A Year into a Global Pandemic, We are Seeing Signs of Hope. We are Surviving, Adapting and Thriving.

By Kelly Carson, AHLC Editorial Consultant

It’s been a year – a year of uncertainty and fear of the unknown as the world came to grips with the novel coronavirus, the disease that causes COVID-19. We’ve faced quarantines and tight regulations on our businesses. We’ve faced economic hardships as cities and states closed our doors.

But a year later, we’ve survived. We’ve adapted. And we’ve thrived.

Many in the industry have gone above and beyond to help clients navigate the health crisis and receive the services and treatments they need. Others have developed a new understanding of their clients needs after contracting COVID-19 and suffering its associated hair loss.

Christal Mercier, President and founder of Hair Dreams by Christal Inc. in Missouri City, Texas, is a COVID-19 survivor who says she’s personally experienced the full range of emotional trauma.

“I lost 70% of my hair from COVID. While I always had compassion for my hair loss clients, this gave me a new outlook and extreme empathy for what hair loss sufferers go through,” Mercier said. “Now I now know first-hand what it is like. Losing my hair made me more determined to change peoples lives, one hair addition style at a time.”

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the Gallery of Salons Rescue Team launched to serve hurricane refugees who were living in area shelters.

“Right after Hurricane Harvey, a group of different salon owners and stylists came together and offered free services to hurricane victims that were living in shelters,” Mercier said. “We set up at the shelter and helped over 700 people. Our motto was, You might have gone through a storm, but you don’t have to look like you’ve been through one. “

Hair Loss Support Groups

In 2020, Mercier launched the Hair Loss Support Group, an online community that meets at 7 p.m. CDT the second Monday of each month via Zoom.

“When people with hair loss sit in my chair, they are depressed, angry, frustrated, they don’t feel whole, feel worthless and shame. Once COVID hit they weren’t sitting in my chair and I knew they still needed support. Zoom participants can choose to show their faces or not. I have members whose significant others don’t even know they have hair loss. People don’t have to suffer in silence. Even if we can’t see each other in person. My goal is always to lessen the pain and suffering associated with hair loss.”

Other salon owners and vendors are adapting best-practices to ensure their clients well-being.

For Randy Clark, of Texas-based Randy Clark & Associates, it’s been about turning a business loss into a gain. As the virus spread throughout the nation, Clark saw his client base falling off while his inventory of custom hair sat in storage. He took the chance and began altering the custom pieces to meet the needs of his customers. But it didn’t stop there.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to maintain the 6-foot social distancing rules by offering curbside service for our clients,” Clark writes in this issue of The Link. “We gave them solvents to take off their systems and provided private rooms to put them back on. We were also able to give pointers to help them along with the process.”

Another long-time salon owner offers this simple suggestion.

“It all comes down to this: Do what is possible. Hopefully, we will get our systems made soon with some regularity. Eventually, the prices will stabilize and the quality will get better,” Christine Pusateri, owner of the Niles, Illinois based Christine Pusateri Hair Solutions writes in this edition of The Link. “Reach out to other people in the field and see if they can help you or you them. Be honest with your clients. Tell them the problems we are facing.”

Pandemic Fatigue

As we move toward what we hope will resemble normalcy, it’s important to realize our own feelings and guard against what experts are calling pandemic fatigue.

“We’re burnt out. We’re expected to be productive at work or to parent (or often both) as though we haven’t been living in hell for the last year. The winter has been bleak and could potentially get bleaker,” Julia Ries wrote in an article published recently by HuffPost.com “And even though the vaccines are bringing us some much-needed hope, our feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness are swallowing any positive emotions whole.”

She wrote it’s natural for our brains to send flashes of “energy throughout our bodies” to help us deal with stress. The ongoing pandemic and all the other news that’s bombarded us for the past year, have kept the energy flowing unabated in some cases.

“Typically, the brain and body calm down and rest once the stressor is removed. Throughout the pandemic, however, we’ve been exposed to so many stressors that our system hasn’t been able to catch a break,” she said. “Cortisol is just pumping through our bodies at rates we haven’t had to contend with before.”

Ries talks with mental health experts to get a handle on the issue and what we can do to thwart falling into the fatigue trap.

Amy Cirbus, a licensed mental health counselor in New York and the director of clinical content at Talkspace and a licensed mental health counselor in New York, said stressor on top of stressor on top of stressor will build up and come exhausing.

“Maybe it’s the news, a job, or toxic convos with a friend,” she points out. Being aware of triggers is the first step, followed by establishing “healthy boundaries.”

Cirbus recommends “focusing on one or two things a day that you can accomplish.”

“It’s the accumulation of those small things over the course of time that are going to make a difference. They do add up,” she said.