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Hair salons are reopening. Did COVID-19 closures do more good than damage?

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Toronto resident Jennifer Lake is looking forward to her first hair appointment in almost 10 months, as hair salons and other personal care services reopen across Ontario on Wednesday.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, Lake was a regular customer at the Fiorio Cumberland beauty parlour, getting her hair cut and coloured every two months.

Read more: Hairdressers ready to get back to work with Step 2 reopening plans in place

So, when the province announced the start of Step 2 of its COVID-19 reopening plan last week, Lake, like many other Ontarians, was quick to book a date with her hairdresser. Besides getting “a bit unruly” and longer than she would have liked, Lake says she has also noticed her hair becoming drier than usual from spending more time indoors amid lockdown measures.

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“I think probably one of the reasons that it’s exciting to get back to is (because) it’s my big self-care,” the University of Toronto professor and PhD student told Global News.

Jennifer Lake is excited to get a fresh cut before her PhD defense in August. Photo supplied

The personal care service industry in Canada has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, enduring months-long closures.

And while customers may have been feeling the effects from a lack of professional help, some experts say there was a silver lining too: more people focusing on self-care at home.

Going a long time without a haircut often results in split ends, but the lack of hair processes and use of chemicals could actually make the hair healthier, said Dr. Julia Carroll, a Toronto-based dermatologist.

“It doesn’t look as nice because … you might have more greys or white hair, but sometimes the quality can be better because you give your hair a little bit of a break,” she told Global News.

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Carroll said that the main benefit to getting any hair treatment such as cutting dead ends or adding highlights, was primarily aesthetic.

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How provinces are preparing

Dean Lianos, a salon owner in Toronto, is busy getting things ready for reopening on July 6. His salon is fully booked until mid-August and his clients are “interested in getting as much done as possible”, he says.

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Lianos, who has been in the salon business for the past 25 years, expects he and his staff will have their hands full once they are up and running again. Under Step 2, personal care services, where face coverings can be worn at all times, are allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity — with other restrictions.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to the pace that we were used to before,” Lianos told Global News.

“People have way-overgrown hair, and it’s quite a big job just … starting with getting rid of all that hair,” he added.

Read more: ‘Breaking a barrier’: Manitobans can finally get their hair cut again

In Manitoba, personal services businesses such as hair and nail salons, estheticians and barbers are permitted to reopen at 50 per cent capacity on an appointment basis only.

Winnipegger Nelson Reis, who hadn’t had a haircut since February this year, got six inches chopped off by his regular hairdresser on Tuesday evening.

As an IT professional, he said working from home has changed his habits over the past year.

“I’m not washing my hair every day, so that’s a difference,” the 50-year-old said.

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Nelson Reis pictured here before his hair appointment. Photo supplied

COVID-19 hair loss

Meanwhile, recovered coronavirus patients have also reported experiencing hair loss.

Carroll said this was the case with quite a few of her patients who were COVID-19 long-haulers — people who experience symptoms for many weeks or even months after getting the disease.

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Read more: Some COVID-19 patients report hair loss months later

This can happen as a result of a stress response. When the body is busy looking after vital organs, it will take resources that would normally go towards growing hair and divert to help repair other systems in the body that were damaged, she explained.

But most of the patients in that boat have since recovered from it, Carroll added.

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Amid the soaring demand for personal care services and a rush to book appointments, Carroll recommended spacing out the treatments to allow your body time to get used to them, especially after a long hiatus.

“If you haven’t been doing a lot of these things for a long period of time, like facials, manicures, pedicures, hair services, then I wouldn’t necessarily want to stack them all up at one time because it might be too hard on your skin or too hard on your nails,” she said.

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For Lake, who describes herself as low maintenance, a new haircut on July 9 will mean slowly getting back to her pre-pandemic self.

“It’s nicer to look at yourself when you like your hair,” she said, laughing.

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