Should you get a haircut during the coronavirus pandemic? This is what the experts say

As states reopen, you might be in a rush to trim and shape your hair after weeks of quarantine, and simply break out of your style rut. But coronavirus deaths have also topped 100,000 and some areas are seeing increasing cases. 

So should you go? It depends on whether you’re immune or asymptomatic. It also depends on where you live, but some generally it’s up to the owners of the business as well as state regulations that are applied across the board for small spaces.  

It’s risky, especially if you have a preexisting condition or are much older to go out and get a haircut. The virus spreads through person-to-person contact, and you’ll be breathing the same air as your stylist much longer than you would a grocery or drive through the cashier. Six feet isn’t feasible when you’re getting your sideburns buzzed. But businesses are happy to reopen.

The risk right now in visiting a hair salon is coming into contact with a client or employee with COVID-19, even if they’re asymptomatic (the virus can still spread even when someone isn’t showing symptoms), Claudia Skinner, DNP, former critical care nurse and director of clinical excellence at St. Jude Medical Center in Orange County, CA, said to Health. 

So here’s how to evaluate as safely as possible whether those edges are worth growing longer or venturing out and how hair salons are working to keep you safe.

Before you go, know barbershops and salons look different. You might be asked by the appointment booker to wash your hands and check your temperature at home. You’ll also have to likely prepay with a credit card or not use cash. Then when you go in you might be required by ownership to wear a face mask or face shield and gloves.

If you do not sanitize, the salon might provide it on location. Wisconsin’s guidelines even say, “Provide handwashing stations at the front of the salon, or if handwashing is not feasible for all clients who enter the shop, provide hand sanitizer. Make hand sanitizer available for clients to disinfect their hands thoroughly upon entering and leaving the salon.”

Your stylist will also limit service. They might wear a face shield and refrain from talking as much. And they might ask you to only sit in a certain chair or not touch a lot of surfaces. Stylists also might not dry and style your hair. Other guidelines suggest washing and drying hair before a cut. But the goal is to not spread the potential virus for the next person.

There will likely be a limited amount of clients allowed in at a time, and likely appointment only. So call or check online ahead. “Limit the number of clients in the shop at one time. Only clients that are actually getting their hair or nails done should be inside the salon. Clients should not check in at a front desk or wait in a reception area,” said the reopening guide from the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Be ready to sit in your car if another person has an appointment ahead of you.

You’ll need to check beforehand on your favorite spot’s rules. Many salon owners are taking extra precautions to make clients feel safe, but you can still ask them what they’re doing. Call your salon or barber ahead of time and ask them how often they’re cleaning. See if they are maintaining the HVAC system daily and so on. You can be proactive to encourage cleanliness, but it’s up to the owners and your own decision to go. 

If you decide it’s time to go and you don’t mind the risk, hairstylists will be thankful to bump up their revenue. Stay safe to look sharp.