What You Need to Know About Your Nail Salon

Learn what to look for in a safe nail salon, plus the red flags to steer clear of.

You may not know this, but one governing body does not regulate the nail industry. Assuming a salon is safe by virtue of having a license to operate is a misconception.

In general, a nail salon needs two types of licenses to operate: one for the business and one for each nail technician. The minimum amount of hours required to sit for the nail technician-licensing exam varies from state to state. Some states, like Massachusetts and Virginia, require fewer than 150 hours for completing the program. Other states (at least nine) require up to 600 school hours to complete the program. The national average is about 375 hours.

Basically, this means the nail industry has no industry standard concerning nail salons’ and nail technicians’ rules and regulations. Because of the lack of national standards, it is up to the consumer to be alert to the hidden dangers, such as exposure to fungus and staph, lurking in nail salons. Safe Salon Rating has created the highest level of sanitation protocol for nail salons worldwide, providing consumers a way to identify safe practices. With Safe Salon Rating, the power is in the consumers’ hands (pun intended) to evaluate the salon. The following is a simple survey to not only alert the consumer to potential infection or risk but to also reward the safe salons.

Five Characteristics of a Safe Salon

  1. A Safe Salon will market its sanitation protocol and be happy to walk you through the steps. Every state mandates pre-service hand-washing to be performed by client and technicianAccording to the CDC, “Clean hands save lives.” Safe Salons include standard precautions such as single-use disposable latex-free gloves worn by the technician for every service.
  2. Disposables. Considered a best practice, single-use files, buffers, pedicure liners and gloves are a must for your protection. If your salon doesn’t use pedicure tub liners then opt for a dry pedicure.
  3. Advanced education. Ask the salon for proof of current continuing education in salon sanitation and in the particular service you are having.
  4. Does this salon use an autoclave to sterilize metal implements, such as nippers and nail clippers? Most states require disinfection of implements. Disinfection kills many microorganisms; however, sterilization kills all microorganisms, including spores. Sterilization is defined as the process where all the living microorganisms, including bacterial spores are killed. Sterilization is an absolute condition while disinfection is not. Salons that use autoclaves will be happy to show you and tell you they use the highest level of sterilization. Be cautious – some salons use sealed bags to give the appearance of sterilized tools. Look for a “change indicator” such as letters and arrows that change colors when the autoclave reaches the correct temperature. The package will appear shrink-wrapped as a result of the heat and pressure. Make sure the bag is opened in front of you and is not just a reused storage bag.
  5. Are you communicating with your nail technician? Is he or she listening to you? There is more to having a good service than just picking out your nail color. If you can’t communicate, chances are you won’t be happy with your service. Miscommunication is a primary cause of nail salon infections and lawsuits from infections.

Other Points to Be Aware Of

  • Contrary to what you have been told in the past, bringing your own tools to the salon doesn’t mean you are safe. Salons must follow their state’s guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting tools before your serviceMany states do not allow you to bring your own tools, so it’s best to seek a salon that sterilizes using an autoclave.
  • Did your technician offer to use a razor blade or cheese grater-type implement to remove the calluses on your feet? Get up and leave now while you still have feet you can use. Safe Salons offer single-use foot files and will explain how long “callus treatments” should be left on the skin before removal.

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