At Claire Jones’ hair salon in St Helens, you won’t be bombarded with questions about your next holiday and you may leave with more than just a wavy blow dry.
Clients are surrounded by plants and nature photos, hold crystals during their cut-and-colour, choose from ‘silent or chatty time’ and are even offered an aura-cleanse before they leave.
Claire, 39, founded her Self Love Salon because she wanted her clients to leave feeling as good on the inside as they do on the outside after getting their haircut.
Trigger warning: This article contains discussion of suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.
‘Us hairdressers are sort of like unofficial therapists anyway,’ she laughs. ‘We do have some deep conversations – I think a lot of people see a visit to the salon as a small act of self love and a bit of me-time, so I just wanted to build on that.’
Claire had always wanted to be a hairdresser – she remembers writing it in her Record of Achievement aged six – but her journey towards helping other people began with a mission to help herself.
She started her training aged 16, as soon as she left school, and went onto work as a stylist in a number of different salons, but as a young adult she suffered with chronically low self esteem.
‘I thought of myself as “Sh*tty Claire”,’ she remembers. ‘My self-talk was horrible. I told myself I was stupid, fat and couldn’t do anything right.
‘I stuffed myself with laxatives even though my weight was on the lower side of normal. I remember joining a gym once and when they asked me what my goal was, and I told them I wanted to lose weight, they actually laughed at me. I never went back.
‘I was a people-pleaser and very easily led. I ended up divorced after just 11 months of marriage, when I was 26, and that became yet another thing I told myself I’d failed at. People used to make jokes about it and I laughed along with them, but deep down I was so ashamed.’
Claire admits using cocaine as a crutch around this time – saying it became like a replacement for her self esteem – but says the comedowns made her feel even worse.
‘Some days I even felt suicidal,’ she says. ‘I spent my Sundays just lying in the house crying. I felt completely worthless.’
She got into another destructive relationship, which she says ended after she discovered her partner had been having an affair.
Claire saw her GP and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She was given antidepressants but says the real turning point was when, aged 32, a long-term client and friend offered her a reiki session – which she’d never heard of.
It opened the door to healing and she booked herself onto a week-long healing retreat in the Cotswolds.
‘I’d never been away by myself before,’ she smiles. ‘My mum thought I’d gone mad! But it was an absolutely life-changing experience.
‘We did reiki and healing sessions, and for the first time in my life I realised that it’s okay to not feel okay – in fact it’s normal.
‘We don’t have to be afraid of our feelings. We can just sit with them and accept them, rather than trying to run away from them.’
Claire began a journey of self-care as she finally started learning how to look after herself. She started kickboxing, taking regular walks in nature and meditating every morning, as well as practicing yoga and crystal healing.
Even throughout her toughest times Claire had still gone to work, and always found solace in her hairdressing.
Four years ago she realised her dream of opening her very own salon.
‘I probably wouldn’t have ever had the confidence to do it if I hadn’t learned to love myself,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t “Sh*tty Claire” any more. I had faith in myself that I could make it work.”
At first Claire called her business Salon 23 – but when she reopened last year, after a period of closure due to Covid, she decided it was time for a major re-brand.
‘I’d always wanted to help other people, and suddenly I realised that my salon was the perfect way to do it,’ she explains. ‘Clients sit in that chair and open up.
‘I’d already learned the importance of healing on the inside, because you have to love yourself enough to look after yourself. But sometimes that takes more than just a good haircut.
‘The stylists who work for me and I painted the walls with sustainable paint and decorated with plants, tree bark and photos from my nature walks.
‘The fixtures and fittings were sourced secondhand and I chose organic and natural products wherever possible.
‘We reopened under the name The Self Love Salon and it felt so right.’
When Claire’s clients arrive they are invited to choose a crystal from a bowl in front of each mirror, and different essential oils are burned in the salon each day, depending on how people are feeling.
Each chair also has a sign to indicate whether a client wants to enjoy ‘chatty time’ or ‘quiet time’, so Claire knows whether they want to have a conversation or simply relax in silence without having to make polite chit-chat.
Claire and her junior stylist go for nature walks together before they start work, and try to practice what they preach by being open and sharing their own experiences with their clients too.
Claire was diagnosed with ADHD a year ago and takes medication alongside her self-care practices.
She has even designed a course which she is currently trialing with her first batch of trainee hairdressers called Shaky Scissors, combining meditation and self-care practices with hairdressing so they can give the best service practically and mentally for themselves and their clients.
‘I guess you could call me the self help hairdresser,’ she laughs. ‘I like to send my clients away feeling as fantastic on the inside as they look on the outside, because that’s what really counts.
‘You can fix everything on the exterior, but if you don’t feel good on the inside you will never see it.’
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