Remember spas? How great were they. Whether a rare part of your wellness routine or a regular one, massages, facials and everything in between were a welcome treat in the world before covid-19. With the naturally close contact nature of treatments and the undeniable dangers that steam rooms and saunas pose as breeding grounds for bacteria, it came as no surprise that spas closed their doors in the first week of lockdown.
13 weeks on and many of us are now eager to get back on treatment tables. A survey conducted by The Good Spa Guide found that 80 percent of respondents are keen to visit spas now or in the next few months, with 65 percent citing ‘just relaxing in a spa environment’ as the main reason for returning.
Of all the treatments on offer at facilities, the survey indicates 69 percent of people feel comfortable booking a beauty treatment such as a manicure or pedicure, while 60 percent are happy with a massage.
With government guidelines stating that hairdressers and beauty salons will be able to open from July 4 at the earliest, massage therapists are also likely to return to work at this time, however there is no clear date for when spas can officially reopen.
Beata Aleksandrowicz, international expert on massage and wellbeing says, "I believe that once the beauty industry has been open for a few weeks, the Government will then give the green light for spas to reopen. I hope that this will be by the end of July."
As we near this provisional time frame for the reopening of spas, how are facilities preparing to resume business and what can you expect from your first visit?
How will spas operate post-lockdown?
The existing focus on cleanliness within spas is expected to continue with increased vigilance as they begin to reopen.
Beata, says, "On arrival at the spa you will be met with a hand sanitisation station and you may exchange your shoes for slippers on entry to the spa. Before your treatment, if the size and facilities allow – you will most likely have to shower pre-treatment and sanitise your hands before entering the treatment room. Your therapist will explain hygiene protocol and wash their hands prior to the treatment."
Behind the scenes, treatment rooms will work on a rotation system to allow for more time between each treatment, there may be a longer turn-around time between treatments for added cleaning rituals and some spas may dedicate treatment rooms to one therapist.
As with many other hair and beauty salons reopening on July 4, perspex shields and PPE (including face masks, shoe covers, aprons, disposable gloves and protective eye goggles) may well be a common sight. As an extra precaution, Beata notes there is a chance some wellness locations may introduce covid-19 testing.
Spas will maintain social distancing protocols by limiting the number of guests admitted entry, creating elegantly partitioned relaxation rooms and ensuring that staff manage the way guests move through the spa, especially in shared spa spaces. As such, regular spa facilities like wet and thermal sauna and steam areas may remain closed for the time being.
How will treatments work?
As one of the most risky treatments available at spas amid the covid climate, you can expect spas to take extra precaution when offering facials. Beata says, "Therapists will wear a face mask for any facial treatment and in some instances, spas will use a clear perspex screen that is attached to the treatment bed to provide an additional protective barrier between the client and therapist. These are designed to enable the therapist’s arms and hands to access your face, while providing a buffer between your face and the therapist's."
When they first open, it is likely spas will offer a reduced number of facial treatments on the menu and this may include just one or two options. Short, half hour facials will be popular and treatments like microneedling may be absent from menus initially.
With the pressures of lockdown and the absence of touch for those who have spent lockdown alone, Beata believes spa-goers will eagerly return to massage tables once they can. "What we are learning from spas across Asia and Europe that have reopened post-lockdown is that there is a huge demand for massages, especially in spas," she notes. "People are craving the deep connection of touch, which is incredibly powerful, and I believe that we will follow the same path in the UK."
According to Beata, massages at some spas may only be offered face down, meaning treatments will be predominantly available for the back, neck, shoulders and backs of legs. Additional treatments like scrubs and wraps may be dropped during the initial phase of reopening. The use of gloves may not be necessary as long as the facility follows strict hygiene protocols, which means we may still be able to benefit from the skin to skin contact that is so crucial to the treatment.
"It is a real revelation how intentional touch can assist emotional wellbeing and physical strength. There is a physical sensation via skin but you can also create a sense of belonging and connection through touch," says Beata.
"In the same way – we are all craving the healing touch that massage provides. It’s even more pronounced for people who have been alone during lockdown. There is some evidence that touch, through massage can help heal depression, this is another reason why people are desperate for massages - to help heal the mental anguish and fear from confinement during the covid-19 crisis."