Close Contact Services: The New Normal

September 21st, 2020

September 21st, 2020

With MUAs, hair stylists, beauty therapists, barbers and many other close contact services having been able to reopen for a few weeks now, we look at how some practitioners are navigating the post-lockdown world and ensuring their clients, staff and themselves remain safe while offering low touch, top quality services.

The world as we know it is changing and as society begins to navigate life after lockdown, it is clear to see that many things will never be quite the same as they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.  People’s attitudes are changing and businesses across the beauty sector will need to work with clients and partners to find a ‘new normal’.

For businesses such as hairdressers and beauty salons which operate ‘close contact services’, the COVID-19 crisis has been a source of significant uncertainty. Months in lockdown has led to understandable anxiety about their financial survival; and now, as they reopen, many are likely to have legitimate questions and concerns about the procedures they need to follow to keep their staff and customers safe.

As client and consumer habits are evolving, experts have coined a new phrase ‘Low Touch Economy’, which outlines a standard for close contact businesses to follow.  With social distancing rules needing to be adhered to for the foreseeable future, business owners and their teams will need to utilise the technology available to them to avoid unnecessary human contact.

The measures mean that fewer clients are seen on a daily basis, but the low touch economy is growing in popularity and our sector needs to change to embrace it.  While searches for ‘non-contact’ rose 91% between February and April 2020, ‘low touch’ also saw a 75% spike in the same period, and a 133% hike when exploring the year-on-year results.

Jennifer Gooding is a freelance MUA, with 12-years’ experience working in the fashion industry primarily in editorial, campaign and e-commerce, having worked with the likes of Debenhams, Boohoo, Missguided, BeautyBay, Vogue, and Grazia.   We asked her how it felt to get back to work and what changes she’d had to put in place:

Returning to work as a freelance Makeup Artist was a day that could not have come any sooner, it felt like a lifetime as my line of work was the last to return due to the issue on close contact services.  However its arguably one of the safest environments to work in.   As a Makeup Artist we treat hygiene and cleanliness as a religion.  It was the first lesson we were taught back when we were training; a habitual routine that was to be executed on a daily basis. This includes disinfecting all my palettes and brushes, wiping down work surfaces and using tools and disposables to prevent any spread of bacteria and infection. As well as making sure my own personal hygiene was impeccable.

The only aspect of our role that has changed is wearing a face mask and a face shield while in close proximity to my client.  It’s made a huge impact on the Industry, we have to be mindful of everyone working within close proximity and following government guidelines.  So while I was once working in a room full of 10 or more models with a Makeup Artist and a Hair Stylist by their side, it’s now a fraction of that amount.  In some cases the models are enforced to apply their own makeup as its considered ‘safer’.  This has impacted the amount of work I am currently pursuing.  Hopefully in the next few months everything will return back to normal as the cases of corona virus decline.


For hairdressers like Tom Maddison, owner of County Durham based Tom William Maddison Hair, who work in close proximity to their clientele, this means plenty of PPE protocols, contactless payments, and numerous hygiene requirements that all allow him to operate safely.

Industry-approved anti-bacterial sprays and disinfectant in a barbicide solution are being used to clean tools and surfaces between every customer.  Owing to the space available to him, Tom has also enforced a one-in, one-out system for customers to minimise risks.

He says: Throughout lockdown I started to buy the amount of PPE that I thought I would require to safely complete my job without putting anyone at risk.  I have seen other salons charge a standard or premium PPE package, which isn’t optional and must be bought even if the client has their own PPE.

While Tom encourages contactless card use, he does also cater for cash payments, with a special box installed in the salon which is isolated for three days before any money is handled to prevent the risks of contamination.

Social distancing measures and cleaning routines have been fairly straightforward to in the salon with a range of posters and floor stickers to remind customers of the Covid-19 protocols, but PPE has thrown up a few operational difficulties for the team.

Tom says: PPE at first was unusual to work with, as I have never had to wear a visor when cutting hair.  It does obscure your vision; however you learn to adapt, and you adjust your working style to include PPE into it.  I’m just lucky that I don’t have to wear glasses, I see so many of my clients and others steaming up when they wear masks — I think it would be good to see an invention that prevents this, especially for stylists who do wear glasses.”


There are clearly many challenges for the hair and beauty sector to consider when it comes to keeping employees and customers safe, but government guidelines are constantly being updated, and the protocols are becoming easier to implement.  Face coverings are now compulsory in shops across Scotland and England, but it is crucial to keep on top of developments to ensure staff and consumers are protected.

Business Companion (a free, online resource from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute), in partnership with the National Hair and Beauty Federation (NHBF), has published a new bulletin for the health and beauty sector, setting out in simple terms the latest government rules which businesses need to be aware of.

Every workplace should adopt practices that minimise the spread of COVID-19 among anyone who comes onto their premises.  In the hair and beauty sector this is particularly important, since salons and barbershops bring people into close proximity to one another, often in the area of the head or face – the ‘highest risk zone’ for spreading the virus.

The hair and beauty salons and barbershops COVID-19 bulletin includes up-to-date and practical guidance on:

  • conducting a health and safety risk assessment incorporating COVID-19 provisions
  • COVID-19 risk mitigation measures
  • the information you need to give to staff and clients
  • the procedures you should follow around deliveries
  • how you should support NHS Test & Trace
  • best-practice cleaning measures
  • toilets and washrooms for staff and customers
  • safe use of water systems
  • ventilation, laundry and waste

One of the most important aspects of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the hair and beauty sector is the correct use of PPE, face masks and face coverings.  The bulletin features an easy-to-follow guide to the 12 things you need to know to get this right, as well as providing many useful resources and links to further reading, and a checklist to keep track of the changes being implemented.

Following the guidance will help to ensure the safety of everyone who works in and visits salons, giving businesses and consumers peace of mind that they are doing everything they can to protect each other during these difficult times.

See our previous article on preparedness for reopening, with links to useful resources and training.

The latest government rules for England here; click these links for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The British Beauty Council have been staunch supporters of the industry during this time, and their website is a great source of useful information and guidance and gives access to training.

The Beauty Guild also offer advice and guidance to members on COVID-19.



If you are struggling due to the pandemic, The Hair and Beauty Charity may be able to help you.  The UK-based organisation is the official charity of the hair and beauty industries; an independent service dedicated solely to helping hair and beauty professionals in their hour of need.  The charity offers financial support to individuals and their families facing difficult times due to unforeseen circumstances such as bereavement, illness and financial hardship.  Understandably the charity has been inundated with requests for assistance and if there’s any way you can support them financially please consider donating, the easiest way is via their justgiving page.


Please note that some images used in this feature were taken before lockdown.


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By Sarah Dann

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