VINYL Beauty Bar Puts a New Spin on the Salon Experience

Rock & roll couple’s dream isn’t just about cutting hair

Photo by Jana Birchum

A golden disco ball spins in the center of the ceiling. Under a neon sign, a bartender serves specialty cocktails while customers browse through racks of records. And across the room, a woman with pink hair … is holding hair-cutting shears?

That’s because this brightly colored, modern space isn’t a bar or a music store. It’s a salon.

This is VINYL Beauty Bar, and, okay, it actually is a bar and a music store in addition to being a salon, because why not? When a rock & roll couple open a rock & roll salon, it’s not going to look or act like your average, run-of-the-mill hair cuttery.

Cosmetologist Tinita Harpel and husband Michael Austin Harpel each wanted to run their own business. He wanted a record store; she wanted her own salon. They met in the middle and in August opened VINYL, a space for the glam rocker in all of us.

“It represents who we are,” says Tinita, a musician herself (as is Michael).

Michael Austin Harpel (l) and Tinita Harpel (Photo by Jana Birchum)

But while the vintage-style microphones draped over stylist’s mirrors, local artist’s work on the walls, and popping colors are mesmerizing, it’s not the décor that makes this salon so unique. It’s the contents of the products on the shelves – vegan, nontoxic, and organic to a one.

Tinita has been working in the salon industry for 23 years. She figures if she’s going to spend so much time around hair dye, fingernail polish, and conditioning treatments, she doesn’t want to spend it surrounded by the toxins they contain. Nor does she want her employees or customers doused in chemicals that have been linked to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, skin irritation, and even reproductive problems and breast cancer.

“I don’t want to breathe that stuff,” Tinita says. She assumes when people learn what many beauty products contain – including pesticides, synthetic fragrances, petroleum-derived synthetic colors, phthalates, and formaldehyde – they won’t want to, either, which is why she puts such a big emphasis on educating clients.

Alternately, the products VINYL uses – from their nail polish remover to their hair lightening mix – list ingredients like herbs for fragrance, dates to repair, and aloe to moisturize. Many are also gluten-free for those with gluten sensitivities and are not only organic, but biodynamic (a form of holistic farming where all systems and factors, from soil and livestock to astronomy and agriculture, are considered interrelated).

“Why would you use something toxic if there was something else available?” Tinita wonders.

In addition to being organic and less toxic than other beauty products, all of the salon’s products – from shampoo to hair color, nail polish to styling products – are also vegan, which means nothing contains any animal products or by-products, nor was anything tested on animals. Tinita isn’t vegan herself, which might sound curious at first, but it makes perfect sense to her.

Photo by Jana Birchum

“There’s no point in having animal products in beauty,” she says.

While vegans are often well-aware of the plethora of animal-derived products that go into everything from shampoo to nail lacquer, many others have never considered where such ingredients originate. Keratin is derived from feathers, horns, or wool; fish scales are often used in nail polish to give it an iridescent glow; gelatin, made from animal bones, is in many nail polish removers; and cochineal dye in red-hued makeup sometimes comes from crushed beetles.

So, just like with toxic chemicals, there are plenty of non-animal-derived alternative ingredients available. Tinita’s take? It just makes sense to use the alternative ones, whether or not you’re a vegan yourself, which is why you won’t see the “v-word” in big bold print on the top of their website or business cards. She wants to appeal to a wider range of clientele.

But it’s hardly all chemicals and animal testing talk at VINYL. Between Dolly Parton album covers and photo books filled with images of Eighties hair metal bands, how could it be? It’s a fun space where stylists and manicurists can be their weird Austin selves and clients can chill with a drink while they get a blowout or their eyebrows tinted. Every service comes with a complimentary cocktail or mocktail. Sometimes there are specials – the manicure special in February is the “Johnny and June” and comes with an old fashioned cocktail – but you can also opt for regular offerings like a Deep Eddy lemon vodka martini or whiskey cocktail.

Every Tuesday from 5-8pm, there’s a vinyl Groovy Hour with 10% off records, free beer, and a live DJ – most likely Michael – and the space hosts rocking (and very stylish) events for local organizations like Austin Animal Shelter and HAAM, as well as private events like bachelorette parties. But whether you stopped into VINYL for an event, a trim, or a new album, the emphasis is on fun.

“You can get a haircut anywhere,” Tinita says. “We want to create an experience.”

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VINYL Beauty Bar, Tinita Harpel, Michael Austin Harpel, vegan

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