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Hair and beauty salons navigate new allergy testing challenges

Gaelle Walker
12 April 2021

Newly re-opened hair and beauty salons across England and Wales are juggling significant pent-up demand for treatments and services with new allergy and patch testing guidelines.

Updated guidance from the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) and hair colourant manufacturers calls for allergy alerts or ‘patch’ tests to be undertaken 48 hours before any colouring services take place following lockdown.

Salons are also required to carry out allergy alert tests on all new clients and existing clients every six months – as opposed to every 12 months previously.

The change comes as unsubstantiated fears continue to circulate that people who have been infected by Covid-19 or have had a vaccine, may have a stronger sensitivity to hair dyes and tints.

Commenting on the change, NHBF director of quality and standards Caroline Larissey said: “Following lockdown, clients may be more sensitive, concerned or nervous about visiting the salon. They may have heard speculation about increased sensitivity due to Covid-19.

“Due the length of the lockdowns and regional tier restrictions many clients may have not visited a salon for over six months, they may have also used a home colouring product or treatment.

"It is NHBF recommended best practice to carry out a full consultation including allergy alert and industry tests following manufacturer’s instructions and protocols before the client’s first service following lockdown.

The NHBF guidelines are in place to protect the client, the hair professional and the salon.”

Emma Lynn, co-owner of the Customised Beauty Salon in East Molesey, has been urging all her customers to “pop in for a quick patch test” prior to booking or having any tinting treatments, to avoid disappointment.

“We understand that the new requirements are frustrating to customers but we don’t want anyone having a reaction when we could have prevented it,” she said.

We are also asking all customers to fill out new consultation cards, again, we are sorry but it’s so important for us to note down any changes and vaccination information,” she said.

Hellen Ward, managing director of the Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London, which is fully booked until the end of May said: “Obviously it’s wonderful to be open again but it’s certainly no walk in the park!

“The updated allergy testing requirements are proving tricky to manage but we are doing everything that we can.

“We are also being forced to operate at reduced capacity to maintain social distancing and that means a reduced team of staff as well as customers, so it is challenging.

“Running a successful salon normally requires a very large support network but because of social distancing we are having to manage with far less help.

"We’ve got fewer juniors in to do the shampooing and other jobs for example, so it’s all a bit trickier than normal times."

In a bid to better support the industry, The British Beauty Council is also urging shoppers to ‘Back Beauty’ by booking in for treatments in advance.

Chief operating officer Helena Grzesk said: “The sector is ready and excited to be getting back to work and begin on the road to recovery but they need our support.

“Cash flow has been limited for so long with more than 250 days of closure in the past year.

Still operating with social distancing measures in place these businesses still can't operate at their pre Covid-19 capacity.”

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