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8 Signs You Should Ditch Your Nail Salon

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Going to the nail salon can be a great way to treat yourself to some much-needed pampering with a pretty new manicure and luxurious pedicure, but not all nail salons are created equal. While they may all have the same basic setup and offer similar services, some nail salons are much less attentive where safety and sanitation are concerned. The problem is, knowing which nail salons are up to code and which ones you should avoid can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Below are 8 warning signs that you should ditch your nail salon and find a new place to get those mani-pedis from now on!

8. Licenses Are Not Openly Displayed

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The International Pedicure Association (IPA) requires that all states require nail technicians to be licensed (except in the state of Connecticut), and in most states, those licenses must be displayed where they are easily visible to customers. These licenses allow customers to know, at a glance, that the nail technician has received the training required by law, but you might be surprised how often licenses are not displayed and technicians are not trained. Often, the penalty to working as a nail tech with inadequate training is nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and there are many shops who are willing to take the risk. If you walk into a nail salon and don’t see licenses, your best bet is to find a different salon.

7. Techs Don’t Wear Gloves or Wash Hands Between Clients

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If you go to a busy nail salon, you might notice the nail techs doing a lot of multi-tasking and running from client to client to make sure everyone gets serviced in a timely manner. However, if you notice a nail tech go from working on one client to immediately working on another, without changing gloves (if she’s wearing them) or washing her hands, find the nearest exit and go to a different salon. Just as you wouldn’t want your doctor going from patient to patient without changing gloves or washing hands, you don’t want your nail tech scrubbing the calluses off someone’s feet and then coming over to work on your manicure without at least a stop at the sink for a good hand-washing in between.

6. The Salon is Dirty

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When you first walk into the salon, take a minute to look around. Is the floor swept? Are the shelves dust-free? Look in corners, where poor cleaning is most likely to show up. While a small amount of clutter and mess is typical during a busy day at the salon, everything should appear generally well-kept and clean. If the salon looks dirty or if you notice poor hygiene practices (such as leaving dirty towels out where customers can see them or not cleaning the foot baths before the next customer steps in, take your business elsewhere. If cleanliness is not a priority for the salon, they probably don’t take other safety regulations seriously either.

5. Implements are Shared Between Clients

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Absolutely everything that touches a client’s hands or feet in a nail salon should be sterilized or thrown out before the next client sits down in the chair, but a surprising number of salons completely ignore this basic safety rule. The best salons will use an autoclave to sterilize equipment, but at the very least a strong germicidal solution should be used for pumice stones, drill bits, scissors, clippers and other reusable tools. Porous equipment, like orange sticks and emery boards, should be disposed of after each client. Some salons are now even allowing clients to purchase their own equipment and store it at the shop. Regardless, safety is a huge issue if a salon isn’t following these basic protocols and you should definitely go elsewhere rather than risk an infection.

4. Clipping, Cutting, Shaving and Sawing

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Some states have already outlawed callus cutters and credo blades for slicing off calluses, and cuticle cutting is illegal in several states, as well. Even in states where these practices are not illegal, you’re better off opting out, and never go to a salon that uses these techniques in a state where they’ve been outlawed. There are much better ways to soften and remove calluses and keep cuticles tidy, that don’t involve hacking and slicing.  Using aggressive snipping and shaving techniques often results in cuts or gashes that can lead to nasty infections. Sawing back and forth at the nails with a file is another red flag, and can actually damage the nail. If your salon uses any of these techniques, find another salon, and fast.

3. Unmarked Products

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It’s not unusual in nail salons to see the nail tech reach for an unmarked bottle of what you assume is alcohol or polish remover, but this should actually be a red flag. Not only could the technician accidentally grab the wrong bottle, but as a consumer you have no idea what’s being used on your hands and feet. While salons typically order in bulk and divide products up into containers for each table, the containers should still be clearly labeled and the technician should be able to tell you exactly what’s being used, when asked. Ideally, products should be in the original containers, so there’s no question as to what’s being put on your skin and nails.

2. Strong Chemical Fumes

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Nail salons are not going to be completely scent free, but if you walk in the door and notice a strong chemical odor, turn around and walk back out the door immediately. Proper ventilation should eliminate most odors from the salon, so if you’re hit with strong, offensive odors, you can bet the salon’s ventilation system isn’t up to par. Without ventilation, fumes, nail dust, skin cells and other potential toxins build up in the air, which can not only make you nauseous, but can be detrimental to your health with repeated exposure.

1. Clogged or Dirty Foot Baths

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While they may seem like luxurious pampering, foot spas can actually harbor tons of bacteria if not properly maintained. Most foot spas have screens under the drain that are designed to catch hair, skin cells and other debris, and can quickly become mucked up and unsanitary without regular cleaning. Because the debris is all trapped underneath the drain, however, you might never know just by glancing in the foot spa what’s lurking under the surface. If the foot spa appears to be clogged or drains slowly, that’s a major warning sign that the spa hasn’t been properly cleaned. Before dipping your toes in, always ask the technician when the spa was last cleaned and what method was used.

Laura uses her extensive background in the beauty industry to pass on invaluable tips and advice to her readers! Find Laura on LinkedIn!

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