Nearly 45 minutes of tugging and twisting with blasts of high heat left Stephanie Rigley's thick, coarse, strawberry-blonde hair wrapped around boar-bristle brushes -- 13 of them -- all jutting in different directions around her head. The 39-year-old Orono mother of three perked up in the salon chair as her stylist removed each brush for the big reveal.
"She's going to feel her hair tonight like she's never felt it before," said Twin Cities hair maven Jon Charles, whose eponymous salons hold Blow Dry Bootcamps to teach women like Rigley how to achieve their own professional blow-dry looks at home.
"It doesn't even look like my hair ... in a good way," Rigley said of her softer, shinier, healthier-looking locks -- the kind you see on celebrity red carpets and in Victoria's Secret catalogs.
The blowout, which entails washing, blow drying and styling hair to a smooth and voluminous finish, is luring women to the beauty shop for a bit of affordable pampering. Local salons are seeing a rise in blow-dry-only appointments; new mobile blowout services will travel to you for the job; and blow-dry bars, which have been a weekly ritual for women in New York and Los Angeles, are finally coming to the Twin Cities this spring.
"On the coasts, blow-dry bars are like Starbucks," said Alyssa Caplan, who's handling the marketing for the Wow Bar, a business in the works for the 50th and France shopping district in Edina. "They're often seen as weekly maintenance, just as women here think of getting manicures and pedicures."
In addition to the Wow Bar, whose stylists will be trained by Uptown salon owner Jason Deavalon, Blast Blow Dry Bar will also open two locations this spring: at the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park and Aloft hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
At blow-dry bars, it's all about the blowout. It's all they do and their mission is to do it well. The service includes a wash, blowout and styling and is generally priced between $30 and $35. Appointments aren't necessary, and the average blowout takes 30 minutes.
Each bar has its nuances, different looks and amenities. Their owners say they're not meant to replace salons -- no haircuts or coloring services here -- but rather they're a destination spot for events like bachelorette parties and girls' night out.
So what is it about the blowout look that has women trading their own brushes and hair dryers for a seat in the salon? Well, remember the old adage to brush your hair 100 times a day, a la Marcia Brady? The blowout mimics the same smoothness and shine, but in lieu of 100 brush strokes, a professional stylist uses large round brushes to pull styling products and the scalp's natural oils through to the ends of the hair.
While the main look desired is smooth and straight, other styles can be achieved. Blast Blow Dry Bar, for example, will offer a menu of different looks; everything from beachy waves to glamorous loose curls can be achieved with a blow dryer and a brush.
The key to a perfect blowout, Deavalon says, is sealing the cuticle using heat and the angle of air from the blow dryer. Getting the hair wet is the only thing that should change the look, which is why a blowout will last a few days at a time even after sleeping on it. The Wow Bar will sell satin pillowcases, shower caps, headbands and ponytail holders to lengthen the life of a blowout.
Longer hairstyles and women's increasingly busy schedules are among the factors fueling the blowout movement.
"A short hairstyle is hard to maintain," Charles said. "A blow-dry buys you shine, time and money."
Kathy Bystedt has been going to Tres Jolie salon in south Minneapolis twice weekly for blowouts since she retired six years ago. The 69-year-old former flower shop owner has medium-length thin brown hair, and says a blowout gives her the appearance of having more hair.
"It's nice to have my hair done and I don't have to monkey with it the rest of the time," she said. "It's hard for me to do on my own."
With practice and the right tools, women can accomplish the same look at home, which is why Charles opens his two salons in Wayzata and Uptown for blowout boot-camp instruction. Still, many choose not to blow out their own hair because of the time and the muscle strength required to get the job done.
"She'd look like Arnold Schwarzenegger after blow drying that hair every day," Charles said of Rigley's hair. "Women are busy, so let us do the work for you."
Aimée Blanchette • 612-673-1715