All Beauty, All the Time—For Everyone.

We Asked 8 Beauty Professionals How They've Been Affected by COVID-19, And the Stories Are Heartbreaking

woman applying makeup

Getty Images

The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic by The World Health Organization. As the situation remains fluid, we’ll continue our responsibility to update readers about safe consumer practices with regard to services and beauty and wellness products. Here's how we'll be approaching our content during this time.

It's easy to feel powerless during a global crisis like COVID-19, but when it comes to doing your part to flatten the curve, one message has been broadcast loud and clear: Stay home. In the wake of the CDC's recommendation to practice social distancing as of late March 2020, businesses across the country have announced that they'll be shuttering their doors (until further notice).

And while it might seem like an inconvenience for those of us who have the luxury of working from home, temporary closings carry more weight for laborers in the beauty industry. Hair colorists, manicurists, dermatologists, makeup artists, and estheticians alike are all directly affected by these closings. Some of them will go weeks to months without a paycheck, and others face furloughs and layoffs. Ahead, they share their heartbreaking stories about working in the beauty industry—one that requires close person-to-person contact—during a time when social distancing is crucial and so much is uncertain.

Updated March 18:

Marko Tomassetti, Colorist, Serge Normant at John Frieda

Are you still working at this time? 

"We were open today and had a very limited staff. We kept an empty chair in-between clients at the station and at the shampoo sinks. Trying to minimize contact and keeping as much distance as possible."

Are you working at limited capacity?

"After trying to work at a smaller capacity, the whole salon felt it was very irresponsible for us to operate, even with the smaller staff and lower client load."

Do you see yourself not working for the foreseeable future?

"As of now we are closed for two weeks, I am hoping that we are on the tail end of it all by then. Until we peak and the numbers start going down I will stay home and do all I can to not help it spread."

Was this a personal decision, or one made by your employer?

"Working in this industry you are always afraid to upset clients in fear that they would see someone else. But last night I was obsessing over COVID-19 and started to freak out, realizing how irresponsible it was to be working, especially since most of my clients travel the world. When I got to the salon today, Serge, my boss, told me we're closing down after today until April 1st. To be completely honest, it was a relief. As much as I don’t want to inconvenience my clients, I appreciate him making a decision that has everyone’s best interests at heart. It couldn’t have been an easy call to make."

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint? 

"I am freaking the F out! I live in NYC with two kids and am now going without a paycheck for the foreseeable future. Clients are emailing me freaking out about their roots, and I wish that was what I was stressed out about."

Lani Hart, Stylist and Salon Manager, The Lash Lounge

Are you still working at this time?

"As of March 18th we have made the hardest decision to close our salon. I took a direct hit over the last week. My appointments have been reduced due to cancellations by over 70 percent, if not more, in the matter of hours after businesses were being mandated to close. 

"When the first cases appeared in the U.S., we encouraged staff and guests feeling ill to stay home and reschedule appointments. We immediately took extra precautions by adding additional hand sanitizers and offering masks to anyone who preferred them. Everyone in our salon felt comfortable until the local spikes began to be reported. We work hands-on with lashes and eyebrows. There is no way to avoid human contact or establish social distancing. We felt with our county having a majority of Ohio’s cases, it would be in our best interest to close the salon and put safety first."

Do you see yourself not working for the foreseeable future?

"We are currently closing for four weeks. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and have never seen anything to this magnitude. I hope it is only four weeks but only time will tell."

Was this a personal decision, or one made by your employer?

"This decision was made by our leadership. We had a late night conference call and weighed the pro and cons. At the end of the meeting, we chose to put our staff and our guests’ safety over revenue."

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint?

"I think it was the proper decision. It is terrifying, financially. Each member of our staff will have to file for assistance though the state until our salon is operational again."

Madison Rae Garrett, Master Colorist, Spoke & Weal

Are you still working at this time?

"I am still working at this time. I’m limiting the hours I’m working in the salon. I still have clients booked in so as long as they remain willing to come in, so am I."

Are you working at limited capacity? 

"I think all businesses took a hit during this pandemic. We are definitely slower than normal at this time of the year, but still have clients booked in. Spoke & Weal is taking every sanitary precaution and measure recommended by the CDC following every guest."

Do you see yourself working for the foreseeable future?

"I plan on working until I am either sick (which I don’t hope to be, and if so will take every measure needed to ensure I am isolated and away from spreading it) or there is a mandatory closure from the government."

Was this a personal decision, or one made by your employer?

"I am choosing to work. Spoke and Weal would be very understanding if had made the decision to close off my books for the next few weeks. They are in full support of our decisions."

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint?

"I am a commission-based colorist. So If I don’t work, I don’t get paid."

Dr. Dara Liotta, Plastic Surgeon, Facial Plastics NYC

Are you still working at this time?

"Nope. I made the decision last Friday to close the office completely for the next two to four weeks. Because I have offices in Dubai, and often have patients fly in from out of state or out of the country for surgery, we already have a fully-functional remote consultation program in place. So I am doing new consultations virtually, and patient follow-up virtually as well. All surgery, Botox, and filler has stopped, of course."

Do you see yourself not working for the foreseeable future?

"Who knows. My reasoning for closing the office completely was: To support social distancing and help to #flattenthecurve. My patients, myself and my office staff are the healthy, asymptomatic, or mildly symptomatic patients who are unknowingly spreading the virus. Fewer interactions, fewer people using public transportation = better. Second, to not consume the personal protective equipment that will be needed by doctors in the ER and hospitals diagnosing and treating coronavirus patients on the front lines. And third, to not consume the terminal cleaning supplies that will be needed by hospitals, emergency rooms, and ICU's."

Was this a personal decision, or one made by your employer?

"100 percent a personal decision."

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint?

"It’s a disaster financially. No patients = no paycheck in private practice, while expenses still have to be paid. It’s a huge financial hit, but I’m paying my staff."

Alana Wright, Makeup Artist, Freelance

Are you still working at this time?

"No, but I was working up until last Thursday, March 12, with a personal client in NYC. I got final notification that all of my jobs for the rest of the month were canceled. I'm immunocompromised so i wore gloves and surgical masks when commuting to and from work, wiped everything down with sani-cloths, and washed my hands several times a day."

Do you see yourself not working for the foreseeable future?

"I see myself working once the quarantine is over and the curve is flattened but i'm completely unsure on when that will be. We have never seen anything like this in our lifetime so I'm trying my best to manage my expectations on when that end will come."

Was this a personal decision or one made by your employer?

"All of my jobs for the rest of the month were released. It was devastating but I understood that safety and health comes first."

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint?

"I'm extremely nervous about the weeks to come. The way this government is handling the crisis doesn't put me at ease either. My income is invoiced-based, so I'm just trying to conserve my funds and spend very little. The self-employed and freelance artists aren't included in any government stimulus packages so far and it's very disappointing. Working from home isn't an option."

Dr. Orit Markowitz, Dermatologist, Mount Sinai

Are you still working at this time?

"Yes, I am still working, but I'm at lower capacity as patients navigate travel restrictions and social distancing becomes the norm. I am opening up teledermatology to my patients as well as teledermoscopy to accommodate patient needs."

How do you feel about the current capacity you're working?

"I am still working and have no plans to close my office yet. Management is preparing to enforce that non-emergency visits be triaged using teledermatology to limit patient visits to the hospital. I specialize in diagnosing and managing skin cancer and I'm guiding my patients to purchase affordable iphone attachments that transform the iphone into a dermatoscope, allowing me to continue early diagnosis and management of skin cancer without cutting.  We have a robust screening procedure in place, but I feel my patients are safer staying at home and receiving care through teledermatology which they can access on my website."

Do you see yourself working for the foreseeable future?

"It seems likely that more restrictions will be announced, which may include orders to shelter-in-place like the one in San Francisco which would severely curb a patient's decision to keep or make an appointment. I am not sure I will be back at work outside of providing teledermatology as things progress, but the good news is with HIPPA (safe and secure) texting, pictures, and video interviews, I can care for my patients until restrictions are relaxed. I currently e-scribe medications including for skin cancer management and continue to evaluate patients through an online platform. I am hopeful that current and near future containment efforts work to limit the spread of the virus."

Was this a personal decision or one made by your employer?

Our dermatology center is going live with telehealth as a stop-gap measure and I am still seeing patients and offering teledermatology for all of my patients as an alternative to coming into the office. We are monitoring the situation daily and hopefully keeping the office open as long as we can.

How do you feel about this decision from a financial standpoint? 

"There is substantially less financial compensation for telehealth as the federal government reimburses less for this service and has strict guidelines, making it harder to quickly implement, but the care of our patients is crucial and telehealth seems like to right solution at this time."

Dr. Matt Nejad, Aesthetic and Cosmetic Dentist

Are you still working at this time?

"Yes, we are working on a limited capacity as we have patients in [temporary veneers that need to come off] and we are attending to more urgent patient needs at this time. We have postponed treatment which is not urgent as much as possible."

Do you see yourself working for the foreseeable future?

"It looks like we are going to have to completely shut down any day now, besides being available for emergency visits. I'm being optimistic that things will go back to normal soon, but there's really no telling what will happen and I'm trying to prepare for what's ahead."

Dr. Pia Lieb, Cosmetic Dentist, Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC

Dr. Pia Lieb
 Dr. Pia Lieb

Are you still working at this time?

"I took the prophylactic decision to close my office yesterday morning."

Do you see yourself not working for the foreseeable future?

"The ADA has given us a three week closure and all dental offices should be shut down. If you have an emergency, you should reach out to your dentist."

Was this a personal decision?

"First it was personal, then it was federal."

So how can those of us with the privilege of working remotely during this time support the ones who can't? The resounding consensus among beauty professionals seems to be to buy gift cards from salons and tip your professional what you anticipate you would tip when you redeem that gift card in the future. This gives stylists, estheticians, and other hourly or commission-based laborers direct access to cash flow. In cases where it simply isn't possible to purchase a gift card (as is the case with most dermatologists and cosmetic dentists), ask your professional if they are offering any telehealth services. While your dentist or derm won't be able to actually perform any treatments via services like Skype and Zoom, they can still perform consultations for new clients and assess ongoing situations with existing clients. In most cases, if your healthcare professional accepts your insurance for in-person visits, insurance coverage shouldn't be affected by switching to digital communication. In the meantime, be patient with any beauty professionals in your life; they may have slower response times while clients flood phone lines to cancel and reschedule. Be kind, be human, and help however you can.

Related Stories