Beauty Tech

How COVID-19 Has Created a New Normal for the Beauty Industry


How COVID-19 Has Created a New Normal for the Beauty Industry

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for industries of all kinds, but those challenges are particularly daunting for businesses that depend on close contact with clients and customers. From hair and nail salons to retailers of cosmetics and beauty supplies, the beauty industry has been among the hardest hit – and beauty businesses have had to find creative new ways to stay safe while staying in business. Making radical changes in policies and procedures, adopting new digital tools for staying connected, and providing personalized services and products are among the strategies that are working together to define a new normal for these pandemic times – and beyond.

Scientists are constantly learning more about the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the illness that’s currently sweeping the globe. But it’s clear that the virus is highly contagious during close personal contact with someone who’s infected, and the risk rises in indoor spaces.

Not all beauty businesses and brands require that kind of close, one-on-one contact, but, just as in the healthcare professions, many do. Department store cosmetics departments typically offer quick makeup sessions to promote products. Hairstylists, barbers and nail technicians work with dozens of clients a day, and so do spa workers and others in the business of making people look and feel good.

Thanks to the nature of the work, many of these businesses have had to close, at least temporarily, and find new ways to cope with the threat of the pandemic once they reopen. And to some extent at least, the strategies they’ve adopted as short-term responses to the virus are proving to be useful in a broader sense, and worth keeping even in a post-pandemic world.

In-Person Services Institute Precautions

Health experts maintain that wearing masks and maintaining distance between people are key ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. Once businesses began to open up after temporary lockdowns around the country and the world, beauty-related businesses that offered hands on services like hairstyling and nail treatments have had to institute new policies and processes such as limiting the number of clients in a salon, or removing seats to keep visitors separated.

In order to deliver services as usual, hairstylists and nail techs might be required to wear some version of personal protective gear such as masks and gloves – and customers and clients could be asked to wear masks as well. Salons might limit seating or access without appointments. Staff would need to allot extra time to sanitize and clear common areas. Some kinds of services, like the casual makeup sessions offered in department stores, would have to be suspended completely.

For beauty professionals whose business relies almost exclusively on in-person contact, options for staying open during the pandemic have been relatively limited. But other beauty-related businesses such as cosmetics retailers and beauty consultants are able to use an array of digital tools to stay connected to clients and customers – and these tools are building the foundation for an entirely new “normal” for the beauty industry.


Digital Innovations Deliver Products and Services

Even before the pandemic struck, the beauty industry was on its way toward a digital transformation – a new way of delivering services and connecting with clients that’s driven by innovative digital technologies. This “digital revolution” uses a combination of familiar digital tools such as smartphones and web apps, powered by artificial intelligence and augmented reality platforms, to provide services and products anywhere, at any time. Although many beauty businesses were already using some of these tools, the pandemic has made them key elements of the beauty industry’s new normal.

Virtual try-on apps combine user actions and augmented reality technologies to deliver an experience that’s similar to sampling cosmetic products in “real life.” Anyone with a smartphone can access an AI-powered app that displays different makeup palettes or nail color on an uploaded photograph or scan.

Video conferencing apps and platforms allow beauty professionals to consult with clients remotely for things like planning a new haircut or color, providing style tips and tutorials, or setting up appointments. These tools can be used alongside virtual try-ons and photographs to deliver a personalized beauty experience without meeting in person.

Some new digital platforms can also use information about a user’s skin tone and type to recommend specific cosmetic products. Building on existing technology such as laser printing, other tools are able to analyze someone’s skin and “print” the right amount of color and various types of makeup. These technologies make it possible for beauty professionals to provide services and products entirely remotely – but they’re also creating a highly personalized beauty experience with far more flexibility than in-person options can offer.

The New Normal: Smart, Personalized Experiences

Sophisticated digital tools make beauty services and products instantly available from anywhere – and the physical constraints on personal services like hair and nail salons give those professionals room to give each client more attention. In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has simply accelerated changes that were already brewing in the world of beauty – and created the foundation for a “new normal” that emphasizes more intimate, customized experiences, both virtually and in person.


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