After nearly two decades working in the hair industry, Debra Dickey said she noticed herself developing asthma symptoms. Her doctor told her she would need to stop using products with strong chemicals right away.

“My doctor looked at me dead in the eyes and told me that the chemicals used in hair colors caused this problem,” Dickey said. “At that moment, I felt like I was going into shock. Hair color was my whole career.”

Dickey said she wasted no time and began immediately researching more natural products available to stylists as well as how she would incorporate them into her business after years of working with traditional hair dyes.

“Out of pure desperation, I had to figure out how to keep my business alive,” Dickey said. “After learning more about what harmful chemicals were legal to use in the U.S. versus in other countries, I knew I had to do something to stop that cycle and switch to something more natural.”

Now, about 12 years after her asthma diagnosis, Dickey uses low-chemical hair dyes on her clients at Sweet Seven Organic Salon, located in Fort Houston near Berry Hill. As the only employee, she offers haircuts, color and other salon services in a space free of chemicals, such as ammonia.

“I’m always up front with my clients that professional stylists have to work with at least a small amount of chemicals to know what the end results are going to be,” she said. “I think they are surprised to find out that low-chemical lines last much longer on hair than one would think.”

While Dickey said giving up her career as a hairstylist was not an option she even considered, she originally planned to make a living in the fashion industry. However, she said she considers working with hair to be a form of fashion.

“I never thought I was going to be a hairdresser when I grew up,” Dickey said. “I always thought I was going to be a fashion designer, but I’ve come to realize that hair is also fashion ... It’s sculpting, it’s cutting and it’s designing.”

Although hair styling was not her original career path, Dickey said the job is rewarding.

“I hear a lot of wonderful stories from clients, but I also hear about the sad things that are a part of life,” Dickey said. “To make someone feel better before they even walk out of the door is a reward that I wasn’t prepared for when I started this career.”

Sweet Seven Organic Salon

2028 Lindell Ave., Nashville


Hours: Mon.-Thu. 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., closed Sun.