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Cinde Car photographed in June 2020. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

The year is 1983, and Cinde Car poses triumphantly for a photo with a first-place trophy and a model covered head to toe in black and white stripes. “I painted my sister as a zebra,” laughs Car. “It was one of the first makeup competitions I ever did, and we won.” Today Car looks fondly on the memory. She’s now the proud owner and stylist of Hairline Salon, and her passion for cosmetology hasn’t wavered. But due to a recent battle with cancer, she’s decided to retire from hairstyling to take on a solely administrative role at the salon. “For now, what’s best is that I take a step back from styling,” explains Car, “but that’s not to say I won’t do hair again down the road.”

Car has owned Hairline Salon for 41 years, a tenure that’s seen three locations and generations of clients. “I started doing people’s hair, then their kids’ hair, then their kids’ kids’ hair,” Car beams. “They bring them in for their first haircut, graduation, communion… All these different things happen to them, and I get to be a part of that.” She opened the first Hairline on Pacific Avenue in 1981, eventually moving to 7th Street and finally to her current location on north Gaffey Street in 1992. 

Car didn’t always envision a career in hair, but in 1980, she was studying art at Long Beach State and struggled to afford tuition. A friend’s mom suggested that she take on hairstyling to fund her studies, and she enrolled in Flavio’s Beauty School in San Pedro. Car’s passion soon became clear. “I was just having so much fun,” she reflects. “I learned so much from these wonderful hairdressers, and I wanted to be part of their world.” The next year, she left art school to become a hairstylist full-time. 

An artist at heart, Car continued to flex her creative muscles throughout her career. She entered hair and makeup competitions in the 1980s and discovered the world of fantasy makeup in the process. She hit her stride in makeup, placing top three in nearly all 20 of the competitions she entered over the course of a decade. Car vividly remembers winning first prize for her zebra piece: “When they announced my win, Emily [the emcee] said I went out of the box. I was the only one who did makeup from head to toe.”

Then in 1993, a friend made a request that would shape the rest of Car’s life. “She was a nurse going through breast cancer,” Car recalls. “She asked if I’d shave her head, and I did.” From then on, she went ritually to San Pedro hospital’s breast cancer center to shave the heads of women going through chemo, and the experience was eye-opening. “While I was there, I started noticing how many women had breast cancer. It hurt my heart. And I made it a mission to start fundraising.” An avid marathon runner, she began participating in the Avon Foundation’s two-day, 39-mile fundraiser walks for breast cancer research. Since 2001, she has completed 34 walks and raised $250,000. 

To Car, hairstyling and charity work are two sides of the same coin. “Doing hair is very personal,” says Car, “and it can change a person’s life.” Her favorite client is someone who hasn’t had their hair done in a while. “They come in feeling bad or insecure, and when you give them a hairstyle that makes them feel pretty, it makes their life a little bit better.” Her clients admire this altruism — Peggy Thompson-Lindquist, a loyal patron for 18 years, recalls how Car visited her home in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “During COVID, nobody went to have their hair done. But Cinde did my hair for me at her home.” Valerie Atkinson-Kjellberg, a client for 30 years, agrees. “She does so many good things for so many people. I really think she’s an angel amongst us.”

When she considers what retirement will hold, Car’s thoughts turn to simple pleasures: painting, traveling, and relaxing with family are all on her list. But when she looks back, she sees the many people she’s met and loved in over 40 years of styling. “I want to thank all of my clients for being so great over the years. They’ve made the experience so rich with memories, great conversations, and friendships. I have laughed and cried and just run the gamut of things at the salon. Thank you from the bottom of my heart — it’s been a gift to be a hairstylist.” spt

Nadia Nizetich