When communications expert Caroline Holley and hair stylist Luis Alfonso joined forces to launch their own hair salon, they knew they wanted their business to do as little harm to the planet as possible. They were concerned about Alfonso’s long hours working with hair care chemicals.
“Luis has been a stylist for a long time. He had been working with traditional color products, and I was worried about his health,” says Holley, who is Alfonso’s partner in life as well as in business. “It’s one thing if you come in every once in a while to get your hair colored, another if you’re working with salon chemicals every day, six days a week. The exposure is much more intense.”
So they launched Swing Organic Hair Salon with an eye to create a “clean-air oasis” in the heart of New York City’s East Village. Swing uses and sells products that are free of problematic chemicals like phthalates or artificial fragrances, parabens, ammonia, products with nano-particles, and animal-based ingredients.
It also doesn’t offer any permanent texturizing services or permanent straightening or curling processes because many of them use toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
“The US beauty industry uses a lot of harsh chemicals that are banned in other countries,” says Holley, who handles Swing’s marketing. “We had to do our own research to figure out which products were the healthiest products, the most affordable products, and the highest-performing products.”
In addition, the salon features a carbon-filtered air purification system to keep the air inside the salon healthy and clean, even given the more benign chemicals it uses. It is powered by 100 percent renewable energy and decorated with low-toxicity paints and furnishings.
While customers from all walks of life appreciate Swing Salon’s commitment to less-toxic salon care, Holley says that people with allergies and sensitive skin, those recovering from serious illnesses, as well as pregnant and nursing women, are particularly drawn to Swing Salon.
“When clients walk into Swing for the first time, they are often surprised by the smell—they are greeted by mint and lavender, not the traditional color chemicals and VOCs they were expecting,” says Holley.
“Toxins in any form create stress. When you create a toxin-free environment, you are lowering stress levels for everyone in the room. For clients and staff, this is just a healthier, more relaxed, and positive atmosphere.”
As Swing Salon has increased its clientele, Holley says one of her and Alfonso’s favorite accomplishments was being recognized as a green business.
“One of the most important moments for us as a green business was when we received our Green Business Certification from Green America,” she says. “It’s one thing to think you are ‘green,’ but quite another to go through a rigorous audit and have a respected third party confirm that we are indeed. It has been a great source of pride for us.”
Holley and Alfonso aim to give that same sense of pride to their clients—in the form of a beautiful hairstyle coupled by the fact that it comes from a less-toxic salon.
“We love the fact that we can give our clients gorgeous haircuts and color, without compromise, and in a way that is healthier for them, for us, and for the planet,” she says.