Beauty and the Beast: How Safe is Your Salon Experience During COVID-19?

Stylists in masks, prior appointments and contact-less payments are part of the new safety protocols.

Suman Mahfuz Quazi

If you’ve glanced at yourself in the mirror lately and caught a Yeti staring back, you’ll love this piece of news. Beauty parlours and salons are now open in Mumbai, following the lead from Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata, as part of the Maharashtra government’s Mission Begin Again to reopen businesses, that brings with it a few more relaxations and a semblance of normalcy. With COVID-19 protocols in play, getting your hair and nails done might never go back to the way it was.

In a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office, it was mentioned that salons will be allowed to open their doors to customers on June 28, 2020, after a three-month hiatus. This means you can finally get that much-needed trim once again, book your mani-pedi and waxing appointments. But you will perhaps not be able to get that special facial just yet. 

The addendum on safety guidelines includes conditions like, the revival of only select services, such as haircut, dyeing hair, waxing and threading, with a stay on all skin-related services. The notice also requires salons and barbershops to sanitise their equipment and seating periodically, compulsory protective gear for staff, use of disposable towels and napkins and a notice to be displayed outside the shop/outlet outlining safety guidelines for the benefit of the customer. 

We called up a couple of parlours, salon chains and independent studios in Mumbai to get the finger on the pulse and below are the steps your favourite salon is taking to ensure the new salon and spa experience is safe and hygienic.

Safety comes first 

“We have put a new Safety Manual into action, equipping our salons with the best sanitisation methods, industry-approved PPE gear including capes, masks, gloves and shoe covers, stringent safety manuals and strict code of conduct for employees and clients. We have sourced efficacious single-use service kits for most of the services and are inculcating contactless payment and greetings,” said Samir Srivastav, CEO, Jean Claude Biguine Salons India, which is present in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune. Additionally, JCB has also put in place deep disinfection of high-touch points, tools and equipment, mandatory temperature/health checks, use of Aarogya Setu App and reduced appointments to avoid over-crowding.

These protocols are also being followed by popular Mumbai salons, such as Enrich and Lakme. Enrich’s outlet in Four Bungalows, for example, confirmed that they were taking only four appointments at a time and staff capacity had been slashed by 50 per cent (9 including the manager, instead of 18, working on rotation). At Kaya Skin Clinic, high-level safety measures such as a UV Type C light with an energy of 280 to 100 nanometers, which kills 99 per cent germs and bacteria and has been known to be effective on viruses like SARS, is being used to sanitise the premises, Rajiv Nair, group-CEO of the skincare company, said. 

“Normally, we have five stylists and five additional staffers, including the receptionists, interns and helpers. So, to avoid crowding, we’re following a rotation system, where we now stay open for seven days, instead of six, from 9 am to 5 pm, divided into two shifts. We have also reduced the number of seats from five to two at a time,” explains Avani Yashwin, owner of popular Bandra hair studio, Happy in the Head. Yashwin has also arranged for a mist-sanitiser for customers.

The other standard rule being followed at all these parlours is mandatory contactless payment via E-wallets, PayTM, GPay and others. 

Please share your location 

All salons LF spoke to, confirmed that they were only taking in customers who had pre-booked appointments at least a day in advance, and not entertaining walk-ins. Does this mean you need to wait another week till you can finally get your eyebrows shaped? Perhaps. Srivastav clarified that the situation varies with location. In Bengaluru, for instance, things were chaotic when they opened in mid-May, but now, with the first rush having calmed, appointments might be easier to get. 

This applies on the micro level as well. So, it might be easier for you to get an appointment in a JCB in South Mumbai than say, in Bandra. Nair echoed this when he confirmed that an internal analytics team at Kaya Clinic, plus reports from their outlets across India, showed that the demand was higher in Tier-II cities, like Lucknow and Punjab, and Noida than in Delhi. “The fear seems to be stronger in big cities, like Delhi, though we got a good response in Bengaluru,” he added. 

Call your regular salon well in advance or avail of online beauty parlour bookings for good measure!

What’s allowed and what’s not 

  • The safety guidelines outlined by the Maharashtra government’s Mission Begin Again states:
  • Barbershops, salons and beauty parlours to open from June 28 with restricted entry, with prior appointments only and the following conditions:
  • Only select services such as haircuts, dyeing hair, waxing, threading, etc allowed. Skin related services will not be permitted presently. This should be prominently displayed on the shop.
  • Employees must wear protective gear including gloves, aprons and masks.
  • All workspace (chair) must be sanitised after each service. All common areas and floors must be sanitized after every two hours. 
  • Disposable towels/napkins must be used on customers. Non disposable equipment should be sanitised and sterilised after each service. 
  • Each shop will put a notice on all precautions above for the information of customers. 

As per this mandate, all skin-related services are to be suspended. As such, most salons have a blanket rule of no facials. Speaking for JCB, Srivastav said, “We have sourced waterless manicure and pedicure from Brazil that comes with a single-use kit of disposable tools, cream-based moisturising gloves and boots ideal for observing cleanliness and hygiene. Our waxing services, too, make use of single-use cartridge wax and disposable service kits. We are temporarily discontinuing facials, massages, nail bar and other spa services that require close contact.”

Enrich confirmed that in addition to the discontinuation of facials and massages, they have also put a stay on face-beard trims. But if you think your lady luck needs a bikini wax, this salon will comply!

For hair studios like Happy in the Head, things are simpler, seeing that all hair services are allowed and relatively safe. “We are not allowing customers to stay for long periods of time,” Yashwin clarified, adding that if your colouring job calls for bleaching and colouring, it is possible that you have to go in for two separate sittings. 

For skin clinics, such as Kaya Clinic, the waters were initially murky, since the government disallowed skin-related services. But they will be opening their outlets in a staggered manner, offering all injection and machine-related services, such as pigmentation or laser hair removal, but will keep facial services suspended. “We have opened some outlets in Bengaluru, Delhi, Lucknow and Punjab and have started taking appointments for Mumbai. So, we’re gunning for July 1 or soon after, where we will open six of the 12 clinics in the city, mostly in the western and eastern suburbs of Mumbai,” he revealed. 

It all comes at a price 

The new safety guidelines, however, means that operational costs have gone up at a time when income is anyway low with reduced capacity. Expect charges to be slightly higher than usual for your grooming services across salons in Mumbai. At Happy in the Head, you have to pay an additional Rs200 meant to cover the disposable protective gear they will provide. JCB has hiked prices by 15 per cent and at Enrich you have to buy your protective kit for Rs170 and bear an additional Rs70 cost for other expenses being incurred by the salon for each visit. 

At Meraki, a standalone parlour in Khar West, customers will be charged Rs250 if they already have masks and gloves or Rs350 for the whole set. “Most of our equipment is for one-time use only and disposable. So, the services are priced as usual because we realise that this is an economically challenging time for many. But the nominal charge to cover the cost of the safety kit was necessary,” shared business head, Sana Vora. 

Are we ready for salons?

Despite all the relatable memes around waxing and haircuts, the reaction to salons opening has been mixed, with many still harbouring the fear of venturing out, particularly in Mumbai, where cases are rising a dime a dozen. “People have been longing to get back to a salon, but many are scared. We have no choice but to accept this as the only way ahead,” Vora weighed in. Nair added that Kaya Clinics’ outlets inside Delhi malls were practically stranded and they are expecting a lukewarm opening in Mumbai, too. 

Happy in the Head, on the other hand, has seen a decent response with their bookings being filled to 80 per cent in the first two days. JCB, too, catered to 450 customers across six outlets on June 28, the day it opened. Even so, with reduced capacity – both in terms of customers and employees available to cater to patrons – that number is much lower than usual. Are we ready to deal with those horrible split ends just a wee bit longer for the safety of our health? Think most would agree.

To that end, home services might be a veritable option for the future and an arena brands like JCB and Enrich are already foraying into. “Superior safety and hygiene measures are being adopted as we plan a bigger, better and safer salon experience with JCB Home Services with salon experts,” Srivastav shared, adding that they’re looking at marketing at-home services more aggressively. You can also book at-home services for Enrich via their central helpline or website.  

Can a parlour sesh at home make up for the indulgent experience at a salon or revive the warm relationship you share with your waxing-and-massage didi who comes home on fortnightly Sundays or the young girl at your neighbourhood salon? Who knows!

Images: JCB, Kaya Clinic and Lakme Salon


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