Clearing the air – Hair stylist risks it all on chemical-free shop |

Clearing the air – Hair stylist risks it all on chemical-free shop

Francine Rosner can stop and take a deep breath in her small shop. Such a simple action was impossible for the Grass Valley hair stylist to do just six months ago.

Health problems forced Rosner leave behind her former beauty shop and many of her customers. After more than 20 years in salons, Rosner had developed migraines, nausea and problems breathing -all of which grew worse around the odors of strong chemicals – such as those used to perm, color and style hair, she said.

So five months ago, she leased a smaller, one-chair shop and went “chemical free.” That means no hair processes, products or shampooing. Francine’s Style Cuts offers customers one service: precision cuts.

“I said goodbye to about 80 percent of my clients,” Rosner said of the change.

Many of her former clientele still want their hair colored, permed or styled with hair spray, she said.

Rosner is hesitant to classify her response to strong smells. But the symptoms are in line with multiple chemical sensitivity. According to the nonprofit Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Referral and Resources Inc., the syndrome is marked by many symptoms in multiple organs through repeated exposure to chemicals.

Rosner said it took her a long time to determine what was making her ill. Although she has not been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity, Rosner said her doctor agreed chemicals were the cause of her symptoms.

The move to a chemical-free shop was not an easy one for the single mother, whose business is the main household income. But modifications to her former work environment were no longer effective.

Rosner said in the past five months, she has already felt better. The small South Auburn Street location has a sink for washing hair, but no shampoo next to it. On her work tray, there is only a pair of scissors, a comb and a spray bottle full of water.

She will cut hair dry or wet, but she said she cannot handle customers who come in with products in their hair. The migraines, nausea and difficulty breathing that plagued her for the past five years have subsided at work and home, which was also cleaned of products emitting strong odors.

Although the elimination of chemicals has paid off for her health, the business risk was huge.

“I’m not busy, busy, busy, but it’s getting better,” Rosner said.

She has geared her business to men, cancer survivors and anyone who does not like the strong smells of a salon.

Nevada County resident Nolemana Hu appreciates the chemical-free environment. He has had an over-sensitive immune system all of his life, Hu said.

“Whenever I’m in a place, especially like a salon, my body responds to allergens right away,” he said.

Having a chemical-free, odor-free place makes a lot of difference, Hu said.

Customers are slowly catching on. Rosner said that many of her former clients are sending their husbands to Francine’s Style Cuts now. Plus she gets about eight to 10 people a month interested in the chemical free environment.

All in all, Rosner said, the switch was worth the risk.

“I walk about feeling good, where I was always feeling bad,” she said.



Francine’s Style Cuts

756 B S. Auburn St., Grass Valley


For more information about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, visit Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Referral and Resources Inc., a nonprofit education organization at:

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