SPRING HILL — At first, Bobby Cummings was skeptical: Organic hair dye? On her head?
"I told my friends, and we all wondered how it would work without the chemicals," the 65-year-old Cummings said, admiring her newly darkened and highlighted head of hair in the mirror at Prestige Hair Studio.
"But this is nice," she said. "It doesn't smell bad. And all of my grays are gone."
At the corner of Barclay Avenue and Powell Road in Silverthorn Square, the salon opened in November and offers the usual hair care services to clients: cuts, styling, color and perms. But only with products made from organic ingredients.
In a world where going green is the latest trend for businesses, owner Susan Alascia has watched her shop become one of only a few such salons in the Tampa Bay area.
"I think people just want to be healthier," Alascia said. "And they're noticing a big difference in their hair. All the products we use here smell better, are made with better ingredients, and they make hair softer and shinier."
In the coloring products, there is no ammonia, which means no stinky smell and dry hair. In the shampoo, there aren't any sulfates, a harsh detergent agent used to create suds. Most products are made with as many organic ingredients — about 95 percent — as possible. They cost roughly the same as traditional hair care products.
At 45, Alascia wanted to take her salon in a different direction. A cosmetologist for more than 18 years, she had taken a leave from the business after having a child. Not to mention finding herself sick most of the time.
She used to have pneumonia at least three times a year. The last time she got the disease in both lungs.
She finally gave in to her doctors and stopped working. And while there's no proof that her illness was linked to her work in salons, Alascia found that her health got better.
But recently, she got the itch to get scissors back in her hands. Then she came across a line of greener products available for use in salons. The idea struck her, and, after some thought, she decided to exclusively use lines such as Organic Color Systems.
Amber Holland, owner of the Midori Salon in Largo, has been using similar products in her business for the last year. She's found that most of her clients have been through some kind of illness that has led them to search out different products. Those diseases range from cancer to skin disorders.
They appreciate having an alternative, she said.
"It's a difficult industry to go green in," Holland said. "People have a hard time of rethinking how hair gets done. But it's an imperative thing to do. Just about every female product has chemicals in it that are bad for health."
Alascia likes being able to give her clients the services they want. And she can feel better about what she puts on their heads.
"I figured I couldn't work for someone else who didn't support my beliefs," Alascia said. "So I decided to do it myself. I can't imagine it any other way."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432.