Beauty Salons Are Reopening, But the Risk Is Real

This situation highlights the lack of security in our industry

Arabelle Sicardi
ZORA
Published in
7 min readJun 9, 2020

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A closeup photo of a hair stylist cutting a client’s hair.
Photo: Vystekimages/Getty Images

The salon industry’s job growth has consistently outperformed the overall economy in 11 of the past 14 years. It is touted as a career that offers you the ability to be your own boss, travel, and connect with clients, forging relationships across racial lines and class differences. That growth may falter in the wake of Covid-19’s catastrophic impact, particularly Black and Hispanic communities around the country. The results disproportionately put marginalized workers into the crosshairs of the demands of richer — and often White—clientele.

Black and Latino business owners in the beauty industry are far more likely to be self-employed, more likely to be rejected from federal funding, and less likely to receive government assistance during this crisis. They have fewer resources to fall back on, as it’s also known that African Americans have less intergenerational wealth, which means the pressure to reopen is high. Worse, the likelihood of dying from doing so after being exposed in a setting where it is impossible to socially distance, is also much higher.

Because of these challenges, many stylists have begun banding together to create guidelines for local and state officials with the hopes that their personal experience in the industry will help create a safer environment for people as they return to work. Kiara Bailey, a hairstylist and business mentor, created the website Covid-19 Salon Reopening Guidelines out of this necessity, and several of the people interviewed for this piece mentioned it as being more useful than the guidelines the government has thus far provided. Bailey’s team of stylists has sent suggested policies to every governor in the country.

During a phone call, Bailey said, “Unemployment [benefits] ending before the crisis is over and salons reopening in stages — it’s a trap that makes it so whether you want to go back to work or not isn’t up to you anymore. The typical profit margin is 4%, so the numbers you have to be doing are pretty high. This situation highlights the lack of security in our industry. So many people have been financially devastated in a matter of weeks. And my biggest fear is a relapse in infections. We can sanitize, we…

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