For months, you’ve been taking care of your hair yourself, but now you can finally visit a hair salon and have someone do all the work for you – just like the good ol’ days. But this time, it’s nothing like it was before… and you need to be careful.
For some, the thought of visiting a salon right now is inconceivable, while for others, the thought of having to do one more treatment yourself is not an option. If the latter is you, then the best thing to do is to make sure you’re clued up on exactly how you’re going to stay safe in a salon environment, and how to determine if that (specific) salon itself is a safe one for you to be in.
Here are a couple of things you can do, and watch out for, to stay safe and reduce your chances of getting COVID-19:
Know the hotspots
While you might be loyal to one particular establishment, because the COVID-19 spread is more vicious than ever before in South Africa, it’s advisable and worthwhile for you to get to know the hotspot areas around you, and opt for an establishment that isn’t in those high-risk zones.
Wear a mask
The number one rule you need to adhere to as a customer – and for your safety – is to wear a mask. Several studies have shown how effective wearing a mask is in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. One study, done by researchers from Texas A&M University, found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chance of being infected by the virus.
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“Our study establishes very clearly that using a face mask is not only useful to prevent infected coughing droplets from reaching uninfected persons, but is also crucial for the minute atmospheric particles that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes,” Prof. Mario Molina, co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Also, it’s a government-issued instruction… so there’s that too.
Sanitisation is key
The first thing you need to look out for in any personal care service is whether they provide sanitising agents for customers and that they disinfect everything in the salon regularly. Make sure that:
- A salon has hand-washing stations for customers before they enter and exit the business premises.
- The stylist washes/sanitises hands before and after serving a client, and after handling cash.
- Common areas in the salon are disinfected before and after each customer is served.
- Each piece of equipment is sanitised before and after each use.
- All bottles with products are wiped down with a sanitiser (70% alcohol solution) after serving each customer.
- Fresh, clean towels are used for each customer.
All of these are outlined by the government and are a requirement for every hair salon.
Your stylist must wear a face shield
Over and above wearing a mask, the government regulations explicitly state that “the stylist must also wear a face shield/visor that must be cleaned after serving each customer.” The same guideline also adds that stylists must change their aprons after serving each customer and they can only re-use an apron after it has been washed with water and soap.
Make sure the salon you’re planning to go to follows these guidelines, and consider another establishment if this isn’t the case.
Social distancing still matters
All salons must adhere to the social distancing protocol inside the salon. This doesn’t apply to the stylist who will be working on your hair (unless it’s Elastigirl a.k.a. Mrs. Incredible herself!), but workstations need to be arranged to be at least 1.5 metres apart. If this isn’t the case, then there should be cleanable partitions used to separate workstations.
Ask the right questions when booking
When you’re booking your appointment, use that time to ask the salon about the precautionary measures they’ve put in place. This is a great way to, first of all, see how clearly and confidently the person on the line can outline their prevention strategies, and whether they meet the standards for your safety as a customer.
Spend as little time as possible in the salon
More and more evidence is beginning to show that the time spent in an environment possibly exposing you to COVID-19 plays a role in the transmission of the virus.
In an interview with , comparative immunologist Erin Bromage explains this.
“The longer time you spend in that environment – so the minutes or hours in there – the more virus you breathe in, and the more it can build up and then establish infection,” Prof. Bromage said. “It’s always a balance of exposure and time. If you get a high level of exposure, it’s a short time (to infection), and if you get a low level of exposure, it’s a longer time before that infection can establish.”
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With this in mind, it’s important to think about which hairstyle/treatment will take the least time and rather opt for that. Another option is to prep your hair for the style/treatment while you’re at home – so you don’t need to spend more time in the salon on that. This could include washing your hair or blowing it out yourself at home just before your salon appointment.
This said, it’s worth noting that there still isn’t enough precise data to know exactly how much exposure and time are needed for an infection – this is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Data is insufficient to precisely define the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure. Brief interactions are less likely to result in transmission; however, symptoms and the type of interaction remain important,” the CDC says.
More than anything, you should know that leaving your house to go and sit in an environment with people that are in and out all day does increase your risk of getting infected with COVID-19. But if you follow the correct protocol and are in an environment that does the same, then you’ve acted as responsibly as you can, in that circumstance, for yourself and others.