clean hands, safe salons (part 5)

After a year of masking, distancing, and extra cleaning, what comes next? How do we handle the transition from pandemic to normalcy in our salons while managing client expectations in the process? As vaccinations rapidly increase, will the restrictions affecting beauty pros decrease as quickly? We explore what the next six months in pro beauty will look like. 

Show Notes

Resources:

Vaccines for COVID-19

Ventilation in Buildings

COVID-19 Employer Information for Beauty Salons and Barbershops

What Beauty Salon and Barbershop Employees Need to Know about COVID-19

COVID-19 Employer Information for Nail Salons

What Nail Salon Employees Need to Know about COVID-19

NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls

CDC COVID Data Tracker

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Edited for length and clarity.

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

JAIME: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Jaime Schrabeck.

ASHLEY: And Ashley Gregory Hackett. A year after we introduced our first Clean Hands, Safe Salons episode, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, but the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day.

JAIME: What we’ve experienced and learned during this time will forever change how we view health and safety in the beauty industry. Let’s grow together.   

JAIME: Here we are on part five of our most popular series, Clean Hands, Safe Salons. It’s been a year since we launched the first one.

ASHLEY: And it feels like at the same time we are both in the same place as part one and light years ahead, if that’s somehow possible.

JAIME: It is a bit disorienting to think about how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t come at the same time.

ASHLEY: Yes, and I think it all comes down to understanding and having a clear vision for the future which has been the problem the whole time. We’ve had to be really flexible and we’ve had to interpret information, which is not something we’re necessarily used to in the beauty industry. It tends to be pretty black and white when it comes to what the rules are. And now, we’re entering into a period of even more transition as more of us and our clients become fully vaccinated and we start to transition into what normal life might look like from here on out. I just wonder if it’ll look and feel the same as it did before.

JAIME: Every part of this process raises new questions.

ASHLEY: And there aren’t always many answers, or the answers are very different  depending on your location, your discipline. I mean Los Angeles County just started allowing facials a couple of weeks ago, whereas other parts of the country have been  back to 100% capacity without mask mandates for months now.

JAIME: Yeah, where we are in this process is so location specific and I’m working in California. You’re located in Chicago. And tell me, what’s happened with you personally with your work?

ASHLEY: Well, I actually just scheduled a Zoom meeting with my agents to talk about what’s next, and I’ve finally expressed that I am comfortable getting back on set because I am fully vaccinated, and so I don’t feel like I’m putting myself or my family at risk by being around other people. But I have not worked in the beauty industry in more than a year because I was looking back at the last time I was on set. It was in February of 2020.

JAIME: I can only imagine the kinds of protocols that you’ll have to agree to before even stepping on set.

ASHLEY: And most of these sets have been operating because there’s a lot of TV and film work being done here. They have what’s called a COVID captain who is, their sole job is to just supervise and make sure everybody’s following the safety guidelines. So that makes me feel quite a bit safer, but now knowing that if I can get on an airplane now, I think it’s okay to be in a space with other people.

JAIME: Thanks for bringing up the topic of COVID captain. I can add that to my job description.

ASHLEY: It definitely will pat a resume, but it’s something that I feel like we’ve all been in our own businesses all along is the person who is the arbiter of what the standard is in our own spaces. And whether it’s complying with local government regulations, or going above and beyond that, we’ve been the ones to communicate that to clients, to our staffs, to each other, and really toe the line and hold the line to what we deem to be acceptable.

JAIME: Not only do we have to communicate it, just today, I was defending it. I was being asked, why are we still wearing visors? We’ve been asked, why are we still wearing masks when vaccinations are happening? It’s very interesting to see how clients are interpreting the process that we’re all going through as more and more of us become vaccinated.

ASHLEY: That’s really interesting because it’s all part of that transition, right? And if clients are going to start questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing, I think we need to be ready with those explanations in our back pocket because while attitudes may have relaxed, it doesn’t look like regulation has, and maybe it never will.

JAIME: That’s been my fear for some time. We certainly weren’t the first priority when it came to giving us some sort of guidance around how we might operate. We were shut down. We weren’t treated the same way as restaurants and bars, for example.  And those guidelines that are still in place in many states, until those are revised or edited or rescinded, they’re still covering the way that we work. They’re still dictating what it is that we can do and, and that’s something that I have to explain to clients is that until that guidance changes, I’m not changing anything I’m doing.

ASHLEY: And I don’t think we should just automatically assume that those changes are gonna come because something that you and I have been talking about privately is the changes in regulation that we may see, not just in the short term, but through legislation in the next year or two years and the things that we have done or allowed our salon family to do may actually come back to hurt us in the end through the process of deregulation or needing capacity limits like this all the time. It’s really anybody’s guess.

JAIME: If ever there were a time to be connected with your state’s board website, you need to be connected with it now because those changes, If they’re in regulation, will be announced that way. Again, my fear being that the guidance that we’re getting from the health department, because they’re not dealing directly with us, at times they’re not even listening to the state board, they may get changed with little notice. In fact, we might have to find them ourselves, like we have to keep checking the websites to see what’s the date of the most recent guidance. That’s how I discovered that the CDC had issued guidance last fall. I didn’t even realize it, that they had updated their guidance for salons.

ASHLEY: That’s a really good point and I think something that we need to be ready for is that it’s not going to come with a bunch of fanfare. I think the CDC, while they have been very gracious to appear on our podcast, some of the messaging has gotten a bit garbled over what’s happening in this transition period just for the general public when it comes to things like being in public or traveling. And so I don’t think we should expect information being, you know, spoonfed to us or put on a platter for us to be able to ask questions and understand. So find those resources now, and we can link some of the national ones in the show notes, but you know it can depend on your local health department, and your state, and all of the other things that we’ve talked about in every other part of this series. So let’s talk about what has changed drastically in our understanding of this pandemic and how this virus works from our first couple parts of Clean Hands, Safe Salons.

JAIME: Quite frankly, I’m relieved at some of the things that we’ve discovered. And at the same time, I’m horrified at the scope of what’s happened and the tragedies around individuals dying and even those surviving having long-term negative health effects. But that aside, I want to say that I am relieved that the transmission of the virus seems to be more due to air transmission than surface transmission because it, at first, it was so overwhelming.

ASHLEY: Having to wash your groceries and put your mail in the hallway for a couple of days before you’ll touch it, like that was, I think, activities that would lend themselves to further paranoia and anxiety. So now that we know that surface transmission is much more rare, we can potentially pull back on some of these practices, but we have to make sure that we’re still in compliance with what our state and local municipalities require even though we know that the virus doesn’t live on surfaces as long as we originally thought, and it’s very difficult now that we’re wearing masks and washing our hands as we should be, for that surface transmission to happen. But just because we know that, like I said, doesn’t mean we can necessarily stray from the guidelines we’ve been given.

JAIME: As tedious as all that would have been had I done it, I have to admit I was not one who was wiping down my groceries and going all out. I was wiping things down in the salon, but I certainly wasn’t doing that sort of thing at home. As tedious, and time intensive, and it would have used a lot of wipes and things to do all of that.

I think perhaps the greater expense and even more trouble lies in the thought of having to improve our air quality and ventilation when we’re working in buildings that may not have the kind of foundation or equipment to accomplish that.

ASHLEY: And that’s the other side of that whole discussion, too, because buying Clorox wipes, if you could find them, and going around, and wiping common touch surfaces every hour, 10 minutes or whatever it was, that felt very controllable to me. And I think a lot of us are now going to be up against, or are already up against, the fact that our spaces aren’t as ventilated as they could be. Now that weather is changing, that’s going to be difficult for some parts of the country to have doors and windows open, just as it has been throughout the winter or whatever. And so this is the one that’s been kind of a curve ball thrown at everybody, that we have to improve our air quality. We have to improve our ventilation. I actually just purchased two air purifiers for my home because I’m like I’m spending so much time in here. Not only did I upgrade to a super tiny, micron-rated furnace filter, but now I’m like, okay, we really, I’m trying to get the windows open as much as possible and make sure that the air that’s circulated is, is cleaned somehow, but doing that in a really large space can get expensive.

JAIME: It’s expensive and then I worry about the safety, Ashley. I really do. It’s not the sort of situation when I’ve got a magnetic door lock on my front door where I’m going to prop my front door open. There’s a reason why it’s closed. It’s to keep people from coming in who don’t belong there.

ASHLEY: Yeah and we’ve got the physical constraints of the spaces that we’re in to really think about and hopefully there are creative solutions to these problems, but they are very much still a problem.

JAIME: Well, one of the solutions I’m not willing to invest in and that would have been paying a contractor to replace the windows at the front of my salon with windows that could open. I’m not doing that on a building I don’t own.

ASHLEY: Yeah. That’s a big ask and I think some of that can be mitigated with capacity restrictions beyond what is currently the standard or the norm to make sure that there is more open air and space between people. But I think a lot of us are going to be reluctant to do that if we are able to go back to 100% capacity after being limited for so long. So that’s going to be quite the discussion and hopefully we’ll see maybe, wishlist, some vendors who can deal with those problems and meet those needs at upcoming beauty shows.

JAIME: Oh, but at the same time, please let them be vendors who are actually representing the quality of their products and not just selling us more junk.

ASHLEY: Yes, well, as we’ve seen throughout this entire process, between the UV sterilizers, and the bogus foggers, and things like that that have just been so perfect for opportunists to take advantage of us, I think if we’re, if you’re armed with a little bit of knowledge going into it, hopefully you’ll, you won’t get taken by some kind of weird clean air thing. But I’m just assuming that we will see some of those vendors popping up even more so at shows this year and next.

JAIME: That’s something I hadn’t even thought about as we planned to go back to shows.

ASHLEY: Well, another thing, just since we talked about shows a few weeks ago and we’re bringing it up now is what’s happening in the near future, will shows be requiring attendees to be vaccinated?

JAIME: I’m ready. I am vaccinated. And at the more micro level, what are we requiring in our own salons? Are we requiring of our employees, if we have employees, that they be vaccinated? Are we requiring our clients to show proof of vaccination? There’s a lot of reluctance and at the same time you’ve got clients who  don’t really think it’s a big deal, like what’s the problem? Maybe they never felt it was a big deal.

ASHLEY: Well, and can we, as employers, require our employees to be vaccinated or as, the owner of a booth rental salon or what have you? That’s going to be a conversation that I think a lot of us are going to be having, and it may have to be something that we do refer out to an attorney, and just say find out definitively before you start making people sign things or making an official company policy. Just make sure that that is something that you can do.

JAIME: Speaking of signing things, I’m still having new clients and returning clients sign waivers.

ASHLEY: And how’s that going?

JAIME: I was just told today that I lost a client because I would have made her sign a waiver, like, well, she wasn’t already a client, so I didn’t really lose her. But I don’t feel like it’s a loss if someone isn’t willing to accept the very minimal requirements that are laid out in the waiver.

ASHLEY: Well, it’s become, I think, another way to filter out, sadly, the clients that just aren’t for us. And again, it’s up to us to hold the standard of whatever we deem to be acceptable in our spaces and the risk that we’re willing to accept as beauty service providers. So that’s unfortunate that that happened, but I don’t think you’ll be missing that client to dearly.

JAIME: As COVID captain for Precision Nails, I had to make the call.

ASHLEY: Yeah and you’ve got an employee to protect, and your other clients to protect, and I know you have a clientele that skews slightly older, and so you have, again, even more considerations to make there. And I’m sure that your regular clients appreciate that, that you’ve given the level of care and consideration to their safety even when they’re not in the building.

JAIME: It’s not personal. It’s business, right?

ASHLEY: Yeah, although sure does feel personal sometimes, doesn’t it? Well another part of what’s happening as we transition now back into whatever normal will be is, what expenses have we taken on during the past like 14 months that we’ll be continuing expenses? And if you’re charging like a COVID surcharge, will that go away or will you bake that into your service prices? Will you still be wearing masks and visors like you are? Will you still have the expense of gloves, and disinfectants, and touchless payment systems that you pay for monthly or whatever that might be? How are you going to address that moving forward and expect to be able to answer whatever pushback might come?

JAIME: Those expenses are just one part of the equation, Ashley. I’m still dealing with the timing issue, which impacts the profits that I can make, too.

ASHLEY: That’s a very good point. And so time is money, as we know, and how are you pricing your services in order to make up for that loss also? This is just me completely speculating, but I don’t think most beauty professionals out there, save our lovely listeners, have really thought about that and are pricing their services accordingly for the, just the lack of production that exists in that additional 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever it might be to turn over the station, laundry, everything, you know, whatever your steps are that you take between saying goodbye to one client and welcoming a new one.

JAIME: The timing and the expenses I hope to have a handle on soon and otherwise it’s going to be really frustrating through the rest of the year because I don’t want it to be changing like a gas station changes its prices. I mean that to me seems untenable to constantly be changing the prices like that. I don’t think that’s fair to the clients.

ASHLEY: I agree. We’re being asked to do a lot and I think it’s going to get harder before it gets easier just because there are going to be lots of different client expectations that are coming to the table that we may not have anticipated for this moment in history. We’ve been so focused, and had our heads down on safety, and thinking about how are we going to make rent and all of the things that we’ve been focusing on which have been very micro, right? We’ve been really zoomed in on, how do I get through this week? How do I get through this month? Okay, how do I get through this season? And now we have to open our eyes, and put our heads up again, and look around and realize that as things change at different cadences in different industries, kids are back in school, restaurants are open. If we are kind of the last bastion of holding these standards, we are going to get push back and we need to be ready for it.

JAIME: We’re trying to accomplish all these things and yet we may not have all the information we need to make good decisions.

ASHLEY: Well, and then we have, of course, legislators who whether they’ve been paused due to coronavirus or are holding sessions virtually, or what have you, now that they’re going to start turning back to the normal business of legislating, we’re going to start to see more bills being introduced, or movement on some of the bills that we spoke to Katie about a few weeks ago. They’re going to start popping up and we’re going to have to start dealing with them. So that’s another fun layer on top of this turd sandwich of, of what we have to deal with and what we have to get through.

JAIME: The only thing I like less than a client trying to tell me how to run my business is a legislator trying to tell me how to run my business.

ASHLEY: Oh, isn’t that the truth? So again, I think being a realist above all else, I think it’s going to get harder before it gets easier, and we have to be ready for it because we as an industry are very reactive. And this is a point I’ve made over countless episodes of this podcast, but we like to react like, oh no, there’s a deregulation bill. Okay, well, let’s get together, and let’s write a letter, and let’s sign a petition. That’s not going to work here. We’ve got to stay ready so we don’t have to get ready.

JAIME: I want to end this on a positive note and I want to go back to the title of this series, Clean Hands, Safe Salons. By having a reputation of being a safe salon pre-pandemic. I think that helped me get through it. It helped me stick to my guns when it came to enforcing all of the guidelines and the rules that we set up for the salon itself. And then the idea that clients have to wash their hands, regardless of what kind of service they’re receiving immediately upon entering the salon, we’re actually planning on keeping that.

ASHLEY: I agree with you. Let’s end on a positive note, wasn’t trying to bring down the room. But I agree that this has been a great reset and an opportunity for all of us to bring good habits forward, whether we have to or not, quote unquote. But I also think we should really tip our hats to each other and the rest of the beauty industry.  The CDC has gone on record. There are studies that have been done throughout this pandemic that have really pointed to our industry and just how safe it is, how little transmission happened in salon spaces. And through the practices that were already in place pre-pandemic, we do, in general, have a reputation for being a very safe place to be.

JAIME: We’ll take all the positive publicity we can get.

ASHLEY: Exactly. All right. Well, we’d love to hear what you think about what’s going to happen for you in this transition from full lockdown to limited capacity to fully vaccinated and ready to take on the world. So feel free to connect with us on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast, or feel free to send us an email as well.

JAIME: If you’re enjoying Outgrowth, please leave us a review on Apple podcasts with one click. Just visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.

ASHLEY: Definitely leave us a review If you get a chance. For some reason, it really helps podcasts get seen by more potential listeners and if you could take a moment to do that, we would really appreciate it. All right. Well until next week, Jaime, be smart.

JAIME: Be safe.

ASHLEY: Bye. 

JAIME: Bye.

Described as the best beauty podcast in 2020, Outgrowth Podcast is for hairstylists, nail techs, estheticians, massage therapists and lash technicians. Hosted by beauty industry experts Ashley Gregory Hackett and Jaime Schrabeck, PhD, this salon industry podcast has helpful  interviews with guests that teach topics from increasing salon clientele, salon marketing, covid guidelines, beauty industry insights, starting a salon, renting a salon suite, salon Instagram tips, and how to run a successful salon. Join us for weekly episodes of hair podcasts, nail podcasts, esty podcast, and more.

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