‘Beauty professionals are taking jobs in supermarkets to make ends meet.’ Sharmadean Reid MBE

From manicurists to facialists and brow therapists, 94% of those working in beauty services in the UK are women. So when will they be able to work again? And why can't they yet?

Sharmadean Reid

by grazia |
Updated on

Sharmadean Reid MBE is a renowned entrepreneur and beauty legend in her own right. While she is perhaps best known for founding WAH Nails, the ahead-of-its-time nail salon chain born in Dalston, Hackney, it's her beauty services platform Beautystack that today gives her a unique insight into the effects that lockdown is having on the industry. This week (on Saturday 4th July) sees the milestone reopening of hairdressers and barbers across the UK and for many, the decision to leave beauty salons out of the equation is unfair. Sharmadean's take is level-headed. 'I can see how the decision to divide the hair and beauty industry based on the level of contact involved was made. However, the beauty industry is a collective. There are so many different categories of treatment that sit under the beauty umbrella and each of them involve varying levels of contact. The decision to separate the hair services industry from the beauty services industry sweeps every beauty practitioner together and tarnishes them with the same brush.'

Many deemed the government's decision to make beauty salons play the waiting gamesexist. Studies consistently show that women make up the majority of beauty salon clientele and it can't be denied that the decision to ignore the nuances of beauty treatments and yet facilitate regular haircuts once more seems tailor-made (very generally speaking) to get a man back to his pre-lockdown routine ASAP. Add to that the fact that according to NHBF (the UK's largest trade body for the hair, beauty and barbering industries) 94% of those working in beauty services in the UK are women and you get the drift.

Decisions are being made that most of the consumers and creators of this industry have no say in

Sharmadean, though, cites the issue as too complex to be dubbed simply sexist. 'In modern day England no 'ism', whether it be sexism or racism is that overt. The issue is systemic. Nobody in government has set out to formulate a policy designed to hurt women. When you don't have a voice in a room, you forget that voice exists. We're talking about institutionalised gender bias. Decisions are being made that most of the consumers and creators of this industry have no say in.'

Sharmadean Reid
©Sharmadean Reid

For Sharmadean the real tragedy here lies not in the bias involved in decision making, but in the financial consequences for those beauty practitioners impacted. 'If you're not going to provide a return-to-work date for these salons and practitioners it's absolutely imperative that you at least offer up a financial package that supports what is a very female and very working class workforce. It's important to note that many of the people in the beauty services industry haven't been working for three years. They can't get grants and they aren't eligible for the systems that the government has set up to ease the financial strain of lockdown.'

A large portion of the nation is likely to become reliant on benefits even though they're desperate to work

'I have been speaking to beauty professionals who have taken jobs in nearby supermarkets during lockdown to make ends meet or have applied for Universal Credit. They don't have white collar jobs that allow them to work from home. A large portion of the nation is likely to become reliant on benefits even though they're desperate to work'.

While those salon owners and beauty professionals likely feel helpless in the wake of lockdown, as clients and consumers we are not. 'If consumers want to help they should be booking in for video consultations to keep money in their beauty professional's pocket.' Says Sharmadean, 'pay them for a chat. On BeautyStack every single booking comes with a video link. We build that into what we do. If you can give your beauty pro a regular income through beauty consultations wherever possible you'll be doing your bit to support them. When they go back to work and you book an appointment, be on time. Beauty professionals will only be taking in 30% to 40% of their usual income because of the increase in turnaround time. They need to deep clean in between each and every client, whereas normally they'd work back-to-back. Respect that time. Accept that your appointment price might increase. Your beauty pro will be struggling already and on top of that they have to stock up on PPE.' For the beauty services industry survive we, as consumers, most provide support. Book in those consultations, buy those appointment vouchers, and when those salon doors finally open back up again, book in.

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