Hands up!

Updated: 22 March, 2020 08:12 IST | Shweta Shiware | Mumbai

How does an industry that relies on touch do business when the overarching advice is, don't touch hands to face? Makeup artists and salon owners discuss challenges of working in the time of Covid-19

Sapna Bhavnani, hair stylist to the stars, and her team at Pali Naka's Mad O Wot, are on a temporary break since Wednesday. While the team of stylists had been working with gloves and masks, Bhavnani, who receives clients from Dubai, didn't wish to put her staff at risk. Pic/ Sameer Markande
Sapna Bhavnani, hair stylist to the stars, and her team at Pali Naka's Mad O Wot, are on a temporary break since Wednesday. While the team of stylists had been working with gloves and masks, Bhavnani, who receives clients from Dubai, didn't wish to put her staff at risk. Pic/ Sameer Markande

We are living in perilous times where touching your face is frowned on. We wake up and fall asleep reminded of social distancing, self-quarantine and flattening the curve. How do personal groomers, makeup artists and hair stylists cut out physical contact from their workday?

When Savio John Pereira shuttered his salons at Bandra West and BKC on March 17 as a precautionary measure, the decision was not without trepidation. That he was the first among Mumbai's salon owners to take the call was a concern as was the high rent and staff salaries. "We get 50 walk-ins every day, and more now since students are on college break. I didn't know if I should be putting my clients and employees at risk," he says. Pereira is undecided when he will reopen, but in the interim, he will retain his staff of 54 on pay roll. "Everyone has bills to pay."

Sana Shafi Shaikh, salon owner and makeup artist; Samir Srivastav, CEO, Jean Claude Biguine Salon & Spa India
Sana Shafi Shaikh, salon owner and makeup artist; Samir Srivastav, CEO, Jean Claude Biguine Salon & Spa India

A day later, Sapna Bhavnani closed Mad O Wot, Pali Naka's popular salon. They will remain shut until further notice. "Health is more important than business. It [coronavirus] is like an Armageddon that has hit us," she says. "We had started getting a lot of clients from Dubai. Despite using masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, and disinfecting our tools and workstations after each haircut, I didn't wish to put my staff at risk." Bhavnani works with a team of seven, and although her stylists work on commission, she is responsible for footing the rent of the 500 sq ft property. She speaks of how the French government is supporting companies by ensuring the staff gets wages. "Here, small businesses like mine run without backing," she says emphatically.

Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever; Savio John Pereira,  salon owner
Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever; Savio John Pereira, salon owner

Shivarama Bhandary runs 18 salons between Walkeshwar and Thane, supporting a staff of 300-plus. Three properties are self-owned while the rest are rented. The personal stylist to the Thackeray clan, including the chief minister and former CM Devendra Fadnavis' wife Amruta, Bhandary of Shiva's Salon admits he is worried about his business.

The larger beauty businesses like Lakmé, a beauty products and services brand, and Jean Claude Biguine (JCB), which is a global beauty chain, have made the use of masks, gloves and hand sanitisers mandatory. The list gets longer with extra attention being paid to disinfecting hairbrushes, clippers and scissors. The regimen also includes deep cleaning the interiors, including door and cupboard knobs, nail care and haircut stations, spa cabins, washbasins and bathrooms, at regular intervals through the day.

Clint Fernandes, makeup artist; Smita Lasrado, co-founder, Feat.Artists; talent management
Clint Fernandes, makeup artist; Smita Lasrado, co-founder, Feat.Artists; talent management

As the challenges mount, Lakmé India, the country's first cosmetic brand, has got its employees to use spatulas to apply products, and not use their fingers. "Sanitation standards for our products and tools have and will continue to be top priority. We have temporarily suspended all product tester demonstrations and makeovers at our counters," reads the official statement.

Elton Fernandez, makeup artist
Elton Fernandez, makeup artist. Pic/ Anjana Rajan/ Inega

Lakmé Salon has suspended threading services across its 485-plus branches in India, and for the moment, stopped the use of mascara, lip pencils, liquid liner and kajal, because these cannot be sterilised. For customers willing to avail of their services, the salon is offering a 30 per cent discount in Mumbai as part of their Happy Hours campaign, Monday to Thursday, 9 am and 3 pm. "We are monitoring the situation closely, following the guidelines recommended by the government and health officials," said Pushkaraj Shenai, CEO, Lakmé Lever. The salon has rolled out self-declaration forms, making it compulsory for clients to disclose their health history of 14 days prior to the visit.

The barber at a roadside shop goes about the day's work, but with a mask.  PIC/SHADAB KHAN
The barber at a roadside shop goes about the day's work, but with a mask. Pic/ Shadab Khan

JCB too is requesting client travel history across its 14 branches in Mumbai, four in Bengaluru and two in Pune. "A move such as this has never been implemented at salons, so we have to introduce it politely but firmly. If the client has travelled to any of the 13 restricted countries, we would have to refuse services politely," says Samir Srivastav, CEO-Jean Claude Biguine Salon & Spa-India.

Sana Shafi Shaikh, owner of Trends by Sana, a budget salon in Dadar, says she is surprised by the widespread ignorance of clients towards safety. "We are providing all customers with a mask and hand sanitiser, but so many of them ignore our instructions. They don't realise what's at stake," says Shaikh, who is also an independent makeup and hair artiste. She has suspended personal makeup services temporarily. Shaikh charges anywhere from Rs15,000 for bridal to R5,500 for party hair and makeup. The decision has meant a loss of business, but the contents of her vanity case costs way more. "I can't take the risk of contaminating my products. The other day, I had an urgent request from a client who wanted a '60s look for a birthday party. I made an exception, but on the condition that she brings her own makeup including eyeliner."

"We represent makeup artists Mitesh Rajani and Kritika Gill, and hairstylist Sonam Singh, who work mostly on fashion editorials, ads and Bollywood movies. We are not taking on any projects for the moment," says Smita Lasrado, co-founder, Feat.Artists; talent management

"I have chosen not to work and self-isolate at home for a month," says Elton Fernandez, makeup artist

Safeguarding your makeup essentials

  • Don't share your beauty products; don't use your sister's eye pencil, lipstick, brushes and applicators. This is a rule to follow now and for all time.
  • Regularly wash your applicators, sponges and brushes in hot water mixed with Dettol.
  • Disinfect your lipsticks and tubes, eye pencils, mascara by using high-alcohol based wipes before and after every use. Don't ignore the outside packaging.
  • It's best to stay away from makeup altogether for a while, but you can moisturise and use sunscreen.

Ask your salon

  • Find out how often they disinfect the spaces.
  • Demand that stylists and technicians wear masks and gloves and you do too.
  • Insist on them giving guests hand sanitisers once they enter the salon.

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First Published: 22 March, 2020 07:31 IST

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