Aug 21, 2020

What's a blowout? (No, seriously)

...in which we provide both the literal definition of a salon blowout and also attempt to figure out the gobstopping popularity of professional blowouts.

If you want the quick and dirty answer, a blowout involves washing, conditioning, and blow drying/styling hair into a pretty, shiny, voluminous style. That's it. With a bit of practice and the right tools (salon experts generally recommend a small round brush and a professional-grade hair dryer that has at least 2600 watts of power and a nozzle), you can totally do a basic yet effective version at home.

So if the process is actually that simple, why do so many people flock to salons to get their hair professionally blown out? How has the wash-dry-style formula become a cultural phenomenon that has spawned multiple salon chains that literally do nothing but blowouts?

According to salon chain DryBar (the OG blowout salon chain), it's because salon blowouts are a magical experience that transcend the hairstyling process to create a euphoric experience of bliss. Their website defines the experience as follows:


The act or instance of blow-drying hair, includes wash and style.

Happiness, confidence and relaxation for about 45 minutes.

The best and easiest gift you can give your wife, girlfriend, sister or mom.

Okay. Some pretty big promises there about the emotional pay-off of a single treatment, but they're not entirely wrong.

People are obsessed with the DryBar experience, to the extent that they're willing to pay 45 bucks (minimum) a visit for a simple wash and dry, multiple times a month. Heck, lots of people go multiple times a week, to the extent that they joke that they don't know how to wash their own hair anymore.

So what keeps people coming back? Some people say that it saves them time. And sure, getting a professional blowout could free up an extra few hairstyling hours from your week, since depending on who you ask, a blowout lasts between three to seven days.

But let's be real -- if you can make your blowout last for a week, more power to ya, but that's probably not super likely for everyone. You could probably do one at home that might look a little less sleek than a blowout done by a professional/will also take a little longer, but you'd also save time on driving and waiting for your appointment.

So all in all, we're not sure if we buy the time-saving argument as a true reason for going to the salon.

Other people say that they spring for the salon time because they just don't know how to do it as well at home. And if you truly don't know a thing about styling your hair and that really, really bothers you, but you don't actually want to invest the time into learning how to style your hair on your own, then sure. A regular blowout appointment may be just what the doctor ordered for your style routine.

But if you listen to what people say about why they get their hair blown out regularly, you'll notice a surprising (or maybe not so surprising, if you read the last two paragraphs) trend.

The real appeal of the professional blowout doesn't seem as much to be from the actual end-result of shiny, orderly hair, but the experience itself. Because unsurprisingly, having someone pay attention to your every hair need for 45 minutes is incredibly emotionally rewarding.

Getting a blowout at a salon involves an onslaught of unconditional positive regard and personal attention in a sparkling environment where everyone is kind and happy all the time and the speakers blare nonstop Adele.

You're chatted with just enough so that you don't feel uncomfortable if you're an introvert or ignored if you're an extrovert, and you're told all the good things about your hair. The natural flaws in your hair (potential unmanageability, frizziness, lack of volume, et cetera) are never discussed unless you bring them up. And even if you do the stylist will assure you that they're really not that problematic anyway.

This is all by design. The customer service details in these salons are obsessed over -- at DryBar, for example, you'll never be asked if you have an appointment when you first walk through the doors. Founder Alli Webb considered such behavior to be "too aggressive", so it was nixed. You're given coffee or champaign to sip while your hair is styled, and there are cookies at the desk. The whole vibe is one of a good-times-only lady's club -- although yes, men are allowed too. They're just not particularly common.

So with all of this in mind, should you try to do a blowout at home or regularly shell out the big bucks at a salon? The answer depends on what you want.

If you're interested in blowouts because of the ability to save time on styling your hair several days in a row, in the long run you'll probably save just as much time by learning to do it at home. Sure, it won't look quite as good as one done by the pro's and it might be a slow process at first, but you will have a long-term skill in your arsenal that could save you a good bit of money.

If you want to get a blow out so you can have fancy hair for a special occasion, then you might want to go straight to the pros. They do blowouts all day long, so they're pretty darned experienced in making hair look good.

But if you just want to relax (and don't mind loud music), a blow out could be a pretty good choice for you, regardless of if you have a need for fancy hair or not. If your goal is to feel pampered, a blow out is just as good as a massage.

Caroline Schmidt