Nancy Vo boldy decided to quit her job at a Los Angeles salon to open her own back in March. But days before her grand opening, California shut down in an effort to combat the spread of.
Vo has scrambled since then to stay connected to clients, holding virtual hair tutorials and dropping shampoo off on her clients' front porches.
Now, after two months of financial losses, Vo and other beauty industry professionals nationwide are starting to get back to work or planning to reopen soon. But some say they fear the health risks of seeing clients, as well as further financial strain and a possibleof infections.
"The uncertainty of the future is extremely scary," she said. "With the first round of COVID-19, our livelihoods disappeared overnight. We stylists work on people every day. We live paycheck to paycheck. I don't think I can last if we shut down again. I don't know where my future will go."
"These are clients that I'm losing"
Stylist Erica Franklin runs a mobile beauty salon in Chicago that primarily services children. With her business taking a hit due to statewide closures of non-essential businesses, she has been forced to tap into her life savings to pay her bills.
She worries that even when Illinois opens back up, many parents will be reluctant to have her come to their homes. She's also nervous about staying healthy and the availability of masks and gloves.
"I am worried about getting back to work," she said. "Will I find gloves or the number of masks that I'll need? Will parents let me back in their homes?"
"I have clients who lost their jobs during the pandemic. So since they've lost their jobs, their child's hair will not be a priority for them. These are clients that I'm losing," Franklin said.
"My fear is keeping the pulse in my freelance business"
Ardree Merriweather, the lead educator of Drybar's Los Angeles shops and a freelance stylist working with television shows and films in the city, is feeling financial strain as productions in Hollywood have come to a halt. He says he will have to raise his prices going forward – after losing two months of income and having to now factor in a budget for personal protective equipment (PPE).
"My PPE budget costs will go up by hundreds of dollars," he said. "I want to make sure everything is disposable. I will also provide masks for my clients. This will be a part of my service. I will likely have to add an additional $5."
Merriweather is also concerned about what the fall and winter months could hold.
"My fear is keeping the pulse in my freelance business. Working on movies and TV shows is my brand. If things shut down again, it will be a hassle. I'll have to figure out ways to earn new income," he said.
"An unavoidable possibility"
The spring and summer months are typically huge income generators for beauty professionals. But with graduations, proms and weddings being either canceled or postponed, many stylists have lost their primary source of income.
"I have a few weddings on the books that had to move because of COVID-19," said Brandi Myree, who owns an eyebrow waxing bar and grooming service near Detroit. "Thank God the brides have not asked for the deposits back."
Out of an abundance of caution, Myree closed her shop before Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order in March.
While many salon owners plan to increase costs of their services when they reopen, Myree wants to try to avoid that.
"I just don't think it's fair to put that burden on my clients. We are still in a pandemic. People have lost their jobs. Honestly, people are just scared. We cannot raise prices on our customers and expect the economy to get back going again."
"Of course, I may be singing a different tune in a few months," she added.
Myree is eager to reopen, but knows that the pandemic is far from over.
She said contracting COVID-19 remains "an unavoidable possibility" going forward.