From cleanliness to procedures, keep an eye out for these warning signs that your nail salon isn’t up to par.
1. Improperly Cleaned Pedicure Tubs
No doubt, their calming effect allures, but it’s imperative that you pay close attention to how the salon is cleaning their pedicure tubs before soaking your tootsies in any type of basin. If a tech quickly wipes down the tub—or worse, drains the water from one client then fills it up for the next—before calling the next guest over, head for the door! All pedicure basins should be thoroughly cleaned between each and every client. The ones to watch for, in particular, are piped whirlpool spas. These work much like a whirlpool Jacuzzi where water is piped into a tub and bubbles up.
While lovely to soak feet in, they can harbor harmful bacteria if they’re not cleaned properly. “The piping within pedicure jets creates an optimal environment for bacteria, infections, fungus and viruses to breed,” explains Ruth Kallens, founder and partner of Van Court salon in New York City. Still, opting for a tankless pedicure bowl (essentially the equivalent of a large sink with a drain) is no better if it’s not being properly cleaned between each client. The correct sanitation procedure for for every pedicure tub, piped or pipeless: Clean the basin along with any moving parts with soap and water, then allow the basin to soak with an Environmental Protection Agency-registered hospital disinfectant for 10 minutes. This should be done after every client, followed by a more thorough cleaning at the end of the day. if in doubt, ask about the salon’s cleaning procedures and request to see their sanitation log.
2. Poor Tool Sanitation
To safeguard tips from infectious pathogens, such as athlete’s foot, staph infections, herpes, HIV-1, and Hepatitis B and C, all non-porous implements should soak in a daily-changed, EPA-registered hospital disinfectant, like Barbicide, for 10 minutes between use. Scour salons for the blue-hued solution, examine its container and make sure it’s “translucent and the color of blue associated with water seen in amusement parks,” says Leslie Roste, RN and King Research national director of education. “If it has any debris floating in it, looks cloudy or doesn’t fully cover implements, it should tip you off to be concerned and ask questions.”
Porous implements (think: nail files, buffers, pumice stones, and orangewood sticks) cannot be disinfected or sterilized so these should only be used when brand new. “Be watchful of what your tech uses, warns Harlem, New York-based Bed of Nails owner Candice Idehen, who adds that scratch marks on files, water stains and skin and/or clipping debris in disinfectant solutions are key signs of reused or unclean tools.
3. Cutting Skin and Cuticles
No. 1: It’s illegal in most states for nail professionals to cut live skin, as it’s considered a minor surgical procedure. No, 2: Open wounds lead to infections and nipped skin can easily expose you to bacteria. Protect tips and skip nipping or request that only hangnails be clipped; cuticles should be pushed back and only dead skin left on the nail plate can be nipped. If the manicurist does anything more, tell her to stop immediately! “Try to snap a picture if you see it being done and report it to your state board,” suggests Roste.
4. Sterilization Pouches
A true autoclave uses high pressure, heat and steam to sterilize implements, and is quite expensive. UV light boxes with the moniker “sterilization” are not autoclaves. Don’t be duped: A UV light box doesn’t sterilize the tools it holds; it’s simply a place to house already disinfected tools. If you see a sterilization pouch taken out of one of these, know that the tools inside “are not sterile,” says Roste. And just because tools come in a pouch doesn’t necessarily mean they were cleaned properly. All non-porous tools must be cleaned and disinfected before use. So, don’t look for a box or pouch (the use of an autoclave is not necessary if the tools are properly disinfected); rather, ask about the salon’s sanitation procedures.
5. Lack of Salon Cleanliness & Licensing
Right off the bat, take note of the overall cleanliness and look for properly displayed licenses. Dead-giveaways not to set foot inside: nail clippings on the floor, dusty stations and dirty drawers. “The appearance of a salon tells you a lot about its sanitation factors,” stresses Idehen. Scrutinize the licenses. Does each have a different name and picture? “They should all be visible to consumers and, if not, chances are something isn’t right because they’re hiding it,” she says.
6. Salon-stored Tools
It sounds like a safe bet for salons to hold personal tools for you. After all, they’ve only been using them on you, so what’s the harm? Don’t be fooled! If tools aren’t properly cleaned, bacteria can still grow on them and potentially infect you, even if they weren’t used on someone else. Similarly, storing single-use tools is also a no-no. “When you place these items in a closed bag, you provide the ideal environment for bacteria and fungi growth,” says Roste. “[One-time use tools] should go int he trash or be given to the client to take home [only].”