Everything you need to know before returning to the salon.

Is It Safe to Get Manicures Right Now?
Credit: Jim Craigmyle/Getty Images

Before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, which forced nail salons across the country to temporarily shut down, getting a bi-weekly manicure might have been your way of taking time out for yourself. But while salons in many states have been able to reopen after being closed for a couple months, getting acrylic extensions or a simple gel manicure is no longer a tranquil experience — instead it can be a source of anxiety.

Along with booking an appointment for a post-quarantine haircut, it is possible to come into contact with COVID-19 while you're getting your acrylics refilled at your favorite hair salon.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is spread between two people within about six feet of each other; through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, regardless if they're showing symptoms or not. It is also possible to contract coronavirus by touching a contaminated surface or object with the virus on it, then rubbing your eyes or touching your mouth.

Given that you need to sit close to your nail technician in order for them give you a quality manicure, it's tough to completely practice social distancing at a nail salon. However, salon owners aren't taking safety lightly, and have put plans in place that adhere to state board of cosmetology rules and local board of health to keep both clients and employees safe.

With safety measures such as wearing masks and plexiglass shields between stations in place, Deborah Birx, M.D., the White House’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, tells InStyle she would classify going to nail salon as a low-risk activity.

Find out what getting a manicure is like post-quarantine, along with what you should do before going to the nail salon in the time of COVID-19.

What Getting a Manicure Is Like Post-Quarantine

Expect getting a manicure to feel like a medical experience rather than a relaxing one.

"Doing a manicure and pedicure service with the new PPE required for safety between manicurist and client (a mask, a face shield or goggles, gloves, and disposable gown) can be uncomfortable, hot and steamy, and challenging to see through," says Michelle Saunders, founder of Saunders & James in Oakland, Calif. who has yet to reopen due to restrictions in her county. "It takes extra time (about 20 minutes) between clients to clean, disinfect, and re-apply our PPE. "So, if done properly we automatically can only conduct business at half mast."

In addition to nail salon employees wearing PPE and requiring clients to wear masks, many are also requiring temperature checks at the door, hand-washing upon entry, cashless payments, no outside food and drinks, and installing plexiglass shields between stations if they can't be moved six feet apart.

Pre-appointment, you may be asked to fill out a screening questionnaire and sign a waiver. Barbicide (hospital-grade sterilization system) is commonly being used to clean tools and surface areas to ensure the salon remains clean.

As for what has changed service-wise, some salons like Glosslab, a members-only salon in New York City that reopened earlier this month, is taking same-time mani/pedis off their menus.

"We felt the proximity of three people (two technicians working on one client) is unmanageable right now," says founder Rachel Glass. "All of Glosslab's other services have remained the same."

With many salons going appointment only and taking extra measures to clean and sterilize between clients, you might have to go longer between manicures. Glosslab has started selling at-home gel nail polish remover kits to help cut down the time clients are spending at the salon. Not only does this minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for clients and technicians, it also allows salons to book more appointments.

"We are selling our Gel Eraser Kits – which is our signature Gel Eraser that we use to remove gel in-salon (super simple, no acetone or tin foil required!) —  so that clients can now remove their own gel polish at home to save in-salon time," Glass says.

What Should You Do Before Going to a Nail Salon?

First and foremost, if you're feeling sick stay home — it's for the greater good.

If you are going to get a manicure, check in with your favorite salon to make sure they're following local and state health guidelines for reopening. Once you've given the salon the green light, make an appointment, and don't forget to wear your mask on the day of your manicure.

At the salon, avoid extra conversation and avoid shared spaces and items like bathrooms and magazines.

"If you decide to go, bring a mask that fits well, eye protection, gloves, or a disposable tissue for high-touch surfaces like door handles, and hand sanitizer," suggests Anna Bershteyn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Population Health, NYU Langone Health. "And don't forget to tip generously! The salon staff are taking a real risk to serve customers during a pandemic."

VIDEO: Shopping for Makeup Post COVID-19 Will Never Be the Same

How Is COVID-19 Going to Change the Nail Industry Long-Term?

It's impossible to give the pandemic a set end date. Because of that fact, all salon owners can do is tentatively prepare for what they might be hit with next. That is, if they have even been able to reopen in the first place. For Saunders, who launched her salon in 2019, she's been closed longer than she's been open.

"Prior to COVID-19, nail salons felt very casual and loose and easy. But with the new restrictions there is no way the majority of nail salons can abide and thrive with the changes," says Saunders. "It is costly to keep purchasing the disposable PPE, but it's imperative because of safety issues. Getting your nails done feels more like a life or death service now, and that changes how I see my industry."