Hair today isn’t necessarily gone tomorrow for Utah women

Watch a multimedia slideshow about women’s beauty habits in a down economy.

Story and multimedia by WHITNEY BUTTERS

Split ends, drab color and shapelessness. Bangs that once framed the face now long enough to obstruct vision. Hair so unruly that even a helmet of hairspray could not keep the temperamental tresses in place.

This is more than just a bad hair day — it’s a sign that it’s time to visit the salon again.

“When your hair isn’t going right, nothing seems to be going right,” said Lila Latu, a customer at the Mane Station Salon in North Salt Lake.

This perceived need for hair maintenance keeps the multi-billion dollar beauty industry going as women continue to spend money on their appearance at varying degrees despite the downturn in the economy.

“Getting hair done is still a necessity,” said Memorie Morrision, assistant salon director and grand salon stylist at Landis Lifestyle Salon in the Marmalade district of Salt Lake City. “It’s not something people go without. It is a reflection of how you see yourself.”

Undying dedication to keeping up appearances allows the beauty industry to flourish while other sectors of the business world flounder.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states barbers, cosmetologists and other personal appearance workers held approximately 821,900 jobs in the United States in 2008. That number is expected to grow by 20 percent before 2018 due to a growing population and increasing demand for hair service, which is faster than the average growth rate over all occupations.

Landis Lifestyle Salon added to the increasing job opportunities when it opened its doors in Sugar House in 2005. It recently expanded into its second location in Marmalade in September 2010. Morrison said the salon has already surpassed the owner’s expectations and continues to grow “slowly but surely.”

The industry continues to grow despite the fact that many customers are trying different tactics for saving money on hair care. Some try their hands at cosmetology by cutting their own hair at home but often end up turning to the help of professionals in the end.

“I fixed more haircuts in January of 2009 than I ever have,” said Misty Jones, manager of the Winegars Marketplace Great Clips in Bountiful. “I remember once when I fixed five in one day.”

Many cut back by simplifying their hair treatments instead of trying the do-it-yourself approach. Latu decided to keep her hair her natural color so she didn’t have to worry about the cost of upkeep. “I’m just getting a trim today,” she said. “I can’t afford to get it colored.”

Others try to spread the cost over several months by waiting longer in between haircuts. Misty Jones said women who used to get their hair cut every 3-4 months now wait 5-6 months.

Tara Jefferson, a customer at the Marmalade Landis Lifestyle Salon used to make an appointment every six weeks to get her hair cut. She says she now examines her finances each month, often resorting to putting it off until the funds are available. “Even if it’s looking bad, I guess I’ll just have to be extra creative (that) month,” she said. “It does depend on my budget and how badly I need my hair cut.”

While getting hair cut may be seen as an essential, Misty Jones and Morrison both said hair products are one of the first things someone will cut when trying to save money.

“Before the downturn in the economy, it was easy to sell $50 in products to one person,” Misty Jones said. “Now we give someone a recommendation and they automatically ask if they could get it cheaper somewhere else.”

Even specialty stores are experiencing some of the same drop in hair product sales.

“My boss says that it used to be quite a bit busier a couple of years ago, and it’s just slowly declined,” Madison LeMelle, an employee at Classy Chassis beauty supply store in Bountiful, said. “We still get people in, but it’s definitely not as much as we used to.”

Although sales may be down compared to years past, women still seek quality when it comes to hair products. “We use professional brands in here, and it really does make a difference,” LeMelle said. “With the economy, even though it’s bad, people still want to use the best stuff they can.”

Stylists are sensitive to their clients’ financial situations and try to help them prioritize on the essential products. Many consult with their clients and explain the purpose of each product recommendation to achieving the overall desired look. “It’s our job to really hone in on what a person needs,” Morrison said. “They don’t want to pay for a style and not have the same results from home, so products are still important.”

Jefferson’s stylist recommended she purchase enhancer and conditioner from Landis’s Aveda products collection, but she had to further narrow down the options because of tight funds.

“I just got the conditioner, just because I am so strapped financially,” she said. “Next time when I’m rich and famous I’ll get both.”

There are still women who cling to their hair routine sacrifice in other aspects of life in order to maintain it.

Helen Jones used to take her mother to the beauty parlor once a week to get her hair done. “If she missed a week, I knew she must have been sick because she never missed her trip to the salon,” she said.

She has picked up her mother’s tradition and visits her cosmetologist at the Mane Station weekly to get her hair styled. “I would not give up my weekly hair appointment for anything,” she said.

When many women are cutting back on color treatments, Helen Jones holds fast to her habits. “It can get expensive to color it, but it’s worth it no matter what the sacrifice is,” she said.

Regardless of whether a woman chooses to save on hair costs, every cut, color, trim, style and shampoo seems to carry inherent value.

“It’s part of a women’s nature to let people rely on us,” Misty Jones said. “Beauty is a service industry, and it’s our job to make people feel good. It’s an opportunity for women to let someone else do something for them.”

This opportunity to do something for themselves is what Morrison believes drives many women to fill the salon chairs at Landis Lifestyle Salon.

“We try to put value into what we do, and women who come here are willing to pay for the certainty that they will get what they want,” she said. “Our customers know they will get a stylist that will give them time and focus on them.”

More than “me” time, a trip to the salon brings a new sense of self. Morrison said she sees the “mirror face” on a daily basis as she watches a woman’s countenance change when she sees her new hair and a revised version of herself.

Possibly the biggest drive for women to continue to sacrifice money on beauty is the perception it portrays and the transformation of attitude.

“I feel good, and it affects the way people treat you, and that’s why I’m willing to spend what I can spend,” Jefferson said. “Because when you look good, you feel good about yourself. Beauty starts on the inside, but you have to extend that to the outside.”