Major societal changes are happening as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in recent weeks, people have begun to ask how businesses will reopen — and what that "new normal" might look like. For beauty lovers, a big question is how beauty services will change when restrictions begin to lift.
As some states pull back on salon and spa closures, and others plan to reopen, Bustle spoke with public health experts and beauty service professionals about the changes customers might expect moving forward.
That said, Dr. Alexa Mieses, practicing family physician in Durham, North Carolina, still cautions against returning to salons and spas for now — especially in states that are easing restrictions before seeing cases decline for 14 days, per the federal government's recommendation. "I personally cannot imagine life going back to normal any time soon, even if businesses are reopening," she says. "I would not feel safe in any public space in which I couldn’t practice strict social distancing, which includes nail salons, beauty salons, etc. I suspect we may see spikes in COVID in these geographic areas. This also puts neighboring states that have not yet reopened at risk for increases in COVID cases."
Aside from how early reopening could impact the pandemic, one point experts and professionals agree on is the need for enhanced safety measures. Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, tells Bustle to expect mask wearing — both for the customer and the service provider — as well as occupancy limitations, increased hand washing, and potential fever screenings.
Dr. Mieses agrees, noting other potential changes like removing waiting areas, using gloves for treatments, and bringing your own tools to places like nail salons.
Here, various businesses owners tell Bustle how they're preparing.
The Safety Precautions Hair Salons Are Taking
Nine Zero One owner Riawna Capri says her Los Angeles-based salon plans to implement several safety precautions. She will require staff members and clients to wear masks, wash their hands or use sanitizer, and have their temperatures checked before services. The staff will also be required to wear gloves. The salon is considering other safety measures, such as booking every other station and creating morning and evening shifts to limit employee exposure.
Capri also offers practical advice for those looking to spend less, given economic insecurities, or are thinking about visiting the salon less frequently to avoid exposure.
"If you have a high-maintenance color such as a bleach and tone, aka one that requires you to come in every four to six weeks, this is the time to think about if you, as a client, want to go to a more low-maintenance hair color so you can come in every three to six months instead," she says. "It's a time when everyone will be looking closely a their finances, and coming in every four to six weeks might not be viable for many."
The Safety Precautions Nail Salons Are Taking
For those who get routine manicures, the absence of nail salons means at-home manicures, removing gel polish yourself, and a move toward DIY nail art. When coronavirus restrictions begin to ease, multiple sanitation efforts will be put in place — both for customers and employees — to help everyone feel safe, according to Amy Lin, founder of the New York-based nail care and wellness brand Sundays.
"There are things that salons can do to help clients feel safe and to protect themselves — wear gloves, masks, use hand sanitizer for both clients and employees," she says. According to Lin, Sundays has been developing its own hand sanitizer and protective masks for the past month in anticipation of reopening.
While extensive safety measures will be put in place, Lin says the studios' environments are also important. "Our intention is to create protective products that are on-brand with Sundays so clients can feel like it's part of a wellness experience instead of feeling anxious looking at masked staff and clients," Lin says. Her company plans to create masks in its signature peach color to match the uniforms in an effort to make the experience safe but feel less clinical.
Lin hasn't yet made a decision on how the salon will maintain physical distancing, but she says, "It is very possible that we will set up space dividers in the manicure and pedicure areas to give each client a private space."
The Safety Precautions Spas Are Taking
Whether you visit a medspa for injectables or have a local esthetician for peels and facials, spa treatments are one of the highest contact beauty services you can get — and according to Lindsay Malachowski, director of operations at New York City-based Skinney MedSpa, this means clients should expect not only enhanced safety measures but also more education about how to do certain treatments at home.
While she expects an increase in protective gear such as gloves and masks, as well as additional sanitization procedures between clients, she also thinks customers should space out their visits to minimize exposure. She adds that spas will likely space out appointment times in conjunction with staff reductions to limit crowding.
The esthetician also explains that clients will likely look for at-home treatment options, including products and tools they can use at home. "[Visitors will] become more educated and conscious of what products and ingredients they are using on their skin and body," she says.
Malachowski also anticipates an increase in telemedicine at medspas, explaining that consultations may begin happening virtually in order to protect both clients and employees. But she says this isn't a bad thing.
"These lasting changes will create more of a concierge experience for clients and feel more elevated, personal, and thorough," she says. "Clients will ultimately receive better and more thoughtful care — and will be more educated around their in-clinic treatments and at-home skincare."
The Safety Precautions Makeup Artists Are Taking
Much like estheticians and facialists, makeup artists have a high-contact job, and according to makeup artist Jenny Patinkin, that means sizable changes once restrictions ease. Patinkin also expects a shift in beauty styles, with cosmetics focusing much more on the upper-third of the face.
"I think we’re going to see a lot more rigidity in terms of hygiene and the testing and sampling of products at retail," she tells Bustle. "I also think it’s likely that with the continued requirement to wear face masks, there will be an emphasis on products for the upper-third of the face — brows, lashes, and eyes."
Like other industries, she also expects artists to be required to wear gloves and masks while performing services. But the biggest shift Patinkin forsees is a rise in what she calls "e-artistry."
"Certainly there won’t be as much hands-on interaction" she says. "It’s likely there will be a boost in e-artistry — beauty professionals consulting with their clients virtually and guiding them though their beauty steps in an instructive versus hands-on way."
The Safety Precautions Waxing Services Are Taking
Sigrun Graeff, senior vice president of global services at Benefit Cosmetics, says although the brand has always practiced the utmost safety measures, more will be needed when it comes to getting a brow wax or tint.
With social distancing within salons becoming the norm, Graeff says Benefit will remove the option for its two-seat service stations and space seats six feet apart. Employee screenings will also be put into place, with those coming into work undergoing a temperature check and COVID-19 related questionnaire. Masks and gloves will be required, and customers will also be asked to wear masks depending on local mandates.
Other precautions include disinfecting wax stations and chairs before opening, after every appointment, and every hour even if no service has occurred. Non-disposable tools will be cleaned immediately after use using soap and water and be stored in disinfectants like barbicide or marvicide. They'll be disinfected a second time, using alcohol, before use.
We are shining a spotlight on some of the millions of small businesses now challenged by COVID-19. This is part of an ongoing commitment our parent company, Bustle Digital Group, is making to support small businesses throughout the entire month of May. Tell us about your favorite small business on social media using #SmallBusinessSalutes.