Skin Deep: Virtue Salon

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

After every haircut, stylists at Virtue Salon sweep the chopped-off locks from the floor and into a bin in the back.

That's not much different than most salons. But when enough hair clippings are accumulated, the staff boxes them up and sends them to Matter of Trust, a nonprofit organization that puts human hair - an especially absorbent material, it turns out - to use in environmental cleanup, typically soaking up oil spills.

They've been doing that since opening in February, owner Melanie Long said, but people really took notice after the recent oil spill in the Gulf.

"People were actually coming in to get their hair cut specifically here because they knew we send it in," Long said. "It was cool."

In addition to being as waste-free as possible, Virtue Salon uses only vegan products that are cruelty-free, sulfate-free and botanically based.

Long, who previously worked for Paul Mitchell and Loreal, among others, came up with the idea after she began her "vegan journey," she said.

She honed in on two American-made product lines, All-Nutrient and Thermafuse, thinking people would appreciate a salon where the work and research behind being eco-friendly has been done for them.

The concept has attracted environmentally conscious clients and animal lovers, in addition to people who just want a haircut, Long said.

"Even if you aren't vegan or don't care about the environment, you can come here and know that we do, so it's a cool experience for people," she said.

And anyone can appreciate that hair stays healthier and shinier without the harsh chemicals found in some shampoos and dyes, Long said. Plus, the color treatments Virtue uses last longer than conventional dyes, she added, and red tones look especially good.

The only requests the full-service vegan salon can't handle are perms and chemical straightening.

Virtue recycles everything possible, including hair-color foils and paper for business cards. There's a kitschy, retro vibe thanks to the donated tables and furniture that bring things together in a shabby-chic sort of way.

Everything's centered around a barbershop chair that once belonged to Long's grandfather. She uses it herself these days.

Clients are encouraged to write messages on the chalkboard walls, Long said, adding that cultivating a homey atmosphere and providing personalized service are important to the Virtue staff.

"We're really focused on healthy hair," she said. "We're not here to damage people's hair - we're here to do as little as possible to make your hair as healthy as possible."

Virtue Salon

3333 N. High St., Clintonville