Eileen Leahy meets hairdresser Charly Denton to discover why she is so committed to being a sustainable salon – without compromising on customer service or the quality of her products
Charly Denton is determined that her new hairdressing salon Denton’s Art of Hair, which opened in July and is located in Camden Road, is as sustainable as possible.
From opting for 100% organic and vegan hair products, to using recyclable highlighting foils and compostable business cards, and airdrying towels instead of tumble drying them, Denton’s Art of Hair is certainly going that extra eco mile. Even the salon’s toilet paper is made from unbleached bamboo and its appointments booking system is carbon neutral.
“I’m passionate about sustainability and believe we can make a difference to the planet, without compromising on delivering clients a luxurious designer experience when they visit the salon,” states Charly.
Having trained at the Vidal Sassoon Academy, Charly – who started out as a Saturday girl in her local salon in Maidstone when she was just 14 – has since gone on to work as a Wella colour specialist as well as in numerous salons including Leigh Roberts and The Chapel here in Tunbridge Wells.
“I started at The Chapel when I was 19 and was one of their youngest stylists. I was there for 11 years and left during the pandemic to go freelance. I really enjoyed my time there.
“I mainly did mobile work after that as a bit of a stop gap and that obviously became really busy and popular during the lockdowns. In between those I was also doing one day a week in the Leigh Roberts salon as I wanted to keep my hand in on salon work. Working there made me think ‘I want something like this but I want to do it differently’.
“I live in West Malling and it is absolutely beautiful. Living there has definitely made me love and respect the environment more. When you live in the greenbelt you realise how lucky you are. I often go out walking with my dog and that’s made me appreciate nature and the countryside so much – and also the need to protect it.
“Having worked in the industry since I was 14 I know how much waste there is in hairdressing. Plastic bottles, hair, foils – all of it goes in the bin. I found it upsetting that we were doing so many beautiful things with people’s hair and yet at the end of it we were throwing pretty much everything away. I thought there must be a way we can change that. That was the motivation for me opening a sustainable salon.
“Currently we are zero to landfill – nothing goes in the bin here. We recycle everything and have so little general waste that I had to ask the bin people to stop collecting weekly as the carbon waste they were emitting just to stop at the salon was so pointless.”
What happens to the hair she cuts off I ask her? “That’s a really interesting one actually as most of it is made into something called a hair boom. They are then used to clean up oil spills in the ocean and also made into building materials and used in agriculture.”
Charly explains that her business is part of the Green Salon Collective – an organisation of sustainable salons – which she pays a green fee towards so she can encourage recycling for her clients – many of whom have followed her to the new salon.
“Any product you buy in the salon you can then bring it back to be recycled. We also run a refill station here too and you can get a small discount as a result. The brands we stock – Davines and epiic -– are both organic and vegan. They are really beautiful, effective products which totally respect the environment and reflect my ethos. So that’s a win-win for me.
“My eventual goal is to have a sign up saying ‘when you enter through this door your carbon footprint will be zero’. That’s what I would love. Imagine spending three hours here and not emitting anything at all?”
In fact the salon’s sustainable approach begins as soon as you walk over the threshold. Customers are welcomed with a cup of freshly brewed loose-leaf tea or Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance coffee (no plastic pods) and instead of being offered a stack of thumbed through paper magazines, clients can choose from thousands of titles courtesy of the Readily app on a recycled Kindle. Charly’s computer is also second hand, as are the salon’s white goods.
And then there’s the Davines and epiic hair products themselves. “Rather than rely on toxic hairdressing products and wasteful techniques, we use high-quality, ethically harvested, organic and vegan hair products,” Charly explains. Both brands also donate a percentage of profits to charities committed to the betterment of the planet.
“I say because Davines gives to earth-focused charities and epiic to ocean ones I am covered on both the land and sea!”
Denton’s Art of Hair leaflets are printed on seeded mulch paper and if one goes into landfill by mistake it will grow wild flowers.
Yet everything is as you would expect it to be in an upmarket salon. From the comfortable massage chairs and quality products to the tasteful décor and inviting relaxation area, every minor detail has been thoroughly thought through by Charly.
“By reducing our carbon footprint on the salon floor, we’re proud to offer our clients something different. Just because we are eco-focused doesn’t mean we compromise on anything. In fact because most of our suppliers give a portion of their profits to various charities your money actually goes further when you are here.”
At the moment it is just Charly working at the salon but her hope is that her business will grow – sustainably of course – and she will be able to employ like-minded hair stylists.
“I’m so proud of this venture. Wouldn’t it be great to inspire other stylists and salons? It’s not easy and it’s certainly costly but socially it is the right thing to do.”
“Everything at Denton’s Art of Hair is as you would expect it to be in an upmarket salon. From the comfortable massage chairs and quality hair products to the tasteful décor and inviting relaxation area, every minor detail has been thoroughly thought through by Charly”
Another USP is that there is no set price list. Charly charges by a client’s time spent at the salon and will explain what they are paying for and why. “Your luxury doesn’t have to be at the detriment of the environment,” smiles Charly.
She then adds that she is very keen to bring the traditional community spirit back to the salon. “It’s somewhere you feel comfortable, you can meet friends and chat. Salons have always been a great focal point. That’s why I have local artists’ work hanging on the walls. I want people to see them and have the opportunity to support our painters and illustrators.”
And her clients’ well-being and experience have also been meticulously considered too: “A lot of my clients say they hate having to sit in front of the mirror for hours on end so my solution was to put pretty things on the wall to look at! And instead of being the usual trademark black, our gowns are purple because it’s a more flattering colour on most people’s skin tone. The tops of our chairs come off so if you have very long hair you don’t need to stand up to have it cut. It’s those little details that make something more valuable in my opinion.”
Downstairs are some beauty treatment rooms which Charly hopes to rent out soon to therapists who have a similar eco ethos to hers.
Having gone freelance in a pandemic and opened a salon in these turbulent economic times, the odds have been most definitely stacked against Charly but her genuine passion and commitment to sustainability – as well as to her loyal clients – should ensure her every success.
“I don’t want to be the only eco hairdresser out there. If anything, I want to inspire others and show people that you can provide a luxury service with great products but still be respectful to the environment. I want to give the absolute best to whoever walks through the door, as without them I don’t have a business. It’s about wanting to give 100% to everyone.”
A CUT ABOVE
Spotlight on the eco-friendly products used at Denton’s Art of Hair:
DAVINES: Premium Italian haircare brand, Davines, boasts a range of gorgeous, 100% vegan products from everyday care to colour, styling and treatments that promise to be ‘good for your hair and the planet’.
Designed, formulated and produced in-house at the carbon-neutral Davines Village in Parma, the company uses 100% sustainable energy from renewable sources including sun, wind and water.
The company is both a certified B Corp and certified Plastic Neutral; for every product sold, an equal amount of ocean-bound plastic is collected and removed from the environment through its collaboration with Plastic Bank.
epiic: Designed in Denmark, epiic’s professional, sustainable hair care products are organic, 100% vegan and cruelty free. Taking inspiration from its Nordic roots, epiic’s products use clean, simple, gentle ingredients, while offering a uniquely luxurious spa experience.
As part of its commitment to the planet, epiic has collaborated with Ocean Plastic Waste (OWP™) which pledges to remove the same amount of plastic from the world’s oceans and rivers that are used in its packaging.
Several epiic hair care products are also certified according to the strict, European standard in natural and organic cosmetic products – COSMOS Organic.