As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens throughout the country, many places of business, such as bars, fitness studios and movie theaters, have been ordered to temporarily close. Some beauty retailers, like Glossier, Lush, Sephora and Benefit Cosmetics have also shut down their stores, even though it's not yet required, and Ulta remains open through Thursday but has already suspended in-store beauty services. While beauty salons, day spas and aesthetic treatment providers have not yet been required to close in most cities, clients are wondering whether or not they should still keep their regular appointments.
My own sentiment has evolved as the seriousness of the outbreak became more clear, and opinions were mixed when it came to others I asked about keeping beauty appointments amid the crisis. Still, many admitted to getting their "last fix," and booking their final facial or haircut for a few weeks in case the situation got progressively worse. Emily Popp, a freelance editor in Los Angeles, wasn't really nervous when she got her lashes done last week. "Had it been Thursday, I might have been, because I feel like the climate changed within 24 hours," she says, adding she will probably "cool it for the next few weeks."
Another editor, Rachel Sanoff, was planning to schedule her very first gel mani as a big 'treat yourself' moment but changed her mind. "I read an article about how lots of us might already have it, but will never have symptoms. So, I started spiraling like, 'What if the nail tech has it and I pass it to my dad, whose immune system is weakened by medical treatments for another illness right now?'" She canceled her appointment, thinking that she'd probably reschedule it later when she had calmed down, but ended up holding off.
Others plan on keeping their beauty routines as is. Some view their regular appointments as a way to deal with stress and anxiety, suggesting that, for that reason, it's worth it to keep them. That sentiment brings to mind the controversial topic of self-care in the form of a spa day. Nadia Suttle, a publicist who has lupus, points out that getting the flu is just as scary for her, but it doesn't stop her from going to the nail salon. "Getting my nails done — yes, it makes me happy looking at them for weeks to come, but really it's my me time," she says. "It's so important to get a mental break and that is what does it for me."
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Loreen Hwang, a lifestyle influencer, often gets facials and blowouts a few times a month. "I know that we should be careful during this time where we are uncertain of coronavirus, not just for ourselves, but for others. On the other hand, I don't want to fall into social hysteria and stop my life," Hwang says. While she hasn't canceled any appointments herself, she has experienced cancellations from providers. "I wasn't worried about going to appointments because people are taking extra precautions to have better hygiene. I have, too, by not shaking hands or hugging," she says.
For beauty businesses, the decision to stay open has also been varied. Facial bar Heyday, which has locations in New York and L.A., announced that it was temporarily shuttering its locations. The same goes for massage studio The Now, the Jenna Perry Salon in NYC, L.A.-based nail salon Nail Swag and the British skin-care studio Face Gym, which decided to halt its U.S. operations. Meanwhile, some salons that are choosing to stay open have reported a decrease in appointments, though that decrease hasn't been as dramatic as one might expect.
"I keep checking my email expecting there to be a lot of cancellations by my clients, but if anything I have seen steady booking and people keeping their appointments," says Lauren VonLipstick, the owner of Blackheart Nails. "Since I operate out of a small studio that is always thoroughly sanitized, I think my clients feel safe to come and take their minds off things. There has also been a huge push on Instagram to support small businesses, which I think people are considering as well." Lila Castellanos, an esthetician and owner of Dollface Skin Care Studio, also says she is "still busy as ever," but has given clients the chance to cancel or reschedule without a cancellation fee.
Even if it is still possible, and helpful to small business owners, is going out and getting Botox or a brow wax worth the possibility of infection, or spreading the virus to someone else who may be at higher risk?
"The bottom line is, if it's not necessary, don't do it," says Dr. Ava Shamban, a cosmetic dermatologist in LA. "The deal with this virus is that it's not only extremely contagious, but you also have people who get seriously ill and require respirators. They also found that people who have recovered from this infection have permanent lung damage. Influenza kills a lot of people, but they don't have chronic disease from it, so that's why people are taking it so seriously." Currently, her offices are only seeing patients for medical issues or emergencies. Otherwise, she'll be treating patients through teledermatology. "We have to change the way we do things," Dr. Shamban says. "It's just not worth it to get your frown treatment."
Medical aesthetician Candace Marino also decided to close for the next two weeks. "I want to be as proactive as possible and even though my office is completely clean, I don't want to be a part of the population who is potentially creating more spreading," she says. In the meantime, she'll be doing virtual skin-care consultations, where clients send photos of their skin and products to Marino and she advises them on how to revamp their skin-care regimen.
The decision to close is certainly difficult, as many hairstylists and nail artists, who are contractors, aren't able to offer a virtual service or sell a product online to make up for the monetary loss. Salons that are staying open are making adjustments to their operations, such as limiting the number of clients in the salon at a time, increasing their already-strict sanitary standards, being looser with cancellation policies and asking clients to stay home if they feel ill.
GBY Beauty, a lash and beauty studio in L.A., is still operating at the moment. "These are extremely hard decisions to make, being that our stylists are independent contractors," GBY co-owners Kendra Studdert and Courtney Casgraux explain. "Limiting hours and foreseeing a possible closure on the horizon potentially puts them in a situation that can prevent them from making a living, but also we are responsible for the health and safety to the public." Studdert and Casgraux say they have ramped up sanitation and disposal measures at their locations even more, and screen clients during bookings or consultations.
Hairstylist Paul Norton, who owns Leo Salon in West Hollywood, also plans to stay open for now. "These are uncharted waters, to say the least, but I'm proud to know that I have a staff that is not only prepared to provide an extremely safe and hygienic environment, but also completely understands that ultimately it is up to our clients whether or not they choose to keep existing appointments or reschedule for future dates, even if that means last-minute," he says.
So, how can we support our favorite stylists and salons during this time? If you have the means, buy a gift certificate, send a food delivery gift card, or Venmo an extra tip to your waxer. Or, as Castellanos suggests, purchase a prepaid service if your provider offers that option. In the meantime, there's no better time to shop your personal beauty stash and do some at-home skin-care treatments or DIY manicures. (And consider cutting your nails short: Our nail beds and the space underneath them, known as the subungual area, can host hundreds of thousands of disgusting bacteria.) Even better, schedule a FaceTime spa date with some friends and family and make it a party.
It's important to keep in mind that being able to book a facial or get a weekly pedicure is already a great privilege. If the coronavirus situation worsens as it's expected to, we might not even be left with that. The one thing we've learned about this pandemic is that all of us are so much more connected than we could have ever known, so putting your beauty treatment on the back burner might mean you saved a life.