Clients are scared. They worry about the nightly news reports that warn them that they can catch scary diseases by getting their nails done. They’ve seen “film at 11” of countless filthy salons. They watch in horror as you drop a file on the floor and then pick it up and use it again on them (their hairdresser never does that). They begin to wonder, encouraged by the media reports and the evidence they see in the salon, whether getting their nails done is a health hazard.

You cannot afford to have clients decide that getting their nails done is hazardous to their health. In order for you to convince clients that your salon is a model of cleanliness, you need to make sanitation a key element of all salon services — from asking clients to wash their hands when they arrive to showing them how you disinfect your implements.

This special health section is dedicated to helping you understand the sanitation issues facing the nail industry today and what you can do to ease clients’ fears by educating them yourself. We asked the manufacturers of the most prominent disinfection systems and the members of the Nail Manufacturers Council’s committee on safety and standards to comment on why disinfection practices are so poorly adhered to by salon professionals. We also asked them for their own suggestions for a national standard on implement disinfection.

We asked industry chemist Douglas Schoon to write about AIDS in the salon, which, we all know, is a still misunderstood, highly charged salon issue. Finally, we compiled a glossary of nail health and sanitation terms for your reference. You may choose to include these terms in a salon manual or incorporate them into client education pieces. We are confident that this special section will be educational for all nail professionals.

How big an issue is salon sanitation today?

Cevetillo: The public’s fear of AIDS and the increasing spread of infectious diseases are leading federal regulatory agencies to enforce protective measures wherever possible. The beauty industry is no exception.

Crosthwait: Salon sanitation has a great impact on the health of both the clients and the professionals. We must be educated about the dangers in order to prevent transmitting any communicable disease. Sanitation isn’t just a concern; it’s a responsibility to the public.

Cuccio: Salon sanitation is not a big enough issue to most nail technicians. It should be one of the top priorities in every nail salon. Clients nationwide are watching negative news-media coverage and are becoming more and more aware of proper salon sanitation.

Geils: Regardless of the statistically low probability of infection transmission from tools used in salons, if a person becomes infected due to a salons improper sanitation procedures, nothing we can do or say can reverse the hardship caused to the victim. In any environment where physical contact and the possibility — however remote — of drawing blood is prevalent, it is critical to research, develop, and maintain a broad-spectrum sanitation policy to protect clients and salon personnel.

La Magna: Salons must sanitize to survive in the ‘90s. Nail professionals should make their sanitation procedures very clear to their customers by putting up signs.

Megna: Salon sanitation is the biggest issue facing the nail care industry today. Consumer-health interests are at an all-time high and will only increase.

The industry stands largely unprepared to respond to what will certainly be a rapidly growing consumer demand for improved sanitation standards and practices.

Mennicken: Due to the increased incidence of transmittable diseases, sanitation in the salon must be addressed by the nail technician and the salon owner. Good sanitation procedures protect customers, nail technicians, and salon employees. Sanitation procedures also protect investments made by nail technicians in quality implements.

Reed: According to a recent Glamour Magazine/American Beauty Association study, good salon sanitation ranks number one among what consumers look for when choosing a salon. Sanitation is now a primary focus for several major chain salons. These businesses are seeking a competitive edge and are presenting salon sanitation procedures and practices as one of their advantages. Salons that don’t give major play to good sanitation practices in their marketing strategy will definitely feel it with a diminished client base.

Rosenberg: Sanitation is the foundation of customer confidence in the nail technician s ability to perform services. All services in which blood could be drawn are under public scrutiny. Salon sanitation is a bigger issue than some owners and technicians want to admit.

What’s the biggest misconception about salon sanitation?

Cevetillo: I often hear the statement, “Nothing has ever happened in my salon, so I don’t have to change until the state board says I must.” On the contrary, there is an immediate need to change.

Another one I hear is, “My clients don’t have AIDS!” The national Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than one million people in the United States have AIDS, which translates to one in every 250 people.

Crosthwait: “If the salon looks clean and smells clean, it is clean.” The beauty industry is a visual profession, but viruses and bacteria can’t be seen with the naked eye.
 Another misconception is that there is one magic product that provides the solution to salon sanitation. The reality is that the sanitation and disinfection of a salon is a daily process that requires several methods to achieve the ultimate level of safety.

Cuccio: The client’s biggest misconception about salon sanitation is that most salons practice a fair to moderate level of sanitation. Another misconception is that cross- contamination probably will not occur in the salon.

Ceils: If it looks clean, it is clean. As sad as it sounds, that is still the policy in far too many salons today. If the state board doesn’t require sanitation, some nail technicians think they don’t need to sanitize.

La Magna: Keeping your salon clean does not necessarily mean it is sanitized. In fact, washing your hands does not sanitize them; you must use a disinfecting soap. Merely washing implements is not adequate; you must use disinfectants to sanitize them.

Megna: The biggest misconception is a nail technician’s belief that she’s doing a good enough job without sanitizing and that additional effort or a change in procedure is not necessary

Mennicken: A common misconception is that disinfecting implements is all the technician needs to do to sanitize the salon. In reality, good sanitation extends from the implements to work areas, countertops, and restrooms. Just as a good personal appearance is a reflection of an individual, a clean and sanitary salon gives a positive image of the type of service provided by the salon.

Reed: The biggest misconception about salon sanitation is that you don’t have to sanitize after you graduate from cosmetology school. There are many methods and levels of disinfection, but many salon professionals believe they are disinfecting effectively when they’re not.

Rosenberg: The technician s belief that if a disinfectant says “lolls HIV” or “hospital grade” it is adequate for salon use. A disinfectant must be tuberculocidal in order for it to provide adequate protection for both the customer and nail technician. When a disinfectant is tuberculocidal, it can kill tuberculosis, pseudomonas, and many other organisms including viruses and fungi.

Why do you feel there is such poor adherence to good sanitation practices?

Cevetillo: The most obvious reason is resistance to change. When we are comfortable doing things the old way, we are reluctant to form new habits. Today, your dentist wears gloves, a mask, eye protection, etc. These changes were mandatory for the dentist’s protection. As a patient, you would be concerned if the dental office didn’t take these precautions. Likewise, many clients are observing salon sanitation procedures and requiring that nail technicians take the proper precautions.

Crosthwait: In our culture, cleaning is considered a lowly job. In cosmetology schools, sanitation is a form of punishment. If you’re late to school you must perform sanitation procedures. If the professional understood more about the spread of disease and methods of control, I believe that infection control would become as standard as brushing your teeth.

Cuccio: Some nail technicians don’t think it’s important enough; some don’t know the correct procedures. Many nail professionals will clean their implements by running them under water or merely by wiping them off.

Geils: There is a lack of products and there is a lack of education and concern. Up until three years ago, selling the concept of a disinfectant product was tough. Only now are salons waking up to the fact that the cost of not practicing sanitation outweighs the pennies spent for products and the time it takes each day to provide a client a safe service.

Knight: I believe it’s because the salon owner and nail technician do not know what good sanitation practices are. There’s a lack of information. Another reason is that it takes time and money.

La Magna: The number one reason for poor adherence is habit. Sa­lons never had to worry about sanitation in the past.

Megna: The consequences of ignoring state regulatory standards aren’t firm enough. Some agencies have been slow to respond to changes in sanitation technology, and as a result, many new members of the nail care industry are using outdated and ineffective techniques.

Mennicken: One reason is because there are varied standards. Salons may not have a clear understanding of good sanitation procedures.

Reed: Sanitation has been presented as a state board regulation rather than as an effective client marketing tool. This negative viewpoint makes sanitation a nuisance instead of a way to elevate the salon and its professionals in the eyes of the consumer.

Rosenberg: The information about infection control and microbiology is complicated and constitutes a medical specialty. Nail technicians and their teachers can easily be overwhelmed and not understand what to do.





The fear of AIDS, not AIDS itself, is the real menace to your salons business.

By Douglas Schoon, M.S.

Why should nail technicians disinfect? Which disinfectants provide the best protection? What are the risks? If you feel confused when it comes to disinfection, you’re not alone. Of course, most nail professionals understand theoretically the importance of sanitation and disinfection. These procedures prevent the spread of disease. But which diseases does disinfection prevent? Is there a real risk of transmitting the AIDS virus or tuberculosis?

Often nail professionals are told that disinfection prevents the spread of the AIDS virus (known as HIV). Is transmitting HIV a real risk in the salon? Absolutely not! There is virtually no chance that the AIDS virus can be spread from one person to another during a nail service.

The truth is that it’s hard to get AIDS. Of course, certain types of behaviours increase the risks. Luckily, getting your nails done is not one of those behaviours. The fear of AIDS is the danger to salons, not AIDS itself. Suggesting to clients that there is an AIDS risk with any salon service is foolish. Sure, your clients love you and your work. That would all change if clients suspected you could infect them with a life-threatening disease.

It’s doubtful they would ever visit your salon again!

The dental and medical professions suffered gravely because of irrational fear. Many patients now worry that a doctor or dentist might infect them with HIV. This is extremely unlikely and not worth the price of your health to miss regular checkups with your doctor and dentist.

Approximately one billion dental procedures are performed each year in the United States. That’s about 12 billion procedures since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. During this time, only once has a dentist infected his patients. It has been estimated that the chance of being infected by any health care worker is one in 20 million! It is four times more likely that you will be killed by a bee sting than become in­fected with HIV by a doctor.

It is even less likely that a nail technician could infect a client.

The same holds true for tuberculosis (TB). Some products claim to be effective against TB, but protection against TB is irrelevant in the salon since there has never been a reported case of TB transmission from a salon implement. Tuberculosis cannot be transmitted by your tools; it is spread only by coughing, and rare instances, by drinking contaminated milk. Protecting against AIDS and TB is not the reason you need to disinfect.

What are the real risks?

Why should nail professionals disinfect? Many types of bacteria and viruses that can cause illness and disease are commonly found in salons. Although these common salon threats don’t gain media attention, they may still cause problems for clients.

Viruses cause many human illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, mumps, cold sores, herpes, hepatitis, warts, and certain kinds of cancer. At least 30 different viruses can cause the symptoms of a common cold. Flu and cold viruses are often transmitted by touching infected surfaces or even shaking hands. Obviously, illness could spread quickly in a salon that didn’t practice good sanitation.

Bacteria can also be a common salon problem. Cuts, nicks, and other skin abrasions often become infected with bacteria. These infections can be serious.

Yeast and fungi organisms also are found in the salon. Contrary to popular belief, most nail infections are caused not by fungus but by a yeast organism called Candida albicans, the same organism that causes vaginal infections (see “Debunking the Fungus Myth,” NAILS Magazine, April 1992). Colds, pinkeye infections, ringworm, and other infectious skin disorders are also easily transmitted.

It is all of these illnesses and disorders that make salon sanitation and disinfection so important to your salon. Clients depend upon you to ensure their safety. Protecting against the spread of infectious disease is also required by both federal and state regulations. Below are a few guidelines that can help make your salon safe for clients.

  • Always wash your hands after using the restroom and between each client.
  • Disinfect all files and tools between clients, as directed by the manufacturers’ instructions, and store in a covered container.
  • Use professionally formulated salon disinfectants and sanitizers. Keep floors swept clean whenever needed.
  • Frequently sanitize telephone receivers, doorknobs, and light switches, especially in the bathroom.
  • Keep restrooms clean and tidy.
  • Keep table surfaces wiped free of filings and dust and table towels changed between each client.
  • Deposit all waste materials in a metal waste can with a self-closing lid.
  • Mop floors and vacuum carpets daily.
  • Clean windows, screens, and curtains regularly.
  • Provide toilet tissue, paper towels, and liquid soap.
  • Clean sinks and drinking fountains regularly. Provide separate or disposable drinking cups for clients.
  • Keep the salon free of insects and rodents.
  • Food must never be placed in a refrigerator that is used to store salon products. Eating, drinking, and smoking should be prohibited in the salon.
  • Waste cans must be emptied regularly throughout the day.
  • Employees must wear clean clothing.
  • All product containers must be properly marked, tightly closed, and properly stored.
  • The outside of all containers should be kept clean.
  • Avoid touching the face, mouth, or eye area during services.
  • No pets or animals should ever be allowed in salons, except for trained seeing-eye dogs.

These are only a few of the things nail professionals must do in order to safeguard themselves and clients. Contact your state board or health department for a complete list of regulations.

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