Australian hairdressers want to close their doors but can’t amid coronavirus crisis

Three Australian hair salon owners share how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting their livelihoods, and their mental health. 

If you’re confused about the current lockdown rules, you’re not alone. It feels like the government are backtracking on which services are essential, and which are not. Each week brings with it a new set of regulations to live by, like where we can go and how many people we can socialise with. But it’s all in an effort to curb the rate of infection, so that’s good, right?

Not completely. Although hairdressers are flattered to be considered an ‘essential service’, they’re also confused. Their beauty counterparts – including skin therapists, lash and brow salons and nail spas have all been forced to close, leaving them worried for their health, their clients’ health and their businesses.

After a ruling of 30-minute appointments was scrapped almost less than 24-hours after it was made, it’s safe to say there’s a lot of grey area to navigate if you’re thinking about popping in for your usual six-week trim.

Three Australian hairdressers share their feelings, exclusively with body + soul.

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Clients are confused, but so are hairdressers

“There has been a lot of confusion around not knowing what the best thing to do is. We’re now forced to stay open when we really should be closed and practicing social distancing,” says John Pulitano, co-owner of Sydney’s Headcase Hair.

“Our number-one goal is to protect our clients and our employees, but no matter what measures are implemented there is a big fear from both clients and hairstylists as no one want to get sick or spread this virus. We feel that leadership has waited too long on making decisions that could have helped get this situation under control at a faster rate”.

Victorian-based salon owner and former Australian Hairdresser of the Year Joey Scandizzo agrees, “There has been a lot of confusion due to the mixed messages coming from the government. We’re flattered to be considered an essential service however, with the current regulations of physical distancing in place, we actually can’t do our jobs safely,” he says. “We initially thought we’d be closing down so prepared ourselves, until we were then told we were an essential service at which point I offered my team the option to stay on or take time to remain home with family.”

What about government subsidies?

When it comes to government help, the lines are blurry here too. “We’re finding out every day that the small business funding they have been talking about to support small business is not really happening and that the only thing offered is some tax relief and that there isn’t enough funding to help keep our small businesses alive during the closure,” says Pulitano. “We have had our business for 20 years, this is everything to us.”

Whereas Monique McMahon, founder of Darlinghurst’s boutique salon Que Colour, is relieved to hear about the new small business subsidies. “Social distancing has deeply affected our business as we are such a close-contact industry. To allow for the four metre ruling, I’ve had to minimise the number of staff working at any one time and the result of this on my business is that I’ve had to stand down most of my team ,and my client intake has taken a hit,” she says.

“I think the new subsidies are great. They allows us to hold onto our staff for longer than we could have done otherwise, and it gives them job security that their position will be open when normal business resumes. The sooner it comes in, the better – for everyone. It allows us to push forward with our brands and business, so we don’t feel like we’re on pause during this time. We will be able to swing our doors open as soon as this is over.”

The bottom line

“What we really want and need is just one clear message,” says Scandizzo. “We just need the government to really think about this and the advisors to our Prime Minister to get a straight message out there. For me and a lot of other hairdressers, it doesn’t make sense for us to remain open… The one key message we are as a community receiving is ‘social distancing’ and yet you’re allowing people to come in and sit in front of us.”

“We’ve got a responsibility to salon owners and staff to keep the health and safety of everyone but at the same time. We know the government is trying to keep the economy afloat and we don’t want that to suffer, either. I’d love the government to listen to all the hairdressers who are in the firing line at the moment. It’s putting my family, my staff and the wider communities health at risk.”

More essential coronavirus reading:

Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.