6 mistakes to avoid when visiting a hair salon during the pandemic

After months of making do with quarantine haircuts, many of us are looking forward to a refreshing trim or root touch-up. Salons across the country are reopened, but returning to indoor venues can feel a bit nerve wracking if you're not sure what to expect.

TODAY Style consulted several hair experts to find out everything you need to know before your next appointment. With their insight, you'll be ready and prepared for your next cut or color.

Coming to hair stylist (svetikd / Getty Images stock)
Coming to hair stylist (svetikd / Getty Images stock)

1. Don't show up with guests

Hair salons are social places, and clients occasionally bring a friend along for moral support if they're making a major beauty change. But with new social distancing rules in place, your plus one will have to stay at home or, at the very least, wait in your car.

"In order to keep traffic in the salon to a minimum, many salons are choosing not only to close their waiting areas, but also limit the amount of people inside the salon. This means that the only person allowed to attend an appointment is the one getting their hair done," celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger said.

That rule applies for kiddos, too, even if they're less likely to spread coronavirus. "There will be clients who may not be able to find a babysitter and know they can’t bring kids, yet still will because that’s how badly they want their hair done. Even if that client is a regular, they must follow the new guidelines to protect everyone," celebrity hairstylist Cheryl Bergamy said.

2. Don't linger or plan to pay with cash

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, salons have had to make some fundamental adjustments to the salon experience . For starters, most of them aren't allowing walk-ins and some may ask you to pay in credit to avoid handling cash. You should also plan on spending less time in the salon before your appointment. "Some salons are asking clients to wait in their car when they arrive and are then opting to text or call them when it's time to come in for services," said Gina Rivera, hair artist and creator or Colours by Gina and Phenix Salon Suites.

You may be asked to wait in your car for certain parts of your appointment. "Many salons are backed up with appointments, so salon owners have to be mindful of not only how many customers need to be seen in a day, but the proximity of these clients. By asking clients to wait in a different area while their color is processing, new customers can be seen without increasing the volume inside of the salon," Hershberger said.

While salons are adjusting to their new normal and trying to welcome as many clients as possible, it's also wise to avoid lingering for too long. "After not seeing your stylist for a few months, it may be tempting to have a 20 minute catch-up conversation before the service even starts. Try to save that until after the consultation is complete and the service is underway. Time is always money and time is limited so please be considerate," said Nick Stenson, L’Oreal Matrix artistic director and SVP salon services at Ulta Beauty.

Young woman cleaning her hairdressing saloon (MarioGuti / Getty Images)
Young woman cleaning her hairdressing saloon (MarioGuti / Getty Images)

3. Avoid salons that aren't taking health seriously

Your health is of the utmost importance, so salons across the country are working overtime to implement increased safety measures. You also have a right to know what your local salon has planned, so don't feel shy about asking. "Check with your salon prior to your appointment so there are no surprises when you arrive," Rivera said.

Not sure what to look out for? Some common safety measures include additional distance between stylist chairs, staggered appointments and less clients in the salon at any given time. "Salon owners should also be wiping down equipment between appointments, washing their hands frequently and wearing masks. If you notice that a salon is not wiping down equipment between guests and is allowing very full waiting rooms, this may not be the right salon for you," Rivera said.

4. Don't expect the same prices

Much like restaurants, hair salons have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. After being closed for several months, they're trying to play catch-up to stay afloat. So don't be surprised if the prices have changed since you last got a cut and color. "Many salons weren’t able to get loans during the pandemic, so increased prices can help financially stabilize them," Hershberger said.

Price list in barbershop, close up (Getty Images stock)
Price list in barbershop, close up (Getty Images stock)

As part of the staggered reopening process, salons now have to front the cost of increased safety measures and take fewer clients than normal. "Salons' earning potential could be severely reduced as compared to the time before the pandemic. They are now dealing with increased fixed operating costs in addition to limited availability to take clients with walk-in restrictions," Stenson said.

After months without hair services, most clients will require a bit of extra TLC from stylists, so make sure to tip well if you can. "Generous tips could be make or break business for stylist and salons during this time. By including an extra 5% or more in your tip, you help cover the costs of protective gear and the time your stylist has to spend on sanitation to keep their salon environment safe for all," Stenson said.

5. Don't show up with symptoms, even mild ones

Most salons are taking health and safety matters seriously, but customers also have a role to play in preventing the spread of coronavirus. So before heading out for your hair service, make sure to review your salon's guidelines and show up with a face mask and clean hands. "It's important for all clients to match every effort that their stylist/salons are making to keep them safe," Stenson said.

The most important thing you can do is stay healthy before your appointment and stay home if you're feeling sick. "While we are all happy to be back at the salon, going to the salon while you are feeling under the weather can be very dangerous. Along with staying home if you’re sick, customers should consider staying home if they believe that they have been potentially exposed to anyone that has the virus," Hershberger said.

Hair cutting during pandemic (Getty Images stock)
Hair cutting during pandemic (Getty Images stock)

6. Don't forget to be patient with your stylist

It's normal to have mixed feelings about heading back to the salon right now. After all, none of us are sure what to expect until we get there. But after months of quarantine, you've earned a bit of TLC, so enjoy the moment and extend extra kindness to your stylist.

"My staffers and I have developed close relationships with our clients, and though we have to interact at a distance, we are so happy that we can provide the safest and most positive experience for all of our customers," Hershberger said.

The last few months have been difficult for stylists, and they're eager to make the salon experience a relaxing one, even if it looks a bit different for the time being.

"We are so excited to see all of our clients again. Just because the salon won’t be as filled, doesn’t mean the energy of the salon needs to change. Music will be playing as always and our goal is to make our guests feel as relaxed and comfortable as ever," said curl expert and owner of Spiral (x,y,z) salon, Lorraine Massey.