Is it safe to go to a salon or spa?

Masks and social distancing are a given, but you should make sure you know the salon's protocols before booking your appointment.
SELF CARE IN THE TIME OF COVID
If you're living in a place where rates of COVID-19 are increasing, you shouldn't risk going to the salon or spa.TODAY illustration / Getty Images

As the country re-opens during the coronavirus epidemic, many are eager to get back into their personal care routines.

Whether you're looking to get your hair cut in a salon, relax during a spa day or get a pedicure, it's likely that your appointment is going to look different than it did just six months ago.

"I think the take-home message is we need to reinvent the next steps by continuing to do what’s safe now, and still trying to reopen, but in a staged fashion, rather than flinging the doors open really wide and saying we can do what we did before." said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics (infectious diseases) and health research and policy at Stanford Health Care.

Is it safe to go to the hair salon?

Experts weighed in on how you can keep yourself safe while getting pampered. By now, mask-wearing and social distancing have become almost a way of life — so make sure you keep doing it when you go to the salon. Keep some distance between yourself and other patrons, and try to schedule your appointment at off-hours so you can avoid the rush.

It's also important to know exactly what restrictions your salon will have in place, and ask what their policies are if a customer tests positive.

"I know that some salons are putting measures in place in terms of how they are doing social distancing and managing customer loads that put hospitals to shame," said Justin Lessler, Ph.D., an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "...They’re being careful and controlling. I do think many salons I know have been really at the top of their game in terms of infection control."

All experts interviewed for this story said that if you are living in a place where rates of COVID-19 are increasing, you shouldn't risk going to the salon or spa.

"If the rates are going up, stay home!" said Dr. Tania Elliott, a clinical instructor of medicine and immunology at NYU Langone Health in New York.

If you are going and it is safe to do so in your area, just make sure that you're evaluating your risk reasonably.

"It's important to know that in this whole environment, no activity is going to be completely without risk and a lot of what a person chooses to do will be based on their individual risk preferences, which will vary from person to person," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an infectious disease physician, who added that he himself had gotten two haircuts since the start of the pandemic.

"In general, you'll have to make a risk calculation every time you do something in this current environment," Adalja continued. "So think about it: Is this a really important activity? Is it something I value? What are my risks of getting a severe disease? How can I avoid spreading or contracting the virus?"

Getting your hair cut or eyebrows trimmed might bring stylists in close proximity to you, which can "of course" increase the risk of transmission, according to Lessler.

However, there's reason to believe that the risk is low if both client and stylist are wearing masks: Both Lessler and Adalja highlighted a case in Missouri earlier this year, where two hairstylists tested positive for COVID-19 and were showing symptoms of the virus. However, they were masked, and none of the 140 customers that they served that day contracted the virus.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always bring them up with the salon or stylist in advance.

"I would make sure to have a real conversation with your salon or wherever you’re thinking of going to see what they’re doing and are they really putting in the stringent measures in place," said Lessler. "If you get there and you don’t think they’re doing the things they should, turn around and leave."