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Is Your Nail Salon or Barber Shop Clean and Safe?

Updated on November 12, 2011

Feeling ill?

How safe is your salon or barber shop?

Is Your Salon or Barber Shop Clean and Safe?

It may not be. In fact, based on a study by a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine, who has studied salon infections and safety, we have a lot to worry about.

We tend to assume that if a salon is operating or just because the local barber shop has been in operation for years that it is safe. But there is an ugly side to getting manicures, pedicures, haircuts, Botox injections, and a waxing. Some things to worry about are poorly trained technicians, and dirty or illegal instruments.

In California with the strictest of standards, a supervising inspector says there are close to 4,000 shops with only 18 inspectors; this means that the shops only get inspected once every six years - unless the public complains. About 75 percent of the salons inspected have violations. Some which may be minor, like when a nail file is re-used when it should have been tossed. Real hazards are filthy foot spas.

In a current issue of a health magazine one woman tells about how a pedicure at an upscale spa led to a trip to the emergency room with a staph infections. A day and a half after getting a pedicure her fever was 101 degrees and her toe was five times its normal size. She now knows that if she did not get treated quickly and put on antibiotics for 10 days the infection could have spread to the rest of her body.

Like hospitals, salons can harbor dangerous infection-causing bacteria and viruses, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and hepatitis B.

Visiting a salon has truly become an issue of ‘buyer beware’ and it is up to us to protect ourselves. Then what price beauty?

Some trouble spots to be aware of are:

The Foot Spa - in 2000, 110 women in Northern CA had pedicures at the same spa and were infected with a nasty bacteria known as Mycobacterium fortuitum. One doctor says that using a Credo blade is a form of minor surgery, and it is easy to slice the skin with cuticle cutters as well. People with diabetes or a compromised immune system are advised to avoid pedicures.

Manicure and Pedicure Instruments - the most dangerous tool is the Credo blade. This is the razor like device used in pedicures for shaving off calluses. Although illegal in many states, pedicurists still use it.

Chemicals and Relaxers at the Hair Salon - in 2007, doctors at a burn center in Chicago reported that a woman was hospitalized and received skin grafts after receiving chemical burns from highlights. The FDA says that hair straighteners and dyes are among the top consumer complaint and are known to cause itchy skin and trouble breathing.

Combs and Brushes - Even the so-called upscale salons are responsible for tossing used combs and brushes back in the drawer. They can carry fungal infections like ringworm, lice and dandruff.

The Shampooing Sink - tilting your head back while being shampooed can alter blood flow to the brain. A clean towel should be placed under the neck to minimize the problem .

Hot Waxing - it seems burns are fairly common when you are having body waxing done. If the aesthetician double dips the waxing stick there can also be an infection.

My nail salon stores my own personal equipment in a box with my name on it. It seems most people who use the salon have their own supplies. When I had a pedicure done, I do remember one time having that Credo blade used but the pedicurist asked first. I honestly don’t know if they are illegal in New York City - but in the future, I'll pass.

One thing I did not know is that each aesthetician should have their own license displayed at their work station. I know in any salon or spa I have ever entered here in the City there was always a license for the establishment (which should be displayed at the front desk). I assumed that covered everyone - but realistically it cannot. Barbers, hairstylist, manicurists, etc. do rent stations/booths in various salons. It does make sense that they display their own credentials.

In a recent San Francisco sweep, a supervising inspector found that there were license violations in 19 of the 20 shops inspected.

For more suggestions on being safe and protecting yourself when visiting any kind of salon, spa, or barber shop, please click on the link below.

Be Safe.

For more recommended reading, see the link below:


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    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Hi LEJOYCE!

      No, I don't know anyone but what a great idea. I think you can only advertise and acquaint yourself with what materials you will need to properly and totally disinfect such a place.

      When you do pursue this further I hope you will share you success with us!

    • profile image

      LEJOYCE 6 years ago



    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      It's certainly a consideration - the toxic nail polishes and related products. Supposedly, there are products on the market now without the dangerous chemicals - but who can you trust. I feel for the workers in such places. It has to do damage.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • stricktlydating profile image

      StricktlyDating 6 years ago from Australia

      I usually avoid booking a manicure, not because of the above, actually I just can't stand the smell of nail polish remover, nail polish nail glue in a small enclosed space, which most nail bars are here (In Australia). I feel like I'm breathing in toxic chemicals. So, I usually do my own nails.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks gr82beme! Glad you liked the hub!

    • gr82bme profile image

      gr82bme 7 years ago from USA


    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Thanks so much, Tiana Fearl, for a reminder that there are some very serious health issues at stake here. All of which can be prevented. While it would be great if nail salons and barber shops did the right thing, ultimately - like everything else - it is our responsibility to insure that they do.

      Thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      Tiana Fearl 7 years ago

      "My nail salon stores my own personal equipment in a box with my name on it."

      I am a nail technician in Oregon. Here we are not permitted to reuse files on clients....and for very good reason. Just because the files are in a closed, dark box with whatever moisture may remain from the service, for the time between date of storage and the next appointment does not mean bacteria will cease to grow, mutate and potentially become pathogenic!

      Clients need to make certain that every hand file, e-file sanding band, filing block, buffer, chamois is NEW or freshly disinfected (disinfection can only be done with a few brands on the market). If this is not the normal practice in the salon, DO NOT get a service done there, under any circumstance!

      Technician's need to provide a clean safe environment for their clients. Clients however ultimately set the standard, if you get services from a technician that does not have your health in mind, you ought not be surprised when you have problems!

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      I'm with you with the locs lou411 - I have never been happier. And yes, we must bring our own tools to the nail salon.

      And I will stop at Patel's and pick up some Dettol - thanks for the idea.

      And thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      lou411 8 years ago

      i must say i am a lot happier since i stopped relaxing my hair 4 yrs i have natural locks. manicures i can't stop..i have been going to same place for over 14 yrs..they clean their instruments after every customer and i also bring dettol disinfectant to add to water..also, u should bring your own files and buffers each time u go..i get a pedicure and manicure once a month..

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Hi seemorebangkok - a friend just told me she had a regular manicure and got an infection. What's going on here? This is serious stuff.

      It seems people love their barbers but your place sounds so bad it is almost funny. Glad you survived to write hub pages!

    • seemorebangkok profile image

      seemorebangkok 8 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      I use to go to a barber shop in the Village in NYC because it was cheap. Man, it was the filthiest place ever. It's like they never clean the scissors and the combs. You could see the last dudes hair stuck to them.

      I had to say to the barber "Hey, can you clean that before it touches my head."

      The barber was more than happy to do it, but seriously, did I have to ask first???

      Anyways their out of business now, most likely because of rent hike, but it was a popular barber shop and the barbers do a good job.

      On the subject about nail salons, my girlfriend got her big toe nail infected twice =)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      There is nothing more beautiful than natural beauty. Too bad we don't believe it. Good health is the best makeup. Thanks for stopping by justmesuzanne.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 8 years ago from Texas

      Interesting information!  I have never felt so fortunate about the fact that I whack my own hair off! Also have never had a manicure or pedicure! Now I feel quite wise! :D