22 Salon Republic locations in California. 40,000+ Licensed Beauty Professionals. 6 Weeks of Reopening post-Covid. 0 Covid cases. While these numbers look optimistic, the beauty industry is suffering the most devastating losses in its traceable history.
Over six hundred thousand licensed cosmetologists, barbers, aestheticians, and nail technicians are unable to operate under the new California guidelines imposed by Governor Newsom. And over 50,000 salons have been forced to close down due to the unreasonable mandates made by local government. On Friday August 28, however, California announced a new color-coded tier system to track the latest COVID-19 trends across California counties, which lays down the framework for additional businesses, including nail and hair salons, to reopen across Southern California.
After an abrupt first closure in March 2020 as COVID-19 swept the United States, the professional beauty industry was shook. While boasting over 1600+ hours of education to obtain a license, CA requires licensees to be competent in disinfection, sanitation, cross contamination, AND cutting hair! Few other industries are as prepared to handle this sort of pandemic as well, and as safely, as the licensed beauty professionals. By licensed comparison, the only other industry to require such strict sanitation licensing is, in fact, the medical professions.
Some counties in California, like Los Angeles, were able to reopen safely in the beginning of June, while other counties, like the San Francisco area, are approaching 6 months of continuous shut down. Salons implementing new CDC safety protocols and guidelines, were allowed to open with restrictions which included face coverings and shields, plexiglass dividers between stations, temperature taking, and no double booking clients. Many salons have even utilized new salon software and technology, like AURA Salonware, which allows for client self check-in and even self check out and contactless payment. Despite following new protocols, and even tracking covid cases, not more than 6 weeks later, California salons were mandated to shutdown for a second time, due to an alleged spike in the virus in California. Minimal efforts were made to either accommodate or support the beauty industry. One such example even suggested hairstylists and nail technicians to work outdoors, which creates more problems than it solves, and in fact, is much more unsafe and far more unsanitary.
Eric Taylor, owner of Salon Republic, social activist, and advocate for all beauty professionals, stated, “California’s biased judgment and refusal to see the data and science specific to the salon industry that proves salons are not contributing to the spread of Covid, are devastating the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard working beauty professionals, 90% of whom are female, many single moms and heads of household; a financially vulnerable and indispensable population is being willfully pushed below the poverty line.”
Here are three alarming facts you may not know about COVID and the beauty industry;
▶ No government health officials contacted our salons or any other salon owners we know of asking how many infections occurred in salons. However, our industry compiled the data ourselves. Across salons housing over 40,000 beauty professionals, the infection rate is 0.003%.
▶ Other hotspot states, such as Texas and Florida, did not close salons a second time, and with all of their salons open, their Covid numbers are falling faster than California’s.
▶ The CDC conducted an exhaustive report on the two covid positive Missouri hairstylists who didn’t infect any of their 139 clients. Their conclusion was an endorsement that the new protocols within salons make them safe for clients and beauty professionals to operate inside.
Despite all data and evidence to the contrary, California remains the only state amongst 50 that contradicts the CDC’s findings and insists on a causal link between Covid numbers and hair salons. With an industry in outrage, and after many socially responsible protests organized by stylists, many salon owners in California staged a peaceful and respectful, and above all, safe, defiant reopening on August 17 2020. While defying the imposed laws, opening and working safely within the new protocols became many people’s only choice in order to recoup personal and professional lost expenses, and begin making money since unemployment support is unsustainable and unreliable.
Among many of the salons participating in the defiant but safe reopening on August 17, was Ted Gibson and Jason Backe, owner of Starring by Ted Gibson Salon in Los Angeles. Within mere hours of a safe reopening, local law enforcement arrived in their salon and continued to issue a misdemeanor violation claiming they were “breaking an enforceable ruling”. The fine for this misdemeanor has yet to be determined. As Gibson and his staff take a stand for the beauty professionals, they also face continued harassment from the state. Later that week, representatives from the LA Mayor’s office also showed up at Starring, however they weren’t allowed in since Starring is strictly enforcing their socially responsible practices by not allowing anyone in the salon who doesn’t have an appointment.
“As an industry that is often overlooked, we will not be overlooked anymore! We are licensed in sanitation, anatomy and physiology. We are opening Starring by Ted Gibson because we will not let ours, and other small businesses die!” A powerful statement by Gibson on his choice to reopen.
The message from the beauty industry is clear; WE WANT TO WORK. This is not an industry that looks for hand-outs, this is an industry of proactive professionals who are licensed BY THE GOVERNMENT to work safely and who demand to be counted.
Barber Society LA’s founder and industry powerhouse, Lu Garcia Reynoso, is one of the activists we caught up with at her socially distant, and socially responsible industry gathering at the drive-in movies in Torrance, CA. “Barbering is how I fulfill my purpose, this is how I serve my community,” Reynoso passionately shares of the industry which is her livelihood. The drive-in meetup also featured keynote speaker Fred Jones, legal counsel of the Professional Beauty Federation of California. In a statement released on August 6 by Jones, he clearly spells out the situation in California and shows facts and supporting data, with a reasonable plan of action: “It is ironic that a private trade association is more invested in preserving the integrity and relevance of our state license and protecting California consumers than our state’s chief executive… We have been very active in trying to get our so-called “non-essential” businesses back into safe operations since May,” Fred Jones, PBFC Counsel states passionately. He continued to explain the effects of the governments decisions, “Unfortunately the result of these on-again/off-again/partial shutdowns has caused a huge rise in bankruptcies and an even larger percentage of underground services. Neither are acceptable outcomes for the PBFC, who’s sole mission is to raise the professionalism of the barbering/beauty industry.”
On Friday August 28, however, California announced a new color-coded tier system to track the latest COVID-19 trends across California counties, which lays down the framework for additional businesses, including nail and hair salons, to reopen across Southern California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said 38 counties, which are home to 87% of the state’s population, are in the Purple tier, which signifies COVID-19 is still considered “widespread.” Unfortunately, Los Angeles county is one of many counties STILL unable to open. Despite the state guidelines authorizing their reopening, Los Angeles County officials said Friday the current local health order does not permit indoor operations for nail salons and limited capacity opening of indoor shopping malls.
“As such, since County orders may be more restrictive than State guidance, all current restrictions remain in place until the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Board of Supervisors have an opportunity to review the suggested guidance from the State and take actions that are appropriate for our County,” officials said in a statement.
While the future of the professional beauty industry remains questionable at best, what’s clear is the social impact and economic contribution the professional beauty industry creates in every community. Standing united with purpose, licensed beauty professionals everywhere are actively fighting for their right to work safely.
To help the beauty industry during this wild time, the Professional Beauty Federation of California has created a legal fund to help beauty professionals. For more information on how to help California get back to work, please visit: www.beautyfederation.org/donate
- By Beyond Beauty School, Julz Coda, Liz Diaz, Mikee Castaneda
- Photos provided by Salon Republic