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Headed To The Hair Salon During COVID? Here’s What To Expect

Salon owners weigh in on what your next visit might look like, and how things might look for a very long time.

Although COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, with the U.S. accounting for a record-breaking number of cases in the world, hair salons among other things were re-opened during the past month. But before you bolt out, ready to get your roots done or get that haircut you’ve been yearning for but were too afraid to do yourself (despite the countless YouTube tutorials, let's be honest), you should know what to expect from your first appointment.

Several aspects of the world that were considered “normal” have changed, and going to a hair salon will be no different. For the foreseeable future, face masks, distanced seating, heavy sanitizing, and temperature checks are all part of the novel salon-going experience.

To understand what that’ll look like in reality, we spoke to salon owners and stylists from around the country who shed light on new policies and changes for welcoming customers into their studios.

Appointments Will Be Necessary — And With Little Leeway

As salons operate at minimal capacity and adapt social distancing measures, appointments too are scarce. And given that most of us have been sitting for months in quarantine, waiting to have a professional transform our hair, you can expect book an appointment further out than you might have planned or hoped for.

Manhattan-based Butterfly Studios has scrapped its long-standing 15-minute grace period temporarily, which means that customers will have to be exactly on time to avoid “any excess bodies in the salon at one time.” This sentiment is consistent throughout most salon opening plans, especially in major cities across the country. According to Brooklyn's Headchop Studio, being five to 10 minutes late for an appointment may result in having to reschedule.

Don't Expect The Same Complimentary Services

There are also new rules for the formerly bustling waiting lounge. “Pre-COVID-19, our clients had many opportunities to roam and lounge around the salon on their own,” say Butterfly Studios founder Kattia Solano and manager Adlin Palencia. “They would have lunch in our waiting area, invite their friends to hang out during their appointment, and enjoy complimentary beverages. Our waiting area is closed. Instead clients will be guided to their station as soon as they are settled (hands clean and personal items in the provided bag).”

Celebrity colorist Rita Hazan’s New York salons will also mandate similar waiting arrangements. “Clients can expect to come right at their appointment time and be seen right away with very minimal wait time,” Hazan told NYLON.

Over at Michelle Cleveland’s New Jersey-based Hair Addict Salons, the measures employed are even stricter in many ways. “We've tried to simplify it as much as possible by preparing our clients in advance through emails and text messages prior to their arrival,” Cleveland says. “We ask that all guests check in on their mobiles from the comfort of their vehicle and await a text reply from their stylists letting them know their chair is sanitized, disinfected and ready for their arrival.”

You Have To Wear A Mask

This shouldn't come as a shock, but it's worth reiterating that a majority of studios and salons are making masks a required part of service. This doesn't just mean when you walk in either — guests and the staff are expected to wear masks throughout the entirety of their visit.

More Safety Measures During Your Appointment

Beyond the pre-appointment process and temperature checks, most salons will be operating at 50 percent of their former capacity with additional sanitization protocols.

“We’re always safe and sanitation is always a priority, but now we’re operating under completely heightened safety and sanitation protocols,” Scott Buchanan, owner of Scott J Aveda Salons across Manhattan, tells NYLON. “We are using UV sanitizers on everything, including the credit card machine every time it is used, and hairdressers have two sets of tools so that one set is always being sanitized while the other set is in use.”

He adds that at all times, the chairs will be kept 6 feet apart, including those set outside for the guests to wait. “Every hairdresser is doing one guest at a time, so the client’s whole experience is with that hairdresser from start to finish, which is completely different,” he says. “To cut down on time spent in the salon and additional contact, we are currently not offering value-added services, like blow drys (will hopefully come back in a week or two), like beverage service, stress-relieving shampoo treatments, or lipstick touch-ups.”

Payment and Tip Will Be Primarily Contactless

In addition to the actual services, the checkout process at many salons now is completely contactless, meaning once you're done, you'll either be asked to pay by card added on file before the appointment or you'll be sent a link to your phone where you can pay for the service and gratuity online. Many salons are also noting mobile payment services like Venmo and Cash App as a preferred tip method.

Salons May Operate Like This A Lot Longer Than You Think

Like most things, the salon experience probably won't ever go back to the way it was before COVID. These measures may make things inconvenient, but they're more necessary than ever, with responsible salon owners everywhere making sure that these policies are observed in their fullest extent. Some even believe these changes aren't temporary and mark a definite shift in the salon-going experience.

“To be honest, a lot of what you're seeing happening is indicative of what the future of salons will be like as we move forward through the post-COVID era," says Cleveland. “With the exception of the face coverings and temperature checks, I truly believe that the average guest prefers most of the changes such as 1:1 servicing, mobile check-ins and one-touch checkout. It's pretty much the future for all sales and servicing.”