As personal-care businesses across the United States begin to reopen, it's clear that the rituals we previously associated with nail salons, haircuts, and spas will have to change, and that's especially true for the facial.
Facials involve a level of personal contact that goes beyond even hair and nail salons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even calls out spas specifically in its suggestion to "minimize use of areas that may lead to close contact (within six feet) with other people as much as possible, like...pools, hot tubs, saunas, spas, salons, and fitness centers."
During a facial, an aesthetician is typically just inches away from the client. Additionally, the CDC advises that "indoor spaces with less ventilation where it might be harder to keep people apart are more risky than outdoor spaces," not unlike the close quarters of a spa treatment room. The CDC also recommends interacting with others with a face covering on; unless you're opting for a nonexistent treatment known as a forehead facial, you'll be breaking this rule as well.
Since each of the 50 states is creating its own reopening plan, the availability and experience of a facial will differ from state-to-state. Before booking a facial, check your state's website for specific guidance and regulations. Your favorite spa may be closed completely, offering only certain treatments, totally open for business, or somewhere in between.
We checked in with aestheticians across the country to gain a broad understanding of what one of our favorite treatments will look like moving forward and when we might feel comfortable getting one again. Until then, here is what you should keep in mind for the future — when getting a facial is safer.
What Doctors Say
"I would advise [patients] not to get a facial at this time," says Nada Elbuluk, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical associate professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine. "A facial involves exposure to mucosal sites (eyes, nose, mouth), and prolonged contact between the person giving the facial and the person receiving it. It's not possible for a person receiving a facial to be wearing a mask so it places that person at higher risk of exposure during the procedure."
Even in her own dermatology office, Elbuluk is not currently doing any chemical peels or cosmetic procedures involving the face. (That doesn't include necessary medical procedures like skin-care surgeries, which have a whole different set of health and safety precautions.)
"I was supposed to have a facial a couple of weeks ago," says Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Even though spas in her home state of Texas have reopened, she chose to cancel her appointment. "I just don't see any way you can make [the facial] safer," she says.
What Your Next Facial Will Look Like
Like so many activities during the pandemic, what your next facial looks like will be determined by your state and your comfort level. As of June 11, Houston, Texas Essential Body Bar owner Letrice Mason had instated new policies, such as adding a 30-minute threshold between clients, and booking appointments to 50 percent of spa capacity. Her employees wear masks, but facial customers do not.
As of late June, COVID-19 cases spiked in Texas, hitting nearly 165,000 as of July 1, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center's tracker. On June 26, Governor Greg Abbott scaled back on Texas's reopening, ordering bars to close and restaurants to scale back to 50 percent capacity.
Facialist Joanna Vargas owns one spa location in New York City and another in Los Angeles, where both cities are in the process of reopening. (New York City is currently in Phase 2 of reopening, and is currently to enter Phase 3, which includes spas, on July 6. Many spas have reopened in Los Angeles County; Vargas has not yet confirmed the exact day when her L.A. location will reopen, but she'll be ready with a 19-point-long cleanliness protocol that she shared with Allure.
On the list are items like "complimentary beverage service will be discontinued" and "plexiglass will be placed at the front desk." As Vargas points out, "aestheticians have been trained and state-certified very specifically on cleanliness. It is actually built into our profession."
Even when state restrictions lift, some spa owners like Vargas are choosing to wait before opening their doors. Joanna Czech Spa in Dallas was technically allowed to open on May 19, they reopened on June 10. According to Raquel Medina-Cleghorn, head of studios and lead aesthetician, they waited in order to make sure safety protocols were in place and staff were trained.
Aesthetician Sofie Pavitt is expecting to open her New York City salon in July, when the city is anticipated to move into Phase 3 of reopening. Still, her doors might not be open on Day 1. "Once we get the go-ahead to reopen, I'll be evaluating when we will be able to do so safely," she says.
Facial bars Heyday (locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia) and Silver Mirror (New York City and Washington, D.C.) will follow a similar set of guidelines. "We're spending additional tens of thousands of dollars on PPE, almost hourly cleaning, additional laundry services, and other costly measures," says Silver Mirror co-founder Matt Maroone. "Many of our clients have voiced their eagerness to get back in for an appointment, and we feel confident in our ability to safely serve them with our updated safety protocols and procedures when the time is right, says Heyday co-founder Michael Pollack.
The Bottom Line
Businesses across the country are reopening, and it's difficult to resist the urge to book all your long-overdue appointments (not to mention resisting the urge to hug friends and family you haven't seen since this all began). We support anyone who wants to invest time in their skin — but only when it is absolutely safe to do so for the provider, the client, and anyone else involved.
Remember that there are many ways to support your favorite beauty professionals without risking anyone's health. Like so many other decisions surrounding COVID-19, when facial spas open in your neck of the woods, it'll be up to you to decide whether the ritual of another human applying skin care to your face is worth the risk.
More next steps:
What This High-Risk Person Wants You to Keep In Mind As Cities Open Back Up
Sephora's Reopenings May Be Slowed Down by Ongoing Protests
After COVID-19, the Salon Experience Might Never Be the Same
Now, take lessons from a beauty expert's nighttime skin routine:
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