What to Expect at Your Next Salon Appointment As They Begin to Reopen

Desperate for a haircut and a gel manicure? You aren't alone. But before you rush back to the salon, here's how to prepare for your next appointment and what the experience could look like.

Getting haircut during coronavirus
Photo: svetikd/Getty

While there are many things you might be looking forward to as quarantine restrictions start to loosen across the country, tending to your grown-out roots and your half-bitten nails are likely high on the list.

Whether you're considering a mani and pedi, haircut, facial, or all of the above, there are a few things you need to consider before rushing to the nearest salon that will have you. (Psst.. not ready for that just yet? Fair! Try this spa-quality, at-home facial instead.)

The beauty industry, like many others, was hit hard during the height of the pandemic due to necessary but financially burdensome closures. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now released reopening guidelines for all businesses, many within industries that require direct contact (i.e. a haircut) have expanded this plan. The CDC plan is not an exhaustive list of all scenarios or industries and each business and location may adapt their policies as more information becomes available. (

So, as salons and spas across the country begin reopening, is there anything you can do to be better prepared for your next visit? To help, beauty professionals shared some of the common safety measures and practices you'll likely encounter, so you can at least know what you might expect. Just remember, the below is a snapshot of what you might experience, not an exact scenario.

Scheduling Your Appointment

Salons across the country are on different time tables depending on their phase of reopening and local and state guidelines. For many places, guidelines require that all beauty spaces operate at only 50 percent total capacity at a time. "Our hair salons are staggering stylist schedules to allow for social distancing, and expanding hours of operation to serve as many guests as possible in a day while respecting capacity requirements," says April Anslinger, Aveda SVP and North America general manager. This is a practice seen at many hair and nail salons across the country. You may also want to check salon websites and Instagram accounts for expanded hour and appointment information.

Because of the fewer number of appointments available, many salons are booked a month or more out, so be prepared to be patient to get a haircut or pedicure on the books. Some hair and nail salons are only taking appointments by phone or online—that means no walk-ins—so check their specific rules before just going in hoping for an opening. (

This protocol may vary from salon to salon, stylist to stylist, or even beauty industry to industry. For example, Jin Soon Choi, founder and owner of JINsoon Hand and Foot Spa in New York City says "walk-ins will be welcome if the space is available, but our waiting areas will be closed for the immediate future." Meaning if they can't immediately seat you for an appointment, you'll need to wait outside or come back another time.

What's Expected of You While There

As with any public activity, such as running errands or visiting a non-emergency doctor, if you feel sick or experience any COVID-19 symptoms, stay home. It's recommended that anyone who is considered high-risk or vulnerable to COVID-19 hold off on making an appointment, especially for services where a face covering isn't possible, such as a facial, says Heather Hickman, senior director of U.S. education at Dermalogica.

Since facials and makeup applications are a higher risk activity due to the recipient being unable to wear a mask for the duration of the treatment, Dermalogica worked with epidemiologists and consulted existing state board guidelines to create a reopening protocol with a Clean Touch Certification program, says Hickman.

This program is based on 12 guiding principles for enhanced service safety that Dermalogica helped developed in response to the pandemic. For example, the first principle suggests a health questionnaire meant to prescreen clients as well as an online consultation for you to "meet" with your stylist or esthetician before your appointment, explains Hickman. This allows for less face-to-face interaction while giving the skin therapists the information they need for the client's treatment. The podcasts, videos, lessons, and resources are available for free when you register for the course on their website. The brand offers Clean Touch Certification programs for makeup artists and skin therapists; the skin therapist lessons are available in 15 languages for international salons and spas.

On the day of your beauty appointment, you may be expected to wait outside for a notification (a call, text, or someone coming to get you) when your stylist or skin therapist is ready. This process eliminates extra people in the salon at one time and allows time for stylists to clean their stations and tools in between each client, says Anslinger. Furthermore, Dermalogica's protocol asks guests to avoid arriving too early (gone are the days of needing to get there 15 minutes beforehand) and suggests clients be escorted directly to treatment areas to eliminate crowding in common areas.

Nail salons may ask guests to wash their hands and get a non-contact temperature check with an infrared thermometer as soon as they enter the door, says Choi. JINsoon will also have hand sanitizer available throughout the salons—something you can expect across the board at all salons, spas, and stores in the coming weeks. (Hold on, can hand sanitizer actually kill the coronavirus?)

All beauty industry services will require staff and guests to wear face masks during the appointment. For a facial, you'll likely be asked to wear a mask in any common areas, and upon check-in and check-out, but will remove your mask for the treatment. The beauty professional should keep their mask on throughout. (See also: 'Maskne' is a Very Real Thing—Here's How to Beat Face Mask Breakouts.)

Changes to Services

While the world around you is rapidly changing, many things about your next haircut or manicure will likely be familiar. "We hope to maintain the former salon experience to whatever extent possible, but they won't be as full and busy as in the past, and far more attention will be paid to sterilizing all of the items that are part of the manicure or pedicure service," says Choi. (

In fact, all the beauty professionals interviewed for this piece said new cleaning procedures for staff were the biggest changes being made to their spaces. For Choi, that means building plexiglass dividers between client and manicurist chairs and developing a new cleaning protocol for sterilization—not just the tools, but anything that technicians and clients have access to. You'll also notice more frequent sanitization of all surfaces, tools, and hands at Aveda salons, adds Anslinger.

Given that both clients and skin therapists will have been pre-screened, the experience of a skin-care treatment itself will remain largely the same as before, says Hickman. Estheticians and skin therapists will be required to wear a face mask, face shield, and apron during treatments, anything the client comes in contact with will either be made specifically for one-time use before being cleaned (i.e. linens) or disposable (i.e. headbands), and hands will be washed frequently throughout the treatment. (ICYMI: Here's How to Correctly Wash Your Hands Because You're Doing It Wrong)

Many hair, skin, and nail salons and spas are requiring guests to come alone, as they can't accommodate extra family members, children, or friends and still be able to practice appropriate social distancing. Pre-haircut cups of coffee or glasses of wine are being suspended to allow for mask-wearing and avoiding food and beverage safety and sanitation, says Anslinger. Aveda has also stopped all shared, non-essential materials (think: magazines) for the time being. A common practice for salons nationwide. Consider this a fair warning to bring your own entertainment during a marathon hair color appointment. (See also: What are Ubers Going to Be Like in a Post-COVID World?)

"The pandemic has reminded me that salons are much more than a place to get a beautiful hair color or a fresh haircut," says Anslinger. "They are places you go to recharge, to take a moment for your wellbeing, and to invest in being your best self. You may see your stylist's smile now only from their eyes, and don't start your appointment with the typical handshake or hug, but the special place that salons hold in people's lives and routines has not changed and will endure in this new normal."

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