Blog : Dover Salon Offers Truly Healthier Hair Products

By John | May 28, 2015 | in

By Ken Johnson

DOVER – Organic, hair and salon are not terms generally heard together, especially considering some of the ingredients that often appear within hair care products. However, Acorn Organic Salon in Dover takes pride in combining these terms together successfully.

One of the immediate differences between Acorn is that it doesn't smell like other salons; there's less harmful chemicals in the air because Acorn uses eco-hair sprays instead of industry-favorites. It's a conversation starter for the stylists and their customers on what makes Acorn's product selection a healthier alternative.

“The ingredients that we use are another big factor,” Laura MacKay, owner of Acorn Organic Salon, said.

A significant portion of Acorn's clientele choose the salon because of allergies, for example, with hair dyes. Acorn's choices of eco-friendly hair dyes gives customers who've never been able to color their hair due to allergies, the chance to try something new without an adverse reaction.

Chemicals such as formaldehyde, ammonia, and artificial fragrances often found in some hair care products, enter the waste water supply when applications are washed off into the sink. 

When products are selected, the Acorn reviews the ingredient list of the product. They look to see what the purpose of the ingredients are and what they actually do for the product. There are some ingredients that MacKay absolutely won't accept, like artificial fragrances, since they're unnecessary to the product.

Many products will mislabel an ingredient to confuse customers, MacKay said. Acorn carefully watches for this type of labeling.

“There are no regulations on ingredients in personal care products,” MacKay said.

In a presentation given by Kate Winnebeck, Sr. Environmental Health & Safety Specialist, and Erica Hernandez, from the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) in 2012, they said that 1,100 chemicals are banned or limited within the European Union whereas only 11 chemicals are banned or limited within the United States. NYSP2I works to make NY state more sustainable and has its headquarters at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Council Directive 76/768/EEC of the rules governing cosmetic products in the European Union states, “Whereas cosmetic products must not be harmful under normal or foreseeable conditions of use; whereas in particular it is necessary to take into account the possibility of danger to zones of the body that are contiguous to the area of application.”

Winnebeck and Hernandez also said during their presentation that the authority to recall products with toxic chemicals is not under the authority of the FDA.

Both the presentation and the rules governing cosmetic products in the EU cover all cosmetics, not just hair care products.

MacKay notes the products the EU accepts to see if it is something she will carry at Acorn. If the product looks good, then a sample pack is obtained for testing by the staff of Acorn and by customers who have volunteered to try new products.

“We have a lot of times clients that are very sensitive reaction-wise, so they'll try different ingredients and obviously if they are getting a reaction then we're not going to carry it so we're very lucky that we have people that are willing to basically be our testers even in the situation where they have allergies and sometimes something does make them react but they do it because they want to help out other people who have the same issues,” MacKay said.

The salon retains many customers and many students who attend the University of New Hampshire, especially those pursuing graduate or master's degrees who live in Dover, frequent the salon.

“The organic factor brings in the UNH students,” MacKay said.

“I think the biggest thing is people are reacting more because of the amount of things that people are using, they are developing allergies. And so they have always used tons of different products – lotions, hair sprays, everything, gotten their hair colored – and then one day they are going to get their hair colored and they are having a massive allergic reaction because of all the ingredients that kind of pushed them over their threshold,” MacKay said.

Since opening their doors in 2008, Acorn has made strides to be a sustainable business beyond the eco-friendly products they use. They moved to their current location on 6th Street in Dover in 2013 because the old location had more space than they were using and was not energy efficient. The new location is a far more sustainable building. Acorn offers all hair services and facial waxing, but no spa treatments. They have added treatments, hair straighteners, relaxers, and smoothing treatments have evolved over the years to become much safer. Customers donate plastic bags, which the salon uses as caps for clients. Additionally, they don't subscribe to any magazines, recycle, and they attempt to reuse as much as possible – including trying to get all furniture secondhand. Acorn is also a Business Partner with the Green Alliance, a union of environmentally-conscious businesses and individual members, which educates the public on more sustainable business and buying practices.

But it is the products that really make the difference for clients. MacKay said she would like to see more federal regulations on what goes into personal care products, especially since companies have created formulas for countries outside the US that do have regulations in place.

“Obviously having that type of goal isn't great for my personal business, because it definitely makes us less rare and less standoutish," said MacKay. "But to me the overall health of people and the ingredients and the environment is way more important than that.”

Green Alliance members enjoy 10% off all salon services. To become a member of the GA, click here.