How and when can salons open again? It’s not an easy decision. In the USA different policies are applied in each state, while Hairdressers organise petitions to get their jobs back.

The Covid-19 pandemic has often given rise to more questions than answers. Epidemiologists worldwide clamouring for viable therapies, cures, and vaccines while governments are striving to mitigate the financial and economic impact and fall-out while keeping populations. But after weeks of social distancing and “stay at home” orders, the definition of “essential” workers and businesses has come under some scrutiny.

Upon the opening of an unprecedented lockdown, supermarket empty shelves of “non-essential” products were also those of boxed hair colour! Why? Because hair salons would be closed for who knows how long and women wanted to take the situation in hand. Soon social media was flooded with posts bemoaning the closure of hair salons and barbershops.
The salon and barbershop industry itself is the very quintessence of small businesses, often owned and operated by the same person and with limited staff, but generally burdened with high overhead that may include rent/mortgages, utilities, maintenance and taxes. This defines them as a category particularly susceptible to financial devastation and even bankruptcy and closure during extended forced shutdowns.

Now, after weeks of sheltering at home and social distancing, there is finally talk about a variety of businesses reopening in some regions of the world.
In the United States the situation is one of the most complicated, as the governor of each state has the power to make such decisions, based on the statistics in that state. Although most states have shelter-at-home orders in place, many are set to expire by late April, unless further extended in the meantime. For example, Georgia will allow some businesses, including hair and nail salons, to reopen on April 24th, in spite of the public health emergency having been extended until May 13.

Other governors are being pressured by online change.org and moveon.org petitions, pushing for “soft openings”, where salons would limit traffic to one client at a time and take necessary precautions, like using masks and gloves. Some nail salons are installing Plexiglas® panels between the manicurist and the customer, in addition to the use of masks and gloves. Other provisions will require sanitization of the entire business multiple times a day.

Those proposing these petitions are citing financial hardship as their main motivation. In her petition to California Governor Gavin Newsom, Lynette Ashman demands that salon professionals be recognised as essential workers, writing, “Hairstylists are self-employed for the most part. […] A self-employed stylist does not qualify for unemployment benefits.”

Jewell Kindler addresses Governor Polis State of Colorado, reasoning, “Servicing one client at a time (while wearing a mask & gloves) poses little to no risk of spreading the virus, as compared to 20 or more people in a grocery store or 10 plus people at restaurants picking up food. […] The survival of the independent beauty professionals is at risk. We are facing a grave financial hardship.”

The struggle is real and the controversy continues. But with the lingering uncertainty of the situation over such an enormous expanse of metropolitan regions, smaller cities and towns, and rural areas, the challenge of interpreting statistics and formulating projections continues to lie in the hands of scientists and the governors who will ultimately decide to heed or ignore their findings.