Reporter Aoife Walsh headed to the hairdressers this morning to experience life in the salon post-lockdown - after three months of debating home dye kits and haircuts
Since the hair salons shut up shop three months ago, I quickly had to make peace with the dreadful sight of my brown roots slowly flooding my bleached blonde locks.
As the days in lockdown went on and my hair grew longer, I began to toy with the idea of dying it brown or dabbling in a at-home bleach kit and chopping it off myself, but past experiences taught me all too well that when it comes to hair, leave it to the professionals.
So when news broke that the third phase of the government’s roadmap had been revised to allow hair salons operate again on June 29, I scrambled to find a hair stylist that would be willing to tackle the overgrown mess my hair had become.
I booked in with Alan Keville, owner of Alan Keville for Hair Salon, in Powerscourt Townhouse on South William Street for 11 am.
It was my first visit to the hairdressers in more than three months, and a text message I received the day before from the salon highlighted all the new safety measures I could expect to see in action during my appointment.
The message said that all salon staff have completed training to ensure customers would be cared for in a “safe, hygienic and professional manner," which put my mind at ease.
Upon my arrival, Alan greeted me at the door donned in a plastic apron and a face mask, an outfit I would soon wear too.
“What I’m wearing is a disposable gown that I wear for each client. We don’t have to use gloves because obviously we’re disinfecting our hands with everybody,” Alan said.
"Eyewear is very important so you can wear your own glasses or we have glasses inside for the guys.”
Stood behind a roped barrier, he asked me to sanitise my hands and to put on a face mask, gloves and a gown.
He explained that before Covid-19, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a client to come into contact with various stylists when getting your hair done, but now he would be the only stylist completing the job.
“That day is kind of gone, now you have me for the whole service," he said.
“You can’t have someone doing a colour, doing a haircut and then going back to someone else. But the length of the process isn’t going to change, it’s probably going to be quicker because there’s no waiting around.”
Once I was fully gowned up, Alan took out two white bin bags for me to put my hand bag and coat into before seating me at my station.
With today being the first day the salon was back in action, I was expecting to see a queue as far as the eye could see out the door, phones ringing off the hook, and stylists running in all directions trying to get through each appointment as quickly as they could.
However, the familiar buzz of chatter and hair dryers roaring at full blast that usually comes with the salon environment was absent.
The silence is mostly attributed to the skeleton staff made up of only six stylists, who now deal with one client each at a time, and a well-organised booking system that kept numbers at the salon low.
“We wanted to keep the experienced very relaxed. The last thing we wanted was for people to come into mayhem after four months of lockdown. We limited each of our three salons to six stylists per salon. That way it keeps a relaxed and calm, very safe environment."
Although the time it took for the colouring and cut process to be complete was more or less in keeping with what I would expect to spend in a salon prior to the pandemic, having one stylist check in with you regularly and give their undivided attention definitely had an impact on the process.
There was no time spent waiting for someone to check if my hair was ready to be washed, or scrambling to find a stylist who had the time to cut and blow dry it. Instead, each step of the way was done as efficient and swiftly as ever.
But for the most part, the process was exactly how I had experienced it before the health crisis, but with clear added precaution. Each tool that came into contact with me was thoroughly disinfected after use, as was the chair I sat in and the basin area used to rinse my hair.
However, one obvious element of the salon experience I did miss was the having small talk with other customers or the casual flicking through scattered magazines while sipping a cup of coffee.
This is something Alan had noticed too, but he said he is managing to have quick chats with clients despite the face covering making those catch-ups difficult.
“The weirdest part I found is the mask,” he said.
“Not being able to see your facial expression when you’re talking to someone.
“All you can see is eye movement, I found that weird when you’re trying to have a laugh with someone.”