Brace for a different experience when getting a hair cut

You can get a hair cut in B.C. again. But don't expect the same experience you had before the COVID-19 pandemic

Shaggy residents of the Tri-Cities will find getting their hair cut or coloured a much different experience.

With barbers and hair salons allowed to open again as of May 19 as part of B.C.’s second phase of its return to normalcy from the shutdown precipitated by the COVID-19, some are taking a cautious approach while others are already booked solid with appointments.

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Monika Ferguson has been cutting hair since 1986 and operating her own little shop in downtown Port Coquitlam for 11 years. She said she’s in no hurry to get snipping again, even as a steady stream of curious passersby on Elgin Street popped their heads through the door to enquire if she was open while she wiped down the countertop and sprayed a bleach cleaning solution on the red leather chairs.

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MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Port Coquitlam barber Monika Ferguson says the COVID-19 public health crisis has reinvigorated hygience and safety procedures many hair care professionals have followed for years. She says she'll be reopening her shop in early June.

Ferguson said the safety and hygiene protocols recommended by WorkSafeBC and the Beauty Council of Western Canada aren’t much different from the way she’s been practising her trade for years. That includes wearing gloves and cleaning surfaces between customers.

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MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS Some of the cleaning supplies Monika Ferguson has on hand at her Port Coqutilam barber shop.

But other measures, like wearing a face mask, booking appointments ahead of time because nobody will be allowed to wait in the chairs along the back wall, and logging the name of each customer in a lined notebook, will change the way Ferguson interacts with her clients. 

The stack of well-read magazines has also been put away.

“If there’s a trade that is capable of doing this, we already have the grounding,” Ferguson said of the increased attention to cleanliness and safety.

Meanwhile, Amin Ali said customers visiting his KAST Hair Studio in Port Moody’s NewPort Village can expect a more clinical experience.

“It will feel more like a doctor’s office.”

Ali, who already had two weeks of appointments booked as he prepared to reopen on Tuesday, said each of his stylists has taken an online refresher course on health and beauty safety. They’ll also be wearing face shields and gloves.

As well, curtains have been hung between each of the shop’s nine chairs and the waiting area has been removed. Instead, customers will be asked to wait in their car, where they’ll be texted when their appointed time comes. And when they enter the shop, each will get their temperature checked.

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SUBMITTED PHOTO The interior of Amin Ali's KAST Hair Studio on Port Moody's NewPort Village. The veteran hair stylist said he's spent several thousand dollars to implement safety changes like hanging curtains between each station, but he's trying to soften the "clinical" experience of getting hair done during a pandemic by adding candles and making customers feel comfortable.

Ali said he’s also increased the time allotted between appointments from 45 minutes to one hour to allow for a thorough cleaning between each customer, and stylists won’t be allowed to work on clients concurrently.

“Basically it’s no cutting corners,” he said, adding the bathroom will also be subjected to a thorough scrub down after each use.

Indeed, the list of cleaning procedures recommended by the Beauty Council, a voluntary association of hair and makeup professionals that took responsibility for industry standards when government regulation ended in 2003, is exhaustive.

They include disinfection of every tool of the trade, from scissors to hand mirrors to capes and the casings of blow dryers. A tall jar of Barbicide on the counter into which a comb can be quickly dipped isn’t good enough anymore.

Ironically, Ferguson is proudly hanging in her shop a certificate from an online course in COVID-19 safety procedures offered by the disinfectant manufacturer that she completed during her downtime. She said it’s all about making sure her customers feel comfortable.

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MARIO BARTEL/THE TRI-CITY NEWS As Monika Ferguson prepares to open her one-person barber shop in downtown Port Coquitlam, she took her downtime to complete an online refresher course on cleaning and hygiene through Barbicide, the manufacturer of disinfectant solutions used by hair professionals to clean their combs and instruments.

“I’m confident that I will do everything I can to prevent anything from happening,” Ferguson said of her planned reopening in early June.

Ali’s metric for safety is a bit more personal.

“What will I do to make sure my own teenage daughters can get their hair done safely,” he said. “It’s a lot of effort.”

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