Lisa had been working in a regular hair salon for years, with little symptoms popping up – her hands tingled when she used a new shampoo, her skin got itchy for no reason she could detect, she sometimes had trouble breathing in the salon. Then one day as she was using a commercial dye to color someone’s hair, she turned bright red. Her heart starting palpitating so fast, she had to run out of the shop, saying, “I can’t do this any more!” She was experiencing a life-changing allergic reaction to the cosmetic chemicals para-phenylenediamine (PPD), propylene glycol, and formaldehyde (also used to embalm corpses), three toxic ingredients commonly found in hair dye.
Lisa says that what happened to her that day – in May of 2009 – was the best thing ever. Her body siren went off, she paid attention to it, and opened herself to huge changes to her life.
Within 6 weeks, after getting the diagnosis of what she was allergic to, Lisa did her research, assembled a new set of chemical-free, pure plant products, and held a grand opening for her new hair shop: Megumi Organic Salon. It’s the only shop of its kind in Hawaii, which is a situation Lisa wants to change.
Lisa hopes that her discoveries will help others to live more chemical-free, healthy lives. She hopes that every hair salon will learn to work on their clients with non-chemical hair products – to at least have the possibility in their menu of options. She’s already taught a few hair stylists in San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Sedona how to use organic hair dye, and she’d love to teach many others.
Lisa has found henna alone to be a safe, chemical-free coloring agent, in addition to two other plants: indigo and cassia.
“Henna is one of the most well known botanicals on earth, yet it is also quite possibly the most underutilized for its many healing properties.” – Hannah Stalnaker from Living Ayurveda.
Lisa laments the bad rap people have given to henna. She has heard so much mis-information about henna being spread, including at cosmetology schools. All of the supposed problems associated with henna come from the other products people mix in. In particular, the metallic salts can damage hair that has been treated with other chemical products, creating an unfortunate reaction.
Lisa tried many health-food store henna products before opening her new salon, and they all without exception made her sick. They all contained additives. And we’re not even talking about the dyi hair-dyes at regular drug stores and groceries.
Lisa went to India to find a supplier of her three color sources, all pure plant products: henna (reddish), cassia (blonde on white hair) and indigo (a darkening agent). With these three natural dyes, Lisa achieves a great range of colors, including black, with a two-step henna/indigo process. She has discovered that the simpler her recipes, the more effective they are on clients.
Interestingly, only one of Lisa’s hundreds of original clients followed her to her new salon. She had to build up her clientele from scratch.
Many of her clients have come to her because they have discovered for themselves the hard way that they are chemically sensitive. They may have experienced autoimmune disease, cancer, severe allergic reaction, or hair loss – possibly from problems in the gut or thyroid. Sometimes it takes hitting a zero point for people to be willing to make life-style changes.
Before Lisa had her chemical awakening, so to speak, she considered drinking Diet Coke to be health conscious! As she began to pay more attention to what her body was telling her, she learned that it was reacting to the preservatives on chips and many other processed foods. Her food choices have evolved a lot over time.
The conversation in Lisa’s hair salon has changed from more external beauty stuff to topics about health. Lisa continues to learn from and share information extensively with her clients. They talk about naturopaths who have helped them, new organic foods available, vaccines, gluten, chemical-free cleaning products etc. She finds that people in general are more awake about such things.
Certainly her brain is more clear from not breathing in and absorbing the synthesized ingredients at hair salons that are bleaching, dyeing, straightening and perming people’s hair.
Lisa is all about sustainability. Before she cuts their hair, Lisa asks her clients, “Can you maintain this hairstyle in your daily life? No? What can you do to care for your hair on your own? Let’s find a haircut that you look good in every day.”
Summing up our conversation, Lisa tells me, “I love what I do. It’s therapeutic. I learn from my clients. We share a lot. It’s molding me to be a better, stronger woman.
“I’m a one woman show, 5 days a week. I’m not an empire builder. But I don’t want to take what I’ve learned about healthy hair treatment to the grave. I can imagine people everywhere learning and using these simple techniques. They’re healthy, they’re sustainable, they should be in every salon, and I’m willing to promote and teach them.”
- Megumi Hair Salon
- 1137 11th Ave. #206, Honululu, HI 96816
- Located right next to Himalayan Kitchen restaurant. Convenient parking in the Kaimuki Municipal parking lot
- Saturday – Wednesday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
- (Closed Thursday / Friday)