Salon Sanitation

“20/20” Hindsight

Did the media finally get it right? The nail community debates the merits of the long-awaited story on MM A usage that aired on the ABC news magazine show “20/20.”

After being postponed several times due to unfolding world events, the ABC newsmagazine show “20/20” aired a much-anticipated segment on the nail industry and MMA usage on April 12. Aware that producers had consulted with many knowledgeable techs and industry experts during the two years they researched the story, members of the nail community looked forward to a positive and accurate portrayal of our industry. Did they get it?

Editor’s Note: A member of the Nail Manufacturers Council’s Safety & Standards Committee, chemist Doug Schoon was one of several experts who provided background information to “20/20” producers. After the segment ran, Schoon wrote a letter, excerpted below, articulating his objections to the segment.

I was very disappointed by the comments of the’ ‘expert’ ‘dermatologist used in the MMA story Shelly Sekula Rodrigue? claims to be an artificial nail/salon expert, which she is not...

... Had Dr. Rodriguez been an expert, she would not have made the false statement that MMA nails take 30 minutes to remove in solvents. This is totally false, misleading, and ludicrous. MMA nails take between one and two hours (or more) to remove in solvent.

Here’s the problem: EMA (the recognized safe alternative to MMA) takes 30 minutes to remove in solvent So, your so-called expert damned all acrylic nails as MMA in the minds of the unaware consumer.

Also, Dr Rodriguez has no knowledge of the adhesive strength of MMA on natural nails, yet she offered an opinion. Her incorrect statement propagates the myth that MMA is a powerful adhesive on the nail Scientific studies performed for the FDA and the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board documented that MMA has poor adhesion to keratin, so the nail plate must be severely abraded to get adhesion This extremely important information was presented to the producers of this “20/20” segment, but it was ignored in favour of Dr Rodriguez’s personal opinions....

I believe ABC and “20/20” should carefully screen “experts” and make sure they are in fact, experts in the field in which they are making statements I personally provided one of the show’s producers with the names of several true nail-related expert dermatologists and an accepted expert toxicologist in nail products. To my knowledge, they were not contacted....

...In the future, please make an attempt to identify people that have an expert level of knowledge and experience, not just those with the credentials that will make the story “work.”That’s sensationalism and poor journalism, in my personal opinion.

— Doug Schoon

NAILS says no, though others disagree. While we applaud any effort to educate consumers on the dangers of MMA, we feel the seven-minute segment, introduced by Barbara Walters and reported by Arnold Diaz, presented an unbalanced and sometimes inaccurate discussion of a serious issue. In a grab for ratings, producers focused solely on poorly run salons that use MMA and included many sensational images of badly damaged nails. The result was a narrow and unduly negative portrayal of our industry. Any useful information on se­lecting a good salon was undercut by “expert advice” at the end of the story stating that since consumers can’t tell “who’s using what,” you should avoid acrylics altogether.

Reaction from nail techs has been mixed. Many techs, grateful for any public discussion of the topic, were upbeat despite specific objections. We heard from several who videotaped the story to show to clients. Speaking on behalf of its 850 members, the International Nail Technicians Association (INTA) issued a statement praising the feature, saying it “portrayed a fair picture of the dangers consumers may encounter if their artificial nails are created with products containing [MMA].... INTA believes that salons such as those shown will eventually be eliminated, through word of mouth, press coverage, and general bad business practices that put the consumer at risk.”

Other techs, including those who feel they offer safe and sanitary nail services at a discount, felt the entire industry was unfairly tarnished and that overly broad statements, such as those liking chemical odor to MMA, do more harm than good. Nail tech Nancy King, who worked closely with producers on the feature, also acknowledged disappointment, saying, “I gave the producers a tremendous amount of information about how professional nail services can and should be safe, along with how a consumer can identify a safe salon for service. I would like to have seen much more of that information in the final show.”

I thought that any information was better than none, but I wish the segment had been longer...They did a good job explaining what MMA can do to the nails, but they didn’t let clients know what makes these nails stay on so well or the negatives of them staying on TOO well. I wish they had explained that nails that adhere too well can cause damage also...Still, even that small bit was better than none at all. At least people learned a few things to look for when they select a salon.”

--Bonnie Adams, Shear Gossip by Sabrina, Casa Grande, Ariz.

“I feel that those of us who are not using MMA were misrepresented. The products that legitimate salons use do not come in 5-gallon drums, do not contain MMA, and do not cause damage to the natural nail. I resent the comment that Barbara Walters made at the end of the show implying that all acrylic enhancements were harmful to the natural nail...I would like to see someone from “20/20” visit a few salons that practice legally and safety. Chances are they would find well-educated technicians who continue to educate themselves on new products and techniques.”

-- Joani Dando, Salon Hair America, Haddonfield, N.J.

“At least the public knows that cheaper isn’t always better I recorded the story for my clients to see and also revised my price list to state there is no MMA in the products I use...Clients have reacted with disbelief. They can’t see how a discount salon can get away with using MMA and poor sanitation.”

-- Nora Cross, Heads on Nails Salon, Clovis, N. M.

Keywords:   bad publicity     consumer press     Doug Schoon  



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