With beauty salons and studios reopening after COVID-19 shutdowns, some people are slowly getting back to their weekly manicures, seasonal haircuts, and monthly eyelash extensions — even if they aren’t telling their friends about it.
But things look a lot different in a post-pandemic world — including the way we get our lashes filled. From Covid testing to taped-down masks, we asked salon owners and public health experts what to expect and how to keep yourself and others safe if you decide to go in for a set.
Don’t bring friends to your appointment
D’Lashes in Beverly Hills and Envious Lashes in New York City have been operating at reduced capacity since they reopened — both to follow state guidelines and to make their clients more comfortable.
Clementina Richardson, the founder and owner of Envious Lashes, says her techs used to be distanced four feet apart in her 1,800-square foot salon. “When we’re at full capacity in New York City, we would have maximum nine people in the salon, and that included the receptionist, the techs, and me." Now she has, maximum, four tables going and usually it's just two or three. "Sometimes clients come and it’s just them in the salon," she adds.
Similarly, Dionne Phillips, owner and founder of D'Lashes in Beverly Hills, CA maintains 25% capacity in her salon, which means no friends, kids, or other guests are allowed to join the client at their appointment. If you plan on getting your lashes done, make the trip solo — or your friends might be waiting outside in the cold.
Look for well-ventilated salons
Two months ago, Richardson installed new ventilation systems similar to those in hospitals to comply with the CDC's guidelines. Phillips purchased a Molekule Air filter to purify her salon.
Your lash tech should have a similar ventilation system, keep their windows and doors open, or better yet, operate outside. “To the degree that that’s possible to do something outdoors with really good ventilation, I’m going to do that," says Jessica Malaty Rivera, MS, Microbiologist and ID Epidemiologist and Science Communication Lead at the Covid Tracking Project. "Otherwise I don’t want someone within six inches of my face doing something as intimate as putting lashes on my eyes. It would have to be mask, shield, symptom-free, just got tested, and can prove that they were in isolation before getting to that place. It’s risky."
Ask if they require COVID testing
For that reason, Phillips requires clients to get a COVID-19 test and send her the results prior to their appointment (she reciprocates by sending them her test results as well). "It's not required by the state, but I require that extra precaution for myself and for my clients, so they can feel safe since a lot of them are scared to come back." Phillips makes these testing requirements clear when clients book an appointment so they're not caught off guard.
For her part, Richardson requires her staff to get regular tests, and both owners do temperature checks for clients and staff before they enter their salons. Because Covid-19 business requirements might differ based on where you live, call your salon beforehand and ask about their COVID-19 prevention protocols to put your mind at ease.
Make sure the salon is sanitized
Sanitization isn't restricted to wiping down surfaces in between each appointment. "I have a cashless credit card machine. I have disposable everything," Phillips said, adding that because she takes the time to properly clean her memory foam chairs between appointments, she has to accept fewer clients. She wears PPE, which includes a mask, shield and gloves. And she took a barbicide certification course to thoroughly clean her tools.
Both salons use UV or UVC lights to disinfect their tools, kill germs, and disinfect client chairs in between each appointment. If you decide to get eyelash extensions, Dr. Karl Minges, Ph.D, MPH, says clients should watch the technician wash their hands or put on a new pair of disposable gloves in front of them. You should feel safe during the entire process, and any reputable salon will happily comply with these requests.
Wear your mask
At Envious Lashes, and per New York State laws, clients are allowed to take their mask off during their treatment as long as the esthetician is wearing both a face covering and a shield.
While Richardson prefers customers to remove their masks to help customize their lashes to their face, at D’Lashes clients are required to wear a mask and even asked to tape the top of their mask down to avoid any droplets escaping. As much as Phillips loves to ask her clients about their day and catch up with them, she’s implemented a “no talking, no droplets” rule to keep everyone as safe as possible.
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Being a high risk individual, Phillips has had to put safety before the close physical contact she maintained with her clients in the past, but that hasn’t stopped her from connecting with them through social media. She keeps her Instagram followers engaged with her lash technicians by posting tutorials on Instagram. Doing lashes isn't just her job, it's her passion, and she's had to adjust to keep her client relationships genuine, welcoming, and safe.
Know your risks
Even if your esthetician takes all the necessary precautions, there’s no guarantee that transmission won’t take place. Dr. Minges reminds us that while the main mode of COVID-19 transmission is through nasal passages and the respiratory system, “it is biologically conceivable for infection to happen through the eyes, as this is a mode — albeit an uncommon one — of transmission for the common cold and other viruses.”
As it pertains to eyelash extensions, he says, “Naturally, this is my biggest concern if undergoing eyelash extensions — that a beautician who is inches from one’s face could transmit the virus. Of course, there are means to lessen the risk of transmission, including each party wearing a mask and the beautician should also wear a face shield during the service.”
Ultimately, the decision to get your lashes done is up to you and the level of risk you're comfortable with — not to mention, the trust you have in your technician. "My clients understand me, they know me," Phillips says. "I'm dedicated to not just eyelashes, but to them."