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Last updated: August 07, 2020

What It’s Like To Do Hair Secretly During COVID-19

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What It’s Like To Do Hair “Underground”

During mandated closures due to COVID-19, did you do “underground” hair? Across the country, stylists who needed to work found ways to see clients despite salons being closed. With California salons closed again in much of the state, we had to know: What’s it like to be an “underground” stylist during the coronavirus pandemic? We talked to one hairdresser, who will remain anonymous—keep reading.


Editor’s Note: Performing cosmetology services that do not comply with state board regulations can result in fines, jail time or revoked licenses, as well as exposure to COVID-19. is simply sharing the story of one stylist who decided to work during mandated shutdowns. Any stylist who chooses to do this is doing so at their own risk.



Why Anonymous Decided To Work Secretly

The anonymous hairdresser who spoke to BTC is self-employed in California. They shut down their business in March.


“In California, the self-employed didn’t immediately qualify for unemployment. It wasn’t until April 28 until it was set up [for independent contractors]. Once It was available, they were so backed up and behind, I still haven’t received anything,” Anonymous said.


Anonymous is married and has children. Their spouse’s business was also affected by COVID-19, putting both of them out of work.


“In the beginning, I understood. I wanted to be part of the solution. I shut my business down, I complied with everything,” Anonymous said. But with bills mounting and no end date in sight, Anonymous needed to bring in some money.


Where Anonymous Did “Underground” Hair

Anonymous heard another California county was more lenient on COVID-19 rules, and a friend in that county was offering a location to do hair.


“The first time was really scary,” Anonymous said. “I worked, and followed all CDC guidelines, taking one client at a time, but it was really scary because the salon was in a busy shopping center.”


Anonymous was reported to the California State Board of Barbering & Cosmetology a few times. They received letters saying if Anonymous didn’t stop doing hair during the shutdown, they could be fined $1,000, go to jail for 6 months, or lose their license.


“I’ll gladly pay a fine, it’s worth it to me to work. Six months in prison, I figured there are civil attorneys working pro bono that would help me. If they take my license, I’ll work without a license,” they said. To Anonymous, the risks were worth what would happen if they couldn’t provide for their family.


After some time, Anonymous worked at a salon closer to their home, with the windows covered up. “We can’t just go broke,” they said. “Partly I was scared of the virus in the beginning—but also, I was scared about being one of the first ones in trouble.”



What Anonymous’ Clients Thought About “Underground” Hair

Anonymous has had no trouble keeping a full book. Clients immediately texted Anonymous after the first shutdown asking if they could keep their appointments. “Not one person wanted to cancel,” Anonymous said.


Anonymous is following protocols and taking a single client at a time, instead of double-booking like they would prior to COVID-19. While California did announce salons could do limited services outdoors only, Anonymous will not be working outside.


“Our hands are tied, what are we supposed to do?” Anonymous said. “We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. I’m beyond angry. But to be honest, I feel better working than not working, because I feel like I’m not under their thumb. I’m doing what I need to do to support my family.”


We asked Anonymous if they knew any other stylists doing hair “underground.” Their answer? “I don’t know any that aren’t.”


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