Salon Owners Say The Beauty Industry Is Being 'Decimated' Under Lockdown Rules
But, for some reason, a manicure, facial or eyebrow appointment was still out of the question.
The beauty industry brings in almost £30 billion a year to the UK GDP and employs around 600,000 people - predominantly women - yet despite operating under strict hygiene and sanitary measures, Public Health England still put salons in the same risk bracket as strip clubs in their latest guidelines, approved by the Health Secretary.
And when the issue of salons reopening was brought up during Prime Ministers questions last week, the back benches literally echoed with sniggers.
I mean... we'd laugh if it wasn't so damn misogynistic.
But the cold hard truth is that every day that the government smirks and jokes about the importance of the beauty industry, more individuals are left plagued by financial uncertainty, and yet more salons are forced to shut their doors to never re-open.
Not only do thousands of women work in beauty, but the sector also has a predominantly female client base - many of whom are even seeing mental health implications after having lost their place of solace.
While the majority of these women don't take kindly to a group of men sneering at what they choose to spend their money on, spare a thought for those working in the industry - waiting patiently for the green light to re-open.
Speaking to Tyla, Hertfordshire based brow and makeup artist Zoe Kennedy, 25 - who owns ZK Makeup Studio - says that, in her eyes, it's clear that "sexism is very much playing a part in the decision to keep our industry closed."
"[The beauty industry] has always been looked down upon, especially from men who do not understand its value, which shows their ignorance," she says.
"The fact that beauty salons are labelled 'as safe as strip clubs' is absolutely absurd. Beauty is an industry trained in the highest standards of hygiene and preventing cross contamination. The last time I checked, I don't give my clients a lap dance."
Like many salon owners across the country, Zoe benefited initially from the government's Covid support programme - but that money is now "wearing thin."
While she and her salon colleagues have been stringently sticking to the lockdown rules and waiting until they're allowed to open, it appears other businesses have been running on the sly, meaning she also faces the very real risk of losing loyal customers to "black market" beauticians, who will simply ignore government regulations and operate anyway.
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"I am not alone in saying that these last few weeks and days have been the hardest, seeing no social distancing going on in pubs and bars and yet we aren't safe enough?" she adds.
"I could not feel safer returning to work. I've stocked up on masks for my clients to wear. As well as this I have got a contactless temperature gun to take clients temperature on arrival as well as my own and anyone who works in my studio.
"Plus, I have also invested in a brand new floor which is easier to mop and clean thoroughly, Dyson fans which not only cool but also purify the air and gloves, visors and disposable aprons."
She adds: "The Covid pandemic has massively affected my business. If I remain closed I will have to invest more of my savings into a salon I have only just put every penny of my savings into late last year.
"Many salons have already ran out of money and are having to take out huge loans to save their businesses, and many others have had to throw in the towel."
Zoe's concerns are shared by many salon owners across the country.
In an open letter to the government, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics & Wellbeing (APPG) - led by MPs Carolyn Harris and Judith Cummins - warned Boris Johnson and the chancellor that "thousands and thousands of people and businesses face financial ruin" if immediate action isn't taken.
"It is difficult to see that this is a laughing matter," said a letter, signed by 190 beauty, wellness and aesthetic brands.
"The beauty industry in this country is being decimated. It employs hundreds of thousands of people, many women working part time to support their family and is comprised of tens of thousands of micro businesses providing employment and essential economic boost to communities up and down the country".
It went on to urge the government to "bring forward a plan to give [the] industry certainty," and "take immediate action to end chauvinistic behaviour in parliament".
But, at present, despite an ever growing hashtag from industry professionals speaking on the #ValueOfBeauty, and persistent pressure on the government, there has still been no official response from the PM on the matter of saving our beauty sector.
With jobs on the line, businesses at risk and the mental health of thousands of workers in tatters, it's about time society stopped turning its nose up at the world of beauty.
We think Conservative MP Caroline Nokes hit the nail on the head when she said: "This [Covid-19] recovery has been designed by men for men, and female-led businesses have been left to the back of the pile.
"It's obvious that men with hair need barbers, but they perhaps find less need for pedicures and leg waxes."
Featured Image Credit: Zoe Kennedy/ Handout
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