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7 changes coming to nail salons and spas on Long Island in Phase 3

Nail salons are making a return Wednesday, as Long Island begins Phase 3 of reopening.  Credit: Newsday: Barry Sloan / Chris Ware

Raise your hand if you’re ready for a salon manicure.

Phase 3 of reopening rolled out across Long Island on Wednesday and many nail salons, along with spas and spots specializing in brows and waxing, returned to work after closing about three months ago. 

“We’ve always been conscious about safety and sanitizing, and we’ve amped up our efforts tenfold,” said Kris Kiss, 46, owner of Couture Nail Studio at Sola Salon in Port Jefferson Station, where workstations have been socially distanced to be six-feet apart. She welcomed back her first customer on Wednesday morning and said all went smoothly. "We had the sneeze guard up and I thought 'Oh God, this is going to be so awkward,' and it really wasn't," she said. 

She lined up about eight appointments -- all regular customers -- for her reopening day, and said there was an increased interest in summer colors. "They all want something bright!" And after months of clients doing their own at-home treatments, Kiss said, "So far, who I've seen, their nails were in pretty good shape. I had shared on my social media a how-to on taking your nails off if you need to, so they didn't just rip them off."

Rules for the return include employees being tested for COVID-19 every 14 days, so long as the region remains in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening. Another regulation, of course, involves your face: workers must wear a face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth and a shield or safety goggles. And don't forget the gloves. Clients must wear a mask or face covering too.

In Port Washington, Bari Ziegel, 60, is a-okay with that. “Anywhere you go you need to wear a mask,” she said, adding that she’s “100% confident” about safety if protocols are followed. She has booked a June 24 appointment at Nails Noble in her town and said she's rethinking her long-running hot pink polish. “I may possibly go with a red.”

Personal care services requiring clients to remove masks are a mandated no-no. Safie Salon and Spa in Massapequa has nixed lip waxing, but manis, pedis and bikini waxes all get the green light. Owner Lulzemia Azemie has even bought a tent and set up a nail station in it for clients who prefer being outdoors. “I feel very safe and I don’t want to jeopardize the health of my clients or employees, so I’ve gone the extra distance,” she said. The Spa at Red Hots in Roslyn has similarly set up an open-air gazebo and special hours for immunocompromised clients.

You’ll need both hands to count the ways the experience will be different at the nail salon and spa:

1. If the salon looks half-empty, there’s a reason.

Workers and clients are each limited to 50% capacity. Except when a service is being done, everyone must always stay six-feet apart. “No hugging hello and goodbye anymore,” said Nails Noble manager Hana Park, 54. Because of limitations, some shops will open seven days a week instead of the previous six.

2. You may have your temperature taken and be asked to wash your hands on arrival.

“We’ll be using no-contact thermometers for both customers and employees who will wear face shields, masks and gloves,” said Donna Kim, manager of LaLa Nail and Spa in Port Washington.

3. Waiting areas are a thing of the past.

Many salons are going with an appointment-only policy, with some noting that they’re already booked well into July. “Our clients are like family and they like to hang out,” said Kiss. “That can’t happen anymore. Customers will text us when they arrive and we will escort them in.” Veronica Castoldi, a longtime client who lives in Miller Place and works at Home Goods, acknowledged that not getting to shoot the breeze pre- and post-mani with employees and other customers is a switch. “It will be kind of weird,” she said. “But everything will be fine.”

4. Barriers are in place to protect employees and customers.

Manicure stations now feature clear plastic dividers with a cutout on the bottom that customers slide their hand through to have their nails done. Dividers may also separate workstations that are not six feet apart. Chairs may be covered in plastic to facilitate mandatory disinfection and sanitization.

Mike Issa, 40, owner of Polish Nail Bar, bought 60 plexiglass screens for his shops in Wantagh, Smithtown, Patchogue Village, and one forthcoming in Huntington Village. “I invested $6,000 on custom-made plexiglass screens,” said Issa, whose reopening is on July 7. “They’re not cheap. That’s a lot for a business in which the average ticket is $50 to $60.”

5. Items for sale or use may not be up for grabs.

At Karina NYC Skin and Lash Clinic NYC in Greenvale, owner Karina Freedman has removed a product display that clients used to peruse. “The only thing you can touch is a bottle of water on your way out.” At Couture Nail Studio, only pictures of items up for sale are displayed.

6. Disinfecting is more important than ever.

Shops had rigorous sanitizing rules before the pandemic. Now they are increasing the “buffer time” between clients to disinfect tools, supplies, seating areas, workstations, and, said Kiss, “even doorknobs.” At Envious Lashes salon in Commack, work stations will be disinfected with UVC-light before and after use — as they were pre-pandemic. At Spa at Red Hots in Roslyn the philosophy is to act as if “every time a room is used, it’s been infected … and to sterilize accordingly,” said co-owner Elaine Bezold, who has invested in more heat sterilizers for the relaunch.

7. You may be asked to sign a waiver.

Clients “do this in doctors’ and dentist offices, and people know that this is elective and that they are aware they came by choice for a beauty treatment,” said Karina NYC Skin and Lash Clinic’s Freedman.

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