While the unintended spread of infection is not new to the world salons and spas, the devastating impacts of COVID-19 have made it clear that we can no longer take germs for granted.
“This is especially relevant to hairdressers, nail technicians, aestheticians and massage therapists who do not have the luxury of distancing themselves from their clients or working behind plexiglass,” says Jeff Alford, president of The CBON Group, Canada’s largest supplier of professional infection control products.
Alford continues, “ If beauty professionals are to return to their jobs and work in an environment that is safe for staff and clients alike, significant changes will need to take place representing a shift to a “new norm” or 2.0 version of the industry from which we may never go back. This transformative change will come with a need for significant investment, retraining and re-purposing of a salons and spas for a new life in the age of coronavirus and future outbreaks.”
Alford says the Professional Beauty industry will have to make changes and offers these tips for salons and spas for when they reopen.
It All Starts with Education
Beauty professionals apply their trade after having undertaken extensive schooling, on the job training and constant skills upgrading to offer their services in a highly competitive industry. Unfortunately, the knowledge acquired to address infection prevention has often times been inadequate and varied from learning institutions, licensing boards, regional bylaws and provincial health guidelines. While that is likely to change post coronavirus with more standardized regulation, returning workers will need to quickly get up to speed and become educated on the risks posed by germs to themselves and their clients if they are to confidently open their doors again. In addition to their stated profession, the role of "infection prevention practitioner” will accompany the “new norm" to allay the concerns and fears of an increasingly aware and scrutinizing customers.
We have become accustomed to measures that maintain a safe space from others in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 like standing apart in checkouts, curb side pick-up and physical barriers that protect staff. However, in the close proximity, hands-on world of salon and spa treatments this may not always be possible. To minimize the risk of exposure, we may begin to see the elimination of waiting areas, reduction of the number of workstations, fewer appointments and other steps taken to distance clients from staff and each other. Every service may require different solutions: nail technicians working behind “sneeze guards”; hairdressers no longer offering blow dries, massage therapists wearing gloves, face shields for aestheticians, etc. There won’t a be a one-stop solution as each salon and spa will need to address their own levels of risk to take appropriate action.
It has long been a practice for under-the-weather clients to take a "spa day" as a bit of pampering indulgence. This activity was especially prevalent during the flu season when the spread of germs would lead to others being infected and in turn missing work. During the 2018-19 influenza period, nearly 50,000 cases were recorded in Canada. Given COVID-19’s contagiousness and no available vaccine, this behaviour cannot be allowed to continue. In the new 2.0 salon and spa world, customers can expect rigorous screening at the door that could include temperature taking, checklist for symptoms and required use of face masks while receiving service. Only in so doing can beauty professionals protect themselves, their clients and their business.
Increased Sanitation Practices
The virus that causes COVID-19 can remain viable on surfaces from hours to a few days. It will therefore be critical to undertake disinfection of all client touch points which will include workstations, treatment furniture, counters, waiting areas, washrooms, etc. This activity should take place between each appointment and be allowed the requisite contact time which can be anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. Not all disinfectants are the same and salons and spa owners should undertake a full investigation of the options—for example, some disinfectants don’t come with a Health Canada approved claim against coronavirus. Others are accompanied by harsh side effects through prolonged exposure like eye and skin irritation or respiratory issues. The new salon "infection prevention practitioner" will need to become very familiar with precautionary label language, correct usage, compatibility issues to ensure germs, bacteria and viruses are being appropriately removed from their facilities.
The post coronavirus age will represent a new partnership between businesses and consumers. We are experiencing unprecedented measures being taken to protect workers as we frequent retail stores and services, and in turn we practice social distancing and respect the steps taken to avoid the spread of infection. The professional beauty industry will have a similar relationship with their clients who are eager to return to receiving the treatments they’ve had to go without for some time. But this group is now more aware and will expect to see how their salons and spas are responding to these challenging times. The extra security may come with an ask for payment of a “coronavirus surcharge” or other considerations but these will be viewed as necessary to ensure everyone’s safety.