In New York City, the former epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, you can now get a haircut, go to the nail salon, and even get a tattoo. All of these personal care services were permitted to resume business late this summer as a part of the state's phased reopening plan, but many aestheticians employed at facial bars and studios are still out of work. The reasoning for this is multi-layered, but largely, it's believed to be an oversight.
At first, facial studios were told by officials to wait because the beginning phases of reopening prioritized treatments where a mask could be worn the entire time, but seven months after they shuttered doors in March, there's still no update.
"We saw a phased reopening approach laid out for restaurants and essential businesses, medical and all these things that sort of made sense, and through that, specifically in New York and Pennsylvania, facials were left out," Michael Pollak, co-founder of Heyday told POPSUGAR. "By about mid-July, the curve was flattened pretty well in New York and we still hadn't heard anything from the state about what phase we were going to be in."
That's when Heyday quietly started working with an attorney's office to try to get an update from the government. "We obviously weren't very public about that because we were just trying to get the lay of the land and we didn't want to be perceived as pushing anything from a health and safety perspective," said Pollak. "But here we are, at the beginning of September, and we have had no word on when we can participate."
"I don't think the intention was specifically to weed out your more sort of classic facial treatments, but we've reached this point where now, we're falling through the cracks."
It's reached a point where many of Heyday's customers just assumed that the business has reopened — myself included. Businesses that have their medical certification like med spas have been allowed to reopen because they're deemed essential — even if the treatments being received are elective like Botox, injectables, laser treatments, or a standard facial.
"I don't think the intention was specifically to weed out your more sort of classic facial treatments, but we've reached this point where now, we're falling through the cracks and there are over 40,000 aestheticians in the state of New York who can't do their work," said Pollak. "It's not only about Heyday, but it's about the industry."
Out of the 40,000 aestheticians that are out of work due to these restrictions, a majority of them are women. "This employment class is 90-plus percent women and it has the most incredible diversity," added co-founder Adam Ross. "We're coming up on our seventh month now of being closed and it's tough for them."
Heyday isn't lobbying to reopen without putting in the work first: they've done their research and have been working to implement systems that follow the CDC's guidelines so that they're ready to spring into action as soon as they get the go-ahead. "We've looked at what guidelines other states and other state boards of cosmetology have issued, at what CDC has outlined, and we've gone well beyond that," said Ross. "We're looking to stagger our appointments, both for the team and for clients, so there's literally no reason to have contact with anybody else. We significantly increased the turnover and the sanitation time, treatment to treatment. Before an appointment, if a client doesn't fill out a questionnaire they get sent to them, their appointment automatically gets canceled." This is in addition to routine temperature checks and professional studio cleanings.
"We've got an eminently qualified workforce that knows how to put clients safety number one."
"You've got aestheticians that pass a 600-hour state-certified core and two-to-three quarters of that core is centered around sanitation, health, and safety," said Ross. "So we've got an eminently qualified workforce that knows how to put clients safety number one, in addition to all these other protocols and additions we've made."
In an effort to get the word out there, Heyday has enlisted the help of its clients to contact the New York State government via email to get an update on the status of facial studios. "The eventual hope is to just get a sightline on a date, as so many other businesses have had, to know what phase you're going to be in and when you're going to be allowed to operate and under what conditions," said Pollak. "It's totally devastating for a workforce that essentially, is sitting on their hands and waiting for the ability to do their work again."