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3 Stylists Reveal How Salon Life Has Changed Since the Pandemic Started

The pandemic has dramatically altered life as we know it. Nothing is what it used to be. For salon owners and hairstylists, this sentiment rings a little too true. From shutdowns to new safety protocols, salon life has changed drastically since the pandemic began. And we’re still in it. Salon owners, stylists, and hairdressers have had to adapt quite often to the ever-changing landscape. Below, three stylists from various regions of the U.S. share how they’ve dealt with these changes and more.

Kristina Cheeseman

Kristina is a St. Louis-based color specialist with over a decade worth of experience.

Mane Addicts: Do you find that most of stylists have opted to work remotely during the pandemic?

Kristina Cheeseman: I have noticed an influx of stylists leaving typical commission salons to find suites like mine to rent from during the pandemic. A hairdresser’s job is fairly high-risk, as we are in our clients’ personal bubbles for hours at a time. Working out of a studio/suite space is easier to control your environment. It’s just you and your client. You aren’t in a room with multiple stylists and clients. I know for myself, personally, a lot of clients have come back to me because they feel much safer and intimate. During lockdown we really missed connecting with other people, being able to touch and hug other people. The hairdresser’s chair, for many people, was the only place people could feel that sense of connection in a safe, responsible way.

MA: Are stylists still coming into the salon to work?

KC: Another trend I have noticed is stylists leaving the industry altogether. I think this has been a common trend among all industries. The pandemic has really given us some time to sit and think. Our priorities have shifted and more and more people have decided that they weren’t fulfilled and have found fulfillment elsewhere. Another trend is that more and more people are finding work from home jobs, where people can be with their families or feel safer. As hairdressers, we can’t do our jobs remotely.

MA: If they are still coming in, does everything look the way it did prior to the pandemic?

KC: Pre-pandemic, I worked so much. I worked six days a week and my one day off was spent resting. Going back to work I changed my schedule dramatically. I instilled a four-day workweek, and I no longer work late nights. That’s been a common theme among my peers, prioritizing their own mental health and boundaries. Time off to recharge, and focus on things outside of our jobs, and things that bring us joy.

MA: What else has shifted in the salon landscape?

KC: I’ve noticed a shortage of hairstylists and an influx of new clients. Everyone wants their hair done right now. I think a lot of it has to do with how we feel when we leave a hair appointment and the connection we get when we sit in a stylist’s chair. Undivided attention and someone to listen to us and make us feel good. More and more people are making that a priority and I’m noticing more and more hairstylists are booked four-plus weeks in advance.

Nicole Leal

Nicole is a Los Angeles-based luxury hairstylist and owner of Amavi Artistry Salon in West Hollywood, California.

Mane Addicts: Being a salon owner, do you find that most of your stylists have opted to work remotely during the pandemic?

Nicole Leal: We have a unique situation with our co-op salon Amavi Artistry. We are all co-owners (just the four of us: Anthony Holguin, Melissa Trujillo, Grace Crivello) so we have opted in with keeping business in the salon. We signed our lease on April 1, 2021. Probably sounded like the worst idea considering L.A. County had three closures but our decision felt so right. We knew we didn’t want to be by ourselves in a salon suite, we didn’t want to go back to a big salon, and we wanted to be in complete charge of our business. Opening our own place was the only way to go.

MA: If stylists haven’t been returning to salons, what has the reasoning been? Is it all pandemic-related?

NL: I think there are a few reasons stylists haven’t returned to salons: either they wanted out of their current salon culture which maybe they found wasn’t working for them, salon rental rates can’t be justified, size of the salon is bigger than what they want to be part of, new ventures may have sparked, and spending time with family might have steered stylists in other directions. The pandemic absolutely shifted our industry and probably speeded up changes that were bound to happen.

MA: Are stylists still coming into your salon to work?

NL: All of us are still coming into the salon and really made a point to keep house calls to a minimum and express that the salon can be a safe environment. All of us haven’t had a problem with getting clients back in the salon but we put our clients’ safety and comfort first.

MA: If they are still coming in, does everything look the way it did prior to the pandemic?

NL: The biggest difference is we have found that for us we didn’t need a front desk receptionist and we even haven’t fully committed to working with assistants. We are working with one client at a time and this has allowed us to give the most optimal salon experience when it comes to pre-booking, recommending products, and setting up for the next client.

MA: How have schedules shifted?

NL: For us, this biggest shift has been not double booking as much and really getting to fine-tune our clientele. The pandemic has been a great opportunity for us to rest our business for the better. Some stylists I know have cut their schedules in half and are still doing house calls.

Alexa Ruby

Alexa is a Boise-based hairstylist and owner of Pigment Salon in Boise, Idaho.

Mane Addicts: Being a salon owner, do you find that most of your stylists have opted to work remotely during the pandemic?

Alexa Ruby: My salon and my stylists have been fortunate enough to continue working inside our salon. We are in Boise, Idaho, and were shut down for two months last summer. We reopened soon after with new COVID safety protocols and continued to keep our space and process with clients extremely sanitary. In our state, we don’t have the option to work remotely with our licensing. You can only work in a state board-approved facility. If you work from home, you could potentially lose your license and be fined. We are a rental salon, and during the shutdown, I did not charge my stylists rent, regardless of me still having to pay the rent. At my salon, my stylists are family, and I wanted to make sure that during that stressful time, I could at least relieve one thing from their worries.

MA: If stylists haven’t been returning to salons, what has the reasoning been? Is it all pandemic-related?

AR: Some stylists have had to take longer time off due to family members or roommates contracting COVID or potentially being exposed to it. In my case, I had to completely reevaluate my schedule because as a mom, with schools being closed as well as daycare facilities, I had to stay home with my children during weekdays when I usually work. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, our daily routines and livelihoods wouldn’t be so vulnerable. Every week during the shutdown and since the pandemic always has me questioning ‘what will we do if we have to shut down again?’ Having to continuously worry about the looming return of a shutdown is constant stress on my business, livelihood, and my family.

MA: Are stylists still coming into the salon to work?

AR: Currently, yes. As more people are receiving the vaccine, we have been able to continue without any COVID breakouts. We are all working, taking three to six clients a day in a 12 chair salon. We are appointment only and have additional COVID safety protocols in place. Our clients are respecting the new rules and the way we have been doing things because they want to continue to receive their services.

MA: If they are still coming in, does everything look the way it did prior to the pandemic?

AR: For the most part, yes. Obviously, we have added some things like mask-wearing, not allowing additional guests inside, placing sanitizer stations throughout the salon. We also continue our regular use of barbicide and sanitizing procedures.

MA: How have stylists’ schedules shifted?

AR: I have implemented a part-time schedule for my stylists that helps keep a nice balance of steady clientele every day. My part-time stylists are either on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. And my full-time stylists aren’t double booking as much and working longer hours or even additional days to accommodate that. By the same token, we often get last-minute cancellations due to COVID-related issues. So sometimes my stylists will have major gaps in their schedules because of this, and lose out on making money. It’s been a very challenging, confusing, and overwhelming path to navigate these never-before-seen changes and issues this pandemic has brought to us. We’re just trying to figure it out as we go and take it day by day.

Salons all across the U.S. were forced to update their safety protocols due to the pandemic. THESE are the COVID safety protocols experts expect to extend past the pandemic.

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