Amid the coronavirus pandemic, phased reopenings are now underway in all 50 states. While governors manage restrictions in their respective states, mandates and safety precautions get as granular as individual cities and counties, too. The earliest states to reopen included Georgia and Alaska, soon followed by Texas, Florida, and others scattered across the US.
In many cases, businesses in the beauty service industry were among the first to reopen their doors — but not without several new precautions to follow. From required masks to social distancing when possible to, in some cases, not using blow dryers, the structure of hair appointments is going to look a little different for the time being. Still, you may wonder if and when it's truly safe to get back in the chair. Ahead, we tapped two pros in states that have already begun the road to reopening: Matrix stylists Michelle O'Connor in south Florida and Eric Vaughn in Houston.
What Safety Measures Are Mandatory?
If you live in a state where hair salons are open (or will be soon), you may already be familiar with the new general industry safety measures. But if you have yet to inquire about an appointment or live in an area where closures are still widespread, we asked O'Connor and Vaughn to give us a brief rundown of what you can expect.
- Waiting areas are closed. "Clients must call upon arrival to the parking lot before entering the salon to ensure that we are ready for them," Vaughn said.
- Clients are required to wash their hands before or upon entering the salon. Stylists and staff are washing their own hands frequently, too.
- Face masks are required by all. Clients will be provided with a disposable mask if they arrive without one or are wearing one that restricts access to their hair (i.e. fastening behind the head).
- The amount of people in the salon at one time is limited. This means appointments are required, guests (including children) are not allowed, and stylists aren't able to take as many clients in one day.
- Gloves must be worn by staff when possible, otherwise hand sanitizer is used often. "When it's not possible [to wear gloves], there is hand sanitizer at every styling station for them to properly sanitize their hands," Vaughn said. His salon offers stylists face shields, too.
- Salons are disinfected regularly, and stations are cleaned between every appointment. "Everything that gets touched will be wiped down after each client. That includes tools, products, chairs, counters, etc.," O'Connor said.
- Clients should be healthy and without a fever before coming to their appointment. At O'Connor's salon, all clients must have their temperature checked upon arrival: "Temperatures of 100 degrees or more will be asked to cancel and return at a later date." She also recommends clients wait at least two weeks after air travel.
Additional Safety Measures You Might Expect
Although the list of new regulations is certainly not short, you can never be too careful — especially in a close-contact industry. For this reason, both O'Connor and Vaughn's salons have set additional rules in place. O'Connor is opting for disposable capes and towels: "I feel that any extra measure of adding an element that ensures that something is not being used on multiple people brings peace of mind," she told POPSUGAR.
At Vaughn's Houston salon, beverage service has been limited to bottled water. "There was no mention of food or beverage in the state's guidelines, however, with restaurants being closed or at minimum capacity, we felt it was best to not serve beverages that are in an open container or to allow food on the salon floor," he said. Stylists are also scheduling 20 minutes between each appointment, a length of time that has not been explicitly specified: "We felt it was best practice to allow the stylist the proper amount of time to thoroughly sanitize their station and all tools."
What's the Verdict (So Far)?
So how are clients feeling about this new normal? Vaughn and O'Connor both say that they're equally excited and understanding. "The number one thing that our clients have said to us is how safe they feel, and that they can definitely tell the protocol we put in place is there for their safety and comfort," Vaughn said. "A lot of our clients have honestly just been excited to be out of their house and doing something that is somewhat normal." But something out of the ordinary (masks and disinfectants aside)? The change to the bustling salon pace we're all familiar with. "It's a quieter atmosphere, and clients are now spaced farther apart," O'Connor said.
How Will This Affect Hair Appointments Long Term?
There's no telling what the future will hold — within the salon industry, or any part of "regular" life as we knew it — but O'Connor and Vaughn think the pandemic will affect cleaning protocols in the long run. "Cleaning, sterilizing, disinfecting, and sanitizing will be up front and center going forward," O'Connor said. Vaughn agreed, adding that "salons were already one of the cleaner environments as is, but I think throughout this entire process, it's really made us look at our cleanliness under a microscope." And when it comes to fast-paced or physical-touch businesses, Vaughn suggests that masks (or at least the option to wear them) might be a good idea long term: "[They] help provide peace of mind in a busy business."