Keratin treatments have been a boon to salons, as a pricey and in-demand service, and to clients who love the treatments for giving them the smooth, manageable hair they have always wanted. Like all good things, there is a price and, with keratin treatments, it was the controversy concerning the release of formaldehyde vapor when treated hair meets a very hot iron. Though in-salon keratin treatments have been reformulated in most cases to contain far less of the dangerous chemical and salons have responded with better ventilation systems, designer and inventor Nick Johnson decided to tackle the situation with his invention, the Fume Iron, a device that removes the fumes before they hit the air.
MODERN SALON: TELL US ABOUT THE FUME IRON AND HOW YOU DEVELOPED IT
NICK JOHNSON: My wife Marzia and I own Marzia Salon in San Francisco. Keratin treatments arrived on the scene 6-7 years ago and were transformational for clients with textured, frizzy, unmanageable hair. Marzia predicted these treatments would be huge for salon business, but she was concerned about the health risks for clients and professionals. I was concerned for her health and spent a great deal of time coming up with possible solutions, all of which I rejected. There was a lot of what I call “keratin fatigue” from all the input from professionals, manufactures, consumers and the media. I am a conceptual designer by trade and, after three years of experimenting, I created the Fume Iron. I originally presented the iron to distributors who were also concerned about the health risks associated with the treatments they were marketing to their salon customers. Rather than relying on ventilation systems, ceiling fans or open windows, the Fume Iron removes the fumes at the source before they can enter the air.
MS: HOW DOES THE FUME IRON WORK?
NJ: The Fume Iron is not part of a formaldehyde-free keratin treatment. It is not associated with any brand and it works with any professional keratin treatment or any other service that produces smoke, vapor or fumes. The Fume Iron is a completely new salon tool. The iron looks very similar to a traditional flat iron, but the patented technology and design includes vents on the side of the iron above the plates. When the iron touches the treated hair, the resulting fumes are instantly pulled into the vents and travel through a hose that attaches the flat iron to an industrial grade fume extractor. Fume extractors are used in many manufacturing processes and they use a carbon filtering system to remove the fumes and, in this case, release air back into the salon that is more than 90 percent fresh and free of harmful vapors. Using the Fume Iron is really intuitive for stylists because it is just a modified flat iron and there is a very small learning curve when first exposed to the iron. The extractor is a compact unit, like a vacuum on casters that can be moved around the salon and used by any of the stylists. There is also a version of the Fume Iron that has a smaller extractor and is priced to be affordable for the average salon professional.
MS: HOW ARE YOU MARKETING THE FUME IRON?
NJ: We initially spent a lot of time with distributors, many of whom were very enthusiastic about the product and recognized the necessity and the impact it can have on the health of salon professionals. The distributors really understood the products and saw the device as something they almost felt obligated to offer to the salon professional as a health factor. My wife and I had many manufacturers eager to partner with us in manufacturing and marketing the Fume Iron. We ultimately selected Izunami as our manufacturing partner. We were the first to market a device like the Fume Iron and stylists are really impressed when they see it demonstrated at shows or on videos. Along with Izunami and my wife Marzia, I am grateful to have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the health of salon professionals and their clients with the Fume Iron. I was the designer but Marzia was the inspiration.