Searching for the Science Behind Hair and Salon Closures

Some counties have allowed salons to open outside, such as this one in Contra Costa County. Others, such as those in L.A. County have not. Many question how sanitary it is to have hair cuts in parking lots and on streets, with hair blowing everywhere.
Photo: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

Is the thinking behind the hair-salon closures based on scientific knowledge? More specifically, what scientific reasons remain after the beauticians and barbers added the prescribed L.A. County recommendations: everyone wear masks, take temperatures of customers before they enter the shop, query how customers are feeling and, in some cases, install plexiglass between operators who are not six feet apart?

I went to my hairdresser’s salon in early July because it was now legal again. (Salons were closed in mid-March because of Covid-19).

I’ve followed this hairdresser because she initially donated a free haircut and color to Palisades High School for a fundraiser about five years ago and I had purchased it. At the time she was in Santa Monica, but has now moved to a salon on Melrose, which is nearer her home.

When I visited in early July, the windows of buildings up and down the block were boarded up—victims of the riots.

My temperature was taken before entering the salon. Everyone in the salon, beauticians and customers alike, wore masks and the number of customers was limited. There were three of us in a large salon (and three beauticians). It was not crowded and easy to social distance. There were far less people in that space than in the space surrounding the deli at Gelson’s.

After my hair was washed, the sink and chair I had been sitting in were sanitized.

The chair in which I had my hair cut was also wiped down when I left, as was the floor. The towels were put in the laundry and the scissors and other cutting tools sanitized.

I was impressed by the extensive precautions that the people at the salon took, one customer after another.

Unfortunately, salons and barbershops were arbitrarily closed again on July 13 (after being allowed to open in May). Most of the people in this profession blasted the state and Governor Gavin Newsom for closing the salons.

On July 20, the state clarified that salons could operate outdoors, unless they were in one of the impacted counties.

Here are some typical thoughts and opinions in response to that decision that I found posted on social media:

“So just to be clear, and to give anyone who’s not practicing cosmetology in California an idea of utterly stupid this is. . . .The same state board that once fined me $150 for finding a damp towel on my station, is telling us it’s cleaner to work outside.”

 (Editor’s note: there are 24 different laws specified just for health and safety on the California board of Barbering and Cosmetology website that salons must follow. Visit: barbercosmo.ca.gov/laws.)

Another post noted, “They’re telling us doing hair in a parking lot is more sanitary than doing it inside, where we can safely clean every surface – and there’s not ‘literal dirt’ floating through the air.”

One beautician wrote, “It’s hotter than a devil’s rectum outside, so they just want us to throw up a tent that U12 soccer teams use at tournaments and just do some hair under it?”

Another said, “To my clients: you deserve more than a haircut under a 200-degree tent in a parking lot. Let the governor know how you feel . . .Just remember how much of a sh*t show this has been when the next election happens.”

One joked, “Air quality in L.A. is so bad like wow, you know what you’re missing from the hi-lites to your hair? Lung cancer. Can we all go sit in a parking lot?”

Another stylist pointed out that about the only service they could give in parking lots was haircuts and that would be like asking coffee shops to serve “only hot water and iced tea.”

But, it turns out parking lots and soccer tents are not a solution because section 7317 of the Business and Professions Code requires that all barbering, cosmetology and electrology services be performed in a licensed establishment.

“Therefore, establishments that are within the specified counties must close immediately and not offer any services (including any outdoor services).”

Circling the News has not seen the science why salons/barbershops can’t open, especially if they employ the same methods as grocery stores.

(Editor’s note: My hairdresser sent a July 31 note, that she’s moving out of the state, in large part because of the way the state has handled the Covid-19 crisis and her profession. Genetically, I have abundant hair, but part of why I often receive compliments is this woman is talented with cutting long hair. She is also well-read, and we had many long conversations about different books. ) 

 

 

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2 Responses to Searching for the Science Behind Hair and Salon Closures

  1. jerry says:

    Re: your question about the following:
    “Unfortunately, salons and barbershops were arbitrarily closed again on July 13 (after being allowed to open in May). Most of the people in this profession blasted the state and Governor Gavin Newsom for closing the salons.”

    Personal opinion: I disagree with the phrase beginning with “arbitrarily closed”. But, putting personal opinion aside, cutting hair and doing nails is a very close and personal activity. The professional’s face is close to the patron in order to see what is being done and just doing the service. There is no way for the two persons involved to maintain a distance of one (1) foot, much less six (6) feet. If for no other reason, that would be enough to close those businesses down when attempting to impede the spread of the virus. These activities are also not vital to actual necessities for living. If they are not available, it is an inconvenience more than anything.

    As for the Governor and the protocols he put into place- For a County that has approximately 19 million people living in it and considering the lack of participation by the Federal Government, we were doing an outstanding job of keeping a check on the spread of the virus . When Governor Newsom finally gave in and began opening up sites and businesses, we experienced a drastic uptick in both infections and deaths. It was no surprise. A good portion of the people who eventually test positive are asymptomatic although they are carriers and infection shedders. Asymptomatic means just that- they do not necessarily run a fever or have a cough or any other symptoms that would alert anyone to the danger those persons pose.

    I have a small business and am suffering along with everyone to some extent. But the one thing we do know is that if we had done what was necessary at the beginning, we would have been doing just fine now. I’m a bit angry about that.

    We are a spoiled people. We have no patience when something interferes, even a little, with what we want to do. We become angry and lash out at things over which there is no control. The virus doesn’t care about our schedules, wants or needs. Until we, as a group, understand that certain actions are necessary, we’re never going to be 100%.

    BTW, the magic bullet of a vaccine will have its own difficulties. The anti-vaxxers will pose a problem and the vaccine, itself, may not have a long protection. The delivery system is a mess right now and there will likely be instructions with the vaccine. Will the patient follow them?

    Bottom line recap- It is only logical that close proximity of people to each other is a serious risk and can lead to more illness. There must be protocols set now because this is not the last epidemic/pandemic we’re going to see. There is a difference between inconvenience and dangerous so being well enough to open up businesses will rely on our reaction and behavior.

    Cheers, Sue…
    J

  2. Sue says:

    Jerry,

    Thanks for the long comment. I had my hair cut when it was okay in July. We both had on masks. Do masks work? If they work we should be okay. What about Sweden, who took the opposite approach and didn’t lock down everything. After initially being lambasted, Sweden is now being examined more carefully as possibly a better way to have gone.

    I disagree that we “all” are spoiled people. I would argue instead that the rules keep changing because no one really knows – and that upsets people when the rules don’t make sense. For example why were people allowed to demonstrate – no way to keep social distancing? Why were beaches initially locked down and now they are wide open?

    Best
    Sue

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