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13 Things You Won’t See at Spas Anymore

The relaxation destinations are making some changes to stay safe during the pandemic.

What to expect from a spa visit

As states go through phases of reopening, spas and med spas also grapple with the unique challenges of offering their services and maintaining safety standards to prevent the spread of coronavirus. While guidelines vary from state to state for services from massages to facials, all businesses must adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to reopen—and that means spas and med spas have had to alter the way they operate after being shut down for months. “We had to get creative in all ways,” says Jocelyn Locasio, a medical aesthetician and laser technician at Infinity Med Spa + Wellness in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We believe everyone in our industry really had to pivot their business practices as well as in-office protocols in a creative and healthful way during this time.” Read on to learn about some of the changes you may be seeing the next time you visit a spa. And once travel is something people do again, consider visiting 11 of the most luxurious spas in the world.

Waiting rooms

To comply with social distancing guidelines, waiting rooms at spas will be mostly vacant areas for the coming months. “To space everyone out, we’re calling people when we are ready for their appointment,” says Steve Fallek, MD, president and co-founder of BeautyFix Med Spa in New York City. Clients will wait outside and be ushered directly into a treatment room, he explains.

Waiting in the car will become the norm in many instances. “We are asking that all visitors wait in their cars and call us when they arrive before entering our office,” Locascio says. “This allows our front office to stay clear of everyone but one patient at a time. Once the practitioner is ready, the patient is called into the office via phone by the front desk staff, and the patient is escorted to the treatment room.” Crowded waiting areas are also one of the 14 things you won’t see in hair salons anymore.

Multiple staff

Rather than seeing several attendants, you’ll likely interact with a sole provider during your visit. “We are really going back to basics with a boutique, hands-on approach from the technicians—they will greet you, check you in, perform your treatment, check you out, and follow up with the aftercare,” says Joshua Ross, owner of SkinLab in Los Angeles. “It will be more of a one-on-one experience versus rotating through multiple staff members for reception, treatment, and follow-ups.” This is an effort to follow CDC guidelines to limit the number of people each client comes into contact with.

Other guests

Appointment times have been adjusted to ensure communal spaces don’t become crowded. “We make sure not to book people at the same time,” says Elina Fedotova, owner of Elina Organics Spa in Chicago. So their policy is to book clients 15 minutes apart to allow time for temperature checks and COVID-19 questionnaire screening before heading to the treatment rooms to ensure the lobby is empty when the next guest arrives. “We are doing this to minimize unnecessary contact with people,” she explains.”


As the CDC explains, COVID-19 can spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and then is inhaled into the lungs, so services that involve respiratory function have to be eliminated from spa offerings. Inhaling scented oils to enhance mood during aromatherapy is problematic to do safely. “Our services are modified to avoid face and respiratory areas and have discontinued aromatherapy treatments until further notice,” says Shane Evans president and co-founder of Massage Heights in San Antonio. “Aromatherapy scent selection was removed as it previously allowed guests to sample scents before selection.” You can recreate the experience in the safety of your own home with essential oil scents for every room in your house.

Testers and product samples

Rather than peruse the product offerings and try what you like, spas and med spas are removing samplers and often prohibiting shoppers from touching products themselves. “Usually a client would be able to shop from our shelves and test products in the shops, however in line with the CDC guidance, we are taking away all testers and having our team members pack all products being purchased themselves,” says Michael Pollak, co-founder of Heyday in New York City. “This prevents surfaces from being contaminated or touched constantly so clients can feel assured that the products they are taking home are free of any germs.”

Self-serve snacks and drinks

One of the nice spa amenities was a lounge with flavored spa waters, teas, and healthy snacks. Due to the risk of contamination, you won’t see these little luxuries left out any longer. In some cases, the refreshments are simply replaced with on-demand water or tea as at The OleHenriksen Face/Body Spa in Los Angeles. Vance Soto, the owner and president, says that he provides beverages to his guests rather than leaving out self-serve options. But in other cases, the snacks have disappeared in lieu of a more appropriate need. “Our coffee and pastry bar is now a sanitization station,” says Rose Marie Beauchemin-Verzella, CEO of The Beau Institute in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Snacks and refreshments are also disappearing from nail salons.

In-person consultations

In an effort to minimize the amount of time staff spend face-to-face with guests and therefore in the direct line of potential COVID-19 spread, many spas and med spas have switched to virtual consultations before treatments. “We do Zoom consultations with our practitioners now,” Beauchemin-Verzella says. She explains this has been especially helpful with brow microblading. “You can see face shape and show pictures. We can even do a medical history and do screenings—the only thing we can’t do is draw the brows on.”

Heating pads in massages

Soft surfaces can be challenging to sanitize and the more items you have on a massage table, the more items you have to clean after each guest. To streamline the sanitization process and remove some anxiety from the treatment, ESPA International’s COVID-19 Recommended Spa Guidelines suggests removing all bed skirts, duvets, pillows, runners, table warmers, and mattress pads. Soto at The OleHenriksen Face/Body Spa has gone one step further and replaced his treatment tables to include ones with built-in warmers. “We can’t have separate warmers because we can’t launder them,” he explains. “We want to maintain the guest experience and make our spa friendly to this environment.” To keep all your surfaces clean at home, stock up on these 15 best-reviewed cleaning products on Amazon.

Wraps and scrubs

While states may not have any regulations limiting wraps and scrubs, these services require the use of a “wet room” which may pose a potential for concern. “We talked to risk experts who deal with medical and health issues and they assured us that showers don’t represent an additional risk,” says Simon Marxer, director of spa and wellbeing for Miraval Group in Tucson, Arizona. “But this creates a space that’s full of moisture vapor and that can be anxiety-provoking.” To limit the risk to staff and guests, and ease concerns, Miraval isn’t offering services that require in-treatment showers. The OleHenriksen Face/Body Spa is following a similar protocol. “Wet room services like scrubs and wraps are in an environment where there’s a lot of steam and moisture, so we’re erring on the side of caution because we don’t know how COVID-19 responds in that environment,” Soto says. If you’re missing these treatments, here are things you need for a relaxing spa day at home.

Saunas and steam rooms

The status of saunas and steam rooms will vary by state, but many spas are closing theirs entirely due to challenges associated with cleaning them. According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, the temperatures and non-porous materials in saunas may make it challenging for the virus to survive, but the lower temperature and humid environment in a steam room could allow the coronavirus to survive on surfaces and in the air. The ESPA guidelines also advise against offering these facilities. Find out the way gyms will be changing, too, as a result of COVID-19.

Complimentary toiletries

Amenities that could be handled and possibly contaminated by multiple people are also removed in many locations. For example, the jars of razors, cotton swabs, and hair combs will be missing from dressing rooms. Instead, Soto is offering individual packs of amenities to each guest waiting in their lockers and providing travel size products to clients. This reduces the risk of spreading virus on shared surfaces while still providing spa amenities. Find out the 10 things you won’t be seeing at hotels anymore.

Your friends

If you’re going to visit a med spa for injectables or a laser treatment, don’t expect to bring along a friend or family member for advice, moral support, or handholding. “We’ve had to temporarily restrict the presence of family members and plus ones in waiting rooms or consultation rooms,” says Bill Kortesis, MD, FACS, co-owner of HKB Cosmetic Surgery and med spa in Charlotte, North Carolina. His practice has implemented a very strict policy that limits one person at a time per treatment to reduce the risk of exposure for everyone on site.

Service providers without masks

We’re all living in a masked world and visiting a spa or med spa is no exception. You’re going to have to wear a mask during your service—unless your treatment requires you remove it. And your technician will be covered up as well. “In addition to N95 masks, we’re also wearing face shields in services that require extra protection for our patients and staff,” says Locasio. These everyday habits will also be changing after coronavirus.

For more on this developing situation, including how life might be different post-lockdown, see our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

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