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Many brides and grooms will partake in salon treatments in preparation for their wedding day. Unfortunately, sometimes beauty comes with a price. We are not talking dollars, but rather sense. Unsafe salon practices can lead to irritations, illnesses and even death.The key to prevention is personal awareness. Throughout my travels from state to state, as a board certified Aesthetician and Appearance Enhancement operator, I have bared witness to the most horrific and appalling conditions in nail salons, spas, beauty salons and barber shops. While there are safe establishments that you can patronize, my goal is to expose salons that may put your health and safety in danger.

ABOUT BACTERIA

Bacteria can be found anywhere, from surfaces to skin to clothing. During its active stage, bacteria grow in dark, damp, warm and dirty places, especially on open wounds and underneath fingernails. While some bacteria are good for us, the problem with unsafe salon practices is the spreading of pathogenic (harmful) bacteria from one per-son to another.

Bacteria can enter the body through the nose, eyes or mouth, and through a break in the skin (pimples, wounds and body secretions). It is spread by blowing, breathing on something, and through the use of unsanitary equipment, such as hair brushes and combs, tweezers, facial tools, make-up brushes, manicure and pedicure implements, tanning beds, beds for personal services and styling chairs, including the head rests.

SAFETY FIRST

Control measures should start with shop owners and licensed practitioners facilitating safety guidelines for themselves, employees and customers. The practice of “universal precaution” is pivotal. It is the approach to infection control whereas everyone you come into contact with is treated “as if” he/she is contagious.

Hand washing is the first defense towards stopping the spread of germs. Washing with soap and water is necessary to remove visible soil. When a sink is not present, hand sanitizers are an excellent method for hand hygiene. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine use of alcohol-based sanitizers because of its antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anti-tuberculosis properties. When performing any service, practitioners should also wear gloves. Vinyl gloves are better than latex because vinyl will not disintegrate when it comes into contact with products that contain oil. Tools/implements must be cleaned and disinfected after EACH client with an EPA approved disinfectant such as Barbicide, a registered hospital disinfectant. Tools that can be submerged into this fluid should soak for a minimum of 10 minutes, and then sterilized in an autoclave or sterilizer with ultra violet light. NOTE: If any object should fall on the floor while you are being serviced it is CONTAMINATED! Request that it be cleaned or replaced before continuing service.

APPEARANCE IS EVERYTHING

Practitioners should be properly dressed in a clean smock, lab coat or scrubs. Never should a service be performed in street clothes. This is totally unprofessional. Personal hygiene is also important. All professionals should appear well groomed and neat.

LOOK FOR SIGNS

At the entrance to the shop, within view, you should see a state issued business license. This legally allows a business to operate. A license for each operator stating their specialty should also be visible either at the front entrance or at their personal station. All licenses must accompany a recent photo. Pay attention to its effective and expiration dates. If you cannot locate one, you have the right to ask to see it. In the event you are unsuccessful hold off on the service and contact your local department of cosmetology. Each state has rules and laws that govern obtaining a license, license renewal and continuing education. Continuing education isn’t mandatory in many states, but practitioners who continue to educate them- selves will usually be more knowledgeable in the latest trends and developments in their professional field. Remember, not all practitioners are licensed to perform all services (hair, nail, skin and waxing). Beware of anyone who offers to perform any service they are not licensed for.

NAILS

All brides want beautiful nails on their wedding day, but I can bet that fungus green won’t go well with your dress. Nail infections are more common than you may think. However, there are ways to protect yourself. For starters, state law recommends that every patron receive a new, unused emery board and block buffer. Some shops sell personal implement kits or you may bring your own. Manicure bowls, pedicure sinks, tubs and footrests must be cleaned, rinsed and disin- fected before and after each use. Even the flip-flops given to you for a pedicure should be cleaned and disinfected.

Many experts would recommend staying away from electric files because they have interchangeable bits and accessories that often are not cleaned, disinfected and sterilized properly. In fact, I’ve seen the same implements stay reused over and over on the next patron with- out being detached or cleaned once. Also beware of cuticle cutters and cuticle pushers because if the practitioner is not careful he/she could create a break in the skin causing bleeding and exposure.

Chamois buffers, pumice stones, credo blades, septic pencils and bar soaps are prohibited. Some nail salons will hang up a flyer informing patrons that credo knives are prohibited, but when you are getting a pedicure the practitioner will ask you if you want the blade. These practices present a potential danger to hemophiliacs, diabetics and pregnant women. If a patron gets injured in any way from one of these tools, the practitioner could lose his/her license and the shop owner could receive a fine as well as run the risk of being sued.

FACIALS & BODY TREATMENTS

Client consultation forms should be given to a patron before any service is rendered. The client should complete this form and return it to the practitioner. It’s important for a patron to be honest with their practitioner and make him/her aware of all current and past health problems.This includes surgeries, pregnancy and all medication use, including vitamins and hormonal pills. If you are currently under a physicians care for any reason it is important to include this information as well.Your feedback is helpful in determining which products, services and electrical facial instruments should be used during your treatment. For example, the high frequency probe, known for its zapping sensation, is a popular instrument used during a facial. One of its uses is to introduce a water-soluble product into the skin. While it’s great after extractions, it should never be used on asthmatics, pregnant women or people with heart problems. There are also certain essential oils that should be avoided on pregnant women. Poppy seeds and other herbal ingredients found in some body treatments can give you a positive drug reading. Diabetics have a high risk factor for a number of treatments including extractions.This is why it is very important that you patronize a business that follows professional protocol.

WAXING

Certain health problems and medications can hinder your waxing results. If the practitioner is not properly educated you can expect a whole lot of problems. Patrons with severely sensitive skin and women currently on their menstrual cycle should reframe from waxing services until they have completed their cycle. During this time of the month your hormonal level is high and your skin becomes ultra sensitive and tender especially in the areas in which you have a lot of lymph nodes (under arms and pelvic regions). Users of topical medication for acne, like Retin-A, should refrain from having waxing services performed on the area being treated. Wait until you have been off the product for at least three months before resuming waxing. Accutane users should not have waxing done for at least five to10 years after treatment because it remains in your system during this period. Alpha Hydroxy peel recipients should hold off on waxing until at least 30 days after they complete their full treatment. Waxing services should never be performed on patrons with open wounds, cold sores, varicose veins and poor circulation. The wax should be room temperature, not hot, when it’s applied to the skin. Blowing on the wax is prohibited and is a form of cross contamination. Ever wondered why you break out with bump after a waxing? The skin should also be treated before and after waxing and an unused spatula must be used at all times. Having more than one wax pot is essential. There should be one for the body and one for the face. Whenever blood is present during any waxing procedure the spatula must be thrown away and a new one must be used instead. The practitioners gloves need to be discarded and hands must be sanitized again, and a new set of gloves seal the deal.

BEAUTICIANS & BARBERS

Hair brushes and combs should be disinfected after every client. Seeing a collection of hair within the bristles is a sure sign that proper protocol is not being practiced. Make sure your stylist or barber covers your neck with a protective wrap before putting a cape on you. For those getting shaving procedures, see that barbicide is prayed on the blades before you let them begin your services. Last, but not least, dusting brushes should be for onetime use only. Before your next visit to the beauty salon, don’t beware and be aware. Remember communication is key and awareness is essential. Always be very observant and never be afraid to ask questions.