COVID-19 has brought us to a halt. It created a society devoid of human touch. And for us in the beauty industry, whose heart and soul rely on expert hands, warmest touch and human interactions, this is a living nightmare. But despite income losses and lost opportunities, for me, it will always be people over profit.
I sensed my staff was getting scared of what’s happening. Everyone was panicky and afraid. So even before the government announced the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), we already decided to close all Belo clinics. I remember several mall managers calling and asking me if I was sure about it. They thought it was crazy. I felt I needed to close the clinics so everyone could be calm and would have time to think. In a very unsettling time, I wanted to take a step back and take a breather to think.
This was the longest closure we’ve had since I opened the clinic 30 years ago, and to be honest, I was very scared. During the first part of the ECQ, our employees received full-pay and full benefits despite the work suspension. We also released early their 13th-month pay to help tide them over in these trying times. It was an unsettling feeling to see the company balance go down so fast. I felt anxious as the dwindling savings and no income is something I’ve never imagined. Honestly, we’ve had a steady stream of income since the first two weeks when I opened my first clinic back in 1990.
The whole time we were under ECQ, we already knew we were in it for the long haul. We were not under any delusions that COVID-19 will be a long-term thing. Because even if there would be a vaccine, it would still have to be tested and it will take a long time. So that time, we were already imagining how Belo clinics would be in the new normal. Of course, safety would be the number one priority for our patients and employees.
“ There’s really a demand for beauty treatments these days. I call this phenomenon “skin hunger.” Now, more than ever, people want to be beautiful for themselves when they look in the mirror. ”
Imagining and preparing for the future is very challenging. There’s never been anything like this. In the beginning of the lockdown, a colleague of mine from India called and asked me to take part in a consensus paper on guidelines to be followed for safe reopening of aesthetic clinics. The group was composed of top aesthetic doctors from different parts of the world such as the UK, Switzerland, Norway, India, Sweden, Australia, and South Africa.
We shared best practices on how to keep our patients and employees safe. Each of us had different sets of local experiences, there were members of our group whose countries didn’t go in quarantine, we took from their learnings as to how to handle patients. The consensus paper was agreed upon and has been published in the prestigious Journal of Dermatologic Therapy.
Of course, we applied all the guidelines in all our guidelines and tried to share the protocols, eventually the Aesthetic Multispecialty Society regarded Belo as the gold standard for successful clinic reopening and patient safety. They showed our safety protocol video as reference for other aesthetic clinics worldwide.
While our protocols were exemplary, I felt our company needed to go the extra mile. As the leader in the industry, we’re always trying to push boundaries. We’re always trying to set standards. So I asked myself, “What would make me feel safe when I see someone in Belo?”
We’re only required to wear masks, goggles, and face shields, right? So I thought it would be great to wear hazmat suits that we can disinfect after every patient interaction. Patients would feel safe knowing this bit of information. So then, we provided all our staff with the coolest and most innovative hazmat suits, which everyone wants now.
Aside from this, I always wanted Belo Medical Group to be a place where the air was really clean. People always say, “You are what you eat.” I say, “You are what you breathe.”
So we went on a mission to find the best air purifier system for the clinics and thankfully, we found the Air Intellipure System. The Air Intellipure System was developed with biological warfare in mind. It was given a grant by NASA. It is 40 times more effective than HEPA filters found in hospital laboratories and critical care units. It not just captures but also electrocutes 99.99 percent of all particles and microorganisms. Each room in all our Belo clinics has an Air Intellipure, so when patients are doing their facials and beauty treatments, they’re breathing in healing air and oxygen that’s 99.99-percent pure.
So what’s next for the beauty industry moving forward? A survey was conducted, which asked people, “What’s the first thing you’ll do after the ECQ?” An overwhelming response was to do beauty treatments. There’s really a demand for beauty treatments these days. I call this phenomenon “skin hunger.” Now, more than ever, people want to be beautiful for themselves when they look in the mirror.
People may say it’s vanity, but I want them to realize it’s not about how you look to the world, it’s about how you feel about yourself. During the quarantine, we saw how we’ve all started caring more about ourselves. There was a tremendous increase in views for at-home workouts, DIY skincare, and investment in vitamins and healthy food. Vast majorities have invested in self and the things they were not able to do for themselves in their ordinarily busy lives.
Looking and feeling beautiful is part of this process of self-care. When you don’t feel beautiful or good about yourself, you can develop insecurities. Doing what I do is like taking care of the soul of another person in another way. Which is why in spite of all the money we spent to COVID-proof our clinics, we didn’t increase our prices. We spent quite a sum but we’ve decided to retain our base prices because we know people are already hard up the way it is. We recognize that everybody needs to take care of themselves, especially at this time. People need Belo and we’re going to be there for them — safer and virus-free.
There are so many things I learned from this pandemic. First, that God is truly in charge. He’s showing us to slow down and appreciate the little things. It taught me to understand what is truly important in life — being with our loved ones and making sure they’re healthy and safe. It taught me that we should take care of Mother Earth because, at the end of the day, this world is all we have.
And lastly, I learned that despite all the awful things happening in the world these days, we should not feel hopeless. Let’s ask the Lord how we can be His instruments to help the situation. For Hayden and I, we’re so happy and blessed that we could provide 45,000 meals to frontliners and that we had six months’ worth of PPEs to donate to hospitals. And I feel like that’s one of the reasons why we didn’t get so depressed or down during the quarantine. Indeed, it’s really true that it is in giving that we receive.
Edited by Tanya T. Lara