Ireland's hairdressers are split on when the salons and beauty parlours should reopen

Dr Tony Holohan said at a press briefing that even if different sectors of the economy propose their own health and safety advice, this would not change the public health recommendations that the National Public Health Emergency Team make.
Ireland's hairdressers are split on when the salons and beauty parlours should reopen
Wayne Lloyd of Wayne Lloyd Hair in Bandon, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan
Wayne Lloyd of Wayne Lloyd Hair in Bandon, Co Cork. Picture: Dan Linehan

Ireland's hair and beauty sector has a body of work ahead of it to be prepared for when salons reopen.

Perspex screens have been installed, masks, aprons and gloves have been bulk-ordered. Clients have been contacted, with many eager to get their hair dyed or their nails done after months of going without.

Many salon owners are preparing to reopen their doors on July 20 in line with the government's roadmap. However, the Irish Hairdressing Federation, one of the industry's representative groups, said they want to open salons a month earlier.

Dr Tony Holohan said at a press briefing that even if sectors propose their own health and safety advice, this would not change the public health recommendations that the National Public Health Emergency Team make. So it seems likely that salons will be shuttered for a further two months, leading to a mixed reaction from the industry.

Wayne Lloyd, a hairdresser with two salons in Cork, one in Ballydehob and another in Bandon, says he is happy with the July 20 reopening date. He is the Vice President of the Hairdressing Council of Ireland, another representative group in the sector which has 1,800 members and 500 salons.

"There's a split in the industry. Some people want us to go back in phase three (June 29), and the hairdressing council recommend that we stay in phase four (July 20). That's simply because we agree with the government road map. We need to see what happens in phase two and three, like what happens with the R Rate."

Wayne Lloyd of Wayne Lloyd Hair in Bandon, Co Cork. Picture Dan LInehan
Wayne Lloyd of Wayne Lloyd Hair in Bandon, Co Cork. Picture Dan LInehan

Mr Lloyd adds that the Hairdressing Council of Ireland polled their members, and 83% of those surveyed said they wanted to go back to work when it was safe, rather than be pushed back into work for economic or financial reasons.

A big concern for Mr Lloyd is that if salons reopen too soon and the virus begins to spread again, we will have to go into another lockdown, with salons shutting down for a second time. He says many salons will not financially recover from a second loss, and wouldn't be able to pay any rent and supplier bills that kicked in once they reopened.

The current lack of childcare options is another major issue for the sector. "A lot of our industry is made up of women, and some have children, and childcare is quite a difficult issue at the moment."

Mr Lloyd says each salon will have to adapt different safety measures. "Every salon is a different shape and size. We have a perspex screen for reception but we are not putting perspex screens between our sections because they already are two metres apart. We are also removing some chairs.

"We are looking at having less people in the salon when we open. We will open the salon for 12 hours a day, and have two shifts. One shift will work Monday-Wednesday, the other Thursday-Saturday. They work 12 hours each day and then get four days off. We are liaising with our staff via Zoom, and they are all quite happy."

He also said records will be kept so contact tracing can be done by the HSE, in the event there is a Covid-19 case onsite. The salon also won't do walk-ins.

"We have a very high standard of hygiene in the salons anyway, and all of our equipment is constantly sterilised and we constantly wash our hands. There will probably be more measures put in place, with the hairdressers wearing a mask, disposable gowns for clients.

Alan Gleeson, General Manager, Capital Hair and Beauty wholesalers, showing the Protective Gear for Hairdressers at his Business at Delta Retail Park, Limerick Picture: Brendan Gleeson
Alan Gleeson, General Manager, Capital Hair and Beauty wholesalers, showing the Protective Gear for Hairdressers at his Business at Delta Retail Park, Limerick Picture: Brendan Gleeson

"We won't be offering tea, coffee or water, the same with magazines. It might make it a little more sterile but we are hoping to keep the atmosphere light and the banter good, because people are nervous."

Mr Lloyd admits there has been a rise in black market hairdressing because the salons are not available. "Not every hairdresser in the country stuck to the rules, [with some] sneaking in clients through the back door, but the bigger story is that we need to get back to work when it is safe to do so."

Shirley Feeney of Shirleys' Beauty and Laser Clinic in Glanmire says she is preparing to reopen her doors on July 20. "I have perspex sneeze guard screens. We have visors, masks, gloves and aprons."

She also agrees with Mr Lloyd that there is already a high level of sanitation and cleanliness compliance within the industry, so adapting to new guidelines won't be an issue. "We always would have worked on high health and safety grounds. We always wore gloves, we always wore masks, everything is always sterilized, no tools or instruments are used on a client without it being sterilised. We wouldn't even wear jewellery in the salon when working with clients."

She says the July 20 reopening date is a long way off. "I heard that there was some talk of a June 29 reopening date instead, but nothing is set in stone. I would really hope they do consider June, because the longer we stay closed the harder it will be to get back on our feet. But protecting health and safety has to be paramount."

When Shirley's salon does reopen, staff will come into work in their own clothes, and enter the premises through the back door. "They will change into their uniform in the staff quarters, they will enter the salon, they will work for their shift. They can't leave the salon because if they do, they'd need to change back out of their clothes. Their headwear, clothes and footwear has to be salon-bound only."

The staff will bring or make their own lunch on the premises, and at the end of their shift, they will change out of their uniform, put it into a sealed bag, and go home in their normal clothes.

The salon itself has been stripped back to the basics, with every surface being washable and wipeable. "All our equipment is washable, [cloth] couch covers are gone, there's no towels because it is all disposable, nothing is open and everything is covered, everything will be wiped down and sterilized before and after every client."

She says the temporary closures have been very tough on the industry. "I know some salons won't be able to open back up. It will be hard for smaller or newer salons to build their clientele back up after closing. But it's going to be difficult for everyone to say the least.

"Some won't open back up because they have lost thousands of euro in stock that's now out of date. I've had to bin stock, and you can't get refunded for it."

Much like the hairdressing industry, the beauty industry has also seen a rise in the black market according to Shirley, and this could involve beauticians doing house calls. Shirley says this is particularly tough on salon owners who have followed all the guidelines and had to let staff go.

However, she is looking forward to seeing her clients again and getting back to work. "Clients are emailing us and telling us they are looking forward to coming back in. They are so important to us, and we would always protect them, and our staff."

Alan Gleeson of Capital Hair and Beauty, a wholesale beauty and hair product supplier, says he is sourcing PPE and making sneeze guards for hairdressers and beauticians who require it.

"The safety shields, the masks, they are going to have to wear them. Some governments have been caught out with bad quality PPE. We only take stuff that is properly certified. Even though we can be fast at getting the gear in, sometimes it can be slow because we need to get it right."

Mr Gleeson feels that the government should be doing more for the industry. "They should be cutting tax on the services because that is where salons are getting caught out. They never put up their prices [after VAT was raised to 13.5% from 9%], now there's a double wham with the cost of PPE. They'd nearly need to add €5 or €10 onto the docket."

"Without a doubt, the government needs to be doing more to support the beauty and hairdressing industry. If you look at the UK, they are offering small salons £10,000 as a grant, and the bigger they get, they are getting up to £25,000."

He also thinks the government needs to give clearer guidelines, so salon owners are not spending thousands of euros on perspex dividers between clients, potentially unnecessarily.

He is hoping there will be a demand for hair and beauty services once salons do reopen. "The sales have increased in the hair and beauty business in Germany, so there are always positives."

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