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‘Do they not trust us?’ - Beauticians angered by ‘sexist’ treatment of industry during pandemic

PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 July 2020

Kerrie from Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth was clad in PPE when doing up her client's hair this week. Many beauticians have questioned why the same safety procedures can't be put in place to allow facial treatments to go ahead across beauty salons. Photo: Josie Fitzgerald

Kerrie from Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth was clad in PPE when doing up her client's hair this week. Many beauticians have questioned why the same safety procedures can't be put in place to allow facial treatments to go ahead across beauty salons. Photo: Josie Fitzgerald

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Three Norfolk beauticians say the continued ban on certain treatments has revealed sexist misunderstandings of their industry.

The Beauty Salon, St Nicholas Close, Caister.  Picture: James BassThe Beauty Salon, St Nicholas Close, Caister. Picture: James Bass

On Thursday, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that beauty salons could open - provided facial treatments were avoided.

But this caveat means for many beauticians - especially those who work exclusively on facial treatments - nothing will change.

The announcement comes after the government’s decision to open hairdressers on July 4, but keep beauty salons closed, prompted accusations they were failing to acknowledge the ‘importance’ of a women-dominated profession.

Speaking in Parliament on July 7, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who has become a spokesperson for the industry, said: “The beauty industry needs to be taken seriously. These workers are professionals and those who use the services will realise the clinics are immaculate.”

Josie Fitzgerald is a regular at Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth. She said she was Josie Fitzgerald is a regular at Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth. She said she was "very impressed" with the way staff had made her feel so safe during her hair appointment this week - and that she'd have every faith in them for when they re-opened the beauty side of things too. Photo: Josie Fitzgerald

Meanwhile, a nationwide Facebook group entitled “The Forgotten Industry - stop the lockdown” garnered over 7,000 members in the space of two weeks, and a cross party letter to the PM’s office calling for the beauty industry to open received almost 90 signatures.

But with only half the job done, beauty workers say that while they are happy to be re-opening, the ban on facial treatments still exposes sexist misunderstandings about how treatments actually work.

According to Kriz Farman, who owns Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth alongside her partner Andrew Floyd, it seems clear to her that beauticians seemingly “cannot be trusted” to keep their clients safe.

She said: “The idea that somehow facial treatments are any more dangerous than hair dressing, or people mixing closely in a pub, just shows how little the government thinks of us and how little they understand the industry itself.

“Do they not trust us to be safe, even though we’re all professionally trained?

“We exercise hospital level cleanliness measures at all times and have done since before the pandemic.

“It’s actually quite a scientific procedure and we know how to safely operate our own equipment - that the government thinks we don’t is just disrespectful and belittling.”

But in response, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that measures had been devised in line with scientific advice.

Josie Fitzgerald is a regular at Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth. She said she was Josie Fitzgerald is a regular at Urban Oasis in Great Yarmouth. She said she was "very impressed" with the way staff had made her feel so safe during her hair appointment this week - and that she'd have every faith in them for when they re-opened the beauty side of things too. Photo: Josie Fitzgerald

They said: “Treatments, for example eyelash extensions, which require the practitioner to be very close to the client’s face for an extended period of time, put workers and customers at a greater risk of virus transmission.

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“These should therefore not take place.

“The guidance is also clear that while beards can be trimmed, intricate detailing, outlining or shaving of beards should also not be provided and basic trimming of beards should only take place if away from the highest risk zone – the area in front of the face.

Sarah Winter said that her treatments were all carried out while wearing extensive PPE even before the pandemic. She felt insulted at the government's suggestion somehow her treatments were less safe than hair dressing, and said that they were driven by a sexist motive which dismisses the beauty industry as vanity or non-essential. Photo: Sarah WinterSarah Winter said that her treatments were all carried out while wearing extensive PPE even before the pandemic. She felt insulted at the government's suggestion somehow her treatments were less safe than hair dressing, and said that they were driven by a sexist motive which dismisses the beauty industry as vanity or non-essential. Photo: Sarah Winter

“This guidance was developed with industry to enable them to reopen in a Covid-secure way.”

The advice, nevertheless, remains bittersweet for Claire Smith-Gooch, who owns B Beauty Salon on Harfreys Industrial Estate.

She said: “I was really hoping that salons would have been re-opened in full, because otherwise it just isn’t worth it for a lot of industry professionals.

“What I don’t understand is that they think we somehow get up really close in people’s faces when we’re carrying out these treatments. It’s clear they have no idea how such treatments actually work.

Hannah Allinson, happy to be back as she re-opens her hair salon, Unit 7, to clients at Heydon. With her from left, her client, Katherine Holloway; hairdresser, Jade Cummins, back, with her client, Carol Armstrong. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHannah Allinson, happy to be back as she re-opens her hair salon, Unit 7, to clients at Heydon. With her from left, her client, Katherine Holloway; hairdresser, Jade Cummins, back, with her client, Carol Armstrong. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“Physically standing face to face with someone, up close, never happens.

“If you’re treating someone’s eyes or eyelashes, you wear gloves, PPE and a mask and you stand behind their head at a distance.”

Sarah Winter, who operates home-run salon Beauty and the Best in Caister, said she too was relieved she could re-open, but was baffled by the limitations set out in the guidelines.

She said: “I will take a win where I can and I feel excitement at being able to see all my lovely ladies again.

“But the guidelines still don’t make sense, and are actually quite patronising.

“Even when doing lash lifts, extensions or someone’s brows, you stand behind them at the top of their head - you don’t go anywhere near the mouth or nose where droplets could spread.”


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