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Beauty and Responsibility in the Time of Corona

By KIM REYES-PALANCA

Pre-pandemic, beauty brands have always had strict hygiene protocols in place, and have treated its products and consumers with utmost regard for safety. As they should, since anything absorbed by your skin goes straight into your system. Thus, you have to think long and hard about those sketchy, cheap, or unregulated beauty items, and worse, counterfeit cosmetics.

When news of the COVID-19 outbreak arrived, beauty companies were quick to respond. For some, this matter could have been the last thing to worry about. For both beauty companies and beauty junkies, however, in a business of try-before-you-buy, personalized services, and close one-on-one interactions, an immediate call to action was imperative.

Swipe Safely 

In a New York Times article, “Makeup and the Coronavirus: An Uneasy Mix,” the author Rachel Strugatz provides a good picture, “Cosmetic companies, whose very business relies upon the now-discouraged practice of touching one’s face, are evaluating their regular practices.”

The fact is, following and adhering to stringent safety measures are among the requisites reputable and responsible beauty companies are already used to. A product goes through a long and rigorous process, from ideation and creation to testing and manufacturing. Safety protocols are in place for every aspect, including store and customer relations. With the way COVID-19 has spread, the business of beauty has had to seriously weigh in on the situation.

Even in the early stages of the outbreak, beauty companies like Estée Lauder, Shiseido, and AHC by Unilever, immediately implemented a no-skin contact policy in stores. Store frontliners or beauty consultants (BCs) were given strict guidelines, and were armed with the necessary information and protection.

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Storefront protocols from Shiseido, for example, included wearing a mask for store staff, and having point-of-purchase displays to inform customers of the preventive measures. BCs do not directly touch the customer’s skin, head, or body. “Even when skincare/makeup service is requested by a customer, [we] cordially turn down their request and explain the reasons. Antisepticising hands by washing, and using alcohol, is done in front of the customer too,” says a statement from Shiseido. According to the local and global team, the BC will instead guide the customer by demonstrating on her own face, or hand, while the customer mirrors it.

Beauty companies also have common directives on how to keep the store clean and sanitized. Attention points in skincare and makeup services involve the use of disposable tools and materials (sponge tips, mascara brushes, spool wands, cotton pads, and swabs) for testing instead of skin coming in direct contact with products. Proper disposal of trash, and disinfecting of premises, are observed by instantly sanitizing counters, waste bins, and product packaging. Distribution of small samples as an alternative to testers is also done.

Out of office

Beauty companies implemented precautionary measures at the office too, with little to no contact correspondence, work-from-home policies, and business continuity planning locally and globally.

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AHC, Unilever-owned Korean skincare brand shares in a statement, “From a company level, Unilever has implemented enhanced safety measures like mandatory working from home, global business travel ban, self-isolation for 14 days if unwell, applying hand sanitizer when entering a  Unilever site, undergoing thermal testing when entering Unilever, and banning meetings/conferences/events.”

As our country prepares to contain and control COVID-19 through the new government mandate on enhanced community quarantine, beauty companies like Estée Lauder announced their support and joined in solidarity with the global effort to stop the spread of the virus.

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“At the Estée Lauder Companies, the health of our consumers, personnel, partners, and community is of the utmost importance to us,” says the Estée Lauder global corporate communications team. “With respect to the evolving situation, and the most up-to-date information available to us, we have made the decision to temporarily suspend all direct contact services in the Philippines. We are monitoring the situation daily, engaging with medical experts, and regularly reviewing guidance from the World Health Organization [WHO] and local health authorities.”

Best practices

As the beauty industry continually monitors COVID-19 developments, and continues with its preventive measures, we can all learn from its best practices. The triumvirate, of course, is still to wash your hands well before and after you touch your face, observe social distancing, and, most especially, stay home.

In addition to these, we have compiled simple yet important reminders from local and global company initiatives on proper behavior and the handling of beauty products:

  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Don’t share products from open jars. If you must, use a disposable spatula or cotton swab to get the product. Replace cap immediately.
  • Don’t retouch makeup, or touch your face at all, in public places to avoid exposure. This is assuming you are wearing a mask, eye gear, medical gloves, and head wrap to reduce exposure to the virus.
  • Wash and hands and sanitize hands with 70 percent alcohol.

Consumers and the general public should continue to follow local health authority guidelines and protocols, especially social distancing. This also relates to sharing of beauty and healthcare products.

The general public should practice good hygiene like regular hand washing/sanitizing, wearing face masks if unwell, going to the doctor if experiencing flu-like symptoms, and using non-physical greetings (i.e avoid shaking hands)

Stay informed by listening to local health authorities, and do not spread fear or panic.

While on the topic of hand washing, singing a song is helpful but not enough. We can prevent any virus from reaching our mucous membranes (namely eyes, nose, mouth) and infecting us by doing a proper and thorough cleaning. “It doesn’t matter if you use liquid or bar soap, the technique of hand-washing is very important,” says Dr. Kaycee Reyes of Luminisce Skin Clinic.

She advises washing hands for at least 20 seconds and drying them completely. “You also remove germs by drying hands well,” she says. “For those who have very dry skin or atopic dermatitis, best to moisturize right after. Since they don’t have the epidermal skin barrier, they are more prone to infection.”

Social responsibility

Beauty is also taking part in the health and well-being of personnel and the public. Creating assistance programs for employees and colleagues in the beauty industry is a sentiment echoed by companies as they aim to provide support and solutions at this most difficult time.

At Unilever, an internal sharepoint to keep colleagues updated was made. Efforts to contribute and give back are also done. “As a global and trusted FMCG company, we have also taken quick and immediate action to urgently serve our consumers with hand sanitizers and cleaning products,” Unilever says in a statement. “We also partnered with governments and NGOs to reach more consumers as well as people on the front line, like hospital and airport staff.”

LVMH has recently announced it will make use of its fragrance factories to manufacture disinfectant gels that are currently in shortage, and donate to French health authorities and hospitals. Locally, beauty brands are supporting soap, alcohol and sanitizing kit drives to help our public hospitals, our front-liners, and our elderly.

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With everyone at home and in isolation glued on their gadgets, social media plays a vital role as a platform for spreading proper information, awareness, positivity, and even a sense of normalcy. “For us at Benefit, being in the beauty business means much more than selling beauty products. At the core of our business is making people feel good,” says Benefit Philippines brand general manager Donna Shaw. “With all the panic circulating in social media, people are now, more than ever, in need of positivity. Some would argue that there’s less need for cosmetics now that everyone is staying at home, but our answer to that is in our mantra: Laughter is the best cosmetic!”

Expect their Instagram account to be business as usual in the coming days. “We will be disrupting your timelines with our signature words-of-wisdom and some laugh-out-loud content, sprinkled with beauty how-to’s, tips and tricks,” says Donna. “We want to be able to provide the perfect perk-me-up to break all the social media-induced panic, all while putting out content that’s relevant and sensitive to the times. Our brand has always been about making real connections. In a time of social distancing, we want to be a platform for people to engage in conversations and think pink.”



Source: Manila Bulletin

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