I just had a baby... and a blowout

NEW YORK • When Ms Donna Yip, a lawyer who lives in the financial district, went into labour with her second child in June, she had more than just her husband and medical team in her room at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

Mr Jackson Simmonds from the Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa was also there, with a curling iron, hair dryer and boar bristle hairbrushes in his Longchamp tote. They were his tools to style Ms Yip's hair immediately after delivery.

She is one of a growing number of women who are booking hairstylists and make-up artists to come to their hospital room for postpartum grooming, typically with the first photographs of mother and child in mind.

"I think someone realised, 'Why should I not look good for that great picture that I'm going to show everybody - the first picture of my child?'" said Mr Joel Warren, an owner of the Warren- Tricomi salons.

Those images are frequently posted on social media such as Instagram, as Ms Yip's were, to be seen by a broad network of friends, colleagues and close family.

I think someone realised, ‘Why should I not look good for that great picture that I’m going to show everybody – the first picture of my child?’

MR JOEL WARREN, a salon owner

It is probable that the practice has been fuelled by the barrage of images of women such as Britain's Kate Middleton, who after delivering her children left the hospital with sleek, bouncy hair that more readily suggested a leisurely blowout than the physically taxing experience of childbirth.

"We have a lot of patients who have had a long labour and they are like, 'Okay, I want cool pictures of me and my baby,'" said Ms Lisa Schavrien, obstetric nurse navigator at Lenox Hill Hospital who keeps in her mobile phone a list of hairstylists from nearby salons for the five to 10 new mothers for whom she helps arrange in-room appointments each month.

Although these treatments are far from ubiquitous (Mr Warren's salons have sent stylists on 10 hospital appointments with new mothers in the last couple of months), they are on the rise.

Salon Julien Farel has had a 200 per cent increase in such bookings (the salon declined to disclose the number of appointments) in the last three months. Stylebookings.com, a website offering to-go hair and make-up appointments, has been sending about five stylists a week on maternity calls. Glamsquad, the on-demand beauty app, reports an increase of 30 per cent during the past six months.

"You figure you do it for other events," said Ms Patti Wilson, director of photography at OK! Magazine, who plans to book a hairstylist through Stylebookings.com to come to her room at Mount Sinai Hospital when she delivers her first child later this year. "This is a moment where it's one of those milestones. I'll feel better if my hair is blown out and in pictures, it will look better."

Typically, stylists on maternity calls aim for low-key grooming, not a splashy fashion statement.

"No one wants 'I'm going to a black-tie event' hair," said Mr Chris Lospalluto, a stylist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger who has had a handful of such bookings.

"They just want to look fresh, just a better version of themselves. You've got to spruce them up because everybody's coming to see them."

Mr Simmonds uses dry shampoo or spritzed water on new mothers who cannot shower or wash their hair after delivery.

He said: "It's not like the full-on blowout you would have in a salon, for logistical reasons. Nonetheless, it comes out looking good."

A hospital-room booking with a stylist from an upscale salon can be expensive: An out-of-salon call by Mr Lospalluto costs US$700 (S$980); the charge for a similar booking from Julien Farel salon is US$500. Stylebookings.com appointments start at US$180 before tax and tip. Prices for Glamsquad's services begin at US$50.

For some new mothers, the treatments offer an emotional boost as well as an aesthetic one.

Mr John Barrett, founder of the namesake salon at Bergdorf Goodman, said: "It's really important that you feel good, that you don't look in the mirror and say, 'Oh, my goodness', because having a baby is like running a marathon.

"Just feeling 'I look normal' afterwards is such a nice thing. It's good for the psyche."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'I just had a baby... and a blowout'. Print Edition | Subscribe