Inside Ukraine’s Wartime Salons

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Not every Ukrainian was eager to rush back to the salon, grappling with feelings of guilt over the fact that many of their fellow citizens remained homeless or under occupation, unable to even take a hot shower. “For two months I gave up makeup; I thought it was inappropriate,” says Ponomarenko of Vogue Ukraine. “But then I did an online interview with a psychologist who lived in a hospital for a month, saving patients. She came on with makeup and said that she was wearing it even in the darkest moments. I was so inspired that the next day I went to a colorist. She lightened my hair, trimmed my split ends. It felt like a renaissance.”

“An air alert is sounded when airplanes with possible weapons take off somewhere in Russia; an air alert doesn’t scare anyone anymore,” explains Borodina. It’s at this point that some Ukrainians who find themselves in public spaces go through a series of calculations, not all of which are based in fact or official protocols, attempting to rationalize the risk. “When a missile launch is recorded, you receive an air-raid alert on your phone, but even then Ukrainians don’t immediately seek shelter,” Borodina continues. “You have to find out where the launches are coming from. If it is the Caspian Sea, we know it will take about 50 minutes to fly to Kyiv. So I have the opportunity to finish this Zoom, finish my manicure, and then, in 30 minutes, if [the missile is] suddenly directed to Kyiv or if it doesn’t get shot down, I move.”

There’s also the economic reality that Ukrainians have been facing since the start of the war. Business costs have increased significantly, but many salon owners refuse to raise prices when everyone in the country is struggling financially. For Ukrainian salons, time really is money, and interrupting work for every air-raid alarm isn’t realistic. “If the rockets are not flying, we are working,” says Krolyvets. “We have sirens five to six times a day and if we don’t work, then we’ll go bankrupt.”

In Zaporizhzhia, close to the front line, air-raid sirens can sound up to 12 times a day, according to Markova. At that rate, it would take all day to finish just one facial.

The war may not have discouraged Ukrainian women’s dedication to their beauty routines, but it has impacted the types of services they’re getting. In the salon, treatments that go beyond the typical cut, color, and manicure have become more popular. “Women are wearing less makeup and starting to pay more attention to their health,” explains Baranovska, who notes a rise in facial, trichology, and foot-care services (like medical pedicures) at Clipse. Scalp-specific treatments are also on the rise at G.Bar.

Kuzma-Kurtyak, the founder of Mediskin clinics, feels that the war has people reconsidering the way they spend their money. “They’re starting to invest less in expensive goods and more in themselves,” she says.

In response to this shift, G.Bar is adding a “mental beauty zone” to its flagship salon in Kyiv, which will focus on relaxing services like massages and meditation. “I used to think, I don’t need a massage, I’ll do it later, or I’ll save that money for something else,” says Borodina. “But all this has changed because there is nothing to save for because the future is unknown.”

Unsurprisingly, a rise in stress among the population seems to have caused a spike in skin-care treatments. “A lot of chronic conditions have reemerged, like acne,” explains Kuzma-Kurtyak. “All our patients mentioned that they aged 10 years during the first several months of war.”

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