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Facials Gone Virtual: She Teaches People Self-Care, A Hot Commodity During Pandemic

Giving someone a facial is one of the more intimate jobs out there: leaning over someone else's face, treating it, massaging it.

"To be totally honest, a lot's going to have to happen for me to feel comfortable giving facials in person," says Hawaii-based facialist Nicole Burke Stephenson. "I'm questioning whether or not I'll ever use a steamer again because it blows people's breath into my face."

Like many people whose jobs involve personal interaction — jobs you can't simply move to the Internet — Stephenson had to get creative to keep making money while social distancing in a pandemic. She began offering video classes, teaching a face massage technique that comes from Chinese medicine, called gua sha.

Smiling over FaceTime or Zoom, she shows how to glide a special flat, curvy jade stone over the face and neck, using oils people might buy from her website.

Stephenson is not making a lot of money — "not much more than zero," she says with a laugh — charging a lot less than her normal price for the luxurious treatment of a facial. But she feels like she's helping people self-care, a hot commodity during the homebound pandemic life. In fact, she says she might keep the video-class offering permanently.

"I don't feel like it's taking my job away from myself [long-term]," Stephenson says. "There's still going to be a deeper level of cleansing that happens in a facial. And just the experience of human touch from one to another — I live alone, so I can definitely say it's irreplaceable."

Read more stories in Faces Of The Coronavirus Recession.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.