What It Means to Be a Blowout Specialist
Hair: Deborah Parkinson, Trish Avalos, Angeline GuerraCreative director: Steve EliasFashion styling: Katelyn Johnson
With the proliferation of blow-dry bars and the trend toward red-carpet looks for every woman, you might wonder what it takes to be a true blow dry and style pro, making clients look fabulous all day long. Elle Rizza, who works at Ten Friends Blow Dry & Style House in Hinsdale, Illinois, says it’s a very rewarding career path. After all, it’s that salon-fresh style that women who go to blow-dry bars want most.
Rizza graduated from Paul Mitchell The School Chicago in 2011 and had been working for three years when she saw a Facebook ad for a new blow-dry bar near her home. It turned out that the co-owner was the financial aid counselor at her school, so she decided to check it out. When she discovered the salon offered a 401k plan and health insurance, she was sold. At just six weeks of working, she was already staying busy and feeling right at home at Ten Friends.
“The salon cares about our success and has been marketing us like crazy,” Rizza says. “I’d already been doing bridal work on a freelance basis, but they taught us a whole new approach.”
The salon had stylists attend a three-week training session so everyone could master the looks on the menu, including their menu items: Beachy Waves, Sleek & Sassy, Full & Fabulous, Just Updo It, and more. While the names are specific to Ten Friends, you can expect to create similar looks in any blow-dry bar.
“We learned to start around the face, which dries fastest and is the area where clients have the most problems,” Rizza says. “Then, we take small sections and hit them with heat every time we pass over the section with
the brush. This is very different from traditional salons, where stylists pre-dry just to remove moisture, then add product to the damp hair and go back in, blasting sections with the blower. In the blow-dry bar approach, each section must be completely dried, one by one. This is what allows for styles that last for four to five days.”
A good amount of tension is also required, taking hair type and condition into account. There are little tricks like using a root-boost product first, then over-directing smaller-than-usual sections one by one and drying them completely. Speed matters, too; the basic blowout should take no longer than 45 minutes.
“We are really setting hair with heat,” Rizza says. “And when women follow our product suggestions, we guarantee the look will last—even on fine hair.”
Retail items Rizza always suggests include a clay-like product to inhibit flyaways or a strong-hold hairspray for those who want a polished look, plus a dry shampoo for every client.
In addition to retail opportunities, she says, there are many ways to upsell, including offering braids, chignons, brow waxes, scalp treatments and packages. Besides upselling and retailing, an important key to success, and career longevity, involves ergonomics.
“All stylists need an ergonomic mat to stand on during long days, but when you are blow drying all day, body position matters a lot,” Rizza says. “We learned to stand up straight and pay attention to our elbow position, which should be at 90-degrees to the shoulders and no higher unless necessary. Also, we use lightweight dryers that turn on and off automatically, whenever we pick them up or lay them down.”
Rizza’s salon is building business fast for her—which brings home the fact that if you want to specialize, look for a salon with a strong marketing plan. Her salon plans six to eight more locations soon.
“You should have a least a year’s worth of experience to do this because diverse styling skills are lacking when you get out of school, and even in salons, you need time to gain expertise in different hair types and styles,” Rizza says. “But if you love homecoming, prom time and styling hair, a blow-dry bar is a great place to be. Clients think it’s the best thing.”