With America still on the road to recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, nonessential businesses, including spas, are beginning to reopen. But many are wondering, "Is it safe?"
When most people think of a visit to a spa, feelings of relaxation immediately come to mind. However, the fears induced by the reality of COVID-19 have forced many spas to pivot or upgrade their offerings under new guidelines.
Will deep tissue massages, skin-enhancing facials and body treatments still be a thing? The short answer is yes, but staff and clients alike are approaching these beloved services with heightened awareness.
"One thing consumers do know is that they will likely be encountering a very different world when salons and spas start once again to take appointments," Jeff Alford, the president of The CBON Group, Canada's largest supplier of professional infection control products, said in a statement.
He continued, "The new norm in the age of coronavirus is going to be accompanied by social awareness where consumers assume greater responsibility for their own physical safety and personal welfare."
Most states have given personal care businesses, such as hair and nail salons, the green light to reopen under recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.
Gov. Phil Murphy advised that day spas in New Jersey could open on June 22 under restrictions provided by the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
Some of these restrictions include reopening the premises to facilitate social distancing, establishing protocols for scheduling of client appointments and prescreening and temperature checks for staff and customers.
Is it safe to go to a spa?
"Even before you book an appointment, you should be aware of what measures your salon or spa are taking to keep you safe while in their care," advised Alford.
He suggested that it's best to check company websites, social media channels or email notifications for announcements surrounding changes in policy that might include required face masks, restrictions in services, reduced or extended hours and more.
Alford also suggested looking for any signage or posted letters that are visible to customers at your spa before entering. "This will let you know that policies are being universally applied to everyone," he said. "Remember, the risk of infection does not just come from within the facility, but also from other patrons."
Once you arrive, it's best to check in if reception is providing hand-sanitizing options as well as PPE, such as masks or gloves.
"If these measures are not in place, you may need to ask yourself why and what other precautionary steps are not being taken to keep you safe?" said Alford.
How are salons ensuring safety?
"We are following the guidelines set out by the county and implementing extra precautionary measures and sanitation protocols," Amanda Raich, spa director at La Prairie Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, told "GMA." "We have rewritten all of our training manuals to include our adjusted measures and have scheduled training days for the team before we reopen so they can feel confident and comfortable with the new safety practices."
La Prairie Spa has also announced that guests and team members must wear masks, and have installed plexiglass dividers at reception and adjusted locker spacing for social distancing. Access to steam rooms has been prohibited for the time being.
Self-serving stations at the facility have also been eliminated. Each guest will be given their own amenity kit full of La Prairie products and individual spa snacks to enjoy.
For those looking to get a massage anytime soon, many of these services will still be available in most places.
"Since the closure, we've implemented updated brand standards that every franchisee is required to follow based on our work with third-party experts on industrial hygiene and occupational health," Massage Envy CEO Beth Stiller told "GMA." "They also helped us develop a specific plan for the franchisees to follow when reopening their independently owned and operated franchised locations based on CDC guidance and taking into consideration CDC's geographic risk assessment for the coronavirus."
Other plans for the popular massage franchise include requiring each location to meet enhanced mandatory cleaning and disinfection protocols for treatment rooms and equipment used in services, as well as ensuring proper hand hygiene and linen-changing protocols are followed while also complying with requirements related to personal protective equipment.
Charlotte-based Urban Med Spa has bounced back with an immediate return of approximately 80 to 90% of pre-COVID revenue. Founder and licensed esthetician of Urban Skin Rx and Urban Med Spa Rachell Roff also told "GMA" many guests have applauded how the spa has adapted.
"In addition to strict social distancing guidelines and meticulous cleaning/disinfectant practices, we now require and provide face masks upon entering the building, have moved to virtual check-in via cellphone so that guests can wait from the comfort of their cars, take temperature checks upon arrival and strictly enforce a stay home policy for any employees and/or clients who've not felt well recently," she said.
Urban Med Spa has also shut down waiting rooms to limit the number of clients in the building at one time.
Heather Hickman, senior director of education at Dermalogica, told "GMA" that the company's skincare-dedicated spaces created a Clean Touch Certification program guided by their 12 principals of enhanced service safety, which outlines protocols for featuring touch centric treatments.
Through the Clean Touch initiative, beauty industry professionals have access to courses outlining sanitary protocols in which they will receive a certificate for completing. So far, the program has certified over 30,000 professionals across the country -- including Ulta Beauty employees that offer services.
"Our focus is to deliver much-needed touch, connectivity and innovative skin services in an environment that still feels warm and welcoming but with very visible elevated hygiene standards," said Hickman.
She added, "As an industry and as a brand, we have always cared about both skin health and client health. Every precaution is being taken to ensure your skin is taken care of in the safest way possible. It may look a little bit different, but the results in your skin health will be the same."