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Blow-dry salons come to Boston

Blo, Hairo, and Be Styled are hair salons that don’t cut hair. Instead, they do a quick wash and a blow-dry to return a woman’s hair to that fresh-cut look.

All for only $35.

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Common in New York and Los Angeles, so-called blow-dry salons have begun to invade Boston. They are being embraced by women frustrated at seeing their expensively coiffed hair turn limp shortly after a stylist spent hours setting it just right. Hard as it may be for men to understand, there is more than simple vanity at stake; many women see their hairstyles as critical to the image they project, and to have less than stellar hair can be deflating.

Blow Dry Bar

Jonathan Wiggs / Globe Staff

Blow Dry Bar hairstylist Amanda Gurdjian with client Cyd McKenna.

“I go when I strategically need my hair to look the best,” said Joanne Kazarian, a sales executive from Newton who goes to Be Styled in Chestnut Hill once a week. “I go before events, I go before important meetings. I have a very busy lifestyle. I have two kids, and so I’m always running.”

Many women are turning to blow-dry bars to supplement or even replace daily beauty routines, feeling it’s worth the money to have a trained professional do a better job on hair than they could.

“You want to feel good and confident on a daily basis,” said Gina Gesamondo, who owns the Blo Blow Dry Bar franchise in the South End. “It touches every part of your life. You can have a great outfit, but if your hair doesn’t look good, it doesn’t matter.”

Blo was the first blow-dry salon to open in Boston, in July 2012, and the chain is opening its second franchise in the Seaport District. Hairo has been open on Newbury Street for a year. Be Styled has a new shop in Wellesley and another coming in Lynnfield. Drybar, one of the biggest chains in the country, is opening two in the Boston area this fall, pushing its total number of salons nationwide to 32.

“I think this is really in its infancy,” said Trippe Lonian, co-owner of Be Styled. “It’s very new for a lot of women.”

The blow-dry shops fill a significant niche, serving professional women who typically go weeks between hair appointments and either have to wrestle with a brush and blowdryer on their own or see if their salon can squeeze them in for a refresher that can easily run $60.

Indeed, many hair salons are so busy they don’t have time for blow-dry-only appointments.

“If I had a big meeting and had to do this on my own? I would definitely have to start my hair the night before,” said Donna Jordan, an interior designer from Charlestown who has long, thick brown hair. “It’s a two-hour process.”

Depending on the type of hair a woman has, a simple wash and blow-dry can do wonders: calm frizzy ends, straighten curly locks, and add body to thin hair that has gone slack.

The stylists at Hairo perform 250 to 300 blow-drys a week, said co-owner Johnny Marchio. He has 12 employees blowing hair, up from three when Hairo opened. Not surprisingly, the busiest days are Fridays and Saturdays; Blo in the South End gets as many as 70 appointments on a typical Saturday.

One blow-dry bar, Gust-o, on Newbury Street, recently closed because one of the owners is relocating to Seattle. Co-owner Kacey Pohlad said the shop did fine, but the business is challenging because of slim profit margins and periods of low activity during the week. Like other hairdressers, the stylists at blow-dry salons are licensed and have gone to cosmetology school.

“It’s all about volume, and that always ended up being concentrated toward the end of the week,” Pohlad said. “If we wanted to see any kind of return we needed to get people in on Fridays and Saturdays.”

Blow-dry bars, while relatively new to Boston, have been around since at least 2010, and their proponents say they could become as common as nail salons. In the 1970s, manicures and pedicures were a high-end luxury, but as nail technicians separated from traditional salons and spas, “mani-pedis” became an affordable part of keeping up appearances.

“When I was in high school, manicures and pedicures weren’t a to-do thing,” Pohlad said. “Now I wouldn’t think of going to an event without my nails done. I think it’s a matter of changing people’s habits, getting them to see that they need this.”

Gail Waterhouse can be reached at gail.waterhouse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gailwaterhouse.
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