I’m a low-maintenance girl.
My wardrobe consists of black T-shirts and jeans. I have eye shadow that dates back to the Clinton administration. I complete my daily beauty regimen in less time than it takes to microwave a Hot Pocket.
This apathy about my appearance is strange considering that several members of my family, including my mother, are licensed cosmetologists. Heck, I even dated a hair stylist.
When our relationship ended, I vowed to let my mane grow wild like some sort of disheveled, heartbroken Rapunzel. The thought of getting my hair cut by someone else made me burst into tears.
Then my editor asked me to write about Alchemy Dry Cut Lounge in Lawrenceville, suggesting that a new look might be cathartic.
I imagined the experience would be like an ‘80s movie montage set to an upbeat Kenny Loggins tune: A group of stylists encircles me, teasing, trimming and spraying. There are closeups of raised eyebrows and nervous smiles as the follicles fly. The crowd parts and my chair spins around to reveal the new and improved me. I give everyone a high-five and march confidently out of the salon, where an SUV splashes through a puddle, soaking me to the bone and destroying my stylish look. (END SCENE)
My actual experience was better than any John Hughes’ rom-com, thanks to the kindness and expertise of Heather Johnson, the proprietor of Alchemy Dry Cut Lounge.
She opened the shop in October at 3524 Butler St. It’s the first salon in Pittsburgh that specializes in dry cutting. The method allows the stylist to see the layers and movement of a client’s hair, resulting in a more accurate ‘do.
Johnson says she likes giving people a cut that looks good in its natural state, without a lot of product or hot tools involved. This, of course, is music to my ears since I don’t own mousse or a curling iron.
After a brief consultation, she got to work, precisely trimming my split ends and giving my hair shape and style in a short period of time.
Dry cutting is perfect for people in a rush who want to bypass the shampoo, but the Alchemy team will happily wash and blow dry the heads of traditionalists who want the full salon experience. Customers also can come in for color, highlights, balayage, updos, extensions, conditioning treatments and bang, beard and neck trims.
As a teenager, Johnson cut her friends’ hair for fun and extra cash. She earned a business degree from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to pursue a career in advertising. But when she was laid off from her job at age 27, the Bethel Park native decided to enroll in beauty school.
After graduating from South Hills Beauty Academy, she worked in salons around the area. She noticed dry cutting was gaining popularity in other cities and wanted to bring the trend to Pittsburgh.
Johnson, 42, and her fellow stylists Jessie Bickal, Ashley Frost and Sara Karpiak have been busy since the doors opened last fall. They encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone, because a haircut can not only alter your appearance, it can change your whole outlook on life (at least until your bangs grow in).
The word alchemy is defined as “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation or combination.”
“I think that’s what we do here,” Johnson says.
I have to agree. I walked out of that salon (mindful of any passing SUVs) feeling like a new woman.
As Kenny Loggins would say, “I’m alright. Nobody worry ’bout me.”