How It Feels to Work in Beauty Right Now


Descending like a storm, the novel coronavirus’s arrival to the United States shuttered, in a matter of weeks, businesses across the country. Latest reports put national unemployment at 22 million, qualifying for a recession more than 40 times over.

Allure would not exist if it were not for the work and experiences of hairstylists, nail technicians, makeup artists, salon owners, and dermatologists that we rely on for education and inspiration. In this series, we reached out to some of the professionals we’ve written about in the past for our Background Beauty series to ask them how the pandemic has affected their livelihoods, how they are attempting to get by, and how much hope they have for the future.

Shelley Smith

“We had to close the salon on March 24. It was a devastating day for us. Not knowing what our future is going to hold, not knowing when we’re going to go back to work. We’re living one press conference at a time. It’s been tough for us not to see our customers — they’re like family — but the hardest part is that we [the Smith sisters] haven’t seen each other, either. We’re staying prayerful and checking on each other every day, no matter what we’re going through.”

To read more about how this Kansas City salon is finding optimism amid the pandemic, check out Shelley’s full story.

Catherine Bak

Aesthetician and co-owner at Hugh Spa in Los Angeles

“We have not personally experienced racism during this time, but the xenophobia going on with coronavirus makes me fear for my employees and my parents and my grandma all the time. We have a really special spa. We have a lot of regulars. We have only felt loved and it’s been great. The [racially charged assaults] are something that I need to think about, once we do reopen. I hope not, but I’m sure we are going to have a few racists out there harassing my staff. I just have to be prepared for that and warn my staff.”

To read more about how this beloved Korean day spa is preparing to eventually reopen, read Catherine’s full story.

Bethany Wolosky

“All salons and spas and tattoo shops are different, but where I work, we’re all independent contractors. Essentially we work for ourselves and pay the shop for use of the space. Since we aren’t employees, we weren’t able to [initially] apply for unemployment, but I think we can now under the new legislation. I’m living off my savings.”

To learn more about what it’s like to work at a tattoo studio right now in the nation’s hardest-hit city, read Bethany’s full story.

Jamie DiGrazia

“I had to apply for unemployment. On March 19th, I was online trying to figure out how to apply for unemployment, and they said, ‘Just take the information off of your ID — birthday, weight, and name.’ And they kept saying they ‘couldn’t verify your information at this time.’ Why on earth not? They knew I was lying about my weight! They gave me this number to call, and it was busy, for 10 days. Then I got through, and I had to listen to this seven-minute message about them being really busy. In the end, the line hung up.”

To learn more about the effect COVID-19 is having on the hair industry, read Jamie’s full story.

Natasha Dahiya

“I have about 14 employees. They’ve been with me for a long time. For the month of March, I gave them their [salaries]. But I don’t know how long it’ll be. They’ve been calling me about what to do, but I don’t have answers.”

To hear more about this small business owner’s experiences, read Natasha’s full story.

Read more stories about COVID-19:

Now, take a moment and watch this woman’s joy as she shaves her head for the first time:

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