Siobhain Sweetingham

Siobhain Sweetingham

Siobhain Sweetingham is an Infection Prevention Expert with Virox ProBeauty.

NAILS: Tell us about your background at Virox. What does infection prevention mean?

Siobhain Sweetingham: My background is in microbiology and infection prevention and control fuels my passion for educating and promoting proper disinfection techniques. Virox is a leader in the development of next generation hospital-grade disinfectants for use by the professional beauty market, and the manufacturer of Rejuvenate Salon Disinfectants. Many of today’s disinfectants use toxic chemicals, which can threaten the health of humans and the environment. Our mission is to support the professional beauty industry with education on disinfection practices and provide revolutionary disinfectants, to ensure the health of both clients and professionals. Over the last 20 years at Virox, we have pioneered leading disinfectants to suit the needs of many settings, bringing our experience in health care to further support the nail community.

Infection prevention and control refers to the strategies and practices that can be utilized to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of pathogens. The term can encompass many different practices and in the nail industry, includes proper hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfection protocols and more. The aim of these measures is to protect the health of both the clients and staff during services.

Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert
Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert

NAILS: When it comes to sanitation, what are the best practices? 

SS: Every state board has written guidelines in relation to facility management, best practices and infection control measures. It’s vital that you are familiar with your state guidelines to ensure you are health inspection-ready and are effectively protecting your staff and clients. Sanitation can be a bit of a misnomer as it encompasses everything to do with keeping your facility sanitary including garbage disposal and laundry. When it comes to infection prevention needs for the surfaces and tools, we should contemplate moving to referring to this as cleaning and disinfection.  When it comes to cleaning and disinfection in the regulations, most of the guidelines have similar recommendations. When selecting a disinfectant, nail salons must utilize EPA-registered disinfectants for their surfaces with demonstrated efficacy against bacteria, viruses, and fungi, when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For your reusable tools and implements (nail clippers, nippers, reusable foot files, drill bits, etc.), you may wish to go above your state guidelines and select an FDA high-level disinfectant, which will provide a higher level of care for your tools and offer added benefits such as having a re-use period in your soaking tray. The use of high level disinfectants are the preferred method of reprocessing within healthcare facilities as they are designed specifically for soaking tools and have undergone more stringent testing.  

In terms of frequency, you are required to clean and disinfect after every client service to prevent the spread of germs. We know nail salons may offer different services and have some varying equipment, however the key areas to always consider are your reusable tools and implements (ex. nail clippers), your high touch surfaces and equipment (ex. workstations, UV light lamps), and your foot baths. Ideally, your disinfectant manufacturer has simple protocols for you and your team to follow that meet or exceed your state guideline requirements or provides online education programs to support your education needs.

Considering the current pandemic, you should also now have protocols for cleaning and disinfecting non-treatment areas at least once a day. We know the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is primarily spread through droplets; however, it may also be spread by hands after touching contaminated surfaces. Introducing alcohol hand sanitizer stations throughout your facility to allow for frequent sanitizing of hands by both your clients and staff is a visual measure to highlight your vigilance for everyone’s health. Regularly disinfecting surfaces outside of your workstations such POS equipment and counters in reception areas, bathroom appliances, staff areas, door handles, keyboard, phones and other high touch surfaces should also become part of the new normal when maintaining a safe salon environment. As this may be a new practice in your business, ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities for disinfecting outside of treatment areas. 

NAILS: How should nail professionals ensure clients feel safe during services? How do we explain to clients our sanitary practices and products used/why they are effective?

SS: Your clients are more aware on the importance of cleaning and disinfection in their daily lives. With everyone’s heightened awareness on disinfection, hand washing and more, you and your team need to be armed with the answers relating to your practices. There are many great ways you can help your clients feel safe, protected and confident when receiving your services.

First, you should assess your in-salon messaging to clients. Before a service, you can conduct a client consultation, letting your clients know of the enhanced measures you have implemented to protect their health. You can also open the conversation and ask your clients “Do you have any questions or concerns?” This messaging would only take a few seconds but can go a long way to reassure your clients and even distinguish your services from others. 

There are also impactful communication and messaging pieces you can implement in your salon to reinforce your commitment to infection prevention. This can include printing your protocols for hand washing and disinfection to post in your clean room areas or by sinks. If you have completed any recent certifications, such as our Free Course in Infection Prevention and Control, you should print your certificates and proudly display them for everyone to see. Another nice touch is after cleaning and disinfecting your surfaces, placing a ‘tent card’ which shows the workstation is cleaned and disinfected, and ready for use. 

The messaging doesn’t have to only take place in person or in your salon. From a digital perspective, your website can be a powerful tool to reinforce how you are setting a new standard for cleanliness and are proud of your practices. Share all your daily procedures that keep clients safe online and explain how you are partnering with experts to keep your customers protected every day. Social media can also be great tool to connect with your community in a more casual manner and show off your procedures in action. Especially with current events, it’s important to show how you are staying aware and informed. You can also post pictures or videos of real time cleaning and disinfection, giving your customers further confidence and promoting your transparency. 

NAILS: When it comes to new items in the salon like PPE, how are those to be sanitized? 

SS: When it comes to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you should be using when re-opening your salon, you should look to your state guidelines for their recommendations. For PPE which is deemed single-use, these items cannot be cleaned and disinfected but rather disposed of after each use. Examples of single-use PPE include disposable gloves worn when servicing clients and ear-loop surgical masks. These should be disposed and changed between each client. If reusable face shields are recommended by your state and available when servicing clients, they can be easily disinfected by either wiping or spraying with a disinfectant and then allowing to air dry. Once you have achieved the disinfectants contact time, if your product is a disinfectant cleaner containing detergents, you can remove the soap residue by wiping with a clean damp cloth. There has been some discussion about disinfecting and reusing specific types of the masks used in healthcare; however, this applies only to N95 respirators and only when reprocessed using approved methods.  We would not recommend a salon to try and implement this practice.

It’s also important to note, PPE only plays one step in ensuring you are maintaining a safe environment. The use of PPE does not replace the need for proper cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene or other preventative measures. For example, once your disposable gloves or masks are removed you still need ensure you are conducting adequate hand hygiene afterwards. Gloves do not replace effective hand washing or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  

NAILS: What do you think nail professionals should invest in before re-opening?

SS: With your increased use and supply of PPE, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and more, it is important to learn how to incorporate your costs into your service prices. Therefore, you can not only protect the health of your clients but also your pocketbooks. As a first step, you should do a ‘dry-run’ or review what you will be using during your services due to your revised protocols. You should determine per service what protective gear is required, what amount of disinfectant you may use, and other associated added products. Once you determine the total added cost per service, then you can add the amount to your corresponding service charge. Remember, you are offering professional treatments and the increase of a few dollars to safeguard your reputation and everyone’s wellbeing is priceless.

Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert
Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert

NAILS: What can we all learn from this pandemic and shut down?

SS: The main overarching lesson is that prevention is key. A lot has evolved over the last few months highlighting the importance of infection prevention and control in the industry. The goal moving forward should be to always follow best practices to prevent the spread of any germs, always further your education, share your knowledge as a professional and always keep your clients informed on your sanitation initiatives. Be open to connecting with your state boards and industry experts to continue learning the best practices for infection prevention every day. With your knowledge and determination, you can make a difference by keeping your clients and spa safe when that “Open for Business” sign goes back on the door.

Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert
Q&A With an Infection Prevention Expert

NAILS: How do I select an ideal disinfectant for my salon?

SS: When designing your protocols, you will likely come to notice not all disinfectants are the same. You must be aware of what products you are using and their characteristics. To be compliant, your salon should be using professional EPA or FDA-registered disinfectants to comply with state guidelines. One of your first questions when reading the product label, will likely be around your products efficacy or effectiveness to kill certain pathogens. With a new concern being the virus that causes COVID-19, you should be selecting a product on the EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. 

You should also become familiar with the safety profile of your disinfectant and how to handle them safely. On the market, certain cleaner and disinfectant products can be irritating to eyes and skin or are even linked to occupational asthma, which can pose a risk to your health, especially with daily use. Once you investigate your product’s label language and read the Safety Data Sheet, you may want to consider switching to approved disinfectants with better safety profiles. Finally, when it comes to tools, compatibility is a common concern as it’s important to protect your investments. You should look for cleaners and disinfectants that effectively kill pathogens of concern, while remaining gentle enough not to harm any of your valuable tools and implements.

NAILS: How do I know if my disinfectant is effective against the virus that causes COVID-19?

SS: You should be selecting a product listed on the EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 and carries properties such as being non-irritating, compatible with your equipment and fast acting to reduce client turnover times. All the products on this list meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Instead of searching by brand names, the best way is to search by the EPA registration number on your products label. If your product’s EPA registration number is on the list, you can be confident you are protected, even if the brand name doesn’t match. You may even notice when searching your products, some commonly used disinfectants such as Barbicide Wipes or Cavicide Wipes, are not recorded on the EPA approved list and therefore in accordance to the EPA guideline for emerging pathogens cannot make efficacy claims to kill SARS-CoV-2.

See a video interview with Holly Schippers and Siobhain Sweetingham here:


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