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The beauty industry contributes billions to the UK economy, so why does it not get the Government's respect?


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Life in England will continue its meander back to normality this Saturday. But while you’ll be able to enjoy your Aperol spritz with a fresh balayage, beauty salons will remain closed. This issue was raised by William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, in this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions. At first, this seems like little more than a commendable act of service to his constituents. And it would have been, had he not done so with a smirk.

Putting aside any reasonable expectation of parallelism between hairdressers and beauty salons (a waxing specialist is basically a hairdresser of the nether regions), it feels somewhat uncouth to argue with the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy when it states that the reasoning behind not reopening beauty salons is because they “often pose a greater risk of transmission due to prolonged periods of face-to-face contact.” For both humanitarian and economical reasons, no one wants a second peak of coronavirus. The Government’s caution in this instance might even be dubbed sensible. After all, its initial inaction on coronavirus, coupled with its persistent neglect of the NHS, has literally been deadly. Despite how “well intentioned” (as Wragg protested in his vaguely apologetic Tweet) this may seem, not even a medical grade pore-refining chemical peel could resurface the utter derision of Wragg and the Prime Minister’s tone when beauty salons were brought up in the House of Commons.

An Oxford Economics report on the economic impact of the beauty industry commissioned by the British Beauty Council found that, in 2018, the beauty industry made a total contribution of £28.4 billion to the economy. £7 billion of this was in tax revenues which – in tangible terms – can provide the salaries of 250,000 nurses and midwives. In terms of the private sector, the report states that the beauty industry supports the equivalent of one in every 60 jobs in the UK economy. Money talks – especially to this government – so why is it suddenly rendered mute when it comes to the beauty industry? Why the mockery?

Maybe it’s because Wragg and Johnson themselves have probably never experienced the masochistic thrill of a Brazilian wax, or the aplomb of a full set of acrylic nails. Whatever you may think of the principles of their practices, beauty salons are shrines to femininity. At a local level, they are largely run by women for women. So maybe it’s just misogyny. Or, at the very least, femmephobia. But at least there's football and the pub!

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