First off, no, 'unicorn hair' doesn't refer to what goes into wands in the Harry Potter universe.
For those who didn't get that reference, you'd probably be aware of what the 'unicorn-everything' trend is.
From unicorn frappucinos to Singapore-born concoction unicorn tears, rainbow-coloured food and products are extremely popular especially (exclusively?) among millennials.
But this trend has also been adapted for hair colours, and sporting pastel purple or neon pink hair is no longer seen as 'weird'.
In fact, these outlandish colours now inspire the envy of many who also want this Instaworthy hair.
As a frequent hair dye-ee myself (I've honestly forgotten what my original hair colour is), I've longed to get such bold colours, but was always discouraged by my usual hairstylist, who downright refuses to bleach my hair.
"If you bleach, you can say goodbye to your hair," he'll quip, as my dream of getting pastel pink curls is cruelly dashed once again.
But just like the world of tech, hairstyling products are constantly updated to suit the needs of consumers, and hair treatments have evolved to better heal distressed tresses.
One of these is Olaplex, a hair treatment that apparently "works on a molecular level to seek out broken bonds in the hair that are caused by chemical, thermal, and mechanical damage".
Haven't heard of it?
Me neither - in fact, I only found out about it when NIGHT SHADE salon appeared on my radar.
With a bleaching session starting at just $40, their feed is filled with photos of picture-perfect shots of their clients.
They are also advocates of Olaplex, and use the treatment on all their clients.
But what's even more interesting is that the salon has already gained an impressive amount of traction on both Facebook and Instagram, albeit only starting in July.
I got in touch with the founder (who also has gorgeous hair herself, a true testament to her product), and found out more about the business.
"Why Not Just Open One Myself?"
25-year-old founder of NIGHT SHADE Charissa Yong is a fan of getting her hair done, and it was this passion for hairstyling that ignited the fire of opening a salon in her.
"I've always loved to get my hair done at salons, so I figured - why not just open one myself?"
A graduate from Murdoch University with a Bachelor of Business in Hospitality and Tourism Management and Marketing, she was also "fascinated" by crazy hair colours.
However, she realised that not many salons in Singapore dared to bleach their clients' hair, as it was both tough and tedious.
People then usually pay a ridiculous amount to get their hair bleached by a trusted salon OR they bleach their hair themselves with the DIY kit - which usually turns out very bad.
"Thus, I wanted to create an affordable place for people who are looking to do crazy colours."
The name 'NIGHT SHADE' has some rather random origins.
"The name was created by a unicorn name-making generator I found online! To make it more meaningful, I typed my full name as reference and my unicorn name was actually 'Night Shade'."
"Coincidentally, it makes a lot of sense because since my main focus is on colouring, so the word 'shade' became more meaningful than it already was."
Learning Her Skills From Self-Experimentation
Not a hairdresser herself previously, Charissa learnt her skills from her mother and friends - all of whom were experienced in hairdressing.
But as a true advocate for her product, she also did a lot of self-experimentation "because practice makes perfect, right?"
The salon is located at Selegie Road beside LASALLE College of the Arts, and while finding the right space for her venture wasn't an issue, manpower was (and still is) something difficult to come by.
Finding staff was a challenge because almost all the other salons out there are short-handed. I do have a part-timer working together with me, but most of the time I would do my client's hair myself.
While her earliest appointment is typically around 1pm (they operate by appointment basis only), NIGHT SHADE doesn't have fixed operating hours, and she has even stayed up till 1am to finish up a client's hair!
Invested $22k To Give Everyone Unicorn Hair
Albeit being only 3-months-old (NIGHT SHADE officially opened in August), Charissa reveals that business is "good" and she credits her success so far to social media.
She pumped in close to $22,000 to start up, and yes, she has already broken even.
But profits and figures aside, she chirped that she gets the most satisfaction when her "clients are satisfied with the end result".
A very young business, Charissa states that she doesn't have any plans for the future of the business at the moment.
"I am more of an impromptu person, so there's not much planning going on right now. I might expand the business, or keep it like it is right now. Who knows?"
9 Selegie House, #01-24
This article was first published in Vulcan Post.