Surrounded by a bustle of activity, 21 year old Joy Makena steps into a colorful salon adorned with images of African women with braided, textured and relaxed hair. She is here to get the newest style in town – the coronavirus style.
The style, which reflects the prickly appearance of the virus under a microscope has become a hit in Umoja Market based, Sassy salon with appointments filling in fast. Nduku Ndinda the stylist, carefully weaves in thick black thread into Makena’s hair taking time to twist and wrap it up to a point when it stands straight, blissfully pointing up.
“The trendy style is a testament to Kenyans’ creativity and agility especially when faced with adversity. The style is very popular especially with youngsters and its allure is made deeper by the relatively low price attached to it,” said Ms. Ndinda.
The style, which goes for less than Kenya Shillings 200 is viewed as affordable especially with the economic impact that has affected millions of Kenyans. It is also a quick fix, cutting down the time and labor costs for the salon.
‘’Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve had to make quick adjustments to keep the business afloat. On a normal, we’d bring in Kenya Shillings 3000 and above but due to COVID-19, our revenue was sharply depleted. We had to go back to the drawing board.’’ says Ms. Ndinda
And adjust they have. With the government introducing safety measures to control the spread the virus, majority of informal businesses across the country have been hit hard. The advent of COVID-19 in Kenya was met with a lot of caution and despair as people tried to learn its mechanics. Social distancing was brought into full effect with most people urged to avoid close contact with people.
Inadvertently, this had a huge impact on the salon industry seeing as it’s largely contact based. Many people tend to have a personal relationship with their salonist owing to how intimate and personalized it can be. It was because of this intimacy level that most people shied away from their usual salonists and cancelled salon runs. However, as more information has trickled in, consumers have become a little more open to accessing their favorite beauty stations but only after close scrutiny of their operations and hygiene protocols.
To meet their clients halfway, salons in the city have stepped in to implement safety measures to protect and make their staff and clients comfortable. There are now strict requirements of regular checkups, a temperature check and a face mask adorned, not forgetting a compulsory sanitization spot.
“We don’t take walk-ins any more so we can control the number of people in the space and maintain the social distancing rules. We have had to set up an appointment system that takes space and labor consideration’’ says Teresia Shibonje, a salon owner in Kenyatta Market.
“We’ve stocked up on masks and sanitizers, rearranged the chairs to create more room and are constantly disinfecting our working tools. Our staff have also been trained on hygiene protocols and best business practice,’’ adds Ms. Shibonje.
To cushion the hair and beauty industry, Darling Kenya has launched the “#SalonTukoSet” program aimed at supporting Kenya’s 25 billion-shillings hair industry meet the newly published guidelines for business operations.
“We will be donating 100,000 reusable masks, 20,000 liters of disinfectant, 10,000 liters of hand wash and 3000 face shields to more than 10,000 salons nationawide to enable them return back to normal operations by implementing proper safety measures and ensuring salons are well stocked up with the essentials,” said Mr. Rohit Vengurlekar, Chief Executive Officer Godrej Kenya.
It has been said that life will never go back to normal, meaning that individuals and organizations alike will have to adapt or go extinct. In addition, it will be organizations that show concern for their staff and clients that will pass the test of brand equity in the near future. The salon has long been a safe space for grooming. A space where banter and relaxation lies at the heart of it all. COVID-19 had cut off that part for a while and most people had to take to home DIYs or deal with a less groomed version of ourselves.
Four months in, the city is slowly opening up and we can finally start bringing back all the things we’d put on halt, only this time with precaution. As the president said, it now falls entirely on us to take care of each other. Granted, your next salon visit might not feel the same but like all things, you will have to adapt and evolve with the times. And you’ll probably feel safer what with all the hygiene and safety measures put in place for you.
So for your next salon visit, make sure that you do proper due diligence to determine whether the salon has all precautionary standards put in place. Be sure to put on your mask and sanitize. We can get through the pandemic all while looking good and feeling good, all we have to do is take care of ourselves and each other.