Since the pandemic lockdown began, a shady underground practice of bootleg and backstreet hairdressing has developed across Northern Ireland. Secret hair appointments in shuttered salons and clandestine home call-outs have been happening right across the province from week one of the restrictions being introduced, putting hairdressers and their clients at serious risk of infection.
While one leading industry expert has blasted those behind secret hairdressing as having "blood on their hands", hairdressers and barbers continue to advertise their wares on social media, unabashed. This is despite the fact that everyone is being told to adhere to the 'Stay Home' message and the stark warnings that we must not socialise outside our own household.
One barber in the north west wrote on Facebook that he was "booked up for the rest of the week" but was taking appointments for next week and left his number for clients. He stated his tools were "steeped in Barbicide for sterilisation" and that he was wearing a face mask and gloves "as a precautionary safety measure". When contacted he said that he had "stopped it now after someone reported me".
In Fermanagh one woman reported her 80-year-old grandmother and her hairdresser to the police for breaking lockdown repeatedly for hair treatments. She told the Belfast Telegraph she was horrified that her grandmother, who is vulnerable, was still keeping her hair appointments.
"My grandmother is 80 years old, and my grandad is 82," she says. "They are not taking the coronavirus crisis seriously. They still go out and do their shopping and won't listen to us and stay in. Granny doesn't seem to think there is any issue with going to the hairdressers. She says to us that 'she's not sick and I'm not sick'.
"Granny has gone to her hairdresser's house and her hairdresser has come to granny's house also. I know that granny is not the only client she is doing this with. The hairdresser is employed in a salon and has many mainly older clients. I know that if her boss found this out she wouldn't be keeping her job. She has just taken her clients home during a pandemic.
"On the one hand I can understand. For my granny her hair appointment would have been her one time out a week, where she could socialise with people outside her own home. But she just doesn't seem to want to take the risk into consideration. She doesn't think it will impact her."
Hairdressers going into people's houses while this deadly virus is around might have £30 in their pocket, but they also have blood on their handsPaul Stafford
The Fermanagh student said she got so angry about the blatant disregard for the lockdown rules, and the threat to the health of everyone in her family, that she reported both her grandmother and her hairdresser to the police.
"I tried to ring and report them, but I was signposted to online reporting for coronavirus issues," she says. "I wrote down the name of the woman who was doing the hairdressing and the date and time of granny's next appointment at the hairdresser's house.
"I explained she has previously come out to granny's house and that she's had several clients at her house. I also said that her client-base is predominantly 65-plus. I haven't heard anything back from them as yet and granny went on to her appointment as normal and there were no issues.
"Granny did get her hair done once a week before lockdown. She only gets a wash and blow dry, not even a big treatment. She has gone to her hairdressers twice so far, that we know of. When she found out how angry we all were about her going, she didn't say much more about it so it could be more times.
"I am just so angry with the hairdresser. I know she is furloughed, but she is also making money off clients. I know a lot of hairdressers are doing the right thing and are struggling with it. She is also putting my family at risk. I have family members who are at serious risk if they catch coronavirus.
"Granny's hairdresser is seeing her and dozens of other older and vulnerable clients. Coronavirus symptoms take a while to materialise, and she is moving from house to house. I don't know if she is bringing it to granny, and to others. As far as I'm aware she wasn't wearing any protective equipment - it was just business as usual."
For Belfast hairdresser Paul Stafford (51) it is anything but business as usual. His salon was one of the first to close temporarily due to the pandemic and he is furious at other hairdressers who continue to see clients, accusing them of potentially having "blood on their hands".
"Not only am I hearing about this backstreet hairdressing, but it's also very obvious when I'm out on my run or getting shopping, there are some very professionally done, fresh haircuts everywhere," he says.
"Our industry prides itself on professionalism and also on an understanding of community, keeping people safe and acting responsibly. It seems to me that there are cowboys out there who see this as an opportunity to ignore the rules and what is going on in the world and do whatever the hell they like.
"It's tarnishing the industry's reputation. Salons like ours, Jason Shankey's and others are run by people who take what they do very seriously and want to safeguard not only our clients and our staff too. We want to get this thing finished so we can get back to work legally.
"I hear that some hairdressers are doing whatever they are asked to do. There are people going to people's garages, to people's houses. This is Russian Roulette. If you have a hairdresser who is going to one house, they are going to five or six. They have no idea what they are picking up, what they are taking with them, or what they are leaving in those houses.
"We were probably one of the first salons to close. And it wasn't a popular decision. But I could see that people were really frightened. Yet it seems to me that there are hairdressers who don't care."
Paul says that he understands some people are under financial pressure, but insists the health of the community as a whole must come first.
"I know of hairdressers who are doing it and I know why they are doing it," he says. "I know people who are furloughed and don't have to do it. But I do realise that there are people out there who fall through the cracks and can't benefit from the furlough or grants schemes and they are desperate. But this is bigger than that. It's a pandemic that is killing people and we all have to pay a price of some sort. The price at the moment is for our own safety. We can't cut hair.
"Hairdressers going into people's houses, particularly older people's houses while this deadly virus is around might have £30 in their pocket, but they also have blood on their hands."
Of course, many women - and indeed men - will empathise with those desperate to get their hair done. While there has been a huge rise in sales of home colouring treatments, for many these could never compare with the expertise of a professional treatment. And for those with hair extensions, which need regular maintenance and refitting, the lockdown is proving particularly problematic.
Paul says that he is asked on a daily basis to cut people's hair, but is adamant in his refusal to do so - and remains disgusted at those who yield to pressure. He says that the price backstreet hairdressers pay "could be lethal".
"Some people who live on their own want a hairdresser to come to their house because it makes them feel more human," he says. "It makes them feel normal, it makes their state of mind better. I understand all that. As a craft and as an industry, we do our best to make people feel better about themselves. But that one visit could be the time that this virus spreads and you have to weigh up the risks."
People deserve to be made to feel better, wanted and pampered after this. Because the last two months have been rubbishPaul Stafford
The decision to close down until government says they can reopen has taken a heavy toll on what was a vibrant industry in Northern Ireland.
"The pandemic has decimated business," Paul says. "We are not coming back from this in any way that is going to be normal. It's simply not going to be a case that on July 4 we walk into our salons and back to our stations and see 13 clients a day. It is going to change forever.
"The economic impact is weighing heavily on a lot of salon owners' minds. If you can only do three or four clients a day with a skeleton staff, then you're not going to be able to afford to be in business. And those issues are looming. The procedures we are going to have to put into place to make this a safe and healthy environment are going to be expensive and will impact heavily on the amount of output that we can put through."
The measures that Paul and other professionals are currently considering only serves to highlight the risks those who are currently carrying out secret appointments are taking.
"We could be looking at bigger spaces between clients, we may have to take temperatures when people come in, air purifying systems, gloves, masks and visors, " says Paul. Another issue up ahead is the long running rancour that may emerge between hairdressers who respected lockdown rules and those who broke them.
"The amount of hairdressing that is going on illegally has the capability of causing a split in hairdressing," says Paul. "We are now at war with people who have developed a custom where going to people's houses and doing hair is now considered acceptable. If that goes on for a long time, that will become a culture that could have a massive impact on the salon business."
Paul says that he hopes that the government will be clear in their guidance around reopening. He also says that hairdressers will have to work harder to make the 'salon experience' special when the lockdown is lifted.
"Going to a hairdressing salon should be a very luxurious, beautiful experience," he says. "It should be something aspirational, that makes you feel better, that when you leave there you think it was a real tonic and a boost. And you should be made to feel really special. You don't get that with home hairdressing, or convenience hairdressing when people deliver hair colours to your door."
And despite the challenges ahead, Paul pledges: "Our industry is going to ramp up the experience post-pandemic. We are going to make people feel that not only have we missed them, but we need them, we love them, and that everything they experienced before pales into significance. Because people deserve to be made to feel better, wanted and pampered after this. Because the last two months have been rubbish.
"And if people think that they can threaten our industry by taking the very essence of what's good about our industry into people's houses, they are mistaken."