How Cosmetology Schools and Students Are Affected by COVID-19

May 25, 2022 Update

More than two years into the pandemic, many states continue to relax their COVID-19 restrictions, although the specifics vary depending on the state. Refer to the American Association of Cosmetology Schools' (AACS) Guide to Re-Opening for state-by-state information.

COVID Safety Protocols in Cosmetology Schools

Though some cosmetology schools had to close due to financial strains during the earlier parts of the pandemic, many cosmetology schools survived. However, cosmetology schools today may be operating with some changes from the pre-pandemic days to keep their population of students, instructors, and salon clients safe.

The continued restrictions may include any of the following:

  • Masks: Some local areas or individual institutions may still require providers, instructors, and clients to wear an appropriate mask or face shield while performing services and may provide masks when possible. However, most states no longer have mandatory mask ordinances for classroom settings, so it's often up to the individual school.
  • Physical distancing: In most states, the updated guidance says to stay at least six feet away from others when possible. Service and waiting chairs may be spaced to allow six feet between clients.
  • Smaller class sizes: While many schools have cut class sizes down, others have imposed limits to no more than 10 people in any facility at any time (or a maximum of 50% occupancy). Some schools offer more online training opportunities or have students remain in the same class all day while the instructors move around.
  • Clinicals: Many schools aim to prevent infection by changing how they schedule clients in the salon, allowing for more staggered appointments. Others have pivoted to having students work more on mannequins or watch instructor demonstrations to complete the practical requirement rather than working solely with actual clients.
  • Distance learning: State-enacted emergency remote learning options are typically no longer in place, although some schools have permanently adopted some form of online learning. Most states ended distance education mandates as they reopened, but some may still offer authorization for completing qualifying hours remotely.
  • Exams: While some states stopped in-person practical exams completely during the pandemic, many have resumed. However, students may be required to bring their own mannequins and other supplies. Some states, like Alaska, replaced the practical exam with a proficiency exam administered by schools and have yet to resume the pre-pandemic practical exams.

Salon Protocols From the CDC

In addition to the safeguards schools have in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Guidelines for Disinfecting Your Facility that many salons follow. Some of the most common minimum standards include:

  • Disinfecting: Frequent disinfection should take place on often-touched surfaces like door handles, displays, tools, linens, the reception desk, etc.
  • Handwashing: Employees should wash their hands as frequently as possible, especially after providing services to clients. Some states also ask clients to wash upon arrival.
  • Hand sanitizer: Salons should make sanitizer available for all clients and for use before nail services.
  • Smocks and capes: The provider must wear a clean smock for every client, and each client should be draped with a clean cape.
  • Gloves: Providers must wear gloves to perform routine responsibilities in some states.
  • Food and drink: No eating or drinking is permitted in classrooms or school salons.
  • Magazines and newspapers: Salons and schools should remove frequently touched reading items like magazines and newspapers or other paper products from waiting rooms.

Onsite school salons have seen the biggest changes. Schools and students may also need to follow safety recommendations involving customer interactions, such as:

  • Appointments: Salons should schedule all services with proper cleaning and disinfecting time between appointments, emphasizing online scheduling. Students can also only work on a single client at a time. No group appointments are permitted in many schools.
  • Waiting rooms: Some salons ask clients to wait outside or in their vehicle until the scheduled appointment, and many have reorganized waiting rooms to maintain physical distance.
  • Workstations: Most onsite school salons have added space between workstations, use divider shields, or maintain alternative work schedules to minimize the number of people in the salon at any one time.
  • Treatments: Some locations have suspended certain treatments, such as hand, scalp, neck, and shoulder massages.
  • Payment: Cashless and receipt-less payments are preferred or required.
  • Age concerns: States may require you to take additional precautions to work on clients 65 years or older.
  • Thermometers: Some employers still use thermometers to scan clients' temperatures, sending anyone with a temperature of 99.5°F or more home.
  • Screening: Salons may ask clients to fill out a questionnaire or screening before their service asking if they have been exposed to someone with COVID or recently had any symptoms.

Certain states, like Arkansas, may also hold onto the contact information of each client serviced in the school salon for a month. This record helps mitigate further COVID infections. Other salons post a sign at the door stating that they won't offer services to anyone who has signs of the virus.

Remember that just because beauty schools are open in your state, it doesn't mean it's back to business exactly as usual. Contact your school or local salon to learn more about their COVID-19 restrictions.

April 22, 2021 Update

Many states are relaxing their COVID restrictions. Refer to the American Association of Cosmetology Schools' excellent Guide to Re-Opening for state-by-state information.

May 28, 2020 Update

As of today, 41 states have authorized cosmetology schools to reopen with restrictions. We anticipate most other states will do the same in the next month or so. What does "with restrictions" mean? This will depend on your state, but may include any or all of the following:

  • Smaller class sizes: You might go to school every other day or only mornings or afternoons, alternating with other classmates.
  • Social distancing: Schools might require you to work at least one station apart or have barriers between stations.
  • Masks: You and your instructors might be required to wear masks.
  • Clinicals: These may be limited—advanced students who are ready to graduate will generally take priority.

If your school has a salon, there may be additional restrictions for working with clients:

  • Reduced number of clients: Salons may run at 50% capacity or less to make sure clients can social distance.
  • Before entry: Clients might have to wait in the car until called. They won't be able to bring in food, beverages, and possibly no phone or purse. They will have their temperature taken before entering the salon.
  • Limited services: Salons may not offer pedicures or manicures. They may ban blow-drying, which can spread infection.
  • Age limit: States may not allow clients above a certain age to receive services.
  • Time between appointments: You won't be able to double-book—you will only have one client at a time.

Note that just because your state allows schools to reopen, it doesn't mean your school will do so. Contact your school to find out the details about when they will reopen and what their restrictions will be.

April 23, 2020 Update

If you are currently attending cosmetology school or will be starting soon (before June 1), you may be concerned about how you will take classes during these uncertain times.

Fortunately, many state cosmetology boards have approved temporary distance learning programs for the schools in their state. These programs would allow you to complete a portion of your training from home—currently 10% or higher.

Distance learning and online learning are totally different things. Distance learning is a temporary emergency option to allow the currently enrolled students a chance to continue education. With online programs schools need to send in a curriculum and follow particular guidelines.

—Kim Burgett, former beauty school owner

What might these programs look like? Although they will vary by school, they might include getting email assignments, watching video lectures, or accessing materials and assignments online. The programs will only cover the theory part of your training.

If your school was already offering online courses, however, your life won't change. You can continue to take these classes as determined by your school.

As of April 23, 2020, the following 48 states have approved temporary distance learning for cosmetology schools:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota Tennessee
West Virginia

Just as with the coronavirus itself, things can change quickly. State boards that have not approved distance learning today might approve it tomorrow. The number of credit hours might change, as well as the types of courses you can take. To help you keep abreast of any changes, Beauty Schools Directory will publish updates as new information becomes available.

Keep in mind that even if your state allows schools to implement distance learning programs, your school might not necessarily have the resources to do so. Make sure to check with your school to find out their policy.

If you are not a current cosmetology student but have been interested in going to beauty school, you may want to continue researching which school is best for you and requesting information. Many schools are still getting in contact with inquiring incoming students, even if their situation is evolving.

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