Inside the Dublin hair salon colouring hair using 100 per-cent plant-based, organic ingredients

Lizzie Gore-Grimes visits a unique hair salon- cum-apothecary where things taste as good as they look.

There are not many occasions that you find yourself sitting in a hair salon having a taste of the product before it’s used, but then Organic Italian in Dalkey is not your average salon. Set up almost two years ago by Italian couple Ivana Margarini and Francesco Piccolo, the premise is simple, yet quite unique in Ireland: to offer customers chemical- free hair colouring and conditioning treatments using only 100 per cent plant-based, organic ingredients.

The minute you walk into the space, located on Castle Street, you can sense that this is more hair spa than regular salon. The interior, with its palette of pale lilac and sage green is eminently calming, but the main feature that sets it apart is the wall of glass jars filled with all manner of coloured powders and tinctures, each one strung with an apothecary-style label – a sight you’re more likely to see in a specialist tea shop. As I wander over for an inspection, Ivana explains that these are just some of the ground plants, flowers, barks, roots, clays and algae that they use to treat and colour the hair. For example, she explains, they use a blend of chamomile, turmeric and cinnamon for blonde tones and rhubarb, spinach and artichoke for dark shades. The whole thing is fascinating.

Organic Italian Hair Dressing

Once I’m seated, Ivana starts my treatment and begins to tell me a little bit about how she and Francesco came to develop their “Con Le Mani” method and bring it to Ireland. Having both been in the hairdressing business since 1982, their epiphany came 15 years ago.

“We were gazing at the vibrant colours of paintings by the great masters such as Giotto, Michelangelo and Raphael, and got talking about how they used only pure and natural pigments for their masterpieces, which are still being enjoyed today.” Around the same time, Francesco was unfortunately hit by a serious illness, which spurred the couple on to carry out their own research on natural pigments in order to be able to work with more organic products. They moved to Ireland two years ago because they were drawn to the country’s “green character, all puns intended,” laughs Ivana.

As she chats, she performs a scalp assessment with a micro camera to gauge the condition of my scalp and hair, which turns out to be pretty parched. Ivana recommends the “fango vegetale” detox and moisturising scalp treatment followed by an “energia vitale” moisturising and rebuilding treatment.

Francesco Piccolo and Ivana Margarini 

I thoroughly enjoy watching her at work at her mixing table as she preps the althaea root powder (giving me a taste of the whole root before she grinds it) with four different types of clay: white, purple, blue and rhassoul and some grapefruit and lemon essential oil to bring the mixture together.

With her fingers, she works this delicious-smelling paste onto my scalp, and the soothing effect is immediate. Next up, she’s whipping together a bowl of spirulina, green clay, althaea, multani mitti, vegetable-based glycerine and proteins for the rebuilding treatment, which she smooths along the lengths of my hair. It’s hard not to laugh at the image of myself in the mirror:  I look like Marge Simpson, a coil of purple and green hair piled on top of my head. But boy, do I smell good, and the best is still to come, as Ivana puts me under a steamer infused with lavender for 20 minutes with the most perfect cup of Italian coffee by my side. I am in hair heaven.

“Our clients usually have a history of allergies to chemical colours, are recovering from an illness or have a skin condition which requires them to avoid chemicals,” Ivana explains. “But others are simply mindful of sustainability, and are looking to use vegan, eco-friendly products when they can,” she continues. “I have clients who travel the length of the country to come to us.”

I don’t have a health issue that compelled me to seek out Ivana, thankfully, but I know any journey would be well worth it for her therapeutic touch and that steamer alone.

This article originally appeared in the November issue of IMAGE Magazine, on sale now.

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