Drybar vs. Blow: The Battle of the Blowout

Amanda Elser

There is a new salon in town, and it is blowing through Manhattan with a serious West Coast ferocity.

Drybar, the latest and greatest in blowout salons, was created by founder Alli Webb as a way to expand her one woman blowout business. The goal of Drybar is simple – “Focus on one thing, and be the best at it. For us, that’s blowouts.”

So I wanted to test their word. I visited Blow, Manhattan’s original blowout bar, to see how their critically acclaimed technique stood against the chic, easy-breezy ways of Drybar. What a tough job I have.

Blow opened in February 2005, and it wasn’t long before Manhattan’s latest and greatest in hair care innovation developed a serious cult following. They launched a namesake product line in October 2006 and today have extended their salon services to cuts, colors, manis and makeup.

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When I met with Blow stylist Coutney Goforth she walked me through Blow’s specific blowout system. Each stylist goes through extensive training to learn the regimented process, which has proven so effective that they actually teach the process to other salons in the Blow Dry Bar Academy.

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After washing my hair with Blow’s color protecting products, brushing out my hair with a paddle brush, and filling it with an assortment of Blow products, Courtney did a quick “pre-dry.” She said that the goal of the pre-dry is to get hair 70 percent dry. Once this happened, she then separated my hair into 9 sections and individually curled and dried each section with a boar’s bristle round brush.

While the process is effective, the whole thing sort of screams “New Yorker.” Regimented and quick there is no diddle-dawdling at Blow. You are there to get your weekly blowout before your 9 a.m. meeting and that is all — which may come in handy for those in a rush.

Meanwhile, at Drybar the constant hum of Bio Ionic blow dryers drown out the muffled music in the background. Snacks are laid out and rom-com movies play non-stop. This is clearly a place for afternoon indulgences and pampering.

Two different coasts and two different atmospheres, even the way that the stylist’s blow dry at the Drybar has a laid back, West Coast vibe. But while at Blow the most important thing is effectiveness, Drybar is all about the details.

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Capitalizing on the “bar” aspect. Drybar stylist have clients sit along a long bar facing a flat screen playing movies (I had the pleasure of catching the tail end of Bride Wars) and wall of beauty products. There are no individual sections or mirrors so it’s actually kind of difficult to gauge what they are doing to your head.

In addition to actually sitting at a bar, clients have the option of choosing from five classic drink-themed blowouts. I opted for the sleek and smooth “Manhattan” to see if their technique could really tame my naturally wavy hair.

My Drybar stylist, Romina Gallagher, gave my hair a quick wash with L’Oreal and Moroccanoil products.

She then brushed my hair out with a metal bristled brush before immediately beginning the blowout process — with no pre-dry.

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Consumed by Anne Hathaway’s and Kate Hudson’s reconciliation, I almost forgot that Romina was working on my hair. I asked her why they used metal instead of boars’ bristle brushes and she explained that the heat from the blow dryer and the metal from the brushes created an “iron” effect. (Genius!) And speaking for myself, metal bristles do a much better job of detangling my hair than boars’bristles (although I will say that boars’ bristles add a beautiful shine).Romina worked from the front to the back blow drying the hair completely before moving onto the next section.

What I liked about Drybar was that they gave me exactly what I picked and made my hair feel soft and shiny with minimal products. Plus, they weren’t afraid of using a straightener on my hair. I hate when stylists feel like they need to prove something by only using a brush. My hair can handle the heat!

After a bit of Moroccan Oil on my ends and TIGI Catwalk dry shampoo on my roots I was out the door… with a blowout that lasted!

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So when it comes to choosing your go-to Manhattan blowout bar, consider your requirements. A relaxing environment to catch a movie or a place to gossip with your stylist while simultaneously checking your email? I real New Yorker would appreciate either.

All Photos Courtesy of Markus Mamoser