Before brushing it off as a frivolous vanity concern, it’s worth considering how a hairstyle refresh can make it easier to coerce the mind into accepting a new circumstance. Whether it’s finding comfort in the familiarity of a tried and adopted style or switching to a new look and embracing change, being able to manipulate the little things that are still within our control can help us find a sense of balance – and satisfaction – even during a pandemic.
But getting a haircut, fresh braids or a new colour can also be an intimate and social experience that triggers apprehension in the age of social distancing and Covid-19. And now that hairstylists are permitted to operate within the regulations of lockdown Level 3, the question of the safety of the exercise is a prevalent anxiety.
“We started making changes that encourage social distancing in our salon a week before we reopened; the salon was also cleansed and fumigated. We sanitise hands, check the temperature on each client that arrives. We also sterilise our tools, wear masks and make sure our working stations are clean at all times” says Tshepiso Leseanea aka Dope, the barber at Mos Definite Hair Salon in Rosebank Johannesburg.
Candi & Co’s Candice Thurston explains that their staff first had to complete a Covid-19 “test” so they are well versed on the new protocols. They now only wear their work uniforms once they arrive at the salon and check temperatures as well as fill in a form to document any indication of infection.
“We do a deep clean every day and run temperature checks on guests, who also have to fill in consultation cards where they have to mention any symptom. We have perspex dividers between all of the work stations, and around our point of sale, and we sanitise all equipment and surfaces before and after each treatment. Each beauty therapist also has to wear a visor and mask at all times,” she says.
It’s easy to assume that hair stylists who make house calls should be more popular at the moment, simply because one doesn’t have to go out of one’s home or risk meeting other clients; and yet, many professionals interviewed for this piece who are working on-site, note that clients were excited to be back. The reasons? Some sort of social connection, even if only behind a mask and perspex.
“Even though we prioritise making our clients feel safe when they visit, we’re as invested in keeping our store’s atmosphere the same as before. We play good music and keep the conversations between us and clients flowing,” says Leseanea.
At the same time, some patrons are mindful of spending too much time doing their treatments. Expresso Show’s new fashion and beauty editor Noxolo Mafu says she enjoyed being pampered by someone else for a change but tried to quicken the process by washing and conditioning her own hair at home and getting only the braiding part done on her recent trip to the salon. She says she had wanted to get a house call but had to venture out because the stylist didn’t have all the resources to do the hairstyle outside of the salon.
During her excursion, Mafu says that she kept to herself as much possible:
“I made sure I only touched what was necessary and brought my own sanitiser that I used regularly. I think that it’s up to us to keep ourselves and each other safe; at this point, we have to be responsible even though professionals do their bit.”
Thurston says she noticed that even though her guests want to look and feel pampered, many preferred to do more services at once and chose styles that they can maintain for a longer period before having to return.
At Scar on the popular Kloof Street in Cape Town, stylist Anny Botha says that time is indeed of the essence, and the faster they can perform a cut or a colour, the better.
“We’ve always been focused on getting the job done in the shortest amount of time possible, whilst still maintaining a high level of quality and professionalism. We’ve now changed our booking system to ensure stylists make contact with fewer clients, but also that we make the time we have with our clients really worth their while,” she explains.
Botha says that having to cut down on conversation to focus on breathing with a mask and shield was strange at first because she struggled to hear through the multiple layers, but she’s getting the hang of it.
“It was also weird for me to not be able to hug my clients or offer them a cup of coffee, but our clients have been incredibly understanding during this time. I still go the extra mile to make sure they leave with a smile and a spring in their step despite some of the small pleasures having fallen away,” she adds.
Beyond the issue of hygiene, what can limit the spread of the virus and make social reintegration smoother is adopting a better sense of empathy for the people one has to share a space with. Candi & Co’s Thurston notes that it’s encouraging that people are still keen to keep supporting small businesses during this time and are adhering to protocols that keep them and others safe. DM/ML
"Go down this set of stairs and then just run - run as fast as you can." ~ Lt David Brink, 9/11