While San Francisco may not be known for its killer fashion sense, when it comes to beauty, the Bay Area brings its A-game. Well-known international brands like Benefit, Sephora and Bare Escentuals have their headquarters in San Francisco. Nail salons, day spas, makeup boutiques and barber shops are everywhere, with both luxury and affordable offerings in all of SF’s bustling neighborhoods, from West Portal to Cow Hollow. And one beauty trend that’s taken the city by storm? The blow dry bar. These wildly popular salons sell more than just a fun experience and polished locks. As Karen Hayes, owner of the East Bay’s Bounce Blow Dry Bars, puts it, “We’re in the business of empowering women. When you look good, you feel good, and you’re more inclined to do good.” Making the world a better place one blowout at a time? That’s something every savvy woman can get behind. Want to experience the blow dry bar trend first hand? Here are the top ten places to get a self-esteem boosting blowout in the Bay Area.
Find a blow dry bar near you
Though Bloom Blow Dry Bar’s West Portal location may be out of the way for some people, the blowout that you’ll walk away with is worth the trek to this Southern suburb. Enter Bloom and you feel like you’ve walked into your wildly chic older sister’s house. The walls are white and soft grey, a mural of blooming pink flowers graces the entire back wall and everything feels clean, fresh and new. There are no lookbooks, instead salon-goers are invited to browse an iPad for the hairstyle they want. The iPad also has a selection of the most recent style and gossip magazines downloaded, so Bloom is doing their part to go green by reducing paper waste. Everything about Bloom is luxurious and precise. The Unite products are geared toward specific hair types and the stylists check out what kind of hair you have before they begin the choreographed blowout routine. The shampooing bowls are comfy; you won’t get a kink in your neck while the stylist is giving you a relaxing head massage during the hair wash. Back at your station, enjoy a frothy and delicious cappuccino while your hair gets done.
Blowology is a beauty oasis in the heart of downtown San Francisco on Market Street. The intimate salon is located on the second floor in the back corner of an open studio space that’s home to a variety of beauty-related services. The three-seat salon feels like the sophisticated backstage of a sexy theater. An ornate silver chandelier hangs from the ceiling, ivy and orchid plants bring a lushness to the space and amethyst crystals add a calming zen vibe. The team here, including makeup artists, are the type of women who offer salon-goers a mimosa upon arrival and a bear hug before departure. The Blowology experience is one of a kind, thanks to its organic, gluten-free products by Pureology and VIP-like setting that brings to mind a day spa. The stylists get to know you while you’re at the salon and regulars include a handful of women who travel to San Francisco for work.
Cherry Blow Dry Bar is the preferred salon of the ladies who lunch in Laurel Heights. This large, airy and bright space on Sacramento Street has a long bar with ten stations running the length of the space and an area for wash basins in the back. Unlike most salons, the walls are not covered in mirrors. Instead a single silver vanity with a mirror sits in front of each station, making the space feel like a stylish grandmother’s oversized closet. Since it’s off the beaten track, Cherry is an awesome spot for walk-ins and blowouts that are scheduled the same day. For the woman who hates doing her own hair, Cherry offers a variety of different memberships that are incredible deals. The most popular plan offers two blowouts per month, plus 10% of all retail—the salon is stocked with BlowPro and Kevin Murphy products. The frequent dryer membership is unlimited monthly blowouts, an unparalleled steal if you plan on getting a blowout once a week.
“No cuts. No color. Just blowouts,” is the tagline of the insanely popular Drybar, the salon that’s credited with bringing the blowout craze to the masses. There are two Drybars in San Francisco—one in Pacific Heights another downtown. Both of the salons sport Drybar’s signature buttercup yellow, white and grey color palette and are constantly booked, so be sure to reserve a spot in advance. Romantic comedies and classic chick flicks play from muted, subtitled television screens, and when you check in, the receptionist offers you a cookie and a drink—water, coffee or sparkling wine, depending on the location. The hairstyles are cheekily named after cocktails: the Manhattan is a sleek and smooth do, while the Dirty Martini is tousled and textured hair. Drybar uses its own scented line of styling products (dry shampoo, weightless conditioner, shimmering leave-in spray) and tools (shower cap, hair clips and curling irons, all in Drybar’s official sunny yellow color) which are available for purchase at each location. What makes Drybar so great is its quality control and reliability. Whether you’re at the salon in Pacific Heights or one of their locations in Washington D.C., you can rest assured that you’ll get the same friendly service and sleek, stylish locks.
Although Drybar is credited with mainstreaming the blow-dry bar concept, Blo was actually the first hair dry salon to open in the United States. The experience is straightforward: just wash, blo and go. Blo is a small shop with a lot of attitude: clear plastic chairs, bright pink counters, sleek white cabinetry, large cushions and eight mirrored stations. The stylists wear fuchsia aprons and sport genuine smiles while expertly massaging your head with Unite products. A bonus? Blo often has blowout deals where you can score a dry and hairdo for $10 off.
With locations in Greenbrae and Petaluma, Style Bar is the North Bay’s go-to blow-dry salon. There is a certain formula that makes these boutiques successful; Style Bar has found just the right mix of unpretentious posh-ness. There are white leather chairs and orange velvet chaise lounges in the waiting area, and unique light fixtures above. Services include blowouts, updos, braids, extensions and smoothing treatments—all using Kerastase products—as well as makeup applications. The staff is super hospitable, and the Petaluma location also has a full-service nail salon and brow bar for facial waxing and brow-shaping.
On the corner of Fillmore and Jackson Streets in Pacific Heights, Posh is both a hair salon and blow-dry boutique. Unlike many of the blow-dry bars in the city, it’s not decorated with an overly girlie theme. With black leather chairs, modern rectangular mirrors and marble accents, Posh is sleek and inviting. An assortment of top haircare products are used: Bumble and Bumble, Kerastase and Shu Uemura among them. What’s lovely about the Posh experience is the amount of time they take with each customer, be it 45 or 90 minutes, to give them the exact style asked for.
This cheery salon has two locations in San Francisco—one in Russian Hill on Polk and Union and another in the Marina on Chestnut and Steiner. Ornate details like a candelabra chandelier, footed receptionist desk with Louis XV-style black leather chair, and white calla lilies give the salon a boudoir-like feel. While the Marina location is a full service salon, the Polk Street boutique is strictly for blowouts, makeup, and mini facials. All blowouts are with Kerastase’s haircare line.
Halo is a full service beauty salon in the South Bay offering blowouts, brow shaping and makeup at four locations: Palo Alto, Burlingame, Menlo Park and Los Altos. With white blow dryers attached to cords that hang from the ceilings, upside down tulip-shaped light fixtures and sleek silver chairs, everything about Halo feels tech-driven, modern and even futuristic. From the first phone call to the final tip, the service-driven staff treats you kindly upon every step of the way. It’s their mission to make each client a regular, so attention to detail is apparent and thus, it’s no surprise that Halo is the preferred blow-dry bar of the women of Silicon Valley.
Bounce Blow Dry Bar’s founder, Karen Hayes, is a woman who is passionate about empowering her fellow females and giving back to the community by sponsoring local organizations such as Girls, Inc. As a busy traveling professional, Hayes found that many areas lacked great hair styling options. One of the regions that didn’t have any blowout bars? The East Bay, specifically Oakland and Berkeley. These naturally diverse cities require stylists that are versed in all types of hair, something that Hayes is particularly proud of. There’s a decidedly laid back and eclectic vibe here—a couch is covered in a 60s-inspired orange, black and turquoise print, the chandeliers look like glass balloon sculptures and the stylists sport bright hair colors. R&B music plays in the background and there’s a lively, festive atmosphere that isn’t found at other salons in more suburban area. The blowouts last for days, illustrating that Hayes has accomplished her mission. When someone, be it a possible suitor or an old friend, comments on how sensational your hair looks, you can’t help but feel happier, more confident and ready to conquer the world.