I Had My First Post-Lockdown Manicure – & So Much Has Changed

Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
When nail salons closed their doors in March following government guidelines as a result of COVID-19, those of us who previously booked in for a fortnightly mani-pedi had to surrender the luxury. We flooded Google with questions: How do I remove acrylics without completely wrecking my nails? Is it really bad to pick off gel polish? When will beauty salons open again?
Nails are probably the least of our worries during a global pandemic but there's no denying what a fresh set can do for your mood. On Monday 13th July, nail salons were given the green light to reopen their doors and as you might have expected, waiting lists started to grow. But phones and inboxes were flooded with countless new rules and regulations.
After a four-month break from acrylics and professional gel polish, my nails were in dire need of some TLC, so I nabbed an appointment at Nails & Brows in London's Mayfair. The salon also specialises in brow threading, microblading and lash treatments but government restrictions deem the face a 'high risk' area so these services are currently off the menu. Nails are a go, though, so I booked in for my usual CND Shellac manicure. But I had questions: Would I be able to have a much-needed gossip with the nail technician or are face-to-face conversations banned? Am I allowed to order a glass of prosecco while I unwind? Do I need to bring my own nail polish?
Here's everything you need to know about the post-lockdown nail salon experience.
Appointments are a must or you might have to come back another time
Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Unfortunately, walk-ins won't be catered to and if you're late, there's a good chance you'll have to come back another time. That's because all nail technicians are required to set aside 15 minutes at the end of each appointment to deep clean their workstation. This includes disinfecting UV nail lamps, seats and tools such as cuticle scissors with barbicide.
Just like hair salons, nail bars are doing away with waiting areas where possible. At Nails & Brows there is enough room for two clients to socially distance while they wait for their appointment, should they arrive a tad too early. Others will have to linger outside and a receptionist will be manning the door at all times to operate a safe one-in, one-out system. You'll also be required to wash your hands thoroughly on arrival.
You can't touch your phone
Calling all workaholics and Instagram obsessives. To prevent the spread of the virus, you won't be able to scroll or check emails with your free hand (even if you have given your phone a wipe down and washed your hands). While this felt weird (and made me want to check my notifications even more), it's totally necessary and, actually, it forced me to unwind. You are permitted to have your phone beside you but it's probably safer to keep it inside your bag.
Your nail technician will be dressed in full PPE, and you will be required to wear a face covering
Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Similar to hairdressers, nail technicians are required to wear plastic visors, masks and gloves, but it's not as scary as it looks. In fact, it's oddly reassuring. I worried that the nail technician might struggle to paint my nails in gloves but I was reassured that they aren't a nuisance.
Clients are also required to bring their own face covering at Nails & Brows and wear it throughout the duration of the appointment as an extra precaution. Lots of salons have made this mandatory, so do check beforehand. At Nails & Brows, you can purchase a mask if you forget yours.
You may have spotted that some salons have installed perspex screens between the client and nail technician, however this isn't the case at Nails & Brows. All employees adhere to the strict PPE rules.
You can have a gossip with your nail technician
At Nails & Brows the workstation and armrest make it possible to sit a comfortable and safe distance apart without getting arm ache. There is also a two-metre distance between clients. If you like to chat, you'll be pleased to know that face-to-face conversation isn't banned. But if you'd prefer to remain silent, that's totally okay, too. All refreshments including tea, coffee and champagne are off the table, though, so be sure to bring a bottle of water with you.
Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
The way you choose a nail polish colour may have changed
Picking a colour is exciting but your nail technician may not permit you to touch the nail colour wheel, which displays each shade. This could be risky, especially if countless people are flicking through it daily. I asked the nail artist at Nails & Brows to display the wheel on the table and she helped me choose my shade easily. It's also best to ask before heading straight to the nail polish wall to choose a colour, as your nail artist might not want you to touch the bottles.
You don't need to bring your own nail polish
At Nails & Brows, clients will be encouraged to purchase their chosen colours for extra hygiene measures but you don't have to bring your own nail polish from home. Hands must be washed on arrival and sanitised at the table. Bottles and brushes will be cleaned by nail technicians between clients.
Nail artists will use individual nail kits
A nail buffer, nail file and wooden cuticle pusher will be provided to each client in a sealed, sanitised package for an extra £3. You can take this home with you afterwards. Cuticle snippers and scissors are sterilised after each use to prevent cross-contamination.
There's no drying waiting area
This isn't so much a problem with Shellac or other gel nails but if you've opted for regular nail polish, you'll have to leave as soon as your nails are done, as the drying area is no more to prevent congestion. Take care when paying (by card only and preferably contactless) and carrying your bag to prevent chips and smudges.
Overall, it was easy to adhere to the new guidelines and the process was pretty seamless. Each nail artist did their job with military precision but this didn't take away from the enjoyment of the experience at all. I felt safe throughout, especially as each client-facing team member had been tested privately that morning. Plus, my nails were flawless.
While lots has changed, one thing is for certain: choosing a shape (squoval, square or almond?), colour (nude, suntanned or timeless red?) and finish (matte, glossy or natural?) is every bit as overwhelming as before, even if we have had months to make up our mind. I don't make the rules!

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