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Northern Ireland Hair Salons Celebrate Reopening (Finally)!

by laurahusband / last updated April 30, 2021

Northern Ireland salons reopening

Northern Ireland hair salons were the last in the UK to be given the green light to reopen with hair salons reopening once again on Friday 23 April. HJ speaks to Northern Ireland hair salons following the first week of reopening about their celebrations, any challenges they have faced and their plans for the months ahead.

Northern Ireland is the fourth UK nation to reopen with hair salons in Wales reopening on Monday 15 March, Scotland hair salons reopening on Monday 5 April and England-based hair salons and freelancers reopening on Monday 12 April. 

Northern Ireland hair salons celebrate reopening on 23 April

Mixed emotions for Nicola Murray in Ballymoney (pictured above)

Nicola Murray, Matrix artistic director and salon owner at Nicola Murray Hair, Ballymoney described having mixed emotions in the lead up to reopening and reopening itself. She said: “Overwhelmed, apprehensive, nervous and excited.. until the first client walked through the door and it was just like coming home to do what I love best!”

Nicola added: “Clients have been so grateful to be returning to the salon, many have sent messages wishing us good luck or dropping in flowers and gifts. We are only doing cut and blow dries for the first few days to allow time to carry out allergy skin tests before colour appointments start. Clients have been very understanding and patient about having a few weeks to wait for their second appointment. The entire team are happy to be back, and there is a fantastic atmosphere in the salon.  A buzz of normality returning.”

An electric atmosphere for Joanne O’Neill in Ballymena

Joanne O’Neill, Wella Professionals guest artist and salon owner at Joanne O’Neill Hairdressing, Ballymena said it felt fantastic to open on 23 April.

She explained: “The excitement was building for a couple of weeks especially with the England-based salons opening up. Clients were getting anxious to finally have their hair cut and coloured. I had the salon freshly painted and sanitised ready to welcome our guests back after the long lockdown.

The atmosphere was full of excitement, just seeing everyone was lovely and having a laugh at the grown out colour and shape of everyone’s hair. There were lots of air hugs and our clients brought us loads of gifts, candles, flowers and perfume. We did restyles, consultations and allergy skin tests all day. Some of my clients were happy to let me post their transformations on Instagram.  I love instagram and I share hair inspiration for hair cuts and colour with my clients on our salon page @jon_hairsalon  as well as my hair art page @joanneoneill.hair  It really helps to keep connected. It felt so good to be back among friends once again.”

Plenty of lockdown hair recommendations for Suzan Manning in Belfast

Suzan Manning, creative director at Zuni Hair for L’Oréal Professionnel Paris in Belfast is gaining new clients from the recommendations her loyal clients have made during lockdown.

She said: “We are delighted to be back in the salon with clients again. We have really missed everyone – colleagues and clients alike. We are social animals and it’s amazing to be back at work and chatting to people again.

After the first lockdown we had a lot of new clients booking in. Some of whom were doing a shotgun approach and booking in with several places and not cancelling or showing in for appointments. Now all new clients are given a personal phone reminder to ensure we have no last minute no shows.

We have gained new clients from old clients. Lots of our clients’ hair has grown or worn out so well that their friends or family are now joining the Zuni tribe, just because they’ve seen the difference in how their hair has grown out compared to our clients.

Trend-wise we are loving the money piece with balayage combo right now. Clients are wanting brightened up shades but with low commitment, just in case of further lockdowns. For our younger clients and stylists, they’re embracing the new mullet shapes. The 1970s curtain bangs are a big hit too right now.

We haven’t had to make any big changes on our return to work this time. We are operating as COVID securely as possible, so it was just like starting up a well-oiled machine again. We are all wearing trainers at the moment, long hours and sore feet are not what anyone needs at the moment.”

A sigh of relief for Sharon Malcolm in Newtonards

Sharon Malcolm, salon owner at Sharon Malcolm Hairdressing, Newtonwards said she felt a sigh of relief that clients had waited to visit a professional when she reopened.

Sharon said: “It was amazing to be back with the team and all of our clients. We’re full for several weeks and it’s overwhelming and exhausting but we wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m delighted that most of our clients waited and didn’t cut or colour their hair during lockdown. It’s been great to get my hands back on their hair again. It’s been great to make them look and feel fantastic again.”

A positive realisation for Andrew Mulvenna in Belfast

Andrew Mulvenna, director at Andrew Mulvenna in Belfast for L’Oréal Professionnel Paris realised during this extra long lockdown that he loves hairdressing down to his core and can’t ever imagine doing anything else.

He said: “It’s been just incredible being back with our clients over the last few days, quite emotional really. There is such a sense of joy, relief and hope with everyone. What I’ve learned is that I love what I do to my core. I can’t ever see myself retiring that’s for sure. Also as an industry we really are a truly valued part of the community and matter to people in a profound way.

Definitely shorter hair is a big trend with clients and not just a post lockdown reaction. Boxy, chunky pixie-cuts, tousled cheekbone bobs are a fave. Styling is really about a more lived-in finish at the moment but when hospitality opens up in Northern Ireland we will be ramping up the summer glam!

The salon decor over the three floors has been modified to a cosier and more homely feel – we want clients to feel like it is a home from home when they visit. We lengthened our appointment times last time as we had to adjust to the PPE  ‘breathe and break’ moments, It’s been a revelation in terms of atmosphere, quality of work and client satisfaction – this is now our new norm and we will continue to keep this even when the PPE is reduced.”

Sheer joy and relief for Stephen Aiken in Belfast

Stephen Aiken, colour director at Conroy Hair in Belfast and Wella Professionals master colourist was thrilled to see his clients again and relieved to see they had behaved themselves during lockdown.

He said: “As the last region of the UK to get back to work in the salon, it has been a great first week. With so many client happy to see us again.

I must say most of my clients have been very well behaved over lockdown and I haven’t had any hair disasters to fix, just yet.   But that may come.   I personally recommended Wella color fresh masks to my clients, which were released at the perfect time. Helping my clients keep their locks healthy and glossed.”

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