Maybe you’re getting ready for an evening out with your guy or your girlfriends or maybe you just want to get your usual weekly touchup, but either way, whenever you enter a nail salon the one thing you expect is that it be totally clean when you get a manicure or pedicure.
But just how do you know if the place you’re getting your nails done is sanitary and the workers are following all of the necessary guidelines to ensure they’re not risking the health and safety of their customers?
Dr. David A. Johnson, an expert on the subject, said a nail salon’s level of cleanliness really hinges on whether it’s not only aware of the sterilization musts, but on how consistently those requirements are being followed.
“Whether there is sufficient compliance with disinfection requirements is an important variable in the safety of salon and barbershop services from a public health perspective,” said Dr. Johnson in a published statement. “The risk of transmission of infectious disease, particularly Hepatitis B and C, in personal care settings is significantly understudied in the United States.”
Experts say that hepatitis can be passed through different tools that salons use like nail brushes, nail files, finger bowls, razors, scissors, buffers and foot basins, according to a 2011 report about salon safety from the American College of Gastroenterology.
Take a close look
Cheryl Biesky, a nail inspector at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in Florida, told a local news outlet that consumers should take a good look at the inside of a salon upon every visit.
“When you walk into an establishment, look at floors, walls, ceiling and determine whether this is a place where I want to have a service provided,” said Biesky. And you shouldn’t be afraid to ask a technician how the salon sanitizes its tools.
“If you have any concerns whatsoever, you should be asking how do you clean the tools? How do you disinfect the tools,” she advised.
And it’s not just the tools that folks have to look out for; many experts say those soothing foot tubs or basins can be hotbeds for all kinds of nasty little germs and bacteria. There have been many claims from inspectors and consumers alike, that a lot of basins aren’t cleaned after each customer use, leaving a person exposed to fungus and bacteria.
A good way to protect yourself when using a foot tub in a salon is to purchase plastic tub liners that are sold in either stores or nail places for a buck or two, and by covering the base and the walls of the tub, you’ll still be able to feel the sensation of the water, but you’ll lower the chances of catching something that you definitely don’t want.
In addition, experts say to never shave your legs on the day you’re getting a pedicure, as shaving causes microscopic cuts in the skin, making it easier for bacteria to be transferred to the tub, which can easily be caught by other people.
Check the log
Biesky says customers should ask to see a salon’s pedicure log, since it should list each time the tub was cleaned.
“If the pedicure spa has not been cleaned properly and disinfected properly, there is a chance that bacteria, funguses, viruses, will be circulating in that pedicure spa,” she said. “There is a pedicure log book and the consumer can ask to see the pedicure log. It would detail for them that it’s cleaned after every use.”
Additionally, Biesky says it's imperative that consumers look for both the most recent inspection and the license of a salon, which should be placed near the front entrance.
Dr. Johnson says consumers should never take the word of a salon that it’s complying with health regulations, and he says that physicians should place more focus on hepatitis being contracted through dirty tools and instruments.
“No one should accept on blind trust that a business is taking the necessary steps to prevent transmission of bloodborne infections such as hepatitis,” he said. “Health care providers need to be aware of these risks—both for appropriate counseling of their patients, and when assessing possible causality in patients with hepatitis B or C.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those who regularly get manicures and pedicures should purchase their own instruments and bring it with them on each salon visit, and consumers should never allow a technician to pushback or cut their cuticles, as this increases the chances of getting a nail infection.
Johnson says that more research needs to be conducted on the relationship between hepatitis and dirty nail salons and until this happens, the potential risks won’t subside at all.
“The absence of infection control guidelines from federal health agencies for the prevention of hepatitis infections in nail salons and barbershops implies that barbering, manicure and pedicure have not emerged as significant risk factors for HBV and HCV infections in the United States," he said.