Coronavirus: What to expect when hairdressers reopen

A hairdresser cuts a customer's hair in Leonberg, GermanyImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hairdressers are already back to work in countries like Germany

Hairdressers and barbers can’t open soon enough for those of us desperate to get rid of the lockdown look or correct a DIY do. But when they do start welcoming clients again, a trip to the salon will look and feel very different due to social distancing. Here’s what to expect.

When will this happen?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some salon chains say they hope to be back in business by 4 July

Salons cannot reopen until the government gives the go-ahead, and a date has not yet been announced.

However, chains like Toni & Guy, Regis, Supercuts and Francesco – as well as celebrity hairdresser George Northwood – told the BBC they were aiming for 4 July.

The Hair and Barber Council is calling for ministers to bring the 4 July date forward. It says its 11,000 members would be ready to operate by the middle of June, taking the necessary precautions.

Booking your appointment

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some salons will offer video consultations ahead of appointments to minimise time in the salon

Salons across the UK will have to balance the demand for appointments with the need for social distancing.

This means longer opening hours, staggering staff shifts and special slots for the over-70s and other vulnerable people.

Mr Northwood, who has styled the likes of the Duchess of Sussex and Alexa Chung, said payment at his Fitzrovia-based salon would be taken over the phone, prior to appointment. If clients want to, they can arrive with freshly washed hair so they can “walk in, have it cut and leave”, he said.

Nigel Darwin, CEO of Toni and Guy, said: “Every client will be spoken to ahead of visits, staff will do phone or virtual consultations to cut the amount of time spent in the salon.”

Anya Dellicompagni, managing director of Francesco Group, said its salons would only accept card payments.

When you arrive

Image copyright Toni&Guy
Image caption Toni & Guy’s salons in China have reopened with staff wearing masks

Under the new measures, there will be no flicking through magazines with a coffee while you wait for your appointment.

At some salons you will be greeted from behind a clear plastic screen and asked to clean your hands with sanitizer.

Jackie Lang, managing director of Regis UK, which owns 60 Regis salons and 90 Supercuts salons, said clients would be asked not to queue outside.

“Our clients will be asked not to arrive at the salon before their appointment,” she said. “We will text them to let them know when to come in. There will be no waiting area.”

Michael Smeed, an independent hairdresser based in Nottingham, said he had seen posts from colleagues in the business suggesting clients might be asked to wait in their cars near the salon until receiving a text message asking them to enter.

Mrs Dellicompagni said: “At Francesco’s no magazines are to be used, clients are asked to arrive at the salon on their own and not to bring shopping bags or other items inside. Ideally clients should handle their own coats.”

Protective gear

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hairdressers will wear masks, gloves and disposable aprons

Salons told us the safety of their staff and clients was their “highest priority”.

Regis UK said every client would be given a disposable mask and gown and stylists would also wear masks.

At Francesco, staff have been advised to have two visors, so one can be sterilised between each client.

Toni & Guy said it was rolling out “single-use protection packs” including masks, towels and hand sanitizers for each station.

“We see the biggest risk areas as being reception and the back-wash area, where you have somebody standing over you, so we have had sneeze screens fitted,” said Mr Northwood.

“Clients will be asked to gown themselves up and wear gloves.”

Image copyright ek hair
Image caption Salon owner Chloe Mitchell and manager Nessa Martin are decorating their family-friendly salon with balloons to welcome back clients

Chloe Mitchell who owns EK Hair, a family-friendly salon in Bristol, said staff would be swapping their usual black attire for more colourful outfits and decorating the salon with balloons to create a positive atmosphere.

They will also be wearing transparent face shields instead of masks.

“The majority of our clients are children and for them to come in and see us wearing masks would be quite scary,” she said.

“Some of our clients are deaf and need to be able to lip-read, which they couldn’t do if we were wearing masks, so we need to be sensitive to their needs.”

Social distancing

Image copyright Francesco Group
Image caption This photo, taken before lockdown, shows how every other station will be used

Clearly the 2m social distancing rule cannot be adhered to while stylists are working on your hair.

But at all other times clients and staff must ensure they are 2m apart.

At Regis and Supercuts every other styling station will be empty.

“In smaller salons clear plastic screens will be put up between each styling station,” said Ms Lang.

Image copyright ek hair
Image caption EK Hair has had to move its toy vehicle chairs so its young clients can socially distance

“There will be as much protection for clients as possible,” said Mr Smeed. “It will be a completely different way of salon life.”

Mr Darwin said Toni & Guy had introduced a “gold standard” hygiene programme which included limiting the number of people looking after one client and widening the space between stations.

“Staff will work on shift patterns to accommodate the reduced capacity, supported by external appointments for stylists,” said Mr Northwood.

“When staff go into people’s homes, we will send out a list of safety requirements. On nice days, cuts could even be done outside in the garden.

“We have a waiting list of a few hundred people, so we need to do our best to accommodate everyone.”

At EK Hair, Miss Mitchell said the stations – which include toy vehicles that the children can sit in while having their trims – have been relocated on two separate floors to ensure social distancing.


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Regis UK said it was awaiting government advice on thermometers

Some companies emerging from lockdown are using thermometers to screen for coronavirus but it is not yet clear whether this will happen in salons.

Ms Lang at Regis UK said: “We have an order for infrared thermometers on hold. If the government tells us we need them then we will buy them.”


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Expect to see sterilising hand gel on reception and around the salon

Expect to see lots of extra cleaning of all surfaces and chairs as well as staff regularly washing their hands.

Mrs Dellicompagni said: “Francesco’s stylists will only use one item per client before cleaning and sterilising.

“All tools, workstation, mirror, gown, and PPE must be cleaned, disinfected or disposed of between each client.”

At Toni & Guy there will be “optimised levels of sanitised work surfaces and chairs, plus regular cleaning taking place throughout the day”.

At Regis and Supercuts all clients’ hair will be washed before any service and dry cuts will not be available for hygiene reasons.

Lockdown hair

Image copyright George Northwood
Image caption Celebrity stylist George Northwood has done several “remote haircuts” during lockdown

So that’s what we should expect from our salon visit – but what are the hairdressers and barbers bracing themselves for?

“I’m expecting to see a few DIY colours and trims,” said Mr Smeed. “Colour-wise, I’d certainly try to urge people to wait until their salon is open. If you choose the wrong shade, it can be difficult for your stylist to put things right.”

“We’ve stayed in touch with our clients on social media and have seen a few funny fringe trims,” said Miss Mitchell.

Mr Northwood said: “Hair has become quite an emotional issue during lockdown but I think it’s also been quite good for us to have a break from all the styling. People’s hair will be in great condition as a result.

“I’ve seen people being quite public about going grey or letting their roots show. I saw one of Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram posts the other day in which she had two-inch roots and that’s the new normal. It helps us to know we’re all in the same boat.”

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