I'm known as the blowout addict among my friends -- my long, curly hair literally takes hours to straighten on my own. When I discovered blowouts, the whole world changed. A bit dramatic, but my fellow curly-haired girls will understand.
To those of you who don't get it, let me explain: Blowouts take my hair from Sarah Jessica Parker to Kate Middleton in about an hour. Yeah, I know.
Blowout bars are a relatively new concept, but blowouts, a fancy way to describe the technique of using a blowdryer and round brush to straighten hair, are not. Blowout bars, which are popping up all over Chicago, boast no-cut, no-color rules. They're equipped to do blowouts, and blowouts only (although some now have beauty bars built in).
I visited four blowout bars -- Blowtique in River North, Arch Apothecary in Old Town, Drybar in Lincoln Park and Goldplaited in Lakeview -- to check out customer service, proximity to bars and everything in between.
2803 N. Sheffield Ave. 773-880-9180.
'Hood: Lincoln Park/Lakeview
Dry time: 1 hour
Perks: Cute shop dog, complimentary scalp massage and drinks, full makeup bar
When I walked into Goldplaited on a Friday after work, I was greeted by an adorably fluffy dog named Sheffield. Soon after, I met one of the shop's co-owners, Mal Strong, who poured me a glass of champagne while I waited. My stylist, Marisol, was running behind with another client -- Goldplaited called an hour earlier to let me know my appointment would be pushed back 15 minutes. The salon's overall atmosphere is less than stellar -- the furniture and fixtures look temporary, as if the owners are waiting to upgrade once they get settled in. However, the attentive customer service more than made up for it.
Marisol and I chatted about what style I wanted and she got started. Before she washed my hair, she gave me a heavenly scalp massage with lavender oil -- the perfect way to end a long week. Mal came over to chat as Marisol dried my hair, and she told me about Goldplaited's makeup bar, featuring products created by Mal and her sister, Corinna. For another $45, customers can get a full face of makeup -- which seems a little expensive unless you're prepping for a wedding.
Lasting impression: Give Goldplaited another six months to reach its full potential.
1611 N. Sheffield Ave. 312-288-3087.
'Hood: Lincoln Park
Dry time: 1 hr. 10 mins.
Perks: Online booking, long hours, in-salon movies, complimentary drinks.
I booked my blowout online and dropped by on a Friday morning. Drybar opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays -- the earliest of the options -- so it was easy to get in and out before work. I was greeted with coffee and introduced to my stylist, Joy, who whisked me away to a chair on the first floor. We chatted about what style I wanted -- the "Straight Up," Drybar's signature blowout with lots of body -- before she washed my hair. When we returned to the chair, I focused my attention to the big-screen TV in front of me, which was playing "Bridesmaids" (with subtitles, of course, because you can't hear a thing over the dryer).
Ringing in at $40 (plus a suggested $10 tip), Drybar is one of Chicago's most expensive blowout options. But you're paying for the full experience, which includes their professional staff, delicious-smelling products and trendy atmosphere. Perhaps this national chain's one downfall is its extreme attention to detail, which made this appointment run a bit longer than expected. I can't even fault Drybar for that, though, because the blowout lasted for four whole days.
Lasting impression: I'm coming to Drybar after my next breakup. Actually, after every single breakup for the rest of my life.
'Hood: River North
1 E. Huron St. 312-280-2400.
Dry time: 58 minutes
Perks: Complimentary drinks
This River North shop is a convenient spot for downtowners. I scheduled my appointment for 9 a.m. on a Friday, when the shop opens on weekdays. I was greeted with coffee and introduced to my stylist, Patricia, who walked me to the back of the chandelier-laden salon. We chatted briefly before she washed my hair and started drying. This is a good place to come if you prefer to keep your head in your phone instead of interacting with your stylist. Patricia didn't say much and only looked up to ask me where I parted my hair. Her co-workers shuffled around the shop doing their own makeup, lounging in customer chairs and preparing for the day ahead.
This isn't an overly warm place -- it's more of an in-and-out spot you might visit before or after work. They get the job done, but there's something to be said about the lack of friendly customer service.
Lasting impression: Less-than-impressive service makes Blowtique a "meh" in my book.
1359 N. Wells St. 312-291-9750.
'Hood: Old Town
Time: 50 minutes
Perks: High-end cosmetics bar, complimentary drinks.
Just a block away from Benchmark and tons of other Old Town bars, this spot is ideal for a Friday night blowout. I was greeted with champagne while I waited for my stylist, Kelly, to finish with her last client. Kelly assured me she knew how to deal with my curly hair, as she also is a naturally curly girl. She got right to work and scrubbed my hair in the sink. When I say she scrubbed, I mean that in the best way possible -- she completely washed out any lingering product. Unlike the other salons, Kelly used a blowdryer and straightener to relax my hair. This method must have been effective, as it resulted in the quickest blowout of the bunch.
As an added bonus, Kelly was absolutely hilarious and so down-to-Earth. On my way out of Arch -- and on my way to Benchmark -- I touched up my lip gloss at the beauty bar, which features hard-to-find brands like Jouer, By Terry and Eve Lom.
Lasting impression: A speedy Arch Apothecary blowout with champagne means I get to enjoy Friday night faster.