OTTAWA -- Before you book your next nail or hair appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic, industry experts are offering tips on health and safety practices to watch for when you visit the salon.

The Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Health Unit declared a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a nail salon in Kingston on Thursday. As of Friday afternoon, 16 COVID-19 cases had been linked to the salon, including six staff members.

The CBON Group, Canada's largest supplier of professional infection control procedures, says there are things people should look for when you arrive at the salon or spa.

"They should be expecting to see masks being used, not only by the professionals but also by the customers.  They should be expecting social distancing to occur between customers sitting beside each other or distance between them and the professional," said Jeff Alford, president of The CBON Group during an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

"They should also be expecting regular hand sanitizing to be taking place, both for themselves and the professionals. They should be expecting to see things like face shields. They should expect to have appointments being done, not just walking in off the street."

Alford says the public should expect to wait outside the salon for their appointment instead of a waiting room inside, and be prepared to use different payment options besides cash.

"If they're going to a hairdresser they should be expecting to see the blow driers being used cautiously or even some hairdressers are setting up blow dry rooms," Alford told CTV News Ottawa on Friday.

Alford added that ideally, salons and spas should set aside special times for seniors to visit.

The Ontario Government allowed barber shops, hair salons, beauty salons, piercing services, day spas, tanning salons and tattoo studios to open on June 12.

The province issued the following safety protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Where physical distancing cannot be maintained, patrons should wear face coverings at all times. Workers wear face coverings and other appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Personal care services must take measures to maintain physical distancing between patrons, such as limiting the number of people who may be in the business at any one time
  • Businesses should also consider operating by appointment and/or recording each patron's name and contact information.

Alford and The CBON Group offer seven suggestions for the public to look for as they visit their favourite salon or spa during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Advanced awareness of salon/spa policy changes

Before you book your appointment, Alford says you should be aware of what measures your salon or spa are taking to keep you safe while in their care. The website or social media channels should be announcing changes in policy that might include the required use of face masks in the facility, reduced operating hours, no walk-ins, no waiting areas and no outside food or drink.

Communicate with your professional beauty facility

If your salon does not frequently provide updates through digital media, Alford recommends giving them a call when booking your appointment and inquire about changes in policy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You can ask if staff will be wearing masks, what additional cleaning and disinfection practices are in place and whether they are undertaking any screening measures," says Alford.

"This knowledge will give you the confidence to continue with your booking or contemplate an alternative destination. Safety is not only about you, but the practices enforced upon the people around you as well."

Before you enter

Alford says before entering the salon or spa, "you should see notification of any changes communicated through signage or posted letters at the door or window."

"This will let you know that policies are being universally applied to everyone. Remember, the risk of infection does not just come from within the facility but also from other patrons."

Reception, the first line of defence

Alford says a salon or spa's primary objective during this outbreak is to prevent the introduction of viruses that can lead to infection.

"Larger establishments may have a designated greeter at the door who can screen clients before they enter the premises. Smaller salons or spas should have a physical barrier or reception desk that prevents clients from freely entering before being processed."

Alford says hand-sanitizing gel, personal protective equipment like masks and gloves and disposal of outside coffee cups may be part of the new norm.

"If these measures are not in place, you may need to ask yourself why and what other precautionary steps are not being taken to keep you safe?" said Alford.

Social distancing is possible

Alford notes maintaining distance may not be possible when obtaining professional beauty services, "your salon or spa should still be taking measures to respect the two-metre separation rule whenever possible."

"This may include removal of waiting areas, limiting capacity and by-appointment-only service to avoid over congestion. It may also involve removal or decommissioning of every other workstation, shampooing sink, bow drying area, etc. to ensure distancing."

Getting ready for your appointment

Alford says salons and spas should clean and disinfect the workstations and treatment areas between every appointment.

"All disposable items used with a client should be discarded. Any manicure/pedicure tools should be high level disinfected in a soaking tray," said Alford.

"All points of client contact including work surfaces, chairs, treatment beds, face cradles, magnifying lamps, etc. should be disinfected with a Health Canada approved hospital grade disinfectant for the requisite contact time."

During an interview with CTV News Ottawa, Alford said, "The public should be asking the professionals, 'are they using hospital grade disinfectants?' That is another big issue. A lot of people are using the cheap disinfectants like alcohol or Lysol, but they should be using hospital-grade disinfectant."

Alford says if a salon or spa has fast client turnover that does not allow proper sanitizing protocols to take place, you should "be aware of the heightened exposure to infection you may be facing."

Ask your professional beauty practitioner

Alford says the COVID-19 outbreak has required beauty professionals to brush up on their germ and infection prevention knowledge and there are numerous online courses available to the cosmetology trade.

"So, you should be able to engage with your professional and have them address any health related questions," said Alford about raising any concerns with staff at the salon or spa.

"Better still, he or she should start your appointment by letting you know what measures they have in place to keep you safe prior to the commencement of any treatment or service and conclude with 'do you have any questions or concerns before we get started?'"