Isabelle Shegog’s at-home haircutting career was short-lived.
“I was fired. Never again. Now I get to vacuum the hair off the floor and my younger brother is the designated hair cutter,” the Wilmington native and George Washington University rising junior laughed, explaining her one and only attempt to cut her Dad’s hair during quarantine.
“I had never used one of these things before,” she said about the hair clippers. “I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. It turned out horribly. Some hair was very short and other parts were too long,” Shegog said. And Shegog isn’t the only one struggling to improvise beauty routines.
Delawareans are eager to get back to beauty salons and the barber. Haircuts, waxing, and lash extensions are long overdue. But before reaching for rusty kitchen scissors or attempting at-home hair removal, local experts advise customers to wait for the professionals.
Expert stylists of Delaware beauty salons are interacting with clients virtually despite facing financial struggles from COVID-19 business shutdown, according to local salon owners Brynn Gray and Christa DiOssi Rich as well as stylist William Oscar Lynch.
Some expert stylists like Lynch, a level six hairstylist and a manager at Salon By Dominic in Hockessin, declines requests for quarantine home-hair-cuts in the “interest of keeping myself and clients safe.”
Despite the pleading from clients, Lynch has chosen to follow public safety protocol. “It’s unbelievable. I feel so close to my clients. I would say 80 percent of them have reached out to me asking to do an at-home service,” Lynch said.
Instead, Lynch provides clients with beauty tips over text and social media. Clients ask about the closest salon-level coloring products from the store, as they have missed Lynch’s coloring expertise during the quarantine.
Lynch’s expert advice: “Nothing you can get at the grocery store is going to be even close to what you can get in a professional salon. My standard answer has been to get a root spray that you can wash out.”
But not everyone has the patience to follow salon recommendations, as evidenced by at-home hair dye kits flying off the shelves of pharmacies and grocery stores. First, it was hand-sanitizer and chemical cleaners, then toilet paper, and now beauty products are in high demand.
“Sales of hair clippers increased 166 percent, and hair coloring products rose 23 percent, from the same period a year earlier,” according to Alicia Wallace of CNN Business.
DIY ‘dos are trending on social media. Celebrities like Maddie Ziegler and Ricky Martin have reached for the bottle during the quarantine. But, not the wine bottle, the dye bottle.
People are trying everything, like Dua Lipa’s “Orangina Quarantina,” and even rainbow hair, like Hayley Kiyoko’s technicolor transformation. “Honestly, I have been cracking up so many people on social media that have been doing these things called quarantine cuts,” Lynch laughed.
Although at-home hair salons may be fun, experimenting with harsh chemicals can do more harm than good. Some items, like hair bleach, used to lighten hair before applying color, can be dangerous if misused. It can burn your scalp, damage hair cuticles, and cause breakage, according to Dana Severson of LeafTv.
Christa DiOssi Rich, makeup artist, waxing specialist, and owner of Posh Salon, Spa, and Makeup Studio in Wilmington agrees with leaving the harsh chemicals to the experts.
“Don’t try to do color at home because then it will take that much longer to fix it,” DiOssi Rich explained. Skip the hair dye, throw on a baseball cap to cover roots, or style your hair differently. She recommends that clients tweeze lightly or use a gentle hair removal cream for facial hair. “Something that won’t pull the root out, just take it off the surface,” DiOssi Rich said.
For DiOssi Rich and many people in the beauty industry, late-spring is a high business season, with proms, graduations, and weddings. The cancelations are hurting business, and DiOssi Rich feels horribly for her clients.
Although a lot of her bridal parties have moved their weddings to mid or late summer, DiOssi Rich refuses to charge clients for cancelations or accept early payments.
“It’s just a horrible time. Everybody is going through it. I would not feel comfortable taking money from a bride. You know what I mean? Maybe that makes me a bad businesswoman, but it’s already hard enough that they had to cancel and postpone their weddings. I do not want to add to the stress,” DiOssi Rich said.
But until she can go back to work, DiOssi Rich has remained proactive. “I feel like I’m busier now than I am when I’m working. I’ve been nonstop applying for business loans, on calls, painting, and doing business projects,” DiOssi Rich said. She is now infection prevention and control certified by Rejuvenate Salon.
Salon by Dominic is under renovation. After the renovation, it will be the largest salon under one roof in Delaware.
“Before we closed, it smelled like straight Clorox because we were heavily cleaning and disinfecting between each client,” Lynch recalled. “Things constantly changing regarding guidelines with this virus. I want to make sure the salon is safe when we reopen,” DiOssi Rich agreed.
Governor John Carney has announced interim steps to help salons gradually reopen. They now can accept appointments up to 30 percent of their salon’s capacity.
Under the new guidelines, salons must must leave 15 minutes between appointments for proper cleaning, employees and customers must wear masks and gloves, entrances of salons must be locked to prevent walk-ins, businesses must take temperatures of workers daily.
Salon by Dominic has chosen not to reopen yet, saying it can’t operate profitably unless the salon can take 50 percent of its customers at one time.
Posh Salon will follow Gov. Carney’s regulations mentioned above. Clients will remain in their cars until they receive a text. OSHA-approved disinfectants will be used for all tools, according to DiOssi Rich.
Lynch says that the quarantine for local beauty businesses “has definitely been a strain financially.” He had to call the Division of Unemployment Insurance for Delaware 57 times before the office answered. Lynch also calls weekly to file his claim for the $600 he is entitled to with unemployment.
Young business entrepreneur Brynn Gray has also been affected by the shutdown. Gray turned her makeup hobby into a career at the age of 20 by opening DeCourcy Beauty Lounge in October 2019.
Gray’s innovation in local business at a young age is impressive. She is a social media whiz, see for yourself on DeCourcy’s immaculately curated Instagram, and has the newest beauty techniques from Dawn Career Institute.
“In Delaware, you’re only really going to see a traditional salon,” Gray said. “You also wouldn’t find super young people jumping into the industry.”
DeCourcy Beauty Lounge offers lash extensions, lifts, tints, facials, waxing, and makeup services. “It started really small. I was going to do lashes on the side from home. But once I dipped my feet in the water, I was like I love this, it’s so much fun,” Gray said.
DeCourcy Beauty Lounge is one of a few lash businesses in Delaware. However, niche beauty businesses, like Gray’s salon, aren’t included in Gov. Carney’s Phase 1 Reopening Plan and are hit hard by the shutdowns.
Clients who miss their visits to DeCourcy Beauty Lounge text Gray nearly every day to inquire about her plan for reopening. “It’s been tricky to tell people no for private appointments, especially because I started my business by working out of my home,” Gray said. “Not being able to do services has impacted me a lot.”
Gray created a “self-care stay at home kit” with body butter, facemasks, and lash growth serum for clients “to get the experience of being in the salon at home.” Her advice for lash maintenance is to let extensions go and use lash serums. “Thankfully, I have income from products and online sales,” Gray said. “For any salon owner, it’s really hard cause you are just kind of stuck.”
Gray is “playing it by ear” for reopening. She hopes that business can resume in June. Gov. Carney announced on May 9 that phase one of reopening Delaware would begin June 1, according to this site.
In the meantime, experts like Gray, Lynch, and DiOssi Rich encourage people to maintain a beauty routine at home for mental health purposes and they are excited to see their clients in salons after re-opening. Self-grooming routines build structure and keep people sane. Fifteen percent of women say they use skincare to relax, according to a 2017 survey of 1,295 women in the U.K, conducted by Gina Way of Marie Claire.
“Beauty and mental health go hand-in-hand. Right now, it is very important for people to strive to do their makeup and do their hair as best they can,” Lynch said. Lynch concluded: “the truth is when you look good, you feel good.”