The first time I got a blowout at a glam New York blow-dry bar, I thought immediately of how my mother would have found the service utterly ridiculous. She plucked her own eyebrows, colored her own hair out of a box, and I honestly don’t remember her ever getting a manicure.
My grandmother, on the other hand (despite never having extra money to speak of) has had a standing weekly hair appointment for as long as I can remember, and her acrylic tips are always flawless.
These days, at least in New York, my grandmother’s approach to beauty appears to be more on-trend than her daughter’s, as women in the city increasingly pay others to attend to every aspect of their routines. They get their eyebrows waxed, threaded, and tinted and their lashes extended. Manicured nails are a must-have, and there are special studios for next-level nail art and companies that bring manicures to your office.
And the explosion of the blow-dry salon is perhaps the most telling, with Drybar locations opening every month, DreamDry steadily expanding, and smaller brands popping up from the Upper East Side to the Hamptons. There’s a subcategory of braid bars, too.
“Ironically, it’s kind of a throwback to the ’50s or ’60s, to the whole hair-salon mentality of people who would go with their friends, and it was a weekly thing. You just had your appointment, and you did it every week,” says DreamDry co-founder Robin Moraetes. “We’re such a different society now, but it’s the same activity.”
She’s not kidding. A stylist at DreamDry told me one of his clients books her Wednesday 6:30 a.m. appointment in six-month blocks. And a lead stylist at the former Blow on 14th Street said one of his clients hadn’t washed her own hair in years (who knows what she’s been doing since that salon closed!?).
So why are more and more professional, urban women spending their hard-earned cash on things they could really do for themselves at home?
“When I started working a couple years ago, I had to have manicures—I had a bad habit of picking at my nails,” says Kate, a 25-year-old Upper West Side resident who works in software sales. “I’m in a client-facing role, and I work with my hands. I have to be an adult about it.” In addition to weekly manicures, she gets pedicures once a month, eyebrow waxing and tinting, and blowouts only on special occasions.
And for some, it’s about personal confidence and well as professional expectations. “I walk out of there, and I know it looks a lot better than it would have had I done it on my own,” says Pauline, a 24-year-old ad agency recruiter who never misses a weekly manicure. “I pay a premium to feel good about myself. I can’t do it as well.”
Pauline says she will often get regular blowouts, too, although since she started working out and doing hot yoga she’s been doing it less, since it’s impossible to keep it fresh after sweat sessions. “I’m not as compelled to go get a blowout as often, and it definitely affects my schedule. Fitness comes before everything else,” she says.
Of course, she may change her mind when she finds out there are now blowouts and braiding being offered in boutique fitness studio locker rooms. My grandmother definitely would not have gone for that. —Lisa Elaine Held
Do you outsource any parts of your beauty regimen? Is it worth it? Tell us in the Comments, below!