Public Health & Recreation

Salon Owner Flips Over Chemical-Free Hair Care


Mariska Moreau, a Flipp Salon & Apothecary stylist, puts the finishing touches on Dionne Rebello’s cut. (Joanna Detz/ecoRI News photos)

PROVIDENCE — Jo-Anna Cassino comes from a long family history of farming, and she has been a practicing herbalist for 12 years, so naturally she operates a beauty salon.

Actually, after speaking at length with the passionate 51-year-old owner of Flipp Salon & Apothecary on Transit Street it all makes sense. Her worlds collide with purpose.

Her mother made her own bread and pasta, and instilled in her daughter a view of a holistic life that embraced simplicity.

Cassino opened the salon in January 2011 with the goal of providing hair care without all the harmful chemicals. She has since added chemical-free skin care to the salon’s staple of plant-based shampoos, conditioners, cosmetics and perfumes.

Some of the ingredients for the salon’s skin-care products and perfumes are grown at a quarter-acre farm on the city’s South Side by Cassino and Jessyloo Rodrigues of Parcel Apothecary. Some of the herbs are started in the salon’s window boxes, and all of Cassino’s employees visit the garden and are trained regarding the use of nontoxic products.

Owner Jo-Anna Cassino makes all of the salon’s plant-based skin-care products and perfumes.

The salon has five full-time and two-part stylists, an acupuncturist, massage therapist and an aesthetician. Their work is about total wellness, both body and mind.

Cassino and Rodrigues also are working on registering Pearl Farm, part of the Southside Community Land Trust’s network of urban farms, so they can sell fresh and dried herbs for retail.

Cassino makes all of the skin-care items and perfumes herself, in a certified kitchen. She also makes teas and infusions that are offered at her salon. The Providence native is relocating her skin-care and perfume-making operations to Warren-based Hope & Main this spring.

“We can still have fun and enjoy fashion and beauty without being poisoned,” the Lincoln resident said. “We embrace natural beauty.”

For her hair-care products and cosmetics, Cassino relies on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Any product she uses or sells at the salon and doesn’t make herself must pass this website’s test.

“We don’t want to be applying poisoned products on people’s skin or dumping a bunch of toxic chemicals down the drain,” she said.

However, there is one service the salon provides that requires the use of some harsh chemicals: hair coloring. Cassino said there are no products that are 100 percent plant-based when it comes to coloring. Although there is no color that is 100 percent chemical free, the salon offers three different lines that don’t contain the harmful ingredients that most other lines do, Cassino said.

“We try to talk people into going gray,” she said. “More and more people are embracing it.”

The salon, though, doesn’t offer hair-straightening services because of the amount of toxic chemicals required.

Cassino also uses her salon to support local artists and artisans. For instance, all of the wood furniture was handmade by Jessica Brown, a trumpet player in The Extraordinary Rendition Band.

The salon’s bookshelves are filled with the works of local authors, and after hours the space is used by local artists and photographers to showcase their work and by local musicians to jam. The next musician is scheduled to perform Feb. 11. Doors at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 6:30.

“Many of my passions all fit into this small space,” Cassino said. “This is a place for local health, beauty and wellness. It’s a place to become enriched.”

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  1. I searched for years for a salon that would help me transition to my natural color, gray. I was worried about the toxicity of hair color, so many people are sick these days.
    I went to Mariska .. she was amazing and highly skilled. They also have an amazing Five Element acupuncturist, Dr. Maria Vanson.
    Joanna, thank you for all the good you do for people and the environment.

  2. While Ms. Cassino is to be admired for using plant-based compounds in her salon, the adjective "chemical-free" does not apply here, or anywhere for that matter. The word "chemical" is not synonymous with the word "poison". Substances isolated from plants are chemicals; water is a chemical, and there is no such thing as a "chemical-free" environment.

    • What does it mean to be chemical free?
      Chemical free or chemical-free is a term used in marketing to imply that a product is safe, healthy or environmentally friendly because it only contains natural ingredients.

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