In the wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the return to some semblance of "normal" life will be slow, cautious, and structured with protective safeguards — across all sectors of the service economy. As it pertains to the nail salons, the question of when and how to reopen is especially tricky, because the reality is that a manicurist can't do their job from six feet away from you.
Still, as U.S. states begin to implement phased reopening, nail salons have reopened with restrictions in several states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Nevada, with others on track to follow suit in the coming weeks. Thus, the question becomes: If the salon is open, is it truly safe to make an appointment for a mani-pedi?
The short answer: The choice is yours, but you should understand the potential health risks at play. "You can't fully social distance at the nail salon," explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and educator. "This is a problem because we know that coronavirus is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, which can be easily contracted when you're in close proximity to other people sharing the same air in a confined space, like a small salon. We also know that the virus can live on surfaces for short periods of time, so you run the risk of contraction from the air and anything that isn't properly disinfected between customers — from chairs and tables to a pair of clippers."
With that said, the decision not to eventually resume the luxury of getting your nails done comes with its own adverse effects, considering that your local small-business salon owner and their employees are likely desperate for business following mandated closures. There's nuance to this particular dilemma, so we consulted medical professionals, nail salons, and the CDC guidelines to break down what the safest possible nail salon experience should look like during this time — when and if you chose to go.
You'll Need To Make A Reservation
Of the nail salons that have reopened, one of the biggest modifications to normal business is that walk-ins are now prohibited. To reduce foot traffic, all services should be scheduled beforehand, allowing for staggered appointments and adequate time in between to properly clean and disinfect. Clients will not be allowed to congregate in reception or waiting areas, and may be asked to limit the personal items — like cell phones and handbags — they bring into the appointment.
Social Distancing Still Applies
While the process of having your nails painted requires person-to-person contact, all other forms of social distancing measures should be observed. That means the salon should look different — as in, nearly empty. For example, Base Coat Salon, whose Colorado locations are set to reopen June 1, will not allow more than ten people inside a salon at any given time, with all workstations measured six feet apart.
There Should Be Health Screenings At The Door
This specific directive may vary state to state, but the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) guidelines advise that all salon employers conduct employee temperature screenings and wellness checks before each shift. At Base Coat Salon, all guests will also have mandatory symptom screenings before entering the salon as an additional health and safety precaution. In general, even if you're not tested at the door, do not go to the nail salon if you're feeling sick or believe you've been in contact with the virus.
Everyone Must Be Wearing A Mask
Another mandatory precaution at close-contact salons moving forward: Everyone should be wearing a face covering. "Of course, wear a mask when you enter an establishment, and make sure that all employees and other clients in the salon are also wearing masks properly," says Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist and physician in NYC. That means you, and everyone else, are covered tightly from nose to chin.
Manicurist Will Also Wear Gloves & Full Face Shields
In addition to masks, employees should be wearing disposable gloves and face shields. According to the AIHA, to minimize facial contact, employees should wear a face shield or install a plastic partition between the employee and client with space cut out where hands or feet can be slid underneath to conduct the manicure or pedicure. Dr. Zeichner says that the plexiglass wall or plastic shield will physically block any droplets from passing between nail tech and client.
You Should Observe Increased Sanitation Measures
Now more than ever, you should be paying close attention to the cleanliness of the nail salon. AIHA states that all clients and employees should be required to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before their service. All nail tools should be disinfected between use, or be single-use only. The guidance goes on to suggest that salons may consider asking clients to bring in their own nail kits to mitigate the risk of cross-contamination.
To fully ensure that your salon is up to the COVID-19 standards of sanitation, you may want to ask to see a Barbicide certification, which proves that the salon has gone through safety testing and demonstrated a commitment to operating according to best practices set in place by infectious control specialists.
Be Especially Mindful Of Surfaces
As a part of the increased sanitation measures, surfaces like door handles, tables, and chairs are required be disinfected by the salon. However, as a client, you'll be best advised not to touch anything, if you can help it. "Remember not to touch your face, and be mindful of all surfaces where viruses and bacteria can live, like doorhandles and chair arms," Dr. King says. "Practice thorough hand hygiene and minimize contact as much as possible."
Pre-Pay For Your Service
Another way the salon can reduce the risk of infection is to encourage or require contactless payment by prepaying for services online or through Venmo. In accordance to the World Health Organization's recent advisory on the spread of bacteria through cash, Base Coat Salon will no longer be accepting cash as either payment or gratuity, which may very well become the norm.
As it stands now, none of this is really "the norm," but nail salons are slowly reopening and taking the necessary measures to do so with the health and safety of the community in mind. One good rule of thumb to live by in this new world: If you're feeling sick, just stay home.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.