"Close contact" beauty services are finally back on the menu

Bridget March, Roberta Schroeder
·8-min read
Photo credit: andresr - Getty Images
Photo credit: andresr - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

Those of us who have been sorely missing services from our favourite hair and beauty salons – from haircuts and colours to facials and massages – have been waiting patiently for months now, eager to know when we can book back in.

All hair and beauty salons and spas were temporarily closed on 23 March, when the country went into lockdown. While hair salons were given permission to reopen on 4 July, beauty salons were instructed to remain shuttered for longer. The UK Government finally gave certain beauty businesses permission to reopen their doors on 13 July. Manicures, pedicures and hair removal were joyfully back on the menu, but close-contact facial treatments remained off-limits, due to being placed in the 'high risk zone'.

Today, however, brings long-overdue good news for beauty professionals across the country, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that all remaining beauty services may resume from Saturday 15 August, 1 August, including "close-contact" facials, eyebrow threading, microblading and make-up application.

“We’re delighted to get everyone working again – this is such welcomed news for our industry," said BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology), Chair Lesley Blair. "We have worked tirelessly with other industry bodies to try and get all beauty back on track. These restrictions being lifted will not only improve revenue streams for beauty businesses, but will give a much needed lifeline for many that have not been able to work in nearly five months. In addition, it helps get people back into work and also boost the wellbeing and morale of those who can now do their jobs, and those customers who are now able to have their treatments done. It cannot be underestimated the psychological effect and feel-good factor that a visit to your beauty therapist can bring."

“The decision to broaden the scope of available hair and beauty services will allow many more beauty professionals to get back to work, and will also allow customers to benefit from a range of beauty treatments which can be carried out safely for both client and practitioner," said Millie Kendall MBE of the British Beauty Council, which has been working with the Government to action the reopening of our salons.

The decision not to include beauty salons in the reopening of certain services on 4 July had been a source of significant discontent for business owners and clients alike. Previously, there had been no distinction made between treatments, as Blair told Bazaar in May. “Hair, Beauty and Barbering are all currently listed as ‘High Risk Non-Essential Retail’ and therefore all are due to go back on 4 July provided the ‘R level’ remains below one by then.” This includes work conducted by freelance and mobile therapists (think professional at-home services).

What a Covid-secure salon looks like

The British Beauty Council has worked with a number of Affiliate Organisations and patrons to produce a summary of suggested guidelines, provided by experts in each specific sector of beauty. These include health and hygiene standards; staff hygiene and protection requirements; appointment and payment protocol; appointment stations and salon surroundings; ventilation and dust collection. While these are for the outlets and pros, customers should read them too, so they know what to expect.

For this all to run smoothly, Blair says, it is important to remember that in addition to the businesses, both client and therapist both share a responsibility in ensuring they do everything they can to minimise the risks. “The salons and spas will need to perform comprehensive risk assessments and implement new processes and protocols identified as necessary. These will need to be fully communicated to both staff and clients, clearly outlining salon, staff and client responsibilities and ensuring all parties agree to them and comply with them.”

How to prepare before booking and visiting a salon or spa

Firstly, “be confident that the salon owner and staff have ensured your safety is paramount,” by booking in somewhere you trust, says Kendall.

“The beauty industry has predominantly always been a hygienically operated sector and used to ensuring high levels of safety and infection control, so while social distancing is not possible our sector is well experienced in protocols of minimising the risk of infection,” adds Blair. “However, given our industry is also not currently regulated, we strongly recommend that clients ensure they chose salons with qualified therapists and who maintain these high professional standards.”

Benton suggests that we look out for accreditations which should be displayed (in salon windows or online) for peace of mind. “Owners, managers and teams should be prepared to do thorough risk assessments and regular logs for safety and in case of government checks to see that you are adhering to high standards.” At her salons, for example, all staff have completed multiple online training courses about Covid-19 which equips them in spotting the signs of the virus and knowing how to use PPE equipment properly, ensuring the work environment stays safe for all stepping inside.

When it comes to how you can help, there are a number of ways to prepare and act, outlined below:

Take your own face coverings – and little else

Kendall says, “Please try to take your own face coverings to appointments, as any added cost will be crippling for salons; they are having to look at modifications and PPE which is a huge overhead for a lot of businesses.”

She adds that you should visit alone, and take minimal accessories, as communal cloakrooms might not be an option. If needed, take your own refreshments – as food and drinks will most probably be unavailable, with water likely only on offer in disposable cups.

Be prompt

Show up for appointments on time. “The salons are going to have to open for longer hours in order to space the clients out more and it is common courtesy to be prompt,” notes Kendall. “There won’t be a waiting area to hang out in, in some cases, so showing up on time will be key to making this work for everyone.”

Comply with screenings

Each salon will have its own system, but there will be customer screenings to adhere to. For example, at Benton’s salons they “will be sending out online consultations before all treatments as a declaration of Covid history, and as well as normal medical questions we would ask anyway, we will be checking everyone’s temperature before starting a treatment and ask that you use our hand sanitiser on arrival”.

If in doubt, don’t go out

While you might feel desperate to get back in the salon seat, it’s your responsibility to be honest with yourself if you don’t feel entirely well and, if in doubt – don’t go out. “We must think of safety first,” says Benton. If for any reason you don’t feel well, “cancel your appointment well in advance to ensure that someone else has an opportunity to use it”.

Be prepared to pay beforehand

It is likely that you will have to pay upfront for your appointments, and typically they will be card only. Benton explains, “We will be taking 100 per cent payment upfront due to two reasons; high demand of appointment slots and the fact we can reduce the need for contact at the end of the treatment.” In the case of her salons, a ‘client login area’ will mean customers are able to save their payment methods online securely so they can just walk out the door, even with a product.

Tolerate the loss of traditional personal touches

Beauty salons are synonymous with an intimate, personal experience – but sadly we all need to accept that our ‘new normal’ can’t accommodate that in the same way. While salons and spas will be conscious to make the experience as special as possible “due to restrictions such as masks, gloves and perspex screens, it is easy to lose the traditional ‘personal’ touch,” notes Benton. Add-ons usually on offer, like magazines and use of phone chargers or iPads, plus refreshments, will be unavailable or restricted.

Buy retail products, re-book, and leave a review

After a significant period without profits, all salons will now be considering operating below capacity over longer opening hours, with less extensive treatment menus and extra cleaning staff. This may mean that while are costs going up, revenue will go down. We can help by purchasing gift vouchers and retail products (either in-salon or on the company's own website), rebooking in advance and leaving a positive review (good experience permitting!) to reassure other people looking to book. As Kendall says, “Support your salon: help them so they can help you”.

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