The thing that strikes me the most when I talk to popular facialist Chelseé Lewis, who has 24 years’ industry experience, is that she has such a positive attitude - a feel-good energy that’s infectious. Considering that for nearly five months of this year she’s been unable to operate her practice in Mayfair, London, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the situation being made worse by the Government constantly changing the reopening date for face treatments [in England they were finally allowed to resume on August 15], Lewis has an optimistic outlook about the future and is now planning to work harder than ever to earn that lost revenue back.
“Covid-19 lockdown was a really worrying time for everyone, and the industry is still recovering and will be for the foreseeable future. Now, it’s about survival, working hard to bring our businesses back to what they were before and trying to get those months of lost revenue back some way, somehow,” she says. “It’s hard coming back and being all systems go after months of nothing, but you have to have the determination and strength to get back out there and kick arse, with clear goals for your business in mind. In the UK, beauty makes more money for the economy than the car industry, so it’s about knowing our value and trusting that things will get back to normal.”
Lewis’s salon (which is named after her) has a loyal client base, with customers ranging from teenagers right up to 87 year-olds, who regularly visit her for results-driven facials that combine first-class technologies with massage techniques, delivered in a calming environment.
“My clients feel relaxed, but their skin looks incredible too, thanks to my holistic approach with a techy twist,” says Lewis. “The mental health side of my facials - getting clients to stop, breathe and relax - is as important an element of the treatment as the results-driven side.”
Yet, despite having a unique offering and being extremely sought-after, Lewis tells me that even she has noticed that the pandemic has had an impact on customers’ spending habits, so it’s important for her, and other beauty businesses, to adapt to clients’ “new” needs.
The new normal
“I’m finding there are two types of clients now - the ones who are beating down your door to book a treatment again and the others who are still feeling really overwhelmed by the coronavirus situation and are scared to go out,” explains Lewis. “Our main job now is to make clients feel safe and comfortable when returning to our salons, as well as showing those who are nervous that health and safety is paramount in our businesses and a core part of our customer care.”
Communication is key to delivering this, explains Lewis, which means regularly talking on the phone, WhatsApp or email to clients who have concerns so you can put their minds at ease.
“It’s about letting them know they can reach out to you, and shouting out loud that the hygiene in your business is of an extremely high standard, from your cleaning time to your PPE. You should be advertising all your Covid-19-secure safety protocols regularly in your marketing and social media too,” she says.
As well as focusing your attention on getting clients back in salon, Lewis advises futureproofing your business for a worst-case scenario, like she is. “A second wave of coronavirus is a really scary thought, but some experts say it could happen. This means there could be tough times ahead, which is why it’s so important to have a plan B and C in place just in case that happens. I’m working on mine,” she says.
“We’re a strong industry and we will definitely bounce back, but it got me thinking - if my business was ‘financially sick’ again, like in lockdown where I couldn’t work, how would I sustain my practice? It’s a bit of a worry.
“As such, I’ve been thinking outside the box about other options to secure income, such as continuing to do online consultations, maybe starting to do consultancy work for other businesses in the industry and even potentially launching an online beauty school in the future. It’s all about hustling now, thinking ahead and believing in yourself.”
This year has been extremely stressful, which is why Lewis is advocating that entrepreneurs in the beauty industry take the time to look after themselves as well as their clients.
1996 Lewis qualifies in beauty and works in the Regis Hair & Beauty Salon chain
1999 Joins the Clarins team at its flagship salon in Covent Garden, London
2003 Works at Decléor and Carita’s flagship salon in Mayfair, London
2005 Takes on the role of assistant manager for big-name facialist Linda Meredith
2014 Launches her company and rents a space in hairdresser Nicky Clarke’s London salon
2017 Opens the Chelseé Lewis practice in Mayfair and wins the Lux Award for Best Facial in West London
2019 Wins Corporate Live Wire London’s Beauty Expert of the Year Award
“As business owners, we’re always on autopilot, so it’s about taking the time to stop and get ourselves into the right mindset each day,” she explains. “I am, like others, rushing around trying to make back the money I’ve lost, which is why self-care is more important than ever.”
The art of self-care
Lewis advises getting into exercise, like yoga, and meditation to aid your mental health, as well as performing simple breathing exercises daily before you start work.
One example she gives is to breathe in for 10 seconds, hold your breath for 10 seconds, and then breathe out for 10 seconds, repeating this process three times. “It’s a simple technique that can have such a big impact on how you feel,” she says.
Being physically fit for your job is also important, especially if, daily, you’re about to be performing a lot of facial massage after nearly five months of not using your hand and wrist muscles.
“Your hands won’t be used to the level you’re using them at and you want to avoid strains or RSI in the future, which is why you need to incorporate strengthening exercises into your routine daily,” she says.
There are two exercises Lewis recommends doing before you start your day. The first, named flex and extend, involves holding your arm out and bending your hand down, holding it there for 30 seconds, before pushing it back using your other hand and holding it there for 30 seconds, then repeating the process on the other arm.
The second, known as the prayer, involves holding your hands together as if you were about to pray, with your hands in line with your forehead, elbows square with your shoulders and forearms together touching. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then lower your arms down to your belly button to feel the stretch.
Lewis also advises investing in a foam roller to use in the evenings to further release tension in your muscles because “you really need to look after you, and these simple techniques will do so much physically and mentally.”