T he missive from Salon X in Tempo's mailbox alerted us to the fact that it was time to start thinking about hair trims and other seemingly frivolous matters.

"We are sure that most of you are ready to get your hair done by now." The email from Delta Bayer read. "We will start calling people as soon as we have a confirmation that the 15th is the start date to reopen."

"We have stopped online booking for the moment, because we have to structure the way we book appointments differently now," she continued. "There will be many changes at the salon, most that make things a bit harder. We can only have one stylist working at a time, which means fewer hours for each of us. We are asking that everyone please be patient and we will get to you. When you are booked you will be sent an email that has a list of changes and new COVID-19 regulations."

With lots of people having cut their own hair during quarantine, and some even coloring it themselves, it's possible hairstylists will be doing mostly repair work after opening, and new regulations mean they can only take about half the usual number of customers. Everything needs to be disinfected between clients and there will be strict social distancing rules.

There's certainly not going to be any shortage of business though. In many salons in Taos it can be difficult to get an appointment during the best of times. Salon X closed their doors early on to avoid any possibility of community spread, even though their books were full.

Now, although people remain nervous, they definitely are ready for an appointment.

"Vanity is definitely greater than fear," said one client who wished to remain anonymous, when asked if she'd return to Bayer's chair once the salon's doors reopen.

Because hairdressing brings customers in much closer contact with workers than retail, salons will have much stricter rules to abide by. Social distancing rules will mean salons can't serve as many clients per hour. They will also have to record the names of their customers so that contact tracing of infections can take place if necessary.

"We will have only one stylist working at a time," Bayer said when we talked by phone last week. "Cuts will be by appointment only to avoid customers waiting in the salon. Customers and hairdressers must keep a distance except when the haircut is taking place, and both customers and hairdressers must wear face masks," Bayer told Tempo. "Direct communication will not be permitted. I'm thinking about having the initial conversation outside."

Other discussions about hair style, color, etc., will be done via a mirror and kept to a minimum with no, or minimal blow-drying.

Scissors and other tools must be thoroughly disinfected between uses, as well as hairdressing chairs. Capes must be washed after each use and, if possible, disposable cloaks should be used over the top. Customers must wash their hands when entering the salon. These are all considerations being taken into account by Bayer and other stylists in town.

"I"ve talked to both Eliza Lowther-Hadley (Buttercup Boutique & Salon), and Marjorie (Salon Marjorie)," Bayer said, "and it seems we are all just trying to figure it out; doing the research and waiting it out until we know whether we open after May 15 or not. And if we do, what are the protocols and guidelines?"

"Whatever new measures are introduced by the governor, it seems clear that costs will increase. Not only for supplies and equipment, but the safety of our customers and staff is the priority here," says Bayer. "We will also incur more costs with longer appointment times, as well as the cost of PPE [personal protective equipment]."

"We'll need plastic (disposable) masks for the shampoo bowl," she said, "aprons we can change after every client, a new cape for each client, all this drives up costs."

"Eliza is on it - she's doing a lot of research," Bayer said. "We are all trying to be prepared for a whole new way of doing this."

For Bayer that meant stripping the salon down to the bare minimum. No products on the stations, except per client, all on trays that can be easily disinfected after each use.

She's building a shade porch outside, where clients can wait. Only one client will be allowed inside at a time. There's a sneeze shield at the desk, and the usually spotless salon is now practically sterile. Fresh air will circulate through the open windows and doors, and the bathroom door will remain open unless it is being used, "In which case it will then be immediately disinfected," Bayer said.

"Stripped down, utilitarian - no more magazines, tea, coffee - it's pretty extreme," she noted. "Everyone wants their hair done - but for us it's kinda scary. I'm put at risk with every client who sits in my chair."

And the famous salon catch-up? Is that gone too?

"Minimize talking? I don't think so," she laughed. "People need to talk right now. Oh, and before I forget, one thing you may want to get, is a mask with ear loops for your visit with us."

For more on Salon X and all of the services they provide, visit them online at salonxtaos.com.

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