Salon Sanitation

Never Be Fined Again

Just one citation from your state board could have you floundering for cash (and turning red in the face from the humiliation of signing the violation form). NAILS contacted the U.S. states with the largest numbers of nail salons to find out what the most common violations are — and how you can make sure your salon is in the clear.

Common Violation: Failing to wash your hands or having your client wash her hands before the service
The Fix: This is one we’ve seen too many salons guilty of. The manicure or pedicure soak as the first step of the service does not count as hand washing. To ask your clients to wash their hands without offending them or implying that their hands are dirty, simply offer them a clean nail brush and say that soap, water, and the nail brush will help ensure their nail color will adhere better. Walk over to the sink with them and let them see that you’re washing your hands too, which is also a great time to make small talk.

Common Violation: Unlabeled containers
The Fix: Though it might be supremely obvious to you as to what is in the container, to comply with the regulations in many states you must label everything. Don’t let the state board cite you for failing to label something simple like cotton balls (perhaps they thought you were keeping cotton ball-textured marshmallows at your workstation?) or your spray can of water. On the plus side, this could be a great excuse to spend $20 on a label maker.

Common Violation: Possession of MMA
The Fix: In the early 1970s, MMA (methyl methacrylate) monomer was the main ingredient in many acrylic liquids. However, in 1978, the FDA found MMA to be unsafe for use in nail products due to a variety of health risks (including skin allergy and permanent loss of the nail plates) and because the resulting enhancements are too rigid (which can cause the natural nail to break). Plus, MMA-based enhancements are so difficult to remove that their removal generally results in damage to the client’s nail plates. So why, more than three decades later, are some salons still using MMA? In general, it’s because these unsafe products are cheaper. If you’re using an MMA monomer, switch to a reputable brand and increase your prices to cover the difference. (Trust us, it’s better than getting fined, which may be the least of your worries — you also risk being sued by an irate client.) If you’re a nail tech who’s in the position of  removing nail enhancements from another salon that were created using MMA, we encourage you to find out which salon applied the enhancement and report them to your state board to help eradicate the use of this dangerous product.

Common Violation: No photograph on license
The Fix: Many states require a Passport-sized photo that you must attach yourself. And sadly, a lot of techs forget to attach their photo (or, though we don’t like to think about it, don’t attach it on purpose in order to try to illegally “share” a license). Check your license and if it needs your photo, go ahead and attach it now. We’ll wait.

Common Violation: Safety Data Sheets not kept on premises
The Fix: Safety Data Sheets (formerly called Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS) give you important instructions for how to use the product safely, first-aid solutions in case of an accident, and storage instructions. If you can’t find yours, go to the manufacturer’s website and print the sheets out and keep them in your salon. (If the manufacturer doesn’t have the sheets available online, call and ask for a copy.)

Thank you to the following state boards of cosmetology for providing lists of their top violations for this article: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Virginia.

CHECK YOURSELF: offers a free self-inspection checklist that you can use to up your salon safety. Print it out at


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