There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has caused tremendous disruption and confusion. We all know this well by now. What’s more, the social and economic ramifications are continually developing and hard to predict. Whilst the UK has been in lockdown for what feels like a very long time, settling into “the new normal” still remains a struggle.

Everyone is having to adapt in one way or another. For many self employed people, this means switching to offering services online, whilst others have thankfully managed to gain financial assistance from the government.

But what if it is logistically impossible to provide your services remotely? And what about the estimated two million freelancers who have slipped between the cracks of government support measures? Many freelance hairdressers, makeup artists, barbers, waxers, nail technicians and other beauty therapists find themselves in exactly this predicament.  

Six weeks ago, all beauty, nail and hair salons were ordered to shut up shop in the blink of an eye. Their businesses are now classed as “non-essential”, but the harsh reality is that for many, continuing to work is absolutely essential to avoid financial despair. For those in the beauty industry ineligible to receive the financial support they need to stay afloat, staying at home simply isn’t an option. 

It’s no wonder, then, that there is an emerging trend of underground mobile hairdressers, makeup artists and beauticians working under the radar. By travelling to client’s houses, they are taking many risks. Not only are they defying government guidance and risking getting caught, but in doing so they also put their health and the health of others in danger. 

If that wasn’t enough, doing so could potentially jeopardise their reputation. By advertising their services online, they’re vulnerable to shaming. On the surface, offering home services may appear irresponsible, reckless, selfish - greedy even. They may be condemned for disobeying lockdown guidelines and, worse, potentially spreading the virus. 

Whilst this is a valid concern, what critics fail to appreciate is that many of these freelancers in the beauty industry do not have the luxury of choice. Many are simply trying to keep the lights on and feed their families. They have been forced into a dilemma whereby they must choose between their health and their livelihoods. It might come as a surprise that almost 1 in 5 households with children are going hungry during lockdown in the UK, but this is the stark reality of the situation. 

Freelance Beautician Corona

Self-isolation is generating profound cultural shifts, driving everyone to reevaluate their personal priorities. Of course, there are a lot of people for whom lockdown has meant caring less about their appearance. But still, there are clearly many clients who would nevertheless rather receive home beauty services, despite the risks. We must remember that the clients who are hiring these underground freelancers are equally responsible, though they are rarely the ones facing the blame. 

For many people, working from home still requires them to fix up and look sharp. Boldly rocking an accidental home-cut mullet may not be the best way to make a good impression in a zoom meeting or interview. No offence to mullets, but you know what I mean. 

These are, as the media continues to remind us, “uncertain, unprecedented times”. One thing is for certain, though. Without hairdressers, there are undoubtedly a lot of dodgy hair-do’s out there right now. Disastrous wonky fringes, unsightly roots, straggly beards.

Aside from this, it’s also important to remember that hairdressers and beauticians deliver a service that goes far beyond purely just cutting hair or painting nails. They form longstanding, loyal relationships with their clients. They act as friends, therapists even. It is not uncommon for customers to open up and confide in their hairdresser, barber or beautician. The experience leaves them with a new sense of oomph!

Given the prevalent mental health struggles (particularly) at the moment, it is no wonder that the demand for these self-care services is high. They are providing a much needed sense of refreshment and positive self-esteem. Just because the government deems these services non-essential doesn’t mean that the public does too. 

This is undeniably a controversial issue. What’s clear though, is that the government’s measures have failed to account for all freelancers, and this needs to change. The value of the services provided by the beauty industry demand greater appreciation, as well as the financial support to show for it!  

More work from Layla Myers: The Freelancer Guide to Surviving a Lockdown