'Freedom day' 19 July is upon us and with it, mandatory social distancing rules are coming to an end. For some, that signifies a welcome end to inconvenience (goodbye maskne ) for others, it's a source of anxiety, especially if you work or travel or shop in close proximity to others.
The government has advised us to carry on wearing a mask in enclosed spaces and some organisations, such as London Underground, Manchester trams and the NHS, including GP surgeries, are choosing to keep it a requirement.
Official advice for ‘close contact services’ which, in beauty terms covers everything from brow shaping to balayage, suggests that for individual salons it's their call. “You may decide that in your premises you’re going to ask clients or staff to wear a face covering, especially where practitioners are conducting treatments which require them to be in close proximity to a person’s face, mouth and nose," it states.
With the onus on the individual, beauty industry body BABTAC (British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology) is "strongly encouraging" members to keep on wearing face coverings "especially when working in the breathing zone, "not only for your safety and the safety of your clients and staff but to help eliminate the factors that could lead to your business having to close and staff to self-isolate too."
What does this mean for us as clients? Will we still be wearing a mask for our manis, haircuts and brow treatments? Of the salons and the yoga centre we spoke to, it seems that little will change. Sanitising and some distancing will stay as well as mask-wearing, at least for therapists. However, for customers, masks may be optional, depending on where you go.
What the nail tech says: face coverings optional for clients
At a nail appointment today at our local salon, Le Petit in Swindon, we asked our tech (in between nattering about our holiday plans - that didn’t take long!) what their plans were going forward. She told us that the staff had chosen to keep on wearing masks for manicures, facials and semi-permanent makeup, but it would be up to clients whether they wanted to wear one.
Hairdressers: social distancing, sanitising and temperature checks will stay
You might see more appointments becoming available in your salon, many of whom have had to limit numbers over the past year. London hairdresser Michael Van Clarke had reduced its seating by 50 per cent to make space between chairs. As of Monday 19 July, they are increasing capacity to 65 per cent. Other than that, most of the previous measures will be in place (don't expect any communal magazines any time soon).
“Aside from this we will be still be adhering to the usual Covid protocols including strict and regular sanitisation, social distancing, extra ventilation," says Michael. Staff will still be wearing masks "and we're requesting clients to do the same. Our staff will continue to do a Covid test twice a week until further notice. We want to remain cautious and vigilant for both clients and staff, " he says.
Soho hair destination Salon 64, which also houses a cocktail bar will also be sticking to Covid measures. “Our team will all be wearing a face mask, but this will now be optional for our clients,” says founder Ricky Walters. “Temperature checks upon check-in, hand sanitiser and social distancing where possible will all remain in place within the salon too. We will still have the protective screens dotted around the salon as an extra measure for the time being.
Magazines have gone from the salon in favour of QR codes. "You simply scan on your phone and have every magazine you wish for," says Ricky. "I feel this will be the future and in no rush to bring back print magazines to the salon while Covid 19 is still very much a hot topic.”
The brow bar: therapists to wear masks indefinitely and recommended for clients
Blink Brow Bar, which has salons nationwide, told us masks will be a permanent fixture in its space. "We believe that it is much safer and more hygienic for clients to wear masks, with or without the risk of Covid. It won’t be a legal requirement but we will recommend that our clients wear face coverings and are confident that they will be more comfortable doing so," said founder Vanita Parti. "Therapists will definitely continue to wear masks indefinitely," she added.
Vanita explained that the other Covid measures, such as hand sanitising on entry and the sanitisation of each station between appointments, will also be continuing.
The yoga centre: hands-on adjustments and blocks are back
You often can't get much more body contact in a professional setting than in a yoga class, where the teacher may lean their bodyweight into you to ease you into a stretch, especially in a class such as Mysore-style ashtanga. Up until now, teachers have been rooted to their mats rather than circulating around the room as in the pre-Covid days.
Now, at least at London's triyoga centres, hands-on adjustments are back, at the discretion of teachers and students. Founder Jonathan Sattin says. "If teachers want to leave their mat during the class, they will wear masks and for adjustments they will ask your consent, sanitising their hands immediately after and before the next adjustment."
You'll be able to use communal props again such as belts and blocks, but bolsters and blankets are still on the red list. Drop-in class spaces are back (you don't need to pre-register) but there won't be any increased capacity as existing mat distancing will stay. You'll still need to have your temperature checked and wear a mask while you are walking around the centre, although not in class.
What's clear is that there are no hard and fast rules, and it's best to check with your venue what they require. We fully expect the screens, PPE and hygiene measures that businesses have invested in aren't going to be jettisoned anytime soon, especially as in the UK Covid-19 rates are doubling every nine days.
Unless you're exempt, wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience and it not only protects others but ourselves as well. As professor Trish Greenhalgh, professor of primary care at Oxford University , explains in MailPlus this week, while we used to think that masks were there primarily to protect others, we now know that they can help prevent us from inhaling infectious particles that hang in the air even long after an infected person has left the room.
We're certainly going to be doing everything we can to stop the spread and to support those who put themselves in 'close contact' with so many of us every day. If the pandemic has taught us anything about our hairdressers and therapists and trainers, it's how much we value them and how valued they are showing up for us day-in-day-out.