The folks we trust to keep our hair on-point aren’t at work. Here’s how to do right by them right now.

As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, and state governments are mandating the closure of non-essential business in an effort to flatten the curve, service industry professionals are bearing much of the weight. It’s why your gym is closed, your favorite restaurant has switched to take-out only, and why your local barbershop is dark. Haircuts themselves may or may not pose a risk of coronavirus infection, but the fact that the CDC has advised against gatherings of 10 or more people and social distancing measures advise keeping six feet away from other people means a haircut is unlikely in your near future.

Just like other service industry professionals who have lost their jobs amid the widespread business closures, barbers and hairstylists are in a complicated situation. “Barbers and stylists work on commission-based pay, meaning they get paid per haircut,” says barber Kevin Baker of Sposito in Brooklyn, NY, “so no haircuts equals no pay.” To further complicate the issue, since many barbers and hairstylists are considered freelance or independent contractors, “they technically can’t be laid off to collect unemployment while they’re out of work,” says hairstylist Ryan Austin of IGK Salon in New York City. It also means that some stylists can feel pressure to keep working even if they’re uncomfortable, because they can’t afford to stop. “The people you see working now are doing it because they have to,” says celebrity hairstylist Rita Hazan, who closed her own salon in New York City last week.

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