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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Healthy Hair and More with Eco-Style

Aug 29, 2011 04:36PM ● By Megy Karydes

Girls don’t just wanna have fun, they want to look good and feel good while they’re having it. Healthy, environmentally responsible beauty products and salons are becoming more readily available to green an industry that has traditionally been heavily dependent on chemicals that may contribute to a variety of health problems. Clients seeking natural and organic hair and skin products and services don’t have far to look these days, because salons and spas are making adjustments in response to the demands of a more eco-aware clientele.

Becoming an eco-friendly salon goes beyond basic product and service offerings. Natural Awakenings spoke with the owners of several local salons and spas about their philosophies of creating a healthier space for their clients, employees, themselves and the Earth.

Tony Gordon, co-owner of Gordon’s Aveda Salons & Spas–with four locations in the North Shore and Chicago–uses metaphors from nature when he talks about his salon and services. “Our company has grown organically,” says Gordon. “We’ve grown slowly, like a strong tree. We grow where the ground is fertile and where we can branch out. We nurture a lot of new stylists and remember why we started this in the first place.”

One of his most popular services is hair coloring, and Gordon is proud that his Aveda products are 99-percent derived from nature. “I don’t want to expose my staff and clients to the harmful and toxic chemicals that are found in traditional salon products,” Gordon states. “Even if a client is just getting a haircut, if they are sitting next to someone getting a treatment with those chemicals in it, they are inhaling those chemicals.” His approach extends beyond the stylist’s chair, incorporating LED lighting and repurposed flooring in the salons, and carrying products that come in recycled packaging.

For some salon owners, their natural choice was related to their own work experiences in conventional salons. Vickie Dugo, owner of art & nature eco-salon, in Libertyville, was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and couldn’t help but wonder if her environment contributed to the diagnosis. After much research, in 2011 she converted her 20-year salon into an eco-friendly one.

Dugo and her team investigated products of all kinds for nearly a year, concentrating on results and price points. “We wanted it to be affordable,” she adds. “The last thing we wanted to have happen was our existing clients to be turned off or away from the products because of price. It’s been so rewarding to have our clients switch over to these products and witness the change in the health of their hair.”

A similar experience drove Bonnie Grcic, owner of B.G. Salon, to open an eco-friendly shop three years ago in Chicago’s northwest side. After 34 years of working in the hair industry, she developed health problems that she feels were the result of exposure to chemicals in hair products.

“More and more clients are looking for healthy ways to look good,” says Grcic. “(As consumers) we buy organic food to stay healthy. But, what we use on our hair is also more important than most people realize.” Using her expertise, Grcic created a salon environment free of harmful chemicals and filled it with products made of natural oils, fruit and vegetable proteins. B.G.’s focus is on nontoxic, organic, long-lasting hair color that covers gray; botanical-based perms, facial waxing products and spray tans; organic highlights for “virgin” hair; lash and brow tint; organic Keratin treatments; and haircuts. Her products are not tested on animals, all vegan and made in the USA.

Clients visiting Gail Jarrett’s salon, Mindful Evolution, in Chicago’s Rogers Park, enjoy a carefully designed calm, peaceful atmosphere. A 25-year veteran of the salon industry, Jarrett, too, was tired of breathing in the chemicals found in products that she and her fellow stylists were using daily. She knew they were unhealthy and decided to make her salon a holistic one, focusing on cuts, but offering everything from organic hair color to acupuncture services, herbal medicines and laser hair therapy.

Jarrett spent a lot of time researching affordable organic hair color solutions that work well. “Our prices are comparable to other salons,” says Jarrett, who wanted to make eco-friendly products accessible to all customers. “When clients come through our doors, they exhale,” says Jarrett. “There is an exchange when I put my hands on another person, whether it’s to cut hair or perform acupuncture treatments. I want them to feel at ease and safe. I take that very seriously.”

Mariola Millirons, owner of Mariola’s Organic Spa and Retreat, in Long Grove, strives to treat clients as a whole being and educate them about health and wellness. “What we put on our skin is quickly absorbed and enters our blood stream immediately,” says Millirons. She educates clients about their facials and explains the importance of being just as mindful of what they put on their bodies as in their bodies.

In addition to European-based products, Millirons offers massages using organic oils from Amrit Organics, facials with Eminence Organic Skin Care and natural, organic makeup by French-based Couleur Caramel. They also offer soy-based waxing with Nufree hair removal products and esthetician-provided skin care services.

Research is a recurring theme with many salon owners as they continually strive to offer the best, most effective and healthy options. Five Phase Wellness Center, in Evanston, also offers Amrit Organic Raw Skin Care, chosen after months of research to determine the best fit for their center. “Raw Skin Care is the first facial line made from all sustainable organic, botanical, natural and wild-crafted ingredients,with no synthetics, parabens, toxins, stabilizers preservatives or chemicals,” says Jenna Radivojevic, wellness manager at the Center.

“Our skin is our largest organ, our protective barrier, and absorbs everything into our internal system much faster than any other process. It is important to treat our skin and pay attention to our skin, just as well as we do our dietary habits. We eat organic foods to care for our bodies internally, why not do the same for our skin?” adds Radivojevic.

Five Phase Wellness Center focuses on therapies that support and control each other in a continuous cycle of tonification, relaxation and reflection, to promote wellness and prevent disease, says Radivojevic. In addition to organic skincare, the Center’s services include oriental medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, and meditation), massage therapy, esthetics, exercise (yoga, Tai chi, Pilates, qi gong) and longevity and wellness counseling.

Offering eco-friendly alternatives is proving to make good business sense, too. According to Millirons, once clients experience her services and products, they keep returning and bringing their friends. Dugo is also noticing an increase in sales as clients seek out eco-friendly alternatives. “We have attracted clients specifically looking for these services and home hair care products,” she says. “It’s been fantastic to meet people with similar lifestyle choices and values.”


art & nature eco-salon
330 Peterson Rd., Libertyville
847-816-7444 or visit

B.G. Salon
6704 N. Northwest Hwy., Chicago
773-763-6322 or visit

Five Phase Wellness Center
708 Main St., Evanston
847-905-0440 or visit

Gordon’s Aveda Salons & Spas
Highland Park, Wilmette and Chicago-Lakeview locations
847-266-7777 (Highland Park locations) or visit

Mariola’s Organic Spa and Retreat
3976 Rte. 22, Long Grove
847-847-7093 or visit

Mindful Evolution
1769 ½ West Greenleaf Ave., Chicago
773-465-7999 or visit

Megy Karydes is founder of World Shoppe, a fair trade importing business that works directly with artisans in South Africa and Kenya. To learn more, visit