Health

Hair Salons Are Reopening—But Appointments Won't Be the Same

Here's what you can expect at your next root touch-up or trim, from how long appointments will last to salon sanitization procedures

Filed under Some Good News, hair salons have opened over the last few weeks in provinces across Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, under Stage 2 Re-Opening, which allowed for an expanded list of businesses, such as outdoor dine-in, daycare and personal care services, to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the rush one feels following a fresh trim, brand new braids or a root touch-up remains as powerful as ever, the experience of visiting your fave salon will be a little different. Whether you’ve got an upcoming appointment booked in Ottawa, Thunder Bay or Sherbrooke, or live in parts of the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal that are still awaiting the green light to open up (hang in there!), here’s what to expect and how to make that first time back in the hair salon everything you’ve dreamed of.

My hair salon is about to reopen. What should I do before my appointment?

From whether you’re considering a major chop or are the proud new owner of quarantine bangs to DIY colour maintenance, a lot has probably changed since the last time you saw your hairstylist. Touching base with your hair guru before you hit the chair will lead to a successful reunion, helping to get you both on the same page about current needs and future #hairgoals. Communication is our best tool, says Celene Dupuis, the official colour ambassador for Redken Canada. As the owner of Revamp Salon Company in Saskatoon, Dupuis had her team contact each re-booked guest for a mini-consultation prior to opening on May 21. Upon booking, being proactive will help avoid disappointment. “At the end of the day it’s the salon’s responsibility to ask the questions. It’s our job and should never be put on a guest,” Dupuis says. “But that might not be the experience that everyone has, so it’s good to volunteer the information. It’s a great thing a consumer can do to empower themselves.”

Communicating with your salon is also the best way to find out if they’re adhering to any specific guidelines that might impact services. Dupuis, for example, has chosen to max out appointments at the three-hour mark in order to accommodate the average length of a visit, plus dedicated disinfecting protocol. Health and safety guidelines are specified by each province (and can therefore vary), but the cleaning of shared tools and equipment, like scissors and shampoo sinks, between appointments is a universal recommendation. Ahead of the release of official guidelines in Toronto, rumoured appointment time constraints are an aspect of reopening that concerns hairstylist Janet Jackson, owner of JouJou Hair Studio. “That’s something I’m appalled at right now. We’re at a time right now where racism is really being stressed, and I think the instructions out there are based on one hair type,” she says. “The government doesn’t do hair. It’s dismissing a whole bunch of hair types, and it’s not right.”

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How can I stay safe at the hair salon?

With the intimacy of a salon visit making physical distancing tough, provincial guidelines require individual businesses to create a COVID-19 safety plan that includes additional practices and measures. Prepare to be screened for the absence of COVID-19 symptoms upon booking and/or before entering the salon, for employees to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the use of physical barriers between workstations, contactless payment and retail spaces, and the removal of non-essential objects (that means no more magazines in the waiting area).

And this shouldn’t come as a surprise: expect to wear a mask during your salon visit. A request to use hand sanitizer upon arrival will likely also be a standard practice, not to mention a good sign of healthy vigilance to put you at ease. As companies implement social distancing with a reduced number of chairs in use and fewer people on site at one time, and install barriers and contactless payment systems, Jackson is confident that these spaces rank high among businesses primed to re-open with optimal operational safety. “For salons and the beauty industry, sanitizing and doing all that cleanliness is what we’ve had implemented into the business from day one,” she says. “We know how to disinfect in between clients, and nobody wants to spread COVID-19.”

Since government protocols suggest enhanced sanitization of frequently touched areas, shared spaces, like the salon washroom, should be spotless. You may even have to practice the buddy system with your stylist to use the bathroom (they’ll disinfect it when you exit).

For Dupuis, who is running at 50% capacity compared to previous business volume, there’s an overall silver lining. “Guests have more of our time and attention than they ever had,” she says. “It’s very controlled, our clients are very relaxed about it and it hasn’t been chaotic at all.”

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Can I expect hair salon prices to increase?

You’re more than ready to address months’ worth of roots, but is your wallet prepared to take a hit? “With retouches of solid colour, it’s pretty easy. Pulling colour three inches down the hair shaft, vs. an inch, doesn’t make a huge difference in time—but it will affect the cost of the service,” says Dupuis. That’s because colour retouch services are often priced based on the amount of hair dye used. The same scaled approach could also apply to the cost of a relaxer service for Black hair. If you need more of a specific product the first time back, best to prepare for an increased bill.

Colour correction or a major shade change could also be an investment. To help her blonde clients who have switched to darker hues while coping during quarantine, Dupuis suggests a series of express treatments. “We can break it down into a few smaller appointments, it’s better for your hair and better for your budget,” she says. Patience helps, too. “In those situations, [using] at-home colour isn’t the end of the world, but if you’ve gone really dark with it and want to go light, you might actually have to be copper or caramel first, before we get it back to blonde,” she says. In that scenario, Dupuis recommends prepping hair with a strengthening at-home treatment, such as Redken Extreme CAT Protein Reconstructing Hair Treatment Spray, for a few weeks before a pro gets to work.

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Regardless of the type of treatment you book in for, you may also notice a “COVID Fee” added to your bill. The low extra charge, at the discretion of each company, is intended to help business owners offset the costs of PPE, physical barriers and touch-less systems that contribute to enhanced safety operations. But for many who find solace in a salon visit, it might be a small price to pay. “The salon is a culture,” says Jackson, who is undecided on implementing such a charge. “It is not just a space to get your hair done, it’s a space where we talk, and so much more. And we just want to get that back.”

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