FAQ: Can I request a vaccinated massage therapist?

Many of our guests have waited until they were able to be fully vaccinated to return to the spa. We understand that people with higher risk factors are rightfully anxious about returning to close-contact situations. We strive to balance our guests’ understandable desire to do everything they can to feel safe and secure returning to the spa with our employees’ right to health privacy.

As a business owner, licensed massage therapist (and former Public Health student!) I understand. I’m on the cautious end myself. Spending 4 months with my business shuttered in 2020, I believe so strongly in vaccines as a way forward that I jumped at the change to participate in a research trial. Despite my personal enthusiasm and desire to share about my own COVID19 vaccine, the pandemic has also brought up interesting challenges regarding maintaining employee health privacy among questions from guests.

I was thrilled to do my (very small part) to contribute to a way out of this pandemic. I learned that I received the actual vaccine during the trial, and I will continue to be monitored for antibodies for the entire two year trial period.

If you wish to book with an employee who is fully vaccinated against COVID19, please call the spa. Most of our employees have been able to receive their COVID19 vaccinations and have granted the spa written consent to let their guests know, upon request, that they’ve been vaccinated. We respect the wishes of those who have not granted this written consent to disclose vaccine status and ask our guests to do so as well. For your comfort, we are happy to assist you in booking with someone who has provided consent to share that they’re vaccinated.

East Village Spa has always operated with utmost care and caution to keep our service providers and guests as safe and healthy as possible, before and during the pandemic and we are eager to continue to do our part to advance the health and wellness of central Iowans, whatever the future brings!

This post is written by Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT. Cassie owns East Village Spa in Des Moines, IA.

New illness and massage FAQs

Every year during cold and flu season we do a bit of education on massage and illness. This year we’re getting some different questions due to COVID19 and the wide community spread in Iowa.

Every year during cold and flu season we do a bit of education on massage and illness. This year we’re getting some different questions due to COVID19 and the wide community spread in Iowa.

Woman looking at thermometer, laying in bed sick.

Q: I have a fever, but tested negative for COVID19, can I get a massage?

A: No. Fevers indicate inflammation. Your immune system is fighting something and you need to rest. Right now, everyone is so focused on COVID19, that we’re forgetting other illnesses like strep throat, the flu, or even a kidney infection can knock us down for a bit. In addition to spa services potentially making you feel worse, some of these illnesses are very contagious and we do not want to get them or risk spreading them to other guests. Please wait for at least 48 hours (without the use of fever reducing medications) after your non-COVID19 related fever is gone before scheduling a service. Your body and provider will thank you.

Q: My household member tested positive for COVID19 but feels fine. I’m asymptomatic and tested negative. Can I keep my appontment?

A: NO! We answer variations of this question at least daily. Please understand that we owe it to our employees to provide a safe workspace. We are following the most up-to-date CDC quarantine guidelines. This means that if you’ve had a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID19, you cannot book for at least 14 days since that contact. If you live with this person, that means 14 days since the last contact you had while they were considered contagious-EVEN IF YOU TESTED NEGATIVE.

We know this is a long time. We know this is frustrating. We are committed to following the same procedures for our providers to keep YOU safe too, so if we let them see you, we’d have to take them off of our schedule for 14 days. No spa service is worth that health or financial risk.

Q: I had COVID19 awhile ago and I feel pretty crummy, can I still come in?

A: Yes! When your healthcare provider has determined you are no longer contagious (which might be longer than 2 weeks for more severe cases) we are happy to see you. We currently see several guests who have struggled with longer-term complications from COVID19, the “Long-Haulers.” While there’s still much research needed, we know that this is a source of stress, anxiety, and physical discomfort. We’re here to listen to your needs and do whatever we can to assist you through your recovery.

East Village Spa is committed to providing safe services to guests, and a healthy work environment for employees. We will continue to enforce our COVID19 risk reduction procedures as long as is necessary.

Learn more about our COVID19 risk reduction procedures here. We look forward to taking great care of you at East Village Spa and pandemic or not, will continue to strive to ensure your services are safe, relaxing, and therapeutic.

Hydrafacial returns with safety upgrades

We took our time learning the safest way to start offering facial services again in the middle of a pandemic. There hasn’t been a ton of solid guidance for our profession, so we’ve been studying the dental profession and their practices as we developed our safety upgrades.

Hydrafacial at East Village Spa

Hydrafacial is currently the first facial skincare service we brought back after we re-opened. We love this service because it is the most effective of all of our facial services with maximum benefits in a shorter time. Because guests will be “unmasked” for most of the service, efficiency will help minimize risks for providers and guests/ Don’t worry though, this service still includes nurturing upgrades we’re known for. Read descriptions here.

We can be safe AND relaxing!

In addition to our regular COVID19 safety upgrades,

  • Your Hydrafacial will be performed by a licensed esthetician who is wearing both a mask and face shield.
  • We will run a HEPA air purifier designed for a much larger space in order to quickly exchange the air in the room.
  • Guests will arrive in a mask and leave in a mask. Consider bringing a clean, cotton mask to put on after the service.
  • You’ll first select one of three essential oil massage blends and your esthetician will help you relax (while masked) with some neck, arm, or scalp massage techniques (will vary by provider). You’ll get to keep the rest of your oil as a gift to enjoy at home.
  • If you select the Deluxe Hydrafacial option, we’ve changed the in-service mask to a custom selected mask your esthetician will send home with you. You’ll then apply this mask at home one-week following your Hydrafacial which will further enhance the results of your service.
Esthetician in a face mask and shield at East Village Spa

We feel confident we can provide Hydrafacial services with reasonable risk reduction, but please remember that no service is entirely risk free. For this reason, every one of our estheticians had a choice of whether to offer Hydrafacial services and some have decided to wait until cases significantly decline. This means that whomever you see is comfortable providing your service, which always makes for a more relaxing experience!

Book your Hydrafacial online now!

Our COVID19 Risk Reduction Plan (last updated 3/8/2021)

We’ve spent the last 3 months learning everything we could to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID19 to our guests and employees. There is no perfect solution and every service will come with risks, despite our best efforts. We feel confident that, short of staying closed, we are doing everything within our power and we’re confident our guests will serve as our partners in risk management.

We’re dedicated to staying up-to-date on the latest developments in COVID19 research and following safety guidance from the CDC to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID19 to our guests and employees. We are also working to learn how we can best serve guests who are struggling with longer term effects of COVID19.

Masks Required

We continue to require properly-worn masks for guests in the spa except during facials, lip, and chin waxing services. Masks are required during all other services without exception. We are happy to provide you with a surgical mask. We have seen thousands of guests wearing masks during their massages with no complaints of discomfort, most guests are surprised how easy it is. For tips on how to be most comfortable in a mask during your massage, click here.

All service providers are wearing masks, in many cases high filtration masks like KF94 or double masks. Estheticians are wearing masks and face shields during facial services where guests remove their masks.

We are monitoring guidance from the CDC and will modify our policy as it is safe to do so. Thank you for understanding.

HEPA air filtration and plexiglass barriers

All of our treatment rooms are equipped with a HEPA air purifier to filter particles. Room air is completely exchanged about every 2-5 minutes. Our guests can be confident that in our treatment rooms they will not be breathing the same air as the guests before them.

We’ve installed plexiglass barriers at the desk and in the nail room at manicure stations as an added barrier in addition to masks.

Hand hygiene and reducing surface contamination risks

We use hospital grade Rejuvenate antiviral and antibacterial wipes that disinfect surfaces like head rests and our hot stones in one minute. As always, we soak all of our nail and skin care tools in barbicide and we never, ever double dip a wax stick.

As we always have, we wear gloves when it makes sense (during waxing, facial extractions, or when there is a risk of contact with blood borne pathogens, for example.) Our employees always use good hand hygiene via hand washing and sanitizing.

Table coverings: We’ve added waterproof coverings to all pillows including body pillows, and to our table warmer. All can be thorougly sanitized . We switched out heavy blankets for heavy towels so we can launder them after every service.

We’ve got hand sanitizer everywhere you turn and guests will be expected to use it before and in some cases, during services. We will do the same!

We’ve always had an amazing evening cleaning employee, she’s back and continues to deep clean our treatment spaces each night. Our landlords have increased cleaning of common building spaces including restrooms.

Employees won’t work sick, please don’t visit us when you’re sick (or have been exposed to COVID19!)

I can’t stress this enough, we’ll need guests to cancel when they are even a bit sick. We’ve always asked clients to do this, but it is a matter of utmost importance now. We are waiving cancellation fees for any amount of notice if guests cancel for COVID19 reasons.

If our employees are at all under-the-weather, we will cancel or reassign their services until we have more information. We will follow CDC guidelines in determining when an employee needs to quarantine for an exposure. We error on the side of caution, so please understand if this impacts your service.

We’ve got a detailed plan for testing, tracing, and notification if an employee is suspected of having COVID19 or has been exposed.

All guests will be reminded of our wellness policies at booking, in their confirmation, and upon arrival via signage. Guests with any COVID19 symptoms will be asked to reschedule.

Understanding long-haul symptoms of COVID19

We are eager to see how we can help the many people who are experiencing long term challenges after COVID19. While this is an emerging area of research, be assured we are learning everything we can. If nothing else, we are eager to help with the stress that comes along with chronic illness.

Thank you, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably as concerned as we are about health and safety. If you have any questions before or during your session, please let us know. We’re eager to serve you and we are sincerely grateful for your patience as our policies evolve with our understanding and guidance from leading scientists.

Predicting the future for our spa

I wish we had a crystal ball to tell us exactly what things would look like 3 months, 6 months, and a year from now for spas. All we have have to go by is ever-evolving information from trusted health authorities and advice provided to other other health professions. We’re closely monitoring countries that are further down the road in battling the COVID19 pandemic.

We’ve been doing the heartbreaking task of cancelling all appointments on our books through July (and will likely continue to do so further out.) Realistically, I’m not sure if we can open in any safe capacity by July. When we do open, the existing appointments on our books won’t match the new realities of our schedule. I promise, WE WILL REOPEN.

We aren’t sure of every safety measure we’ll need to implement, but these are a few ways the spa will be a bit different for awhile:

  • The biggest change: Two distinct teams that don’t overlap any shifts, providers, or receptionists. We see this in some essential offices like veterinary clinics. This ensures that if a team member is exposed to COVID19, we won’t need to 100% close our spa again. We can at least operate at half capacity, especially if widespread testing isn’t available.
  • We will offer longer hours to reduce the number of employees and guests in the spa at a time, increase the time between services, and stagger check-in and check-out times to keep you safer.
  • We won’t be able to book groups of more than two until the COVID19 threat is under control.
  • You can still shop online to save a trip into the spa!
  • We will require masks for providers and guests, which could pose a challenge for some services (facials, lip waxing) if can’t work around a mask.
  • We may have to do enhanced health screenings and lean into low-contact check-in/check-out (online intakes, cards on file, etc…) options.
  • We’re researching alternatives to table warmers. While they’re under multiple layers of linens, they can’t be cleaned in the way we’d like when facing a pandemic. We will not use them until the risk of COVID19 has passed or until we find a safe solution.

It isn’t all doom and gloom!

Check out this video I filmed with my dear friend, Tricia Rivas, owner of Trixie’s Salon and founder of the Dreamcatcher’s Foundation. When this is all over, you’ll see some positive changes in the spa and salon professions.

Spa professionals like massage therapists and especially estheticians have been named some of the professions with the highest risk of contracting COVID19 at work. I would rather wait to open until we have a better idea of safety modifications than put my employees, their families and guests at risk to make money. This might mean we don’t open the day we’re given the legal “go ahead.” I PROMISE we will be back and you can rest assured that when we return, it will be with a very comprehensive plan for safety.

Top skin issues and solutions during the pandemic

Stress, poor diet, lack of motivation for personal care (let’s face it, the Zoom videos are grainy!) are causing lots of skin issues. Providers on the front lines wearing N95 masks all day are faced with raw, irritatied skin. Don’t wait for spas to reopen, it will be awhile before we can safely perform facials. Fortunately, you can do a TON with a great home care regimine.

Stress, poor diet, lack of motivation for personal care (let’s face it, the Zoom videos are grainy!) are causing lots of skin issues. Providers on the front lines wearing N95 masks all day are faced with raw, irritatied skin. Don’t wait for spas to reopen, it will be awhile before we can safely perform facials. Fortunately, you can do a TON with a great home care regimen. Camille Arbegast, a Licensed Esthetician, shared a few solutions if you’re experiencing skin challenges right now.

Camille Arbegast, Managing Esthetician at East Village Spa
Camille Arbegast, Managing Esthetician at East Village Spa

Solutions for stress-related skin freak-outs

Camille suggests Rhonda Allison’s Mandelic Arginine Serum for a gentle, daily exfoliation to curb breakouts from stress and also help calm rosacea flare-ups.

With weather (slowly) warming up, it might be time to switch to a lighter moisturizer. Camille recommends the Mandelic Au Lait, which is medium weight and has ingredients that also help calm breakouts and reduce redness.

Outdoor must-haves

Socially-distant outdoor activities like gardening, long walks, or supervising kids in the yard, are stress-busting musts for many of us. Rhonda Allison has two great sunscreen options. 1. eZinc is best for those with concerns about breakouts or redness. It is light weight and doesn’t have that sunscreen smell or feel. 2. Daytime Defense is ideal for those wanting to get pro-youth antioxidants.

Beta Green Tea Cleanser is great for AM and PM and one of our most popular clenasers. It has a small amount of salycilic acid to deeply cleanse sweat and dirt without drying skin. For best results with any Rhonda Allison cleanser, start with dry skin (or just put a few drops of water on your fingers) and massage in your cleanser that way first, before adding water. You’ll get a better cleanse and your product will last longer!

The Arnica Therapy is a staple of the Rhonda Allison line and is a natural antibacterial cream. It is great for cuts, burns, wounds, or bug bites.

Medical-grade PPE relief

Our front line medical providers and support staff are heroes. Many of have seen photos of the raw skin caused by wearing N95 masks all day. Camille suggests a 3 step approach to ease pain from the irritation caused by these masks. 1. Rhonda Allison Creamy Milk Cleanser, a gentle and soothing cleanser. 2. Rhonda Allison Arnica Therapy, a barrier for skin before the mask goes on. 3. Rhonda Allison Drops of Essence, a soothing gel for after cleaning at the end of the day to help ease discomfort.

We took her suggestions and created a specially priced Face Mask Relief kit that you can purchase for a front line healthcare worker who is struggling with pain from their mask.

Rhonda Allison Skincare for face mask irritation.

Poor diet, dehydrated skin

Listen, we won’t tell you what to eat in times of stress and I pity the person who gets between me and my “secret” chocolate stash right now. We WILL gently suggest that you increase your water intake. All of those Zoom Cocktail hours and extra coffees are going to take their toll on your skin. Tired of water? Try adding some calorie free, sugar free, caffeine free Pure Inventions extracts to your water. For a delicious “mocktail” mix your favorite drops with sparking water and drop in a few frozen blueberries and a lemon wedge.

Blueberry Lemon mocktail at East Village Spa

We can’t wait to be able to give you professional facials and Hydrafacials again, but don’t neglect your skin while you wait for your esthetician to be able to safely provide services to you. Take control of your skin and start or continue good habits at home now!

Blog contributors: Camille Arbegast is the managing esthetician at East Village Spa, where she’s worked since 2012. Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT is the owner of East Village Spa.

How you can support East Village Spa during the COVID-19 pandemic

Most of what I could say about my feelings as a business owner and employer during this pandemic have been said, far more eloquently, by others. I’m not alone in my fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and sadness. Whether your job is slammed, you’re bored and lonely, or you’re working in close quarters with children while also being their cook and teacher… this is, as mom would say when we were kids, “the pits.”

As we’ve been reaching out to guests to cancel months worth of spa services that, oh the irony…everyone suddenly has the time and SUPER need for… our guests have been fantastic. Many have asked what they can do to support us. Here’s a simple list, not just for supporting East Village Spa, but many small businesses.

  1. Reach out! Literally, just by checking up on us, we know you care and you give us hope that things will eventually be ok when we re-open. It means the world.
  2. Send a note or post a review for us to share with your providers. The CARES act will ensure that they are financially set throughout their furlough (a huge relief for owners) but many are struggling because their career is their passion and they’re wondering (and worrying) about their guests. We’re checking e-mails every weekday. We’ll forward well-wishes and any Yelp or Google reviews to them!
  3. Shop online! As long as we’re allowed to come in and ship, we are doing whatever it takes to get you products to help you reduce stress and pain while you’re isolating and feel confident for all of those Zoom meetings. We have an amazing new web store with almost every product we carry!
  4. Engage with us on Facebook and Instagram. We’re keeping our skills sharp and minds occupied by generating lots of content in our downtime. We can help via knowledge until we can physically help again.
  5. Purchase a gift card: We PROMISE we will re-open. We were in a fortunate spot as we were saving for some big non-essentials for a few years. We will definitely reopen, but any online gift card sales now not only help us financially, but give our spirits a boost.
  6. Avoid temptation to ask providers to work in secret. Many people see this as an offer of help. The CARES act has made sure providers receive good compensation during their furlough. Asking them to violate the law and risk their health makes them uncomfortable. Whether it is your hairdresser, esthetician, nail tech or massage therapist, know they’re thinking about you and WISHING they could help. There is no safe way to do services because of the nature of this virus and if you DID get an amazing manicure right now, everyone would know you’re not following the rules. By the end of this, crazy hair, unruly cuticles and bushy brows will be “Covid-Chic” Take this opportunity to grow your leg hair long enough to try waxing when we open again!

We look forward to seeing all of you when it is safe. We’re realistic and cautious, so we don’t expect to reopen soon. We most recently pushed our open back to May 1st, but a summer opening would probably be the best case scenario. Baby steps. Deep breaths. We’ll connect with all of you virtually until we meet again (and we promise to save you some chocolate at the front desk!)