The heat is on and anxiousness is bubbling like bad gas. The itch to return to some type of normalcy now feels like rice-sized creatures crawling under our skins. Hair, especially for those who do not have the ability or confidence to self-manage, have effortlessly bloomed from buzz cuts to bouffants.
Unless you’re truly skilled or confident, don’t cut your hair. These are paraphrased words of advice from Hair Habitat owner Frank Procopio. The “eco without the ego” hair salon eis located on the ground floor of the Lofts at Franklin Square, 115 Solar St. in Syracuse, NY.
“The biggest [topic] throughout this is cutting bangs. It can turn into a disaster especially if you haven’t cut your own bangs before,” said Procopio, who said he’s been getting various texts and emails about self haircuts and looking for advice. “I always tell people to err on the conservative side. You can take more off the second time but can’t if you take too much off.”
“Cutting the rest of the hair is difficult,” he said, “but the major thing people are concerned about is about the color and covering the gray. I can give suggestions to products I’m familiar with … but it’s important to do research.”
Although the May 15 checkpoint is around the corner, unfortunately, it’s not something to get too excited about. Salons are not part of this first wave. If you can’t wait or furiously combing YouTube for tips about your tips, very minimal changes are best. Don’t split hairs about — OK, you get the picture.
Hair Habitat is ready for that green light. “If they gave us the go-ahead tomorrow, I pretty much have everything in place,” Procopio said. Once they closed down, the salon was thoroughly sanitized and arranged to promise a safer space. For instance, prior to the shutdown, there was a circle of armchairs for waiting patrons; now, he said, the salon has been rearranged so the staff has their own little waiting area.
Aside from the one-on-one treatments, clients will not have to worry about feeling uncomfortable and too close for comfort. Plus, aside from the reusable and easily sanitized equipment, Hair Habitat will be utilizing disposable robes, gloves, and similar one-time-use essentials. Procopio said clients and staff will have to wear masks; the stylists will be wearing gloves as well. Extra gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer will be available for clients.
“We and our clients will be wearing disposable aprons and robes … and we’re going to start off wearing scrub-like uniforms. This instills confidence that we’re taking this seriously and not working in our street clothes,” said Procopio. People will not have to gather around the reception desk; staff will book appointments and accept payments at their chairs.
Before the COVID-19 adjustments, Procopio’s career was an evolution that began at Syracuse University, where he was a theater student. Like many aspiring thespians, he moved to Manhattan to pursue the passion. After five years in New York City, a timely cutoff Procopio gave himself to establish a career, he was working full-time with a theater company before a worker strike plagued the industry. From there, he got tangled up in hair.
He and his wife Suzy grew their family by one in the Big Apple before moving back to Syracuse to establish his Pierce Brooks Salon in the early 2000s. Eight years later, Procopio restyled his business to what now is Hair Habitat and nested in the same building as Strong Hearts Café, at 719 E. Genesee St., before its most recent move.
Procopio recognizes the potential flak with having a salon offering specialty and higher-end products. Cue the buzzwords — eco-friendly, non-toxic, organic. It can come off as stuffy. However, there is no substitute when it comes to quality, especially when it comes to products.
He said just because you go out back, dig a hole in the earth, and grab the soil, this doesn’t mean it’s entirely organic. There could be chemicals from runoff or from the air that could mix in. “Over the years we’ve looked for things that are known carcinogens or anything known to disrupt the endocrine system — purified protein derivatives (PPDs), resorcinol, and ammonia,” Procopio said. “Skin, being your largest organ, can absorb a lot.”
Personal care is an investment. For some people, this is a cognizant choice and a desire to be pampered. For others, having these products is necessary. Hair differs from head-to-head and certain products can cause a reaction. Products found in general grocery stores or those used by different salons may negatively affect hair or skin, and going to a specialty salon or retailer is important.
Procopio pontificated about hair care and what goes into finding what works for an individual. Shampoo should not only clean the hair but saturate and tend to the health of the scalp. Conditioner will moisturize and improve the feel and quality of the hair. Products a person may love and abide by may not work as well as time goes on. Hair will respond to and build up that pH level of the products you use and hair will eventually respond differently.
“You do need to switch up the products eventually just to bring your hair back to a normal pH level, to give it a break,” he said.
Regardless of any situation: Hair and any personal care are investments, educational opportunities, and the experience at a particular business should be relaxing and rejuvenating.
Hair Habitat, although not definitively one, presents many spa offerings. Aside from cuts and styles, patrons are able to take advantage of manicures and pedicures, eyebrow shaping, and facials. It’s also very male-friendly. Procopio and stylist Shannon can are available for men’s cuts but feel free to contact in-house barber Louis.
“Push come to shove … you can survive as long as grocery stores are open. Obviously, you’re going to survive not having your hair done but it’s more of an emotional component with hair,” said Procopio. “It’s feeling good about yourself and what the experience of being in a salon does for a person.”
Often hyped by the media, especially through film and television, a trip to the salon or barbershop is an experience in itself. The atmosphere, the conversations, the comedic and pithy banter — Hair Habitat is no different than any other salon or barbershop with some Italian guy and his paesans waiting for a cut or just hanging around just because. Take comfort Procopio is Italian.
“There are [strangers] who have become friends from coming here over the years. There are connections between myself and the staff’s clients. We all talk … and get to know each other and our families,” said Procopio.
There is a challenge, Procopio noted, with having long conversations and the physical act of speaking. It’s difficult, especially when trying to catch up with a monthly client. Masks move as mouths move; they rub and irritate the face after an extended time. Expressions and key nonverbal cues will be hidden by masks. However, to tout the mental satisfaction of salons, there is that bliss of being able to pick up where a conversation leaves off.
Everyone has faced, is facing, and will face different challenges. Even before COVID-19, these personal challenges never stopped any conversation or interaction from picking up from where they last left off. Perhaps this is how this should be viewed. As people continue to face their own personal struggles, there is peace of mind knowing some of these present struggles are common but a worldwide thing. That commonality helps pave the way to reconnection no matter the hurdles.
Picking up where we all left off is simply what it is. It can be done.
For more information and to schedule an appointment at Hair Habitat, please call (315) 373-0111 or visit hairhabitat.com.