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The Importance of Salon Backbar

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Putty in your hands. A limp noodle. Sighs. Aahs. Big smiles. These are the hairdresser’s signs of a satisfied client at the shampoo bowl. 

An expert hair wash and scalp massage have benefits for both clients and stylists and can be a satisfying start to a long relationship. They can prepare both a client’s hair and a stylist’s mind for what is to come. They boost confidence and it simply puts clients in a more receptive mood. It helps them forget what happened before they arrived and stop worrying about what happens after they leave. It helps them be more present with you – and you with them.

And at a time when many clients may be tentatively emerging post-lockdown, getting their hair washed is a big deal and is often the first step toward social interaction and physical touch.


Gather Information

Think of the shampoo area as your examination lab where you will make your professional diagnoses. You have the opportunity to see hair in all its stages: dry and styled, wet and unstyled – and you can confidently make your assessment to determine exactly what it needs.  

You’ll get a clear reading of the condition of the scalp. Is a frank yet reassuring conversation about dandruff, psoriasis, or eczema necessary? You can also see the evidence of clients’ product habits in the form of build-up from using too much – or damage from using too little. 

In short, it’s a perfect opportunity for your inner problem-solver to assure clients that you have their best hair at heart, and to make your service plan.

Why does getting hair washed feel so freaking good?

The science behind the pleasure: According to Women’s Health magazine, the scalp is an erogenous zone that is both very sensitive to touch and rarely handled by other people. As the scalp is being massaged, the nerve endings send information to the sensory cortex where comfort and relaxation are registered, and it lights up and releases feel-good hormones. And, the soothing, warm water and botanical aromas don’t hurt, either.

Anya Hindmarch is an English fashion designer with five children and a successful business who titled her new book, “If in Doubt, Wash Your Hair,” published by Bloomsbury.

A good scrub, she finds, “makes me calmer and more confident and therefore better able to cope. That moment, eyes closed, not looking at my phone, is when I have some of my best ideas.” Hindmarch is celebrating her book launch with a popup wash-and-blow-dry bar.


Appeal to the Senses 

The shampoo area is where all the senses are opened: sight, sound, smell, and touch. Is your wash area visually pleasant? Is it free of clutter, hair trimmings, dirty towels, and so on? What’s on the ceiling when a client lays back before she closes her eyes? Glaring lighting? Water stains from old leaks upstairs? Take a moment to sit down in the wash chair and look around with a client’s eyes.

As your client surrenders, what does she hear? Calm or cacophony? Music or chatter? A washing machine? The break room? What does she smell? The olfactory sense is provided by the fragrance in the products you’re using, which will be intensified by the warm water. Consider the quality – and the ubiquity – of fragrance in your space; scented candles, incense, or air fresheners might be overkill in addition to the fragrance of multiple products coming with chemical odors. Be considerate of the many people with fragrance sensitivities and allergies.

As for touch, that’s obviously up to you and your magic hands. Consider inviting in a massage therapist to talk about effective techniques and pressure points on the neck and head. An important touch point is making sure the neck is at a comfortable angle and sufficiently cushioned during washing.

Scalp Massage: More than a feel-good perk

One of the best ways to encourage hair growth is a scalp massage, and there is science behind it: Tension often lodges around the hairline, behind the ears, and in the neck and shoulders due to stress and poor posture. Tension constricts the capillaries and the flow of blood that carries essential nutrients. 

Massaging the scalp decreases muscle tension and eases blood flow to deliver oxygen and vitamins to the follicles. Recent studies where men received a daily four-minute scalp massage found that nearly 70% of participants reported thicker hair over time. Additionally, scalp massage is also known to reduce the stress hormones that can directly cause hair loss.

Make the washing experience special

Before you even approach the shampoo bowl, set the tone. Just as you’d invite a friend over and give them a moment to arrive, get comfortable, and offer refreshment, guide a client to the shampoo chair, cushion her neck with a towel, ask if she prefers feet up or down, and let her settle in before inquiring about cleansing preferences.

Test the water

Before wetting a client’s scalp and hair, check the temperature by dabbing some on your wrist, as our fingers are typically desensitized. Aim for comfortably warm.

Choose products thoughtfully

Hairdressers who carry Hairstory products have a unique challenge – and a unique opportunity. The challenge is convincing people that they don’t need – or want – shampoo as they know it. For that reason, the time at the bowl is the perfect opportunity to make an impassioned case. A provocative opener such as, “I will never use shampoo on your hair again,” or, “I’d really love for you to give up shampoo altogether,” piques curiosity and paves the way to explain the benefits of kicking the shampoo habit and adopting detergent-free personal care

Next, determine which New Wash is called for. New Wash Original is a good bet for most people with most hair types. Dry, coarse, highly textured, or curly hair will likely be craving some extra moisture, and New Wash Rich is the better option. If a client is concerned about overly oily hair, talk through the oil-related reasons to stop using shampoo, pronto, and try New Wash Deep

This is the time to tell your story, especially if your hair is similar. You personally experienced the magic of New Wash, and it may have had a huge impact on your scalp condition or hair texture. Remember that hairdressers are the ultimate influencers, and your recommendations carry more weight than you might realize.

Listen for cues to provide more information. An exclamation of, “Wow, that smells good,” is a perfect opening to remark on the Hairstory policy against synthetic fragrance and going to great lengths to list all ingredients on packaging – or simply trade favorite fragrance notes. “My scalp is tingling,”  is an opportunity to discuss the follicle-stimulating properties of Peppermint oil, or to talk about the important role a healthy scalp plays in having healthy hair.



The Two-Wash Method

Do one quick wash to loosen the most obvious debris, then rinse and repeat for a second and more thorough, therapeutic massage.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. You want hair and scalp to be a perfectly clean canvas
  2. Clients are accustomed to a two-step experience with traditional shampoo followed by a conditioner.

Take your time with the second wash and work the pressure points around the temples, and where the skull meets the neck. Focus on the scalp more than the hair at this point. Lastly, you might use a wide-tooth comb or a scalp brush to detangle before rinsing extra thoroughly.

Dry and Done

Finally, squeeze water out of the hair with a nice, clean, soft towel; microfiber cloths can gentler on hair than cotton and will save you drying time and electricity. Make sure to pat dry behind and inside the ears. Then it’s time to drape the towel around the shoulders and guide her to your chair where the real magic happens.

Using the time at the wash station to educate about products as you use them boosts your bottom line. Our data shows that half of the hairdressers who invested the most in backbar products earned the highest commissions. As we said, clients are in their most receptive state with your hands massaging their scalp, and we don’t want to be opportunist, but if commissions are your goal, strike while the water is hot – but not too hot!