With reports of the number of coronavirus cases rising, so are fears for workers in the beauty industry. Of course, there are health concerns—hairstylists and nail techs can’t exactly socially distance, given the intimate nature of their crafts, and many don’t have the luxury of paid sick days. But also as experts issue guidelines to cancel all nonessential appointments, salons are being forced to shut down, leaving stylists who rely on tips and a steady paycheck in a dire situation.
“To say that we're scared to death and full of anxiety would be a vast understatement,” says Joan,* a California hairstylist affected by the state's stay-at-home mandate. When Joan, a single mother, found out salons would be closing in the area, she made the offer to travel to clients to keep some form of income—despite the government's recommendation to keep six feet away from those outside your home. “Out of 115 clients, five were interested,” she says. While the number is low, and she’s wary of going to other people’s houses during the health crisis, she says she's grateful—one of her clients even paid for four appointments in advance. Still, she sees the negative impact of the situation snowballing fast. “A lot of people are going through savings accounts rapidly, myself included.”
Joan also worries this pause could have lasting effects even after the crisis is over. With advances in box dye formulas, some women who have never tried at-home coloring before may discover they like the DIY route—it's cheaper and doesn't require scheduling. “I’m concerned about customer retention,” she says.
Stylists and salon owners Glamour spoke to say it's been an incredibly difficult moral dilemma—continue operating until the government shuts them down, risking the health of employees, customers, and those they come in contact with? Or close and suffer financial strain? "We made the difficult decision to close our doors early in order to do our part in social distancing—the hope being that we can solve this crisis as soon as possible,” says Liz Burns of Goldie + Bob in Denver (where the city has since issued a mandate to close down all hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, and spas). It wasn’t an easy choice, says Burns. “Not having an end date makes it even harder to predict how our employees’ lives will be affected.”
For those who haven't yet decided or been ordered to close shop, owners say they're implementing extra cleaning precautions across the board, as well as spreading out appointments to ensure adequate physical space between clients. Others are adopting a credit-card-only policy to eliminate the exchange of cash, requesting clients come alone (leaving children at home), or asking questions about customer’s health during the confirmation call. But still, health officials continue to warn the public that now is not the time for a cut or color.
Even with the promise of loans on offer for small businesses, it hasn't done much to ease salon owner's anxieties. “I'm very concerned about the months ahead,” says Suzie Bond, owner of Bond Beauty in Moorseville, North Carolina. “Our business has a line of credit to help keep everyone going as long as we can. My concern is paying it back when business returns. That will force me to limit how long I support [my staff].”
The pandemic is also forcing industry workers to get creative in order to get by. In a bid to get federal help, Kristin Snyder, a hairstylist in Michigan, started a Change.org petition, requesting a federal aid package for workers in the cosmetology, barber, and body work industries impacted by COVID-19, which, at the time of publication, has received more than 973,000 signatures thanks to social media.
Meanwhile, Kallie Henskens of Tribe Beauty in Cincinnati is partnering with a coworker to save by sharing supplies and moving into a smaller, less expensive area. She’s also considering diversifying her revenue by doing online tutorials. “I'm actively looking for ways to connect with my clients online by leveraging social media, as well as looking for ways to digitize my overall salon experience,” she says.
It’s not just shop owners and stylists whom closures are hurting, either—it’s the entire workforce that goes into making every salon experience enjoyable. “Every employee here—from our cleaning crew to our receptionist to our inventory specialists to our marketing team—relies on our guest visits for income,” says Lester Crowell of Three-13 Salon, Spa & Boutique in Marietta, Georgia. "Everyone."
While the future of the beauty service industry—and those who work in it—is uncertain, there are ways those of us who frequently visit salons can help. For starters, you can buy gift cards to provide immediate income to help hold salons over. Another option instead of canceling appointments is paying ahead (if you’re able) or booking for a date in the future. And, of course, tip generously once things return to normal—double, if you can afford it. (Here’s a helpful breakdown of why tipping is so crucial for stylists.)
Making a hairspray or shampoo purchase from your neighborhood salon can help too. “Amazon has killed the retail margins salons once knew,” says Mark Garrison, owner of Mark Garrison salon in New York City. Which means also shopping for products or makeup from your local salon’s site, if they have one, can have a bigger impact than you may think.
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We miss you all so much and cannot wait to get back to creating beautiful hair and hanging with you. In the meantime you will be able to purchase gift certificates for future use. Just click the link in bio , click the menu button at the top left, hit buy and you’ll be able to create your own certificate for later use. Don’t forget to email it to yourself. We appreciate all the love and support we’ve been receiving. You guys are truly incredible. Can’t wait to see you all again. Stay healthy and safe in the meantime 🤍
The easiest—and most surprising—way to support your local business is by heading to Instagram or Facebook. “The best thing our clients can do is to like our posts on social media to help keep our engagement up,” says Linsey Barbuto, owner of the Perlei Salon in Wayne, New Jersey. Ensuring your favorite locations stay visible throughout the lifespan of the emergency could help mitigate long-term customer drop-off. Another option? Take five minutes to leave a positive Yelp review, which, again, will help support the business in the future.
Still, stylists are trying to remain hopeful. "I think this too shall pass, and as soon as we can open our doors and know that it is safe, business will get back to normal [especially] with people with roots or folks in need of correcting what they did at home by themselves," says colorist and New York salon owner Rita Hazan.
Ken Nickels, cofounder of Raw Hair Organic Salon in Naples, Florida, agrees. Even if we can't go in for an appointment for the next few months, we can still find ways to support those who make us feel our best. “Clients, in most cases, have an intimate relationship with their stylist. It's been that way forever," he says. "This is a come-together moment.”
*Names have been changed to protect stylists' identities.
Beth Shapouri is a beauty writer in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @bshapouri.
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