The Black (Beauty) Market: Hairdressers and Beauticians Face Crackdown on Illegal Appoinments

Industry officials have called for tighter regulations to combat ‘backstreet’ barbers, hairdressers and beauticians that have continued to offer appointments during lockdown, but many business owners and their clientele insist services should resume. Despite some easing of the lockdown in the UK, the beauty industry continues to face closure.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed last week that while schools, garden centres, recycling sites and some small shops will re-open from June 1st or earlier, hairdressers and beauticians will have to wait until the next phase of lockdown.

Facing yet more months of disruption, a petition requesting an earlier date for re-opening has achieved over 4,000 signatures, reflecting the frustrations of clients and professionals alike. The government’s decision to keep the beauty industry closed, which has been deemed ‘non-essential’, is based on concern that treatments often require close contact for extended periods, and therefore put both workers and customers at risk.
Although staying open to the public risks potentially unlimited fines and even permanent closure, some salon owners have secretly re-opened to a private list of clients. This is partly the result of financial pressures, as there’s a fear of losing a client base if their competitors resume practice, and from the perception that ongoing restrictions are unreasonable if beauticians can comply with hygiene standards.
Customers have proved equally eager to get business back to normal. Having been in lockdown since March, any individual with dyed hair, acrylic nails or eyelash extensions is now experiencing the difficult transition phase of such enhancements growing out. In a society that places such high value on appearances, it’s unsurprising there are lengthy waiting lists for appointments despite the risk. Such demand raises the question of what should be considered ‘essential’, as the definition clearly varies depending on the individual.
The lockdown has encouraged some beauty brands and experts to get creative in order to continue providing advice, education and inspiration without breaking the law. The offer of remote consultations using video chat, online questionnaires or a phone call has allowed customers to receive product recommendations based on personal need, assessment for skincare problems, tailored regimes and even one-to-one tutorials for simple procedures like eyebrow tweezing.
For more complex treatments, it remains best to leave it to the professionals, whenever that may be.

By Rebecca Taylor