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Review: DryBar Serves Up Cocktail-Inspired Blowouts, Slight Buyer’s Remorse in Harvard Square

Senior Year events belong to two categories: the fun stuff you’re looking forward to (Last Chance Dance, Senior Bars, other chances for free drinks) and nostalgic, tearjeaker moments set to Vitamin C’s “Graduation.” Taking Harvard Yearbook photos and sorority composites falls into the latter camp–ten minutes posing in a cap and gown, and I’m a puddle. When the senior photo appointment popped up on my GCal to remind me of my eldery status, I figured I could use some extra pampering beforehand. After all, I needed to look immortally fabulous for when, searching for #tbt’s of the future President or a Fortune 500 CEO, a former classmate’s eyes would skim over another wannabe-novelist-turned-high-school-English-teacher in the yearbook (i.e., me). If I can’t be one of those Harvard grads you hear about on the admissions tour, I’ll at least have great hair for everyone to remember. Enter DryBar.

The California-based blowout chain arrived on campus last June well after many of us were settled into our summers away from Harvard. Founded by self-described “lifelong blowout maven” Ali Webb, DryBar proposes an alternative to what Webb called “overpriced salon blowouts.” The core of their brand converts the experience of getting your hairstyled to going to the bar with your girlfriends: think loud music, bright colors, and yes, drinks. Everything down to their poppy-yellow hair brushes is named for cocktail to match the one you’ll be served with your blowout.

By a stroke of luck, I had a coupon for a free blowout the same week of senior composites. Here’s what happened to me (and my tresses) on my first trip. 

The Appointment

Inside DryBar.

I trekked through the rain to DryBar’s “Harvard Square” location–i.e. a storefront in the awkward wasteland between the “real” Harvard Square and Central Square–on a quiet Saturday afternnon.  At check-in, the receptionist immediately asked if I wanted a drink; I said should wait until I saw what my hair looked like. She didn’t take the joke. 

After meeting my stylist for the afternoon, we headed into a private back room for a hair wash with “Sake Bomb” shampoo. At DryBar, the price of your appointment includes said wash and blowout, styled in one of six ways for the flat $45 rate (see below). You can also come for an up-do, but those are a little extra. I’ll admit that I don’t take excellent care of my hair, so it felt pleasantly light and silky after the stylist worked her magic. 

The “menu” at DryBar Harvard Square. 

Once seated back in the main area, I decided on a “Cosmopolitan.” I have medium-ish length, very thin, straight hair, but I’d say it holds a curl pretty well with the right amount of product. And everyone in the booklet modeling the styles looked stoked about these loose curls. Why not try something different from my usual uncooked-spaghetti hair?  

The time flew by with an A+ movie selection–The Devil Wears Prada, then Moonrise Kingdom–playing on small TVs interspersed between stations. My stylist kept up a fun conversation involving post-grad plans and how she got into working at DryBar, which involved pulling clients off of Mass Ave. to style their hair for her “interview.” Mimosas were delivered, hair was brushed, pulled, pinned, sprayed, heated, curled, brushed again. After a little over an hour, the transformation was complete. 

Yours truly, feeling very excited about my “Cosmopolitan” loose curls.

Post-DryBar: A Short-Lived Buzz 

DryBar’s buttercup-colored haven opened to a torrential downpour, less than ideal for my locks. This begged the question–will a $45 curl-job (that I, admittedly, didn’t pay for) withstand a particularly gloomy fall day?

For me, not really.

My hair deflated like you would imagine Donald Trump’s ego after a cringe-worthy debate performance: considerably. In the fifteen minutes it took to walk from DryBar to the location for my senior photo, the curls were replaced by some limp noodles posing as hair. It regressed to its natural state of bland flatness for the following thesis cram session in my room and dinner with my boyfriend in Somerville without the slightest hint that I had tried to switch it up just a couple of hours before. The silky-soft texture and “Hot Toddy” smell held up, but the bouncy curls the brouchere had promised were long gone in astonishing time. 

So, Should You Try DryBar?

My hairdresser seemed intent on making sure I’d come back for more “Cosmos” when I left my appointment, and telling all my friends to come, too. While I loved the enthusiasm of staff, the glowing atmosphere, and, yes, the free drinks, I wasn’t thrilled with the end result. $45 is a lot on a college budget, and I wouldn’t have been able to justify my deflated hair if I hadn’t had a coupon for a free trip. I can see DryBar working for special occasions: bridal showers, pre-date events, possibly a final round job interview. Unless they can guarantee that your new ‘do will last, taking a trip to their gram-worthy shop for a hefty price isn’t actually worth it. You’re better off saving some money and curling (or straightening) your own hair.

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