A hair salon in Paris.

A new era is dawning for beauty sellers, hair salons and spas across Europe as confinement measures start lifting and professionals try offering high-touch treatments in a time of social distancing.

On May 11, France’s denizens could get their hair cut — outside of home — for the first time in almost eight weeks during the coronavirus crisis. The country’s beauty federation, the Fédération des Entreprises de la Beauté, or FEBEA, reckoned 59 percent of the populace would rush to salons in the first week alone, citing a study realized for L’Oréal.

The federation also outlined for its members hygiene measures to be followed, such as professionals, employees and clients all needing to wear masks. Contactless payments are to be favored.

Other FEBEA guidelines include: for spas, body treatments being allowed only if they don’t last too long, ruling out the likes of Thai massages. Protective equipment worn in hair salons should be changed for each client, and cosmetics testers in perfumeries are expected to only be handled by sales staff and product applied on to people’s hands with spatulas.

Meanwhile, beauty professionals in Italy and the U.K. are trying to prepare for what’s to come.

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ITALY

In Italy, nonessential commercial activities will resume operations starting May 18. Although a single protocol has yet to be outlined for them, measures to be implemented in stores including beauty retailers and perfumeries might include thermo-scanners used on people entering, safety areas equipped with hand gel dispensers and protection masks being distributed to clients.

There will be limited access to stores and salons and, in some cases, customers will be asked to book appointments in advance to manage the traffic. To maximize efficiency and distancing, one-way navigation will be favored and indicated by colored adhesive tape on floors, while opening hours could be extended to better manage the flux of customers.

Overall, cleaning procedures will have to be executed at least a couple of times per day, while some stores will implement Plexiglas panels at their cash desks.

The use of testers will be discouraged and in some cases substituted by small, single-dose samples, while retailers featuring digital tools will have to clean those after each use.

Many such safety measures will be reinforced in the case of hairdressers and beauty salons, which might be among the last retail categories to reopen on June 1.

That date left salon and beauty retail operators, as well as the Italian association of cosmetics companies, Cosmetica Italia, concerned about the future of the businesses involved, which last year generated sales of more than 6 billion euros. They employed more than 263,000 operators in 130,000 salons, 90 percent of which have on average two employees.

According to Cosmetica Italia, more weeks of closure will have severe repercussions on both businesses and employees, causing 50,000 salons to fail and the consequent unemployment of 100,000 operators.

As a result, this week the Italian government said it’s amenable to considering an early and gradual reopening starting May 18, depending on the number of infected people registered in each region. So measures might vary from city to city, but overall, hairdressers will have to respect security distancing by halving the number of work stations — adding Plexiglas panels between seats in small salons — and indicating navigation directions on floors.

Each operator will be allowed to assist only one customer and both will have to wear masks and gloves, while the staff might occasionally use visors, among other precautions.

Booking appointments in advance will be essential, and some salons will encourage customers to have a video discussion with their hairdressers to decide beforehand what treatment they will have. Some salons will enable clients to pay for services through web sites and remain open seven days per week.

The U.K.

Salons and beauty service providers in Britain won’t be back in business until July 1, at the earliest, according to a tentative plan to ease lockdown announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on May 10. In the meantime, industry organizations have been voicing their demands — and concerns — to the British government, and trying to figure out ways to do business safely.

Sallie Berkerey, managing director, CEW U.K., said since the lockdown began on March 23, CEW has been in daily contact with its members, “providing them with current updates, reassurance and guidance.” The organization said it is also connecting regularly with CEW colleagues in the U.S. and France, “sharing insights and experiences which are universally applicable.”

Going forward, Berkerey said CEW U.K. plans to help its members reopen their businesses, while the back-to-work process moving forward “will combine industry best practice, our members’ own corporate guidelines and guidelines provided by government.”

Lesley Blair, chair of the British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology, said she has been working on a variety of fronts. BABTAC is asking the government for clear-cut guidelines on how to open the salons, and best practices after the lockdown is lifted. “We want maximum safety and minimum confusion,” said Blair, in addition to extra financial help for industry members if salons are indeed the last businesses to come out of lockdown.

Blair also acknowledged that it will be difficult for salons and therapists to socially distance, “so we need to ensure that we have maximum security and protection for our therapists and customers. Consumers need to feel safe when going for treatments. We’ve just put together a comprehensive, eight-page document for our members and the industry, just to give advice and guidelines for salons and therapists. Minimizing the risk is going to be the main thing. In the absence of any sort of inoculation or vaccine, at the moment, we’re going to have to be very careful.”

She said that most businesses are very hygienic when it comes to beauty, and they’ll just have to ramp those levels up.

“For example, if you’re using towels, they should be disposable, and if they are not, they should get laundered in between every client at least 60 degrees [Celsius] to kill any bacteria. Use a medical-grade sterilizer or disinfectant when cleaning your units. If you have a salon, stagger clients coming in, ask them to leave as many personal belongings at home as possible and to pay in advance through electronic means. Don’t leave magazines lying about. Don’t offer tea and coffee. Make everything disposable — there are lots of things we can put into place. And use great glove hygiene.”

Blair pointed to another issue that she believes salons and therapists need to address — especially with regard to older people who are having to self-isolate for longer periods. “Sometimes, it’s not so much about the treatment they’re coming for, but the chat,” she said.

Blair also addressed the idea of “luxury experiences” potentially going out the window. “All the lovely towels and comforters — that’s going to have to go. There will only be the basic bed that’s cleaned. No blankets. That’s going to be our new norm.”

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