Times are tough, and it's got hairstylists and barbers in California risking their careers to make some desperately needed cash right now ... TMZ has learned.
Sources close to the situation tell us ... many professionally licensed folks in the hair biz are secretly taking clients despite the state's extended stay-at-home order, which does not yet allow beauty salons to open back up.
We're told some businesses are allowing their stylists or barbers to take appointments from regular customers in the shops -- but just making it appear like the place is closed to passersby, like a speakeasy during Prohibition.
Our sources say the decision to get back to work on the DL is based on businesses and workers simply needing to support themselves and their families ... which is obviously understandable.
We're told many are in dire straits financially, and the federal government's stimulus money didn't go far enough to help -- cost of living is very high in Cali, after all.
And, though Governor Gavin Newsom has said he hopes salons will be able to reopen soon, many feel the goalpost keeps getting moved ... and they can't wait any longer.
The problem is ... the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology clearly caught wind of the illicit salons and sent an email to all licensees ... threatening to take severe disciplinary action if they're busted disobeying state orders and putting public health at risk.
In the Board's words ... "This will not be taken lightly."
Yet, our sources say stylists are willing and able to find clients who are also eager and happy to get their hair done after months of letting it go ... and risk exposure to COVID-19 for a fresh 'do.