Just My Opinion: Playing Doctor

Why should nail technicians be allowed to diagnose, work on, and treat infections using over-the counter products without having gone to medical school?

Maybe it’s because of my keen interest in medicine that I always wonder why nail technicians think that they, along with doctors, should be allowed to invade the body’s natural barriers (i.e. the nail plate and skin). Why should they be allowed to diagnose, work on, and treat infections using over-the counter products without having gone to medical school? I wonder about this all the time because it happens in salons every day. In my opinion, this is practicing medicine without a license. And salon professionals who “play doctor” make themselves vulnerable to tremendous liability that is likely indefensible in court.

Unsafe services have become the accepted norm by the unknowing consumer, and some nail professionals are not helping to change this. For example, some beauty supplies are selling Dremel hobby drills for use on nails. I have seen Credo blades, which are illegal in Texas, for sale at some trade shows. A couple of nail companies have conducted classes in Texas, saying that it is OK for nail technicians to work on people with signs of a bacterial or fungal infection. A nail technician can’t diagnose what type of an infection a client may have-only a doctor can, with proper medical tests. Also, it is against the law in the state of Texas to work on people with signs of this type of problem because it is infectious.

I feel this is happening because there is a lack of communication between nail technicians, the nail industry, the state boards, and the medical community. I hope that the American Academy of Dermatology will become more involved, along with beauty industry leaders and draw the lien when it comes to playing doctor with unsafe tools and services. All state boards should have safety guidelines they can refer to when enacting new laws so there is national continuity.

Cathy Neben is owner of Houston-based Hair Spa, a NAILS’ 1998 Salon of the Year.

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