The pungent smell of burning hair and a smoke-filled blow drier is something most women have to endure at least once a month.
The hairdressers maneuver to get into their kinks and knots, sometimes breathing so close into their clients’ faces to perfect the hairstyle; but they bear it all as a necessary step to looking beautiful.
The smell of acetone as chipped nail polish is removed is familiar to most women because a visit to the salon is a regular schedule on their diaries. Their eyebrows get plucked to the arc they want, nails polished, hair laid in neat cornrows and blackheads removed for flawless skin. Coronavirus has interrupted all that, and the women are not happy.
“I look like a homeless Mau Mau veteran. I do not know what to do with my hair and the acrylic nails fixed in February are beginning to get painful,” said Phylis Mueni on a Facebook Group dedicated to women and beauty. Her post attracted comments from women frustrated about the necessary inconvenience brought by the virus.
From the ones worried about the stink coming from their unwashed scalps to the concerns about the fast-growing ‘unibrows’ that are taking over their faces, the women are counting seconds to when the social distancing rule will be lifted. Things are quickly getting ugly, pun intended. Some have gone to channels like YouTube to learn simple ways of doing their hair.
Phaustene Omulo who operates a salon in town says ever since the directive to keep social distance was issued, she has been making losses and the future is uncertain.
“There is no social distancing in my work. You have to touch your customer. Some clients had booked appointments but all of them had to cancel. Even manicures and pedicures that used to give me some money have all been cancelled. The sad thing is nobody knows when we will start working again” she says.
Mercy Nguku who imports wigs and beauty products from China says their troubles started early this year when most airlines cancelled flights to China after cases of patients with coronavirus increased.
“I had scheduled a trip to go and get wigs on large scale in Guangzhou, China in January. There are some clients who had given me a down payment to go and buy for them wigs and I had even booked a room. At first, I thought by February things would go back to normal, but here we are, still counting the losses,” she says.
One hairdresser, who asked not to be named said she is desperate for money that she has been making house calls and giving her services at home.
“I have two children and I have to look for money. It reached a point where I only had Sh180 in my account. I had to do something,” she says.
The beauty troubles are not reserved for women. Men who have been visiting barbershops have now been forced to either cut their hair at home, or maintain the rugged look.
Nobody knows when it will be back to business as usual but until then, men make fun of the new styles they are spotting.
The coronavirus, humorists observe has set every human being around the world from kings to street bums to default factory setting the stage for hairy storytelling when all this is over.
Some of the horror stories will revolve around spouses who had never been seen without makeup and men who will suddenly shock their children with balding grey-haired scalp to replace clean shaved faces and heads.