked with just wanted her hair in a really loose, natural ‘fro for her wedding that was going to be on a beach. But her mother insisted that she had to get something done. So we just did a two-strand twist with her hair wet and told her that she could either wear it that way or she could untwist the strands and have it more like a loose curl or a twistout.” The bride was happy because she had not even considered her hair. Yet she didn’t have to go far out of her comfort zone, and her mother was happy.

Cala Renee of Cala Rene Salon

1. Make the most of referrals, both from your existing client base and from websites and showcase your work on your own website. “Most of our referrals come from From there they tend to Google me and look at my web site. And once they look at the web site they definitely realize that okay, she specializes in curly hair. We have a few bridal parties that are up on the web site as well that have had their hair done.

2. Be open minded and listen to the bride. Make sure those brides are coming in more than once and really understanding what they are looking for, advises Cala Renee. “Because if you don’t spend the time with them during trials, then unfortunately the day of [the wedding] could be a disaster.”

Enjoy this video showcasing some looks from Khamit Kinks.

Curl Highlighting Techniques: Tips from Top Curl Experts

by Karen Mcintosh on Monday, April 5th, 2010

There are exciting possibilities and scary pitfalls when it comes to highlighting curls. With the endless variations in curl types, deciding which techniques to embrace and which techniques to avoid can be complicated.

To focus on the most successful techniques and the methodology behind them, CurlStylist talked to three top curl and color experts.

Christo, creator of the Curlisto Systems line of hair care and owner of Christo Fifth Avenue, has made curls a life study since age 13, “The most important thing is to understand the curls…to know the elasticity of each and every curl—how it curls, if it’s a tight curl, a loose curl, or a medium curl. They [hairdressers] have to know how the elasticity of the balance of the hair if it’s curly…The colorist and person that’s doing their hair must understand their skin tone, their texture of hair—and be honest about it. You are more honest and you will have clients who are going to follow you for life”.

Products to Watch:

HC Color Fantasies Kit Developed by Denis Da Silva will be available for retail sale at salons soon and is available here now.

Curlisto No-Heat Keratin Treatment A healthy, in-house alternative to the Brazilian Keratin treatment that transforms dry, frizzy and unmanageable curls into beautiful waves.

Curlisto Systems Anti-Frizz Treatment A 30-minute in-salon breakthrough treatment for transforming all types of dry, frizzy damaged hair into silky, bouncy locks.

For the latest and greatest, check out Antonio’s blog Comessenyc and his regular articles on

Devachan co-founder and president, inventor, and color innovator Denis Da Silva says, “curly hair needs to be highlighted because it has texture and it doesn’t have dimension. It’s different from straight hair which shows shine. My idea for Pintura (Portuguese for “work of art”) was having a free way of doing highlights on hair that has free life. Every day curls look different, so it needed its own thing when it comes to color. Pintura respects the hair color.”

Antonio Gonzales, hairstylist at Orlando Pita Salon and CurlStylist contributor, was recently named by “Vogue” magazine as one of the rising hairstylist stars in New York. He feels that “Every head is different. “ I have learned for myself it’s really about exploring the techniques …we have balayage and we have foil,” he says. “My golden rule is always to do both. I feel for me I need to cut and color. And as a colorist I need to do foils and to do balayage; there’s no preference. When we’re working with one head of curls, we really explore the technique.”

Each of these curl virtuosos developed a passion for curls in his early teens. We examine their philosophies and methods to highlighting curly hair. Here, they freely share their passion and their expertise.


Consult with the client and evaluate—the hair, lifestyle, chemical service history, and more: Free consultations are key to developing both the relationship and a highlighting strategy, say the experts. “For me the foil client is the woman who wants more intense coverage”, says Gonzales. “She might be coming in for a lot of low lights but a few highlights so I would lowlight the foil and paint the highlights.”

At Christo Fifth Avenue Salon, consultations with Christo’s staff are always free. ”The free consultation will encourage someone to come in and talk to you,” he says.

With new clients, it’s important to know what coloring or styling “baggage” they may be carrying into your chair along with their hair. For Christo, the consultation is a form of “psychohairapy”. “They need psycho hair therapy because they experience a lot of bad hairdos, either bad cut or bad color, so they are traumatized,” he says. “It takes a lot for the stylist to sit down and understand the client’s lifestyle. That’s why we have the consultation…It takes time to understand the hair, the culture they live in, and what we can do to better their hair.”

Use different approaches for different curl types: All curls are not created equal, and each curl type needs a custom approach. It depends on the desired effect as well, says Gonzales. “You know I have African American clients who have curlier hair and they just want to wear the hair as an Afro and they want blonder tips but on dark, dark hair the contrast is too drastic. So if the client is okay with it, I sometimes just break the base by half a shade to soften it. It’s still overall a deep brown rather than a black and we’ll put lighter tips so that it relates.”

Christo thinks wavier type 2s, Botticelli type 3s and coiler type 4a hair need to be handled differently. “Because of the tighter, coilier hair, that means you have to be careful. When you weave the hair you have to take part of the coil into the foil…or take a whole coil and leave a coil behind. So when you have the highlights done, you can actually see them. Otherwise, if you just weave them, they will look just like a frizziness in the hair, they will not look good, and they will look like the color is not into the curl. It will look just like brassiness.”

Condition! “Hair is thirsty for more conditioner,” says DaSilva. “Hair has a lot of protein and when it sits in the protein, it can get very dry. Curly or straight, hair needs lots of conditioner.”

For Christo, pre-conditioning is the first step when the client comes in for highlighting. “It’s very easy for the curls to get dry and damaged, if you don’t precondition it,” he says. He uses the Curlisto Colorective mask, lets it sit for 5 minutes to get into the cuticle, then halfway dries the hair under the dryer before coloring. “Curly hair doesn’t have to be all the way dry in order to pick up the color,” he says.

“The tools are just endless. It’s just a matter of taking a deep breath, assessing the situation and moving forward with knowing that if you do this, it’s not going to be a disaster, it’s not going to be wrong. But it’s definitely something you are exploring, something that you are trying. Create your own techniques. I love it!” —Antonio Gonzales

Antonio Gonzales observes “curly hair tends to always be a little bit dehydrated. It’s the No. 1 complaint amongst curly heads, that it frizzes depending on the weather. So I feel that when I’m approaching color and curly hair, I’m extra careful in terms of my volume of peroxide.”

Christo and Denis Da Silva also take conditioning into the color process. Da Silva incorporates Acai, a Brazilian fruit loaded with powerful antioxidants and moisturizing properties in his HC Color Systems Kit (see Products to Watch)

Christo uses vegetable-based colors from Goldwell and Wella. “Usually we try to do as many colors that are ammonia-free. You know, curly hair takes color very easily so you don’t need ammonia. But it’s also very easy to fade which is why we have the Colorective line, which helps maintain their hair.”

Curls have volume—and coloring increases volume: With highlighting you are also creating more density and volume, according to Christo. “The hair, especially if they are going to use bleach…gets fatter by 30 percent because the hair gets swollen. That means that person’s hair, if it’s already dry because it’s curly and you are using bleach on their hair, can get puffier because you are making it thicker.”

Conversely, clients with very fine, thin hair who get highlights will love this effect because it gives the hair more density, more fullness and more body. “A lot of people who have curls and thin density love to color the hair every 3 weeks because it makes the hair thicker,” Christo says. “That’s a color fact, which is great. Sometimes.”

Help clients maintain the color between visits: Colors, especially reds, fade. Recommending the right products to help maintain color between visits not only increases your sales, says Christo. It is also “going to make your client happy! Don’t forget that part. It’s not about selling, it’s about to (giving) a client solutions. And people with curly hair are always looking for solutions. They are always looking for that perfect color that’s going to look good on them. It’s not the easiest thing to do, unless you guide them and give them the right tools to maintain their hair. And that’s one of our very strong tools when it comes to color. We make something for them to take home so we can now expect that the color in two months will now be just fine, except we touch up the roots.” At Christo, clients receive a Colorective shampoo and mask that is custom-blended to match more than 75 shades.

Learn new techniques and expand your repertoire: Despite their high level of expertise, Christo, Da Silva and Gonzales continue to learn and evolve —and they believe all stylists should. Whether it is working at Fashion Week, flying to a hair show in Brazil or simply from the exchange of ideas with their styling teams, they live and breathe in an atmosphere of inspiration.

“Hairdressers should understand how much pressure we are on and how much we should learn every single day” says Da Silva. “ To hear clients talk we are special people. Some hairdressers say they are bored with what they are doing. If they are bored, they are not willing to learn new things”

For Gonzales, education is as close as the salon. “I changed salons 6 months ago and am now working with Orlando Pita and he is really my idol in the industry,” he says. “ I’m working in the hub of trends that are being set for the next season and the next year…I’m really fortunate that I work with a team of people that I can go in every day and learn something new.” And he advises “Go to I do it every day to see what’s available. And I try for my work to reflect what’s happening on”

And they share their knowledge with other stylists, offering workshops and multi-day bootcamps for professionals (see box).


Balayage or Foils Or Both? Oh my!

Antonio Gonzales loves them both. “I use both of them; I can’t do one without the other. It depends on the client, and every head is different. Some women are definitely foil women and some women are balayage women, depending on the coverage.”

Denis Da Silva developed the Pintura Technique for Schwartzkopf which is now used at DevaChan. “Pintura works with any type of hair,” Denis said. Balayage is a free style of highlighting hair. Pintura is a free style, but with a method. It has pre-sections done and it uses tissue to protect hair. We developed and use a patented tool, the Comb. And you can use 2 colors in the same hair at the same time. It’s very advanced.”

Where to Learn More

A course or workshop may be the perfect shot to energize your skills and bring you happy curly clients. Check out these exciting opportunities to learn directly from the experts:

Deva training events:
April 19 in Holliston, MA
May 10 in Columbus, OH
Coming this fall: A three-day professional curl course in New York City.

Contact DevaCurl, Director of Education, 917-596-9278 or

Curlisto “The Art of Curly Hair;” Featuring Christo
Specializing in Curly Hair can Bring Extra Profit to Salon Professionals
April 25 IBS Las Vegas, 2pm – 3:30 pm Room N241
June 6 Premier Orlando, 2:30 - 4 p.m.

Christo’s well-known Smart Lights highlighting technique lets clients go longer between highlights: as long as 4 or 5 months. He skips the hairline, starting an inch behind. “and I put the foils in triangle shapes. When I highlight I don’t highlight straight or traditionally from the side. I put it in a pyramid or diagonally from the front. When I start from side to side from the front I put it in a triangle or pyramid shape. And then at the back, I start from the point of the pyramid and I open up on the bottom. That gives me leverage when the roots start to come in – you don’t see the roots so much.”

Weaving and foil management. Weaving techniques and the placement of foils so that you can see the highlights on curly hair are both key to getting beautiful highlights that pop, our experts said.

For Christo, the client’s desires and preferences dictate how much you are going to weave out of the curl. Do they want full exposure, or something more subtle? “ I use a medium weave and I take into consideration how thick or how thin is the curl. If the curls are very thick, then it is to weave maybe one-third or one-fourth because how much I want the highlights to show…The idea is to want highlights hugging around the curl all the way down. And the best way to do it is by how much of that curl you are going to take into your foil.”

For Gonzales, sectioning is foremost and he works with sections that go around the head. “Another technique that I specifically like for curly hair is …around the technique and the way I approach the shape of the head. I tend to have my sections go around the head…And I change my volume of peroxide as I move around the head.

“With straight hair it’s very easy to approach your highlighting, either balayage or foils, from the neck up and then work in block sections. Whereas with curly hair … you look at the curl and you work with the growth of the curl. Curly hair definitely has a mind of its own. And rather than working against the growth pattern or against the way the curl is formed, I like working with it.”

Pitfalls to Avoid

Treating curly hair just like another head of hair and highlighting it as you would straight hair. Christo says a hairdresser can be a “good colorist but not a good judge of the hair, and that is going to be a mistake. Because they will not highlight to the pattern of the curl, so that means they will not see the highlights.” Who cares if the color is perfect if you can’t see it?

“Your hair is your No. 1 accessory. Because think about how much money you spend to buy a beautiful dress to go to a party, right? Then if your hair doesn’t look good that dress will mean nothing. So what brings the puzzle together is your hair. If your hair looks good then you are going to look good whatever you put on.” —Christo

Gonzales agrees. “I would also feel – not approaching every head the same way. If the client comes in and she’s a brunette and she has curly hair and wants a few light pieces, you need to decide if this is a foil client or a balayage client. For me the foil client is the woman who wants more intense coverage. She might be coming in for a lot of low lights but a few highlights so I would lowlight the foil and paint the highlights. Another great thing is knowing that you can mix foil and balayage on the same client.”

Avoid over-lightening: Gonzales changes the volume of peroxide as he moves around the head. “I would start off with a 5 volume and end up with a 20 volume. Which means that when I’m done highlighting the client’s hair, the back and the front are equally lifted around the same time and get the same results, rather than using a high volume in the back and then going too high in the front. Sometimes you can start a 20 volume in the back and before you know it it’s a 30 volume in the front. I seldom use 30 or 40 volume”.


Antonio’s current focus is on extensions, clip in extensions. And he advises “Go to I do it every day to see what’s available. And I try for my work to reflect what’s happening on” He also advises that texture more than color will be a trend. “ Orlando for most of the trends he set for the past Fashion Week was about texture, about creating a texture without a crimping iron or curling iron.” A lot of Antonio’s work will be “getting myself ready in the salon for all these ad campaigns that are going to be coming out with hair that has a bit of frizz to it, or that is a bit messy but still looks glamorous.”

Christo predicts you are going to see a lot of reds this year, “especially from the European women; they love their reds. A lot of women in Italy and Greece with olive skin, you will see more of a wine red with more copper colored highlights. And for those women with more fair skin, you will see strawberry blonds and also a lot of caramel, light browns with a lot of blond highlights.”

Blonds will never go out of style, according to Christo. “Very rarely a blond will go red. And I say always be careful with what you do with your color and the trends. I would say trend is what looks good on you.”

Denis Da Silva, who we caught en route to a hair show in Brazil, had this to say about trends. “Girls… anywhere in the world…are always looking to have better hair every single day. The second conversation between girls is hair. So the hair is more important than clothes. The stylist is more important than clothes. We just lose to sex.”

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