Why are beard trims allowed but no face treatments?

First published on: 15th July 2020

Our grand “unlocking”, rightly or wrongly, has perhaps happened more swiftly than we might have predicted. Over the last week or so, hairdressers, barbers, spas and beauty salons have all been given the green light to open. So why are face treatments still not allowed? Is it sensible policy or blatant sexism? By Sarah Bradbury.

Call me vain but the first thing I did when the government announced hairdressers could reopen from last weekend was book in a hair cut and colour. The first thing I did when it was also announced beauty salons had the go ahead from Monday, I booked a wax.

I don’t think I was the only one to jump at the chance to reintroduce some grooming into my life after 4 months locked down. And those businesses were no doubt relieved they could finally get some customers and income rolling it, albeit with COVID-safe measures now in place…

But there has been one caveat – any beauty treatments to the face are still not allowed. Plus, crucially, no time frame has been given for when they can restart.

This effectively means a ban on treatments for eyebrows and eyelashes as well as facials. Not only is this frustrating for my eyebrow situation but for the many salons and workers for whom beauty treatments to the face are a core service offering – and therefore a big driver of income.

Some therapists have even said their salons may not be financially viable without being able to offer them. This in turn disproportionately affects the majority female workforce of the industry, which incidentally adds a cool £30bil to the UK economy annually. That’s more than the car industry.

The big question is – why the distinction? If other treatments are able to resume as long as the right precautions are taken, do those to the face prevent a much greater risk in reality? Furthermore, there has been no parallel restriction on other types of treatment for men such as beard, moustache, eyebrow and side burn trimmings, leading to accusations of a sexist policy approach.

The flutter of school-boy giggles followed by dismissive remarks in the Commons when William Wragg MP challenged the government on when beauty salons could reopen didn’t help matters.

A government spokesperson argued that there was a logic to the policy approach, telling The Telegraph: “There is a difference between a man having his beard or eyebrows trimmed, which doesn’t have to be face-to-face and can be done quite quickly, and a facial which might often take an hour.” Hmm and what about eyebrow threading which can take only a matter of minutes?

Helen Ward, from Sirens Hair and Beauty Salon, in Durham, told The Northern Echo: “I think it’s pure chauvinistic sexism from our Government. A lot of families are reliant on the beauty industry providing a wage. I am not an angry feminist, but I am this week.”

In a letter to Downing Street, trade body the Beauty Guild also pointed out there was no scientific reason eyebrow treatments posed more of a threat: “Allowing men to have their beards trimmed while banning women from being able to have their eyebrows treated is, with respect, absurd.”

Have your say

Do you think the restrictions make sense? Or are these a reflection of a fundamentally sexist approach from a male-dominated, out-of-touch government? Have you had any treatments yet since lockdown lifted?