For months, the COVID-19 pandemic brought in-salon cosmetic services to a sudden halt. Nail salons shut their doors, hair salons said goodbye, and professional eyebrow and lash services were no longer an option. However, as the entire country moves towards a slow reopening, those beloved spaces are back at it — according to social distancing guidelines, of course. I can admit that I was one of those people who rushed to make an appointment when allowed. Missing my beautician, I seized the opportunity for my first professional hair service in months, discovering firsthand what it's like as hair salons reopen during COVID-19.
It's important to first note that there are no sweeping guidelines to address nationwide salons, so depending on the state, your experience may look different than mine in Maryland. Here, masks are a requirement anywhere in public, and salons are only allowed to open at 50% capacity. In New York City, things look similar as the state enters phase two of reopening. Take the famed Frédéric Fekkai Salon, for instance, which too has opened it's doors implementing 50 percent capacity, no-touch greetings, appointment-only service and cashless gratuity. Whereas in Atlanta, where salons have been allowed open since late Apr. with no statewide mask requirements, some salons are operating at full capacity with no social distancing guidelines implemented.
I knew, however, that I wanted to be in a salon that was serious about keeping their patrons and employees safe, and that's exactly what I received. The experience was one like I've never had before, but is surely something I could learn to get used to.
What It's Like In A Hair Salon During Social Distancing: The Arrival
This may vary depending on the type of salon you're visiting. For me, I got my service done at an open concept, multi-stylist, salon. Therefore, the rules were a bit more strict. I was instructed ahead of time by my stylist that I needed to text her upon arrival and wait in my car. Basically, in-salon waiting areas are a thing of the past. Arriving 10 minutes early, I was informed that she needed to properly disinfect her styling station — chair and tools — from the previous client and wash her hands before I would be allowed to enter. Once given the okay (only if first confirming that I was wearing a mask through text), I was buzzed in and instructed to place my belongings in a designated area toward the front of the salon.
What It's Like In A Hair Salon During Social Distancing: The Capacity
The 10-station salon, which is normally completely filled, is now working on an alternate-day working schedule for the stylists. Therefore, at no point are two neighboring stations occupied at the same time. During my appointment, there were a total of four people present in the salon: two stylists and two clients.
What It's Like In A Hair Salon During Social Distancing: The Service
Receiving an extension service, under normal circumstances, means that an in-salon wash by the stylist is not required — so long as I came with my hair already properly shampooed. However, these are not normal circumstances. To ensure the safety of all parties involved, I was required to have my hair washed by the stylist before any other service was performed. While no official reports make the claim that the virus can travel through hair, the required shampoo service is an extra precaution taken by the salon. The thorough wash consisted of two shampoos, a clarifying, and a hydrating, before traditional conditioning.
The continuation of my service went on as normal, aside from the masks worn by both myself and the stylist during its entirety. After the wash, I was blow dried and styled as usual, with my stylist intentionally avoiding answering any phone calls or responding to any texts. This alleviated any possible cross-contamination. At the conclusion of my service, payment was required to be made electronically through my stylist's preferred app. Cash and credit transactions are banned as yet another way to eliminate unnecessary contact.
All in all, the salon experience made for a much quieter, much less-energetic few hours. And while I do miss the loud gossiping and girl talk of the hair salon that occurred pre-pandemic, the priority is safety, and that's exactly what I got. Furthermore, the service seemed to actually go faster, with no distractions for me or the stylists. Plus, I walked away with my first weave in months and couldn't be happier with the results.
I'm a few weeks away from my next scheduled appointment — God-willing Washington, D.C. doesn't have to rollback it's reopening plan — and I now know exactly to expect. This may be the new normal, but it's something I'm willing to get accustomed to to protect myself and others.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support.