Estheticians are, of course, experts in skin. But what many don't know is that they are professionals in sanitation, too. "In esthetics school, a huge part of our curriculum is infection control," Sean Garrette, an esthetician in New York and the global ambassador for Fenty Skin, tells TZR. "We’re expertly taught proper protocol to disinfect and sanitize out work stations, tools, products, and ourselves." Yet, estheticians during COVID-19 have seen a huge change in their industry.
Through the highs and lows of the economy, the beauty industry has for the most part stayed afloat. But, many never prepared for a pandemic to hit. "My whole career I've always talked about, and we've always learned, how the beauty industry is a recession-proof industry," Nayamka Roberts-Smith, LE, a Los Angeles-based esthetician, says. However, the expert says no matter what, people always want to get their beauty services done. "In 2008 and 2009 when the recession hit and all industries tanked, beauty stayed pretty solid," she says. "I've always been excited about that, but I've never considered being pandemic-proof." Roberts-Smith says beauty always felt like a very secure career. Though with COVID-19, it's not so stable for beauty professionals. "It's definitely forced me to be more flexible and reimagine what it means to be an esthetician and how to help people, and different ways to do that."
Luckily, many estheticians see a light at the end of the tunnel. "I believe the need for skin care services and self care will only be amplified in 2021, as we all are craving to get back to a sense of normalcy," Camille Fields an esthetician based in Los Angeles, tells TZR. "Treatments will be more of what we know to be effective." And Shani Daren, a Los Angeles-based esthetician, doesn't think anything will change much with the services themselves. "It’s just about keeping everyone safe and being diligent about screening procedures beforehand," she says. "We now wear shields, masks, and gloves for every appointment to keep ourselves and our clients safe."
Ahead, TZR talked to six recognized estheticians in the beauty space on how the pandemic has impacted their business.
Esthetician: Sean Garrette, New York
"The beginning was tough because I felt like I had no structure, I was worried about my business and scared of the financial impact this would have on me and my business. Thankfully, the virtual consultations were a success and was able to sustain me financially as well as give me some structure and normalcy during this time. It also brought back that human interaction with my clients that I missed.
"I think the future for estheticians is still bright. We offer so much to our clients beyond skincare. I think moving forward, more estheticians may be a little cautious about opening their own business because of the effects the pandemic has had on the service industry. I’ve seen so many have to close their business permanently, and sell all of their spa equipment because it wasn’t financially feasible to sustain their business. Overall, I’m very grateful that I’ve had the support of my clients and community throughout this time. COVID really impacted so many in the service industry, but I have faith that everyone will be able to rebuild and find their place again. Estheticians, especially Black estheticians, are needed and incredibly important in the beauty industry."
Esthetician: Joanna Czech, New York & Dallas
"Nothing can replace human touch. It is the heart of our job and something that was very hard to deal with. I love touching, talking to them about what is happening in their lives, [working] on their skin, and seeing instant results. Financially, while we were very lucky and were able to support ourselves and our employees through our e-commerce business and virtual consultations, our studios took huge hits that we are slowly making up for now. This caused a lot of anxiety.
"My client list grew through word of mouth and the feedback was so positive. I think we were all craving human interaction and connection and you can do that virtually. Clients sent me before and afters, they wrote very sweet thank you notes… it felt really good."
Esthetician: Nayamka Roberts-Smith, Los Angeles
"I've offered online consultations since 2017, but since the pandemic that's really been ramping up, so I've been doing that a lot more. I ask people the products they are using with skin concerns they are having, what they've used in the past, how frequently they use it, questions about their lifestyle, how they sleep, if they are taking any medications, things like that. It's a pretty extensive questionnaire, and then they send in photos. And from there we go through the puzzle of what could be causing their skin concerns and give them a breakdown of what their skin is doing right now, and a path to treat it. It's a little bit better than a phone call or a video call because that way we really get to see and look at it from a more scientific or holistic perspective than just a quick call.
"Right now we are still trying to fight a lot of the closures and such, but I really think that our industry will bounce back from this really well because people will see how seriously we take our jobs and how COVID-friendly we’ve always been. We’ve experts on infection control. I think I'm really starting to see people respect us for that."
Esthetician: Sofie Pavitt, New York
"I offered my acne program virtually during lockdown which was very successful, as well as an at-home peel kit. I think it’s been great for out of town clients to get a chance to join my acne program. I only offer it in the states but I was consulting even some clients in Australia and Korea. So crazy!
"Being shut down for five and a half months was devastating for some businesses. The major set back was that we were all out of jobs for months. Now a lot of our clients have moved away, but luckily we still have a lot of people really desperate for facials so it’s exciting to be back up and running."
Esthetician: Shani Darden, Los Angeles
"It’s been hard. I have missed giving facials so much! I still have great relationships with all of my clients though, so they’ll still text me for advice. The studio had only been open for about nine months before quarantine began, so it was all still very new for me. It’s such a tranquil space and really special to me, so it was hard just being away from it in general. Overall, I have really missed helping people with their skin and doing facials.
"I can dedicate more time to my skin care company now that I’m doing less facials. I’m able to focus more on product development and creating educational content for social media. It was always hard to find the time beforehand when I was in the studio every day."
Esthetician: Camille Fields, Los Angeles
"I've been an esthetician for 25 years and have had my business here in Studio City for the past 10, so I have a lot of clients who have been with me for years and years. Even if it's not skincare related, [I like] just reaching out to see how they are and how they are doing during this time.
"Business has been great. Although some of my pre-pandemic clients have not yet returned, I’ve had quite a few new client referrals. As estheticians, we are licensed in sanitation and disinfection, so our safety protocols have always been in place, but we are now even more hyper vigilant about maintaining those protocols and allowing more time in between clients for additional cleaning.
"I’d like to think my relationship with my clients has always been personal. During the time when we were unable to meet in person, I was always just a phone call, text, or email away to offer skincare advice or to just provide a listening ear. After months of being in quarantine and with many clients now at home with children learning online, there is such a deep appreciation for being able to come in and take a small amount of time just for themselves and I’m so honored to be able to provide a safe, clean environment for them to do so."