Is It Actually Safe (or, TBH, *Smart*) to Get a Manicure Right Now?

By | May 27, 2020

Everyone has the one beauty ~thing~ that they love—the treatment they indulge in, like overpriced highlights, spray tans, lash extensions, etc. My thing? A weekly salon mani-pedi. And it has been way. too. long. since my last one—72 days ago, to be exact. Ugh.

Listen, I know we’re living in a new and scary world where actually serious stuff is happening, and me dreaming of someone grooming my gnarly cuticles, sloughing off three months’ worth of callouses, and painting my nails with laser-like precision may sound ridiculous, but I truly believe beauty rituals are a form of self-care, and you can’t argue with the fact that we could all use some of that right now.

This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Sadly, I live in an area of New Jersey hit hard by the pandemic, so the chances of me fulfilling my spa mani-pedi fantasy anytime soon are pretty much nonexistent. But as states slowly reopen and nail appointments become a reality for some, I can’t help but wonder: Just because nail salons are opening back up, is it even that safe—or smart—to get an appointment right now? So I asked an infectious disease expert, a few nail-salon owners and nail technicians, and some real-life customers who have actually gotten their nails done in the last few weeks (!!) for their honest thoughts on the situation.

nails

Imaxtree

The inherent risk of nail salons

If you’ve ever been to a nail salon, you already know that they aren’t exactly equipped for society’s new, post-pandemic rules. Manicures and pedicures can’t happen without touching—something that obviously isn’t ideal right now—and the teeny size of most salons means spending an hour in close proximity with complete (and possibly infected) strangers. And then the surfaces—the tools, the polish bottles, the countertops, the magazine you love to read (ahem, Cosmo) while soaking your feet—all of those can harbor the virus if not properly sterilized before and after each customer.

In California, it’s thought that one of the first community outbreaks of COVID-19 was in a nail salon,” says Peter Gulick, MD, infectious disease expert and associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University. It’s the reason why the California governor and public officials in other hard-hit states New Jersey and New York are considering nail salons “high risk” and, as of now, have no clear timelines for when or how they will reopen.

But even in states where nail salons are accepting customers, the guidelines for what’s safe and what’s not varies widely, making the question of safety pretty damn confusing for both customers, employees, and salon owners.

What the post-pandemic nail salon experience *should* look like

To minimize basic risk, every shared surface needs to be wiped down with disinfectant, reusable tools need to be sterilized in an autoclave (a heated pressure chamber), and single-use tools should be promptly tossed, says Dr. Gulick. Although most reputable nail salons should have already been following these health guidelines pre-COVID, there’s always a risk that your favorite salon wasn’t—and still isn’t.

And here’s where things get more complicated. To stop the spread of coronavirus, ev-er-y-one needs to be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) while in the salon. Customers need to wear cloth masks from the moment they walk in, and nail techs need to consistently wear gloves, plastic face shields, and cloth masks throughout services. (Or, if possible, N95 masks, since homemade cloth masks don’t contain nearly as many virus droplets—from say, a sneeze or cough—as medical-grade masks, says Dr. Gulick.)

It’s also worth noting that wearing PPE is one thing, but for it to actually be effective, salon staff need to be educated on how to properly use them too—which, again, cannot be guaranteed. “Masks should be snug and fitted to the face, gloves should be changed regularly, and everything needs to be disposed of safely,” says Dr. Gulick.

nails

Imaxtree

To account for social distancing—even while operating at a limited capacity—most salons will also have to totally reconfigure their layouts to allow customers to be six or more feet apart from each other during services, says Dr. Gulick. And for some small salons, this would require severely limiting the number of customers allowed at once—potentially to just one at a time.

The good news is that some open salons that have opened across the country are following all of these necessary precautions—and then some. “I felt like they were thinking of things that I wasn’t thinking about, and that made me feel extra safe,” says Demy, who got a manicure in Columbus, Ohio last week. “Everyone was wearing masks, of course, but everything they used was disposable and single-use too, from the mat I placed my hands on during my service to the little scooper my tech used to apply the powder for my dip manicure.” The only thing different that she missed from the whole experience? “There was no more hand massage during the mani,” says Demy. Which, you know, makes sense.

Sarine, in Atlanta, Georgia, said her local nail spot supplied her with a mask upon entering the salon and made her sign a waiver stating she had not experienced COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days.

In addition to spreading out stations to adhere to social distancing rules, some salons have even installed temporary barriers to minimize the risk between customers and nail techs. “During my manicure, there was a plexiglass shield between me and the woman doing my nails,” says Demy. “I just slid my hands underneath through a little opening.”

Natalie, who got a pedicure in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 18, had a similar experience. “There were personal plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling around my chair—it’s like I was in my own little bubble,” she says. And while these plexiglass and plastic sheets may seem kinda weird and off-putting, they’re “definitely a good protective measure,” says Dr. Gulick. Kind of like a giganto sneeze guard.

How nail salons are minimizing risk

Remember when you could just pop into your local salon for an impromptu mani-pedi? Sry, those days are over. Most salons are now operating on an appointment-only basis, meaning you need to call a few days out to book an appointment. “Scheduling in advance allows salons to stagger appointments, which is necessary since you can only have so many people in the space at one time,” says Nadine Abramcyk, cofounder of Tenoverten in NYC and L.A. And don’t expect to hang in the waiting area, perusing the polish wall—you have to chill in your car or wait outside until your nail tech is ready for you.

nails

Imaxtree

While not required in every state, Cyndi Ramirez, founder and CEO of Chillhouse in NYC, says that her team will also be checking the temperature of every client who walks through the door. “We will make sure there is an understanding that if you have a high temperature, you’ll unfortunately have to forfeit your appointment,” she says.

In an effort to ramp up sanitation even further, both Ramirez and Abramcyk say that when their respective nail spots reopen, they will also have a full-time crew dedicated to constantly cleansing and disinfecting surfaces. And to Dr. Gulick’s previous point about PPE education, they’ll also both be reeducating their staff on how to properly use masks and gloves.

Abramcyk said she’s even considering going to back to the old model of customers bringing their own tools to appointments. “Human error happens—a technician forgets to put their tools in the autoclave machine or they’re not sitting in there long enough,” she says. “If you bring your own individual tools, there’s less chance of cross-contamination and the virus being spread from person to person.”

All these safety changes don’t come without a price tag though. The new regulations salons need to impose to keep everyone safe and healthy means a lot of added expenses, explains Abramcyk. “I’ve heard a lot of salons closing simply because the cost of doing business in this new way is too expensive,” she says. “For the salons that do stay open, I think you’ll see the cost of manicures and pedicures increase, and, possibly, a spending minimum at each appointment.”

Not surprisingly, some salons that have opened are adding a “COVID surcharge” to services. “The place I go to now charges a $ 3 fee to cover the cost of sanitation and single-use tools and supplies,” says Demy. The business cost of social distancing and operating at a limited capacity also means no more quickie manicures or in-and-out polish changes. “It doesn’t make sense for us have someone come in for 15 minutes, potentially expose everyone, and give up one of our highly coveted appointment slots,” says Abramcyk.

The moral dilemma

nails

Imaxtree

Even though most nail salon owners are actively attempting to protect their employees and clients from the risks of COVID-19, the whole situation, from a moral perspective, is still…tricky. The reality is that nail techs can’t do their job from six feet away. And they also can’t do their jobs from home and still collect a paycheck. So as a customer, how do you reconcile the complicated decisions nail techs need to make—often between their health and a paycheck—when making a seemingly non-essential nail appointment for yourself?

“Nail salons in Arkansas opened on May 1, and I called my regular place that day for a mani-pedi,” says Jamie of Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Sure, my nails were in a bad place and I wanted a manicure, but I also knew that all these nail techs had been out of work for the last two months. Making an appointment would be an easy way to help them get back on their feet and support my local economy.”

In fact, this feel-good sentiment was shared by every person I spoke with who booked an appointment as soon as restrictions were lifted. “I got a manicure last weekend and my nail tech told me she was happy to have me in,” says Emma, a customer in Atlanta, Georgia. “She had been out of work for weeks and was eager to try to get back to life as normal.”

But even though supporting local businesses is important for the economy, making that nail appointment isn’t always the right way to do it—especially for nail techs who work in communities hard hit by COVID-19. “The salon I work at is super clean, but honestly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving a manicure to someone right now,” says Johanna, a nail tech based in Red Bank, New Jersey. “You just can’t social distance when you’re giving a mani or pedi, and even though I’m getting unemployment, the whole thing is still incredibly stressful.”

Logan, a nail tech in Jackson, New Jersey, shares the same feelings of stress. “I think it would be different if I lived in an area with fewer COVID-19 cases, but my health and safety isn’t guaranteed at work,” she says. “It’s nobody’s fault, but I just don’t want to jeopardize my health. I had cancer so I’m considered high risk, and I don’t think I’d be okay going back to work until there is a vaccine.”

For someone like me who lives in New Jersey, a state where more than 150,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, I know I’d have some serious second thoughts about getting a mani or pedi right now. But all the customers I spoke with for this story had no reservations about their appointments, pointing to the fact that these salons aren’t actually breaking laws by reopening (and, thus, neither are they by visiting them), and that most salons are, to their knowledge, implementing the proper health and safety precautions.

But even though it’s a choice for you and me to make that mani/pedi appointment, it’s not necessarily a choice for everyone else involved. Here’s something to think about: Some nail techs will feel compelled to go back to their salons, even if they still fear for their health, simply because they need the money. They survive on commission and tips.

So if you are on the fence about making an appointment, there are still ways you can support nail techs and local businesses while minimizing risk: “I’ve been telling my friends and clients to buy gift cards to their local salon and saving them for when the situation improves,” says Logan. And if you’re itching for a mani, like RTFN? Have your nail tech walk you through the process on Zoom and then Venmo them for their time and expertise at the end of the virtual service.

nails

Imaxtree

So, should you make a nail appointment?

I wish I had a clear answer for you, but it’s not so black-and-white. There are some obvious reasons NOT to go to a nail salon—like if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who’s infected with the virus. If you fall into either category, allow me to politely remind you to pls stay the f*ck home.

But what if you’re seemingly healthy and live in a community that hasn’t seen a dramatic number of coronavirus cases? When I asked Dr. Gulick if it’s actually safe to get a mani-pedi right now, his response, unfortunately, wasn’t super reassuring. “At this point, myself and most medical people I’ve spoken to feel a bit insecure about the idea of salons just opening up again.” Which, fair. There are still a lot of risks and a lot of what-ifs that we simply don’t understand yet.

“In an ideal world, salon staff would be tested for COVID-19 with a nasal swab every day— it’s the only way to ensure the virus wouldn’t be spreading, since people can pass the disease and be asymptomatic,” he says. “And until we get to that level of testing, I’d tell people to just wait a little longer and see how this all plays out before making an appointment,” says Dr. Gulick.

Still, at the end of the day, you gotta do what’s right for you—whether that means buying a gift card from your favorite nail place and saving it for the future or masking up and heading to your local salon in the name of “self-care.” As for me, I’ll be trying to master the art of the at-home manicure for just a little bit longer.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

Latest Content – Cosmopolitan