Drybar Founder Alli Webb on When Burnout Leads to a Breakdown

Updated: Nov. 15, 2023

"My life fell apart," says the entrepreneur, sharing tough lessons as the #girlboss era is eclipsed by a collective quest for greater substance and authenticity.

Alli Webb was part of the circuit. On the outside, Webb’s life seemed enviably glamorous as the co-founder of the mega-successful blowout-only salon chain, Drybar—where celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts were adoring regulars. But as Webb reveals in her memoir, The Messy Truth: How I Sold My Business for Millions but Also Lost Myself (Harper Horizon, November 2023), the rise of her career coincided with a difficult awakening in her personal life.

In a time when social media images often inform our perception of success, Webb writes about the sides of glowing-up professionally that we often don’t see. In her case, that meant divorce, her child’s treatment for substance abuse, struggling with depression, and trying to find herself after selling the company she built.

Webb, whose career started at the Nicole Miller fashion label and with training at Toni & Guy, recently talked with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest about what helped her heal—including transcendental meditation, journaling, and a whole lot of gratitude.

 Alli Webb with booksCourtesy Taleah Meshae

The Healthy @Readers Digest: What inspired you to write about your experience in The Messy Truth?

Alli Webb: I think the overarching reason for writing this book was to really share and illuminate that it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to kind of give a glimpse behind the scenes of what it was like to grow a business of the magnitude of Drybar. So many things in my life fell apart during the course of that 10-year run: Divorcing [ex-husband and Drybar co-founder] Cam, and my son going through rehab, and then me going through depression. Those were pretty massive life events taking place in my forties. So the more I put out there about my personal experiences, I was finding that it really resonated with people. I also wanted to destigmatize a little bit of the illusion about what it’s like to run a business and raise a family.

The Healthy: Anyone who’s gone through a divorce knows how stressful that process can be—probably even harder when your spouse is also your business partner.

Alli Webb: I got married way too young and we probably shouldn’t have gotten married. He actually tried to call things off right before we got married, but we were best friends and I think I kind of modeled that based on the relationship my parents had. It was more of a best friendship instead of like a romantic endeavor. We had kids right away and then Drybar was born. We lacked what a marriage really needs, a certain level of intimacy. I think we’re both happier now and I’m happy to say, we’re really good friends.

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The Healthy: You share how as you two were separating, your teenage son entered rehab unexpectedly, which no parent ever wants. What helped you find calm during this time?

Alli Webb: It was pretty hard to find calm during this time. I did start doing transcendental meditation. My anxiety was through the roof and felt like I was in fight or flight mode a lot. Transcendental meditation was probably the biggest thing that helped me.

The Healthy: You write about how you lost sight of what made you happy. What did you change in your life when you realized this?

Alli Webb: I was living this life of pleasing a lot of people around me and living a very outward life during our Drybar era with the excitement and success. I was using outside validation, and I needed to go and find that inwards.

The Healthy: Journaling is a big trend in therapy now. Did you find writing the memoir therapeutic?

Alli Webb: I do journal, and I find journaling is big for me. I go through phases where I do it more often, but I also like to write notes on my phone and list the seven things I’m grateful for when I’m on-the-go and don’t have time. I’m learning so much about myself and my patterns and habits and I cannot believe how much happier I am now.

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The Healthy: As the co-founder of DryBar, you’re arguably an expert on beauty and wellness. What’s your wellness routine like?

Alli Webb: I take really good care of my skin, I take really good care of my body, and I try to eat really well. I exfoliate my skin and use serums. I really don’t blow dry my hair as much as I used to. I go in my infrared sauna and cold plunge at least two to three times a week, I lift weights two to three times a week, I walk a ton daily, and I drink a ton of water. I do a lot of things to take really good care of myself.

The Healthy: What is one self-care ritual you refuse to skip?

Alli Webb: I refuse to skip walking. I cannot function unless I’m walking and moving my body outside. So if I do nothing else, I have to walk.

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The Healthy: You were surrounded by celebrity clients like Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Garner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Maria Shriver, and others. What did you learn about beauty and health from spending time with so many celebrities?

Alli Webb: That they’re just like us. Which I guess sounds silly, but there’s no difference in what Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Garner or Maria Shriver are doing. We’re all in the same boat of trying to take good care of ourselves, eat well, exercise, take care of our skin, get a mammogram—like, we’re all doing that.