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GREEN SERVICE: Sage Salon and Spa features natural products and techniques in making sure their clients stay beautiful while also leaving less of a carbon footprint behind them. Photo by Claire LaSure.

Upon first walking into Sage Salon and Spa, located on 7110 Wrightsville Avenue, something is noticeably different—it doesn’t smell like a salon. There are no chemical fumes and no acrylic odors because the pollutants aren’t there. Sage is the first salon in Wilmington to become green certified. If there’s one succinct motto the salon’s owners, Lauren Farraher and Amelia Smith, can agree on, it is: “Indulge in responsible beauty.”

Both Farraher and Smith had a heart for owning their own business, but it was Farraher who spurred the green initiative. Because “going green” had never been done in a Wilmington salon before, Farraher and Smith wanted to lead the way for change. To get certified they began making small changes in their shop, such as switching the lighting and equipment to Energy Star and using recycled wood for the color bar. There are also volatile organic compound (VOC)-eating plants in Sage and renewed furniture that Farraher either bought off Craigslist or kept from the previous owners.

“It’s Mother Earth, and without her, we don’t really have much,” Farraher explains, “I think part of the reason we opened up a green-certified salon is to bring awareness to the community.”

The incentive began not only as a need to support eco-friendly ways of living but also as a need to protect fellow stylists. While clients may come and go, hair dressers and spa professionals are exposed to hazardous conditions throughout the workday. “There is a high incidence for hair dressers with cancer, respiratory issues [and] immune issues because they’ve been in this industry for so long, and they’ve got their hands in it every day,” Smith claims, “It’s a health issue on top of an environmental one.”

Said health issues also channel over to the client’s chair, which is why Sage has decided to include a comprehensive line of natural, organic and vegan styling and skin-care products. A natural product, much like the salon’s Bioelements skincare line, is a product that uses anything naturally derived, like essential oils or plant derivatives during the manufacturing process, ultimately evading the use of chemicals. Organic products are similar, but have taken the time and gone through the procedures to obtain certification. A vegan product takes the process one step further by refusing to permit any animal byproduct or testing. The products are also solely plant-based. A popular vegan color product at Sage is Pravana. Pravana, like almost all color lines, does contain ammonia; however, the percentage is about 1.3. Most color lines contain between 3.8 and 4.3 percent ammonia. The technology is there, but it’s not quite efficient enough.

“[As soon as we can,] we’re going to completely get rid of any ammonia, and then that would be the last thing that we have that’s actually considered a chemical,” Farraher says.

One chemical that Pravana does completely do without is PPD, or (get ready for this one) paraphenylenediamine. PPD is a harmful chemical often found in permanent hair dyes that may cause allergic reactions on the skin, both to stylist and client.

Both Farraher and Smith have devoted their time to a salon that fights against these synthetic invaders. Both owners explain what Farraher calls “the outer-shell syndrome”; that many of Sage’s clients are concerned about what goes into their bodies, but many also forgot to consider what goes on. “Your skin is your largest organ, so everything that goes on your skin goes into your body,” Smith says.

The absence of harmful chemicals can also be a natural boost to the immune system. “We have a lot of cancer survivors who come here,” Smith continues. “They don’t want to keep creating that environment for the cancer to grow, so they come to us.”

When customers come to Sage Salon and Spa, they should feel good about being in an eco-friendly environment. The air quality is better, the products safer, and the even the walls inspire “think green.” The spa and esthetician rooms are coordinated in nature themes: earth, air, fire and water. Clients can unwind under a lush sponge-painted tree while getting a shampoo or color treatment. Besides the “feel-good” bonus, clients can rest assured in the black beauty chairs, knowing that Sage is working toward environmentally-friendly causes.

Sage is investing in company resourcefulness to turn the industry around. The salon focuses on small initiatives to lessen their carbon footprint such as recycling aluminum hair foils and color bottles, maintaining a work-composting program, biodegradable toe separators and flip-flops, and soy-based nail polish and remover.

“[We want] to provide customer services and all the beauty services that a woman could want and need, but do so in a responsible manner,” Smith says.

Sage Salon and Spa also reaches out to the environmental community and doesn’t hesitate to get clients involved. “We recycle clients’ hair,” Farraher states. That’s right—it’s used to soak up oil spills. Sage sends in the hair clippings to Matter of Trust (, a charity organization which weaves hair mats to quickly absorb oil. Matter of Trust is not currently accepting donations due to a high influx of donations since the Gulf oil spill, so Sage saves the cuttings for local farmers who use the hair as a deterrent for garden pests like deer, fox and rabbits. The salon also designates special events where partial proceeds of a day’s earnings will go toward an environmental organization, like Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club or the Arbor Day Foundation.

Despite Sage Salon and Spa’s passion for green, beauty does not fall to the wayside. Cuts, styles, color, wax and massages are all reasonably priced, with relaxation at its highest potential. A complete list of services or stylists can be found at:

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