Not Ready to Hit the Barbershop Yet? Guys Are Trying Professional In-Home Haircuts.

In the midst of a global pandemic, getting a haircut has become a much bigger decision than just finding time on your calendar. After months of closures, which made DIY buzzes and fades simultaneously viral and excusable, barbershops around the country are reopening under various phases and guidelines . Depending on where you live, you may have already had several professional haircuts or you could still be waiting for your first appointment. But for many, the thought of stepping back into a barbershop, even one operating at 50% capacity, is anxiety-inducing. What do you do when you need a cut, but youre not quite ready to be thrown back in the frey? Welcome to the era of the on-demand in-home haircut.

How Safe Is An In-Home Professional Haircut?

Getting a haircut in your own home isnt necessarily a new phenomenon, but this kind of service was mostly reserved for the very rich or the very famous. Thanks to apps like Klippers and Shortcut , which help pair clients with barbers who can come to their home, getting a haircut without setting foot in a barbershop is something anyone can do. And in the times of COVID-19, more men might be turning to that option. In the last month, weve added over 1,100 new clients and have been up 600% in orders, says Shortcut co-founder Will Newton, which translates to about 3,000 appointments in the 25 cities Shortcut barbers currently service. Prior to COVID-19, you might have thought of an in-home haircut as a luxury, but in the future, it may become the new normal, says barber and Shortcut Head of Education Pedro Rosario .

On the surface, getting your haircut at home is all about convenience. Like Postmates or Netflix, its about getting something exactly when you want it without needing to put on real pants. If youre going to be home, your barber can just come whenever, says Ben Chait, whose barber has come to cut his hair at home several times. You dont have to deal with the theatrics of going somewhere. It feels like a luxury.

But as a pandemic still rages outside our doors, there are very real concerns beyond securing an appointment and getting yourself to the shop. Even though barber shops have social distancing regulations, [some people] still dont feel safe going in them with so many people around, says Newton. They feel safer being able to control the space theyre in. Going to a barber shop could seem like a crap shoot; contract tracing is difficult in even the most well-regulated public areas and how many other people are following mask and social distance guidelines is often out of your control.

Its especially concerning to certain people who are immunocompromised or at high risk of contracting the virus, who Newton notes make up a good chunk of Shortcuts new clients. Ive been trying to avoid any kind of interactions that arent absolutely necessary; I dont even go in stores, says Jason Noble, who chose to use Shortcut because his inherited autoimmune disorder puts him at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. I just dont want to expose myself to any unneeded risk.

It depends, says William C. Miller, MD, MPH, PhD, senior associate dean of research and professor at The Ohio State University College of Public Health. The advantage of having a barber come to your house is that you limit your exposure to that one person, so in theory, it would be safer.

But ultimately, Dr. Miller is quick to note, it comes down to the behavior of the barber and their other clients. Its important to realize that this person will have been exposed to all the other people they have taken care of, so having the barber come to your home has some risk, he says. Just like at a barbershop, even if safety precautions are being enforced, you have no way of knowing who your barber has been exposed to before he cuts your hair. Finally, its important to consider whats going on locally, continues Dr. Miller. If there havent been any cases in your county for some time, it will be much safer than if your county has a rapidly increasing case count.

In fact, expect stricter ones. In the instance of Shortcut, which has barbers across multiple states, the company has developed a strict protocol that uses the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as a template, not the individual states guidelines. That means that depending on what state youre in, the safety measures your at-home barber takes could be more than what you may encounter in a barber shop.

Shortcut developed its protocol by giving in-hospital haircuts to frontline workers during the height of the pandemic, so all the pros have to go through extensive training about what it means to be safe, says Newton. Shortcuts training includes daily temperature checks for barbers, making sure they have and use the appropriate PPE, and training them in proper sanitation techniques. And safety doesnt just fall on the barbers. Shortcut requires clients to answer COVID-related questions (like whether they have symptoms) and sign a waiver.

Working with an individual barber, or another on-demand service, may have different protocols, but the top priority of an in-home haircut should always be safety. Getting your haircut at home is not a way to get around safety precautionsits a way to have more control over whether theyre enforced. Follow these steps before and during your at-home cut to make sure you have the best, and safest, experience possible.

When choosing a barber, either on an app like Shortcut or not, always check reviews or ask for recommendations. And were not just talking about before and after pictures of fresh cuts either. Look for specific references to the safety measures the barber took and whether clients were satisfied with them (or if youre getting a word of mouth reference, ask about safety point blank). Newton has noticed that reviews on Shortcut have organically started to include ratings on pandemic-related precautions and its made the user experience better. I chose my barber because several people listed in the reviews section that he had a very, very detailed and thorough cleaning and disinfecting process, says Noble. It made me feel comfortable contacting him.

The major concern [with an in-home haircut] is whether the barber has followed the same strict protocols in every home that they normally would in a shop, says Dr. Miller. Ask right up front what precautions they take, if they ever allow a client to take their mask off, and if they also work in a shop. Whatever barber you choose, even if you know them well, do not wait to have this conversation till they arrive at your door. On Shortcut, clients are required to use the chat function to speak with the barber directly before booking. Asking questions up front not only allows you to make an informed decision, but also lets you know what to expect and how to prepare before they arrive.

If you think getting your haircut at home is a way to get around the mask-wearing rule, think again. Both the barber and the client need to be wearing masks and keep them on for the whole haircut, says Dr. Miller. Masks are a non-negotiable; if youre not willing to wear a mask, forget the cut. And yes, that means the barber may not be able to give you a beard trim, even in your own home. Ask about a beard trim up front and dont be surprised if they say no. Some barbers may agree, but ultimately its their decision, not yours.

Try to maximize the ventilation, even do the haircut outside if you can, recommends Dr. Miller. Its been shown that COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors , so if possible ask to get your haircut in your backyard or on your balcony. Ive had clients want to get their haircut outside, which is totally fine with me, says Shortcut barber Pierre Johnson. I actually enjoy it.

If youre booking through an app like Shortcut, youll likely be advised on how to sanitize your space. If youre not, be prepared to help with cleanup. Cleaning and sanitizing your space before the barber arrives is fine, but not necessary, says Dr. Miller, but you absolutely need to sanitize afterward. The good thing is that you have the power to clean your home exactly how you want, unlike in a barber shop. Your barber will likely disinfect his tools and sweep up before he leaves, but once hes gone, you should wipe down surfaces and wash towels immediately.

Just like youre choosing to get your haircut at home to feel safer and more comfortable, the barber needs to feel comfortable, too. That means you need to follow the rules they set, because theyre trained to protect you. And if youre not willing to follow them, they have the power to decline. An in-home haircut is not a loophole. We have the ability to deny the appointment if a person has been exposed to the virus or if they havent been cleared by their doctor to receive essential services, says Johnson. Once the barber arrives, theyll enforce the rules they set forward as well, so dont expect to forget your mask and still get your haircut.

There is always a price for convenience, and typically house call haircuts cost a little bit more than the cuts youll get in a shop. But remember, many barbers were out of work for months and even if theyre back at work now, probably cant see as many customers as usual. Plus, if youre asking them to come to your home, theyre putting themselves at some risk, so be prepared to compensate them adequately (and tip them generously if you can). Spending a few extra dollars to feel safer is a tradeoff that may be worth it to you. I would rather spend $50 and have my barber come to me than go to the shop, says Chait. Its a matter of what youre willing to sacrifice for safety.


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