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Adapting to social distancing guidelinesis necessary for the survival of your spa business. The aesthetics industryhas transitioned very quickly into evenhigher standards of sanitation, setting new benchmarks for health and safety. Your ability to adapt and then communicate your realignment means the success and growth of your career. OneLocal, a marketing firm, conducted a survey, asking over one thousandclients what they want in the future [regarding their spa experience. Eighty-nine percent responded that they wanted the spa to share their safety measures, so that theyfelt safe.1
You need to be aware of themultiple interconnected aspects of social distancing so you and your clients can be as safe as possible while continuing to perform the services that you love. We’ll cover setting new rules and implementing them, managing clients who challenge the new rules, adapting your treatments, implementing changes in your reception and waiting rooms,as well as maximizing your social media, your website, and other messaging to market your business.
A rapidly changing community health situation makes it hard to know exactly what guidelines you should be following. This may take some research, but you subscribe to the mailing lists of your state’s department responsible for managing your state’s COVID-19 safety. For example, during quarantine,the governor of Oregon devised a three-phase reopening. She delegated each county’s commissioners, the decision to reopen depending on the health of that county, and theOregon Health Authority issues a daily email update on the status of each county. You can find details on their website: https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19. Other states have similar channels of information. Your state board should also have some guidelines on their website.
The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, issues guidelines for small businesses that can be found here:
These guidelines are nationally recognizedprotections for small businesses. OSHA has resources on its website as well. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.
Do not always believe what is posted on Facebook or other social media platforms. States have different guidelines, and the person may not be posting accurate information for your location.
New rules for social distancing will require a reevaluation of your scheduling and your pricing. You will need to factor in sanitation time between clients.You won’t realistically be able to see the same number of clients in a day, and your treatment costs will increase due to the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)as well asthe cost of limiting exposure through touch. Some businesses are including a PPE fee with each serviceto indicate to clients the reason for the increase.
Do a thorough inspection of your reception area. Remove anything that is notable to be wiped down with disinfectant. This means brochures, flyers, and magazines. You can hand single brochures to a client at checkout but should not have a display that can be touched by many people and possibly transferring infection.It is time for your testers to go as well. You can provide single-usesamples to clients upon request, but the tray or display of product testers is a potential health hazard.
Put away your water dispensers or beverage stands. These are risky germ traps that can spread infection. Ask your clients to bring their own water or offer bottled water.
Evaluate your waiting area and retail sales displays, as some furniture items may be problematic. Decorative pillows and other items, acrylic models for example, that cannot be reliably sanitized should be removed, as well as any display that would allow multiple clients to touch products.Vinyl seating the best option, but clear plastic seat covers are acceptable if they can be wiped down after the client leaves.
Minimizing client exposure may mean clients have to wait outside your facility for their appointment. They can text their arrival and you can allow them entry once your previous client has exited and you have had the opportunity to disinfect and sanitize. If you have multiple technicians in the same facility, you may need to stagger their appointments to minimize contact. Visible markers on the floor to maintain proper socialdistancing are another tool to maintainthe health and safety of your clients.
Although it may reduce your retail revenue, you should minimize walk-in traffic. Some skincare companies are offering drop-shipping during this time. This service is a great way for your clients to stay on top of their skincare routine whileproviding you with revenue. If your skincare company does not have this capability, you could consider an online ordering service with shipping or curbside delivery.
Consider installing a sneeze shield to protect reception area staff. If you have not done so already, consider upgrading to an electronic scheduling and documentation system and a touchless card system for collecting revenue. If possible, apply a plastic or acrylic wipeable cover onto any screens that receive human contact. These upgrades may increase operational expenses, but they reduce the reliance onunsanitary cash payments.
A sanitation station at the entrance of your facility that includesa digital thermometer, hand sanitizer, masks, and even clothing covers for your clients will communicate that your establishment puts safety and health first.
Guideline requirements often involve questioning your clients about any COVID-19-related symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. You may also need to take your client’s temperature with a digital thermometer upon arrival to their appointment. Documenting your client’s declaration of health is important for ensuring the health of yourself and anyone else in your spa or salon. It also demonstrates your safety values.
You may have to waive cancellation fees if your client is experiencing health symptoms prior to an appointment. This will help deter clients coming to an appointment when ill because they do not want to pay a no-show or cancellation charge.
You should require the use of face masks when maintaining a distance of six feet is not possible for both the practitioner and client. This is essential when performing treatments that require close proximity, such as brow waxing and tinting, lash extensions, or lash lifts. Every treatment should be performed while wearing gloves.
Custom facials, atreatment thataestheticians perform commonly and represents a large percent of their revenue, may not be permitted, depending on your state and the health of your community. If facials are permitted, you can implement some additional systems to ensure that sanitation protocols are maintained with each treatment.
The use of non-sterile gloves is mandatory. Ignore social media poststhat contain a lot of negative comments from aestheticians who have been in the industry when wearing gloves was not expected. In truth, our industry should have been wearing gloves for all services as an infection control measure since the beginning. Clients will grow accustomed to technicians performing facials with gloves. When I went to aesthetics school I was taught to double dip during a waxing, which is now no longer an acceptable practice. Times change.
During a facial service, you should be wearing an N95 mask, the safest on the market. When having intimate facial contact, consider flipping the acrylic facial shield upside down so the elastic strap is across the back of your neck and the shield is directed from the front of your neck upward. Thisprovides better visualization of your client’s face. Also consider usinghard acrylic boxes to cover the client’s face, with openings at the sidesto allow the aesthetician access to the face. Tiny, triangular, and hard plastic shields that cover only the nose and mouth, allowing you to see most of the face, are available as well.
When performing treatments, consider reducing the use of steam and the skin spatula due to the aerosolization of particles that could spread infection.
Ask your clients to avoid speaking during treatments to prevent more airborne particulate. If you removed your client’s mask, return it upon completion of the service as soon as it is safe to do so.
You will need to take a firm stance on the new sanitation guidelines. Placing them on your website, in signage at the door, in frequent social media posts, and in your messaging will reinforce the requirements to your clients. Most clients will find the information reassuring. Although a few may challenge you, do not acquiesce. Do you want to risk your health, the health of your co-workers, and the health of your clients? Do you want to risk fines and penalties from your state board or from OSHA for the lack of sanitation? Do you want to be a headline in the local news with a positive test result, damaging your salon’s reputation?
If a client refuses to follow sanitation guidelines, you can tell them that you are not able to legally accommodate their personal beliefs, and that you will put them on a waiting list and contact them when the guidelines are lifted.
You should also have a health policy regarding practitioners and other spa staff. What should your staff do if they experience COVID-19 symptoms or do not feel well during their shift or before work? What chain of events will occur if someone does test positive? You need a written policy that clearly outlines the steps to be taken. Staff should immediately leave the premises if they present symptoms while on the job. Their workstation should be thoroughly disinfected. The staff person should not return to work for ten days and 24 hours without a fever2. If a staff person tests positive for COVID-19, they should not return to work until they have negative test results.
Consider changing your own clothing or at least applying a clean apron or smock between each client as an extra precaution.
Between clients and at the end of the day, wipe down hard surfaces including counters, containers, mayo stands, and equipment, as well as light switches, doorknobs, and hand railings. Restrooms, common areas, dispensing areas, laundry, and your treatment room should all be on your sanitation checklist.
The use of EPA-approved disinfectants is extremely important. The list of approved disinfectants is here:
When disinfecting, remember to wear gloves and avoid inhalation of any fumes. Since disinfectants have been in short supply, the CDC has approved the use of a bleach solution of one gallon of water to 1/3 cup of bleach. The bleach solution must remain in contact for a minimum of one minute. Alcohol of at least 70% concentration is another option. 3
Soiled laundry should be handled with gloves and kept in a covered container. It should not be shaken to avoid airborne disbursement of particles.
Defining your new sanitation guidelines will require you to get them in writing for an inspector to review and could be necessary if your liability insurance requires it. There are some protocols and policies available from respected sources, like ASCP and ISPA that can be customized to your specific facility. You can also develop your own by systematically reviewing the following procedure andareas of concern:
-Common areas, treatment rooms, and service areas
-Cleaning hard surfaces, soft surfaces, and electronics, such as tablets and monitors
-Cleaning tools and implements
-Retail space modifications
-Staff health policies
Once your policies are established, get them posted. You can find free downloads on Canva.com or the CDC athttps://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/print-resources.html?Sort=Date%3A%3Adesc, as well as many other online resources.
This is a marketing opportunity that should not be missed. Aesthetics has always been an industry that has adhered to high standards of sanitation and infection control. Upping our game is the right thing to do professionally as we continue to build a reputation of excellence in client safety.