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A visit to the salon now includes masks, social distancing, patience, local stylists say

While many salons have already reopened with a limited capacity, stylists say customers should expect changes and they may have to wait months for a haircut and even longer to have their hair colored.

Under the state’s requirements for the service industry, salons can only open at 50% occupancy, must do extra sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces and everyone in the business must wear a mask.

During a Northwest Passages virtual forum on Friday, Terra Coulter, owner and technician at Studio One Salon in Spokane, said the requirements mean only a few clients can be seen at a time and not all types of appointments can be accommodated.

“Usually we can say, ‘Oh, we can squeeze you in,’ but there aren’t many squeezes available right now,” she said. “A week’s appointments is taking a week and a half to two weeks.”

Holli Cadman, owner and operator of Rumors Salon in Spokane Valley, said it may take salons a few months to get through their backlog of canceled appointments. Most salons are also trying to work together and avoid “poaching” each other’s clients by serving their existing customer base first, she said.

Once all regular customers have been seen, local salons will consider making appointments with new clients.

Cadman, Coulter and Renee Hartshorn, owner of Bella Dolce Salon & Spa in Spokane Valley, said clients can expect to see a few other changes during their visit.

Salons have eliminated traditional waiting rooms, asking people to wait in their cars for their appointments, and are also asking only one client visit per an appointment. That means parents will need to find child care and people who normally book appointments together will have to see a stylist separately.

One of the biggest changes is that all clients and salon workers must wear masks.

Coulter said she discusses masking and other safety measures with clients over the phone while booking appointments, and added that masking is an important part of keeping everyone in the salon safe.

She said those visiting the salon also need to tell their stylist the truth about whether they have been social distancing, exposed to the virus or have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I get that you want to see people and you want to socialize. If you choose that, please choose to wait on your hair,” she said. “Don’t make your hair a priority and jeopardize people’s (health). I’ve asked for honesty from my clients in that regard.”

Coulter said she also recently raised her prices at the salon, as many in the industry will soon do as operating costs skyrocket.

Coulter said she raised prices in part because she had waited to do so for years, and also because she can’t see as many clients. She added that basic salon supplies are far more expensive and she now must purchase cleaning supplies and PPE, and take time to clean the salon throughout the work day.

Cadman and Hartshorn have not raised prices yet, but anticipated they may have to, or switch to charging for their time instead of the types of services they offer.

All three stylists also urged clients to be patient while waiting for appointments.

Hartshorn urged clients not to color their own hair. And she warned that bleaching can be even worse and melt hair if it goes wrong.

“Don’t color your own hair and be patient, we’re going to get to you when we can,” she said.

“If you make that appointment, make sure you keep it because it’s valuable and somebody else wants it,” Hartshorn said.