By Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press
When hair stylist Lisa Vernaus went back to work Monday for the first time in seven weeks, she was hopeful she wouldn’t have to fix too many DIY makeovers.
Vernaus had been fielding text messages from clients since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down her Winnipeg businesses in March, and she tried to dissuade each of them from any risky tinkering with their quarantine locks.
That pleading seems to have worked — on most of her clients anyway.
“I had one men’s cut where he attempted to cut his hair himself but only got halfway through and just decided to wear a hat instead,” Vernaus said with a laugh.
“He was pretty embarrassed but we fixed it easily.”
Vernaus, who works at Rehab for Hair and owns her own small business called Hair by Lisa Nicole, is one of many Manitoba stylists allowed back to work Monday as part of the province’s first phase of re-opening businesses.
Manitoba hasn’t been as hard hit by the novel coronavirus as other parts of the country. The province had a total of 282 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, including seven deaths and 238 resolved.
Still, some salons are taking more time before re-opening.
Shian Bear, who works at Be You-nique in Winnipeg, says her salon needs to ensure it can get necessary cleaning products and masks for stylists and clients before it hopes to open its doors May 19.
Lisa Anderson of the Winnipeg-based CJ Hair and Spa, meanwhile, added logistics of scheduling as another reason her salon will be closed until May 15.
For salons already opened — and those soon to join them — it won’t be business as usual.
Stylists and clients are encouraged to wear masks at all times, work spaces need to be sanitized after each service, and normal staff hours are being reduced to ensure less bodies are in a salon at once.
“We’ve moved our stations around so there’s probably only two clients and two stylists at either ends of the shop,” Bear said. “And we’re disinfecting everything, booking half an hour after each client to properly sanitize shears, chairs, trolleys, sinks, debit machines — basically anything that’s touched.”
Vernaus said she was worried initially about re-opening this week, wondering if she would be able to secure cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment on such short notice.
“I wouldn’t have opened if I wasn’t able to get the PPE,” she said. “But I got what I need so I’m confident now.”
Vernaus is sending a long list of safety measures to clients before their appointments. They’re asked not to bring anyone with them to the salon and to leave jackets or backpacks in their cars.
Stylists are also making some of their services optional, like blow drying hair after a cut, to reduce the amount of time spent on each appointment.
Anderson, whose mother has metastatic cancer, said there’s “absolutely” hesitation in going back to work too quickly.
“You really can’t social distance when you get your hair done,” she said. “It’s such a personal experience.”
The financial incentives also aren’t great right now, said Anderson, who estimates she’ll take home just $100 per week with the limited clients she’ll be able to see.
Anderson and Bear have both decided to remove beard trimming from their services to avoid being too close to clients’ faces.
While hair stylists can make that call, barbers can’t.
Dan Potenza, a managing partner of Winnipeg’s Aura Hair Group, which owns two barbershops and three salons in the city, said he’s not too concerned about that though.
“We do have masks for (the barbers) and we do pre-screen every client before booking, that’s one of the biggest (safety precautions) in place,” said Potenza, who opened all five of his locations Monday.
“If they don’t have any COVID symptoms, or they haven’t had any, we will book them in. So I don’t think we’ll have any issue with that.”
Potenza also doesn’t expect to see too many DIY mishaps from his clientele.
“It doesn’t get too crazy on the barbershop side,” he said. “Everyone is just really, really shaggy.”
Anderson, meanwhile, is excited to fix her first hair disaster.
She said typical mishaps for women include using too dark a hair dye, while men often don’t realize they need to put a guard on their clippers.
“It’s like: ‘no sweetheart, you need to start long to short,” she said with a laugh. “But DIY fixes are my favourite. I love a challenge.”
Bear said uneven cuts are easy enough to fix. It’s the bad colour jobs that can be tricky.
“A few of them have messaged me like: ‘I have to cut my bangs,’ or ‘my hair was getting too long so I trimmed it myself.’ And it’s like OK, fine,” she said. “But I don’t think any of my clients have tried any DIY colours — knock on wood.”