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Salon Safety: It's Grosser Than You Might Think

Salon Safety: It's Grosser Than You Might Think

I hope you're not eating, because I've just come across a somewhat gruesome story about salons. We already know that working in nail salons isn't so healthy and that estheticians work hard for relatively little pay. On top of that, your health could be at risk.


In Massachusetts, officials ticketed one out of four nail and hair salons for code violations. This isn't your run-of-the mill stuff, either: Some technicians were unlicensed, while other salons hadn't changed the Barbicide—you know, the bright blue disinfectant for hair tools—in more than a week. (Barbicide is supposed to be changed at least once a day.) To discover what can happen at this sort of place, read more.

This kind of violation can lead to some pretty gross consequences. One woman talks about a throbbing in her thumb that began after a manicure. The cause? An infection from having her cuticles trimmed with dirty instruments by an unlicensed technician. Her doctor prescribed two courses of antibiotics, but a surgeon eventually had to remove her thumbnail. A year later, she's still in pain and has an incomplete, discolored nail. "It's so nauseating to look at," she says. "I have to wear a Band-Aid around it when I go out."

Ugh. This is why I usually paint my own nails. And it's not just the cheapy joints, either. Even if a place looks ritzy, it could be unclean. Don't believe me? A few years ago, I was getting a pedicure at a swanky Chicago spa-lon just off Michigan Avenue. The woman next to me was talking about how she was training for a marathon, and after looking at her feet, I believed it: She was missing a toenail, had bruised and bloody toes, and had thick, yellow nails—a sign of toenail fungus. After her pedicure, I fully expected to see the workers Lysol and perhaps incinerate the tub in which she'd been soaking her feet. Nope. They just wiped it down and brought in the next person.

Yech. Would you want to be the next person who put her feet in that tub? This is why I recommend bringing your own tools, including nail files, clippers and a plastic liner for the tub. Yeah, it's a little out of the ordinary, but a bit of prevention is worth it, wouldn't you say?

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