Beauty salons and nail bars in England will not be permitted to reopen on July 4 as hoped.
Every industry has been impacted by coronavirus shutdowns, but for hands-on beauty service providers, it’s been devastating as many are self-employed.
In most other European countries hair and beauty services have reopened as lockdown restrictions have been lifted, so this week’s news that the UK’s beauty industry will not be following suit has come as a big shock.
And with no current date proposed for their reopening, they will have to continue keep their businesses closed.
These photographs – taken on a visit to the gorgeous Knightsbridge salon Threads & Co -show what one of the UK’s first Covid-secure salons will look like.
The owner, Matt Bartell, has taken every precaution possible to make his salon safe for his three therapists and hundreds of clients who usually visit the salon to get their nails, waxing and beauty treatments done.
Journalist Suzanne Baum (pictured) visited Salon Threads and Co in Kensington, West London to see what measures are in place once the Salon is allowed to open
Managing director of Matthew Bartell (pictured) gave MailOnline a guided tour of the Salon, which includes perspex screens and contactless payment
Suzanne is pictures trying out the eyebrow threading treatment, which takes place with the beautician wearing full PPE including a visor
Staff will wear PPE and there are shields in place around the salon for clients to have their nails done
It has been a real nail-biter of a time for him and thousands of salon owners and beauticians everywhere as they await to hear when the government will let them work.
‘To say I was frustrated about beauty salons not reopening is an understatement,’ he told me. ‘But I’ve refused to get down about it and am using the time wisely to get as prepared as possible.’
As with the ‘new normal’ everywhere now, I am asked to hand sanitise on arrival and the signage encouraging you to do so cannot be missed.
Although no strict rules are yet to be announced, I wasn’t surprised to be offered a face mask – with both of us presuming this will be a legal requirement due to the close, hands-on contact in such an environment.
Threads and Co in Kensington is fully prepared with procedures in place ahead of re-opening as lockdown measures eventually ease
The salon has several sanitising stations dotted around the salon including tissues, posters and hand sanitiser
Salon owner Matthew is pictured putting on his personal protective equipment ahead of a treatment
Matthew is pictured applying his PPE, which includes an apron, gloves, a face mask and a face shield
My temperature was not taken and to be honest, it was the hottest day of the year, so I was absolutely boiling. I suggested perhaps they should consider taking temperatures when they do re-open.
THE NAIL BAR
As someone who has a monthly shellac manicure I was eager to see what the new nail bar will look like. Sitting wearing a face mask opposite a therapist decked in full PPE wasn’t as unusual as I thought it might be.
It also meant that if like me, you don’t really want to talk, you won’t have too. In fact, although customer experience is paramount here, chit chat is discouraged in order that you can get through your appointment as quickly as possible.
The normal touching of nail polishes and faffing about looking through the colours was off limits. I think clients will have to become less picky with their choices or even go with their therapists suggestions.
Suzanne said the normal touching of nail polishes and looking through the colours was off limits
The manicure itself will take place through a gap in a large clear perspex screen
Suzanne is pictured having her manicure, she wore her face mask throughout and was discouraged from chatting
THE BEAUTY CHAIR
I am super self-conscious about overgrown facial hair so have my eyebrows and upper lip threaded regularly.
I normally find it a relaxing experience and have even been known to nod off for a few minutes, much to some of my friends’ surprise. I think those days are gone, at least for now.
Having someone lean over you in full PPE is quite in your face (especially with a visor mask) so there was no way I would be relaxed enough to catch 40 winks! And breathing through my mask made me sweat a lot.
Suzanne is pictured having her eyebrows threaded wearing a face mask while her beautician wears full PPE
Suzanne said that her mask and her beautician’s PPE during the treatment made it difficult to relax as she normally would
Personal grooming is important to me; I work hard and being well groomed is part and parcel of my job. As a beauty writer I can’t talk the talk without walking the walk and in my weekly role as a celebrity interviewer I like to look presentable.
So waxing is up there as a must and at this salon the sugaring technique is also offered as it is gentler on the skin.
The beauty rooms downstairs have had a complete makeover. In particular, the therapist beds are no longer as comfy as we are used too – forget the piles of pillows and towels; one paper sheet will now cover the treatment bed – which will need to be wiped down after every use.
Again, having the therapist lean over me with his PPE felt a bit alien but also super hygienic at the same time.
Sanitary cleansers and antibacterial wipes are everywhere so it really felt like I was in a super clean space. After treatment, even the portable card machine is handed to you – meaning less contact with others, waiting around at reception to pay and so on.
Suzanne is pictured having a sugar scrub treatment, with beauty rooms having had a complete makeover including protective sheets on the treatment bed
Sanitary cleansers and antibacterial wipes are everywhere in the room and all payments are contactless
Salons require lots of face-to-face and hand-on interaction on top of being indoors which puts them amongst the higher risk places for spreading coronavirus. This salon has put Perspex screens everywhere to try to counter these risks.
From the nail bar and in between therapist chairs to the reception area, it felt very well thought out and removed any close proximity between clients. I did laugh when the owner went to speak to me and hit the top of his PPE mask with the screen but it is still all a learning curve.
‘PPE is a challenge to get right and everyone is learning how best to use it,’ explained Millie Kendall, chief executive of the British Beauty Council.
‘Yes, it is a real shame the industry is not opening on July 4 but I don’t think beauty has been overlooked, our industry is complicated and it’s broad. We carry out multiple types of services and treatments across a multitude of environments.
This salon has put Perspex screens everywhere to try to counter these risks, including the nail bar and till
Suzanne was offered a free face mask on arrival to the salon and encouraged to socially distance
Suzanne is pictured using one of the salon’s hand sanitising stations
‘We are a multi-faceted industry and I can’t think of any other like it.
‘Our beauty techs need to get back to work, they have no financial support or further offer from the Treasury of stimulus packages and a large proportion are women. So without appearing sexist I think often government assume beauty is fluffy and frivolous stuff girls like.
‘Our contribution to people’s mental health and wellbeing is not a commodity you can attach a number to, but we have all learnt over the past three months that our industry is one that offers more than just a pretty face or swish hairdo. Human connection, pride and confidence are what comes to mind when I think about beauty.’
I can’t help but agree – the connection and conversation with the therapist left me feeling happier in my own skin, and that was even without having any treatments.
So with beauty salons eager to open, and clients like me desperate to visit them, hopefully it won’t be too long before we can give them a helping hand, and a broken nail or two, to get their businesses back up and running.