You Might Be Able To Get A Haircut Sooner Than You Think, But That Still Doesn't Mean You Should Just Yet

  • Five states in the U.S. have already reopened hair salons, some with restrictions and guidelines in place.
  • Hair appointments are generally still a no-go in most places, as being in close contact with your stylist puts you both at risk of spreading novel coronavirus.

    With the majority of the United States still under stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, many folks are very overdue for haircuts and styling appointments. Yup, this can make for some unruly split ends, fading color, and even self-styled “corona cuts” in desperate times. If you’re craving professional help to touch up your roots or you’ve got the sudden urge to go get bangs out of pure boredom, you might be Googling: When can I get a haircut again?

    Read on for everything you need to know about when you’ll finally be able to head into your local hair salon, plus how to keep yourself and your hairstylist as safe as possible when you do. Depending on where you live, it might be sooner than you think (so drop the scissors, sis).

    Remind me, why are haircuts off limits right now?

    Businesses are either considered essential or non-essential right now, meaning they are either essential to keeping the state and country running or not. Essential businesses generally include things like grocery stores, gas stations, businesses that provide mailing services, and hospitals—and technically it is up for individual states and cities to determine what businesses fall under which category. Hair salons and barber shops have pretty much been considered non-essential across the board, though.

    Getting your haircut is also risky for your health and the health of those around you. Remember: Novel coronavirus is primarily spread via respiratory droplets traveling from an infected person to another individual, generally within a 6-foot distance. So being in close proximity with someone, like your hair stylist, puts you both at risk if one of you is positive for the virus. (And you might be even if you don’t know it, if you’re asymptomatic.)

    “Even if you do all the right things like wash your hands and wear a face mask, the amount of time you’re spending in close contact with someone is the key factor for transmitting this infection,” says Sandra Kesh, MD, an infectious disease specialist and deputy medical director at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, New York.

    Unfortunately, you’re never 100 percent protected by a face mask, which is why social distancing with the 6-feet rule is your safest bet for now. “Unless you have a hairdresser with very long arms, that isn’t happening,” says Dr. Kesh.

    The big question: When can I get a haircut again?

    That depends on where you live, what your idea of a safe-enough haircut is, and what your local government decides to do, says Paul Meechan, PhD, a biosafety consultant and former director of the Office of Safety, Health, and Environment at the CDC.

    Sixteen states, including Colorado, Florida, and South Carolina, plan on reopening non-essential businesses like hair salons in the next few weeks, while many others like New York, California, and Illinois are extending their stay-at-home orders or reopening in gradual phases.

    At the time of publication, these are the states that are already technically open for haircuts:

    • In Alaska, hair salons are open for business, but they’re urged to follow guidelines from health officials.
    • Georgia has reopened salons and other non-essential businesses like gyms and tattoo parlors, though some salon owners have opted to remain closed.
    • Maryland salons have reopened—but only for essential workers whose jobs require grooming, and cuts are given one at a time with face coverings. For example, if a first responder or military personnel requires grooming to meet grooming standards established by their employer, they are allowed to do so.
    • Montana salons are open for business.
    • Oklahoma salons are open in some areas.

    Really, whether or not you head to your hair salon or call up your hair stylist for an at-home appointment (more on that next) as soon as stay-at-home orders are lifted in your area is a personal decision.

    Keep in mind that until the U.S. has antibody testing at the level needed to assess whether the masses have immunity to the novel coronavirus (and until experts are sure these tests *actually* tell you whether you’ve developed an immunity that keeps you safe from re-infection with COVID-19), you *are* taking a risk, says Dr. Kesh. Do your research to make an informed decision that’s right for you, she suggests.

    Would it be dangerous to have my stylist come to my home?

    Until it’s deemed safe to stop social distancing and gather with others, yes, it would be dangerous. Again, getting a haircut—no matter where you get it—is the opposite of social distancing. This puts you, your hairstylist, and whoever you live with at risk, from your partner or roommate to your entire apartment building.

    Even if you and your hairstylist feel perfectly fine, as many as 25 percent of people infected with COVID-19 might have no symptoms of the virus whatsoever but could still pass it on to other people, according to Robert Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Meechan says that the person taking the greatest risk would be your hairstylist, as they have to travel from their home to you and expose themselves to your entire household. Mallorie Clark, a licensed hairstylist who works at Great Clips in Knoxville, Tennessee, says she’s had many clients basically beg for at-home haircuts since her area locked down—but she has to say no. “Hairstylists are people. We miss our clients and conversations. But some stylists, like me, have health issues that make us more susceptible to contracting the virus, and my biggest concern is taking it home to my kids,” Clark explains.

    Clark and her children are at an increased risk of catching the novel coronavirus and developing complications from the disease due to pre-existing health conditions. Beyond their own safety concerns, Clark and many other hairstylists don’t have barbicide or other state board-approved cleaners or containers at home anyway—which they’re required to use, she notes.

    When I’m allowed to see my stylist, how can we go about the appointment safely?

    Some salons that have already opened are taking extra precautions, such as regularly disinfecting surfaces, having stylists and customers wear masks and gloves, spacing out work stations, skipping blow drying to shorten appointment times, and keeping hand sanitizer in stock. Clark’s franchise has plans to provide plastic face shields, masks, and gloves for each stylist and customer and install Plexiglas barriers at the checkout counter.

    When you get the all-clear in your area, there are a few ways you can keep yourself and your hairstylist as safe as possible.

    • Carefully wash your hands before and after your appointment.
    • Wear a high-quality cloth face mask and eye covering such as sunglasses upon entering your appointment and during as much as you can, says Dr. Kesh. (Obviously, if eye covering interferes with the cut, you can remove it when need be.)
    • If you and your hairstylist arrange an at-home appointment, isolate the two of you to an area you have cleaned and disinfected, and ask that additional members of your household do not enter while the stylist is present, advises Meechan.

    While you’re best off keeping your appointment quick, there’s no need to limit chitchat—and social connection is something we’re all in need of right now, adds Meechan.

    Ultimately, your safest and most responsible choice right now is to wait it out.

    It’s hard being stuck at home, and everyone wishes they could be the exception to social distancing, but it only works if we all do our part. In the meantime, consider creative alternatives like video chatting with your stylist for a guided haircut or at-home coloring session.

    Or, as Clark suggests, just hang tight. “It can be really difficult to fix a botched haircut, and it may take longer than your stay-at-home order to grow it out,” she says. Throwing your hair up in a messy bun or taming it with a cute headband can help keep your hair off your mind, she says. And remember: We’re all in this crisis together.

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