How the Biggest Little City Upheld Western Beauty Standards Despite COVID-19

Jordan Bader interviews her local stylists, Rachel Arciniega and Meghan Evans, about salons surviving lockdowns, social distancing and other trials and tribulations of the pandemic.

Meghan Evans with clients she styled at the Miss Reno Rodeo 2022 Pageant. Image Courtesy: Meghan Evans.

How did a Vocation Built on Contact, Survive Social Distancing?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought forth a new frontier full of uncharted territory. Like most industries, it was not easy on cosmetology.

Throughout the pandemic, my own hair roots were maintained by the take-home kits that my stylist, Rachel Arciniega provided. Arciniega is a mother of three and stylist at Studio R Salon in Sparks.

Despite seeing her every few weeks for a touch up, I had no idea of all the challenges she faced, maintaining her business in the midst of a pandemic.

“I start at 10 and usually end at 8, I’m usually double booked so around every 45 min a new client comes in — no lunch — no pee breaks — truly I just work straight through the shift, but this is not what it looked like during COVID,” Arciniega compares, between then and now, slowly returning to normalcy.

Salons faced major consequences during the pandemic. Following the first quarantine mandate, Arciniega sent her clients home with root touch-up and instructions, until we could return to the chair. Scheduling went out the window as appointments had to be cancelled on the spot. Many estheticians were forced to seek other forms of employment, or file for unemployment with the government.

“Well, we were shut down for 8 weeks and all of our fees and everything were still due, so there was no leniency on business rent. We were expected to pay our fees, but not make money. Upon coming back, [Nevada Governor Steve] Sisolak gave us less than 24-hour notice that we were open, so coming back was really wild and crazy. The hardest part of all this is the different social interaction and politics during COVID,” Arciniega admitted.

A braid and balayage by Rachel Arciniega, before masks were mandated. Image credit: Rachel Arciniega.

A Day in the Life Behind the Chair

Despite finally being able to operate, there was a long road ahead even after the initial lockdown for the beauty industry. Mask mandates deterred clients, the ambience of a waiting room was deemed unsafe, and blow drying hair was considered too dangerous. While stylists were able to cut and dye hair, they were prevented from styling their clients and revealing the design they had created. This stripped clients of the magical reveal, and prevented stylists from feeling the fulfillment of their work.

Luckily for estheticians, biosecurity is already a crucial factor in their job.

“Ours was already set up, in order to get your cosmetology license you’re required to take a sanitary test every year you renew … long story short, you learn skills to do hair and pass your boards. Sanitation is board priority. From the get go, we honestly already did maintain biosecurity. To make clients feel more comfy, I also took an extra certification online,” Arciniega explained.

“We did a lot of temperature checking and all of our snacks and drinks that we provide now are in closed, self-serve containers,” Desert Strands Salon employee, Meghan Evans, added.

Meghan Evans modeling outside Desert Strands Salon in new location, the Village at Rancharrah. Image Courtesy: Meghan Evans

Topsy Turvy to Keep Moving Forward in Industry

Evans bounced around a lot since the beginning of the pandemic, shuffling between doing makeup for MAC Cosmetics, working at POSH Medical Spa, and landing at her place of work today, at the Desert Strands Salon. Evans noted that each place she worked had slightly different methods and measures to keep their employees and clientele safe.

Evans is grateful that we are on track for normalcy and claims her favorite part of her job is,“to make clients feel beautiful about themselves. I just love being able to put a smile on my client’s face.”

Despite her optimistic outlook, Evans did experience the repercussions of COVID as she progressed in her industry.

“Take whatever you learn in school with a grain of salt because you learn the most at the salon,” she said. “They don’t teach you about investing in your business. They don’t teach you anything beyond cosmetology, so everyone falls on their face because they realize taxes, write offs, etc. are involved,” Evans said.

Evans also admits that it was difficult to maintain creativity and prioritize beauty during the pandemic. She is looking forward to connecting with genuine and respectful clients, who value their relationship, in the future months as hopefully the pandemic starts being more and more in our mirrors in the past.

Reporting by Jordan Bader for the Reynolds Sandbox

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