LOS ANGELES — Inside some of the busiest beauty salons in Los Angeles, you won’t find scissors, hair dye or perm solution.
What you will find is women packing the shops as early as 7 a.m., clutching cups of coffee and dressed for the office. After a quick wash, their locks are brushed and styled amid the steady hum of blow-dryers. Half an hour later, coiffed to perfection, they rush out to start their workdays.
“I like to either start my workday in this salon chair or end it here,” said Lauren Levin, 31, a regular at Drybar in West Hollywood, where 10 chairs were all filled on a recent Tuesday morning. “I used to style my hair on my own, but it never looked very good. Coming here saves time, and my hair ends up looking much more professional and polished.”
Hollywood actors and wealthy socialites have long hired pricey professionals to achieve camera-ready hairdos. Now a new breed of beauty salon is offering affordable styling for the Average Jane — at about $35 a pop.
In Southern California and across the nation, so-called blow-dry bars are popping up to service women (and a few men) on the go. There is no cutting or coloring. These speedy places specialize in washing, drying and quick-styling only.
It’s a 21st century spin on the old-fashioned beauty parlor, where women once went weekly to maintain elaborate hairdos. Some women now see “blowouts” as part of weekly beauty routines, along with manicures and waxing.
Unlike traditional salons, these specialty shops cater to busy professionals: Open seven days a week. No appointment needed. Equipped with free Wi-Fi. Stylists are as efficient as assembly line workers, getting clients in and out in less than an hour.
Women often zip in before a business meeting, a girls’ night out or a special date. A new reality TV show even revolves around a San Fernando Valley blow-dry bar.
“If you go to your regular salon, sometimes you can’t get the appointment, especially if you wait until the last minute,” said Gretty Hasson, owner of MyBlow LA in Beverly Hills. “Here, even if all the stylists are working, you can wait 15, 20 minutes, and they can squeeze you in.”
Chains and independent businesses are opening in big cities nationwide. Analysts say they’re the latest offshoot of a $40 billion salon industry shaking off recession.
These specialty shops are reaping the benefits of a stagnant economy as women forgo highlights or haircuts in favor of “cheaper luxuries” such as blowouts, said Caitlin Moldvay, an analyst at research firm IbisWorld.
“We want to get you between haircuts,” said Dahlia Eshaghian, who recently opened Blow Angels in West Los Angeles. “Sometimes in the middle of the day women want to take half an hour or an hour just for themselves.”
In cities dotted with pricey stylists and uber-luxe spas, blow-dry salons seek to stand out by calling themselves “bars” instead of “salons.”