The government’s U-turn on beauty treatments is ridiculous



August 1st was a date that women across this country have had marked in their calendars since big man Boris’ grand announcement that beauticians will be allowed to perform all services thereafter. The sense of euphoria many felt at this long overdue verdict has been incredibly short lived, as he unceremoniously defaulted on this commitment Friday lunchtime. 

By now it is widely acknowledged that the reopening rules have been marred by sexism. It is outrageous for men to have been able to have their facial hair professionally groomed since last month, while women still can’t book in to get a simple eyebrow wax. It is also deceitful for the government to continue selling the idea of re-opening Britain to unlock the economy for everyone, while consciously screwing over the thousands of female-owned, female staffed, and female served businesses in the beauty industry. The decision to retract the green light for eyebrow and other facial treatments for women, is symptomatic of a serious gender divide in the government’s recovery plans.

There is zero scientific or medical evidence to suggest that the risk of transmission is higher when performing an eyebrow wax, lash tint, facial etc. on a woman than it is when trimming a beard or sculpting the eyebrows of a man. Intelligent female representatives have been ignored in their repeated calls for consistent, egalitarian legislation and guidelines. Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Caroline Nokes MP, has publicly expressed disappointment that barbers have been allowed to trim beards and eyebrows, when women have been denied all facial treatments. She rightly stresses the importance of implementing a recovery plan that is “designed to help women every bit as much as men”.

Meanwhile, Boris has chosen to market his decision to ban certain treatments for women as a response to a spike in infection rates, rather than an outright U-turn. However, if this were his primary objection, then why is it considered okay to socialise for hours down the pub, yet dangerous to have a 15-minute brow or lash appointment will full protective equipment? Now thousands of pre-booked appointments will have to be cancelled and countless businesses (that know they can operate in a COVID- secure way) will continue to suffer as the beauty industry falls on its knees. 

It is particularly disturbing that one of the only female-led major sectors has been treated as a spare part in Britain’s economic recovery. The beauty industry has wrongly been perceived as superficial by the PM, despite the fact it contributes a staggering £30bn to the national GDP per annum (for context 3 times larger than the Arts sector) and employs around 600,000 people. This was especially poignant when Johnson flippantly responded to a colleague’s question about salons reopening, by saying: “I am sure that one day I will go with my honourable friend to Lush Beauty, but it is a sad reality for many of those excellent businesses that they cannot yet open in the way they want”. 

Incorrect, Mr. Johnson. 

The sad reality is in fact your inability to recognise that these businesses are absolutely equipped to open safely and own willingness to endanger the livelihoods of all those who work in this sector. Once again, the entire beauty industry has been made to suffer as a result of this government’s misogynistic (mis)management and the agency of women in this country has been woefully discounted. 

Serena Lit is the YC Chair of Brentford and Isleworth Conservatives. Follow her on twitter: @serena_tara_lit