When you go to a beauty salon, you want to come out feeling pampered, relaxed and looking your best. What you don’t want to leave with is a fungal infection, burns or lice. However, that’s exactly what you’ll end up with if you go to a salon that doesn’t adhere to health and safety standards. To avoid ruining your look, and your health, be on the lookout for these 10 potential health hazards the next time you go to the beauty salon.
Before you get settled, make sure that the technicians or hairdressers are properly certified. If a license isn’t on display, ask to see it. Inexperienced technicians can, not only give you a bad dye job, but they can easily botch a facial or gel manicure, leaving you with burns, nerve damage or other injuries.
When you sit down and have a consultation with the hairdresser or technician, this is the time to check out the tools that will be used on you. Are the heat-styling tools clean or are they covered in baked-on hair products? Are the brushes and combs full of hair? All instruments, including nail files, combs and cuticle clippers need to be sterilized after each and every use.
The best way to do this is through heat sterilization, or autoclaving, but chemical sterilization is acceptable in most states as well. Just be sure that the label on the sterilization jar is marked “germicidal,” since some salons use glass cleaner to save money, and that the tools have been left in the solution for at least 10 minutes.
If the tools aren’t clean, the sinks and the towels probably aren’t clean, either. Always check the sink for hair and overall cleanliness before dunking your hair into it. Check the towels or robes that they may give you to be sure it wasn’t just used on the person before you. Things to look for include stains, rips and even hair.
If you’re getting your nails done, look at the soaking bowls and foot baths. Both are breeding grounds for bacteria – foot baths trap hair and skin cells, and soaking bowls can easily collect germs from clients who have unclean hands. Be sure that they’re being disinfected or at least cleaned between customers. Ideally, salons should use plastic liners for this equipment, but if they don’t, ask for them to be lined with a plastic bag before soaking your fingers or toes.
Sometimes potential health hazards at beauty salons can be a two-way street; this is the case when it comes to a skin infection. If you wax or shave your legs before getting a pedicure, you’ve now created entry points for any germs from the foot bath to enter, which can lead to a skin infection. If you know when you’re getting a pedicure, avoid removing the hair on your legs one day beforehand.
A relatively new type of pedicure, called the fish pedicure, can also lead to infections. The fish pedicure consists of Garra Rufa fish, also known as doctor fish, which eat the dead skin cells off your feet. However, putting your feet and legs into a fish bowl full of dead skin and other debris, particularly if you have cuts or sores on your legs, could lead to infection.
People always say that you want what you don’t have, and this is the case for many people with curly hair. They want straight hair and they want it permanently. The way to achieve this is through a technique known as the Brazilian Blowout, which straightens the hair for a long period of time by using chemicals.
However, the straightening solution contains formaldehyde or chemicals that can break down into formaldehyde. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert for those who work with this product and are exposed to the chemicals in it. OSHA has also cracked down on some manufacturers of the product that failed to label formaldehyde as an ingredient. Although it’s best to skip this procedure, if you decide to get it done, ask to read the ingredient label first. The same goes for any other product at the salon that you may feel leery about.
With all of those harmful chemicals floating around in the air, it’s important that the salon has a good ventilation system. When those chemicals mix with the heat from the hair dryers, it can create fumes that irritate allergies, asthma and can cause headaches.
If double-dipping a nacho chip in salsa is considered unsanitary, double-dipping a waxing stick in wax must be downright filthy. Germs and bacteria, not to mention skin and hair, can be transferred from the stick to the wax each time the stick is dipped. Always make sure that the person giving you the wax uses a new stick each time he or she dips.
The gel manicure has risen in popularity, but the problem is that it can do more harm to your health that it can do good for your appearance. Early studies show that the UVA lights used during the manicure can potentially increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
If you haven’t seen the technician wash her hands before starting on your nails or preparing the wax, ask her to do so. Look at the technician’s hands and if you see any cuts or sores, ask her to put gloves on.
It may seem intimidating to ask these questions or make all of these requests, but it’s important to remember that you are the client and you’re paying the people in the salon to do a service for you. If you wouldn’t eat in a dirty restaurant, you shouldn’t be willing to receive any type of beauty treatment from a potentially hazardous salon.