I probably go to the nail salon at least once a month — often more. I see them cleaning out the spa pedicure tubs after a service. Sometimes they scrub them well, and sometimes they don’t. But NEVER, in all my years of going, have I ever seen them fully comply with California State Board standards which say, in part, “The water in the basin shall be circulated with the correct amount … of the EPA-registered hospital-liquid disinfectant that is labeled as a bactericide, fungicide and virucide, through the basin for at least 10 minutes.” State Board inspectors may show up unannounced to inspect for compliance with regulations. But I have never personally seen a State Board inspector in my experience as an esthetician, so it’s easy to see how people can get away with not complying with State Board standards.
Nail technicians, estheticians and cosmetologists are expected to comply with State Board regulations that are rarely enforced. However, it is essential to your health and safety that we do, and you, the client, should expect no less than the following:
Disinfection: You know that little cabinet with the blue light that is often referred to as a sterilizer? It’s not a sterilizer. The only board-recognized sterilization method (aside from an autoclave, which is almost exclusively found in doctors’ offices and hospitals) is a broad-spectrum barbicide (often referred to as “quats”), that kills bacteria, viruses and fungi. It’s the blue liquid that hairdressers often put combs in. Your esthetician should have a container of quats to sterilize, after EVERY client, anything that comes in contact with body fluids, such as a comedone extractor (the instrument we use to do extractions). The blue liquid should be clear, not cloudy. If you don’t see one in use, you have every right to ask about it. I keep mine in a cupboard, so you won’t see it unless you ask. I do have a sanitizing cabinet for my instruments, but they’re not put inside until after they’ve been sterilized in quats.
Sanitation: Your esthetician should be changing ALL sheets, towels and gowns/robes after every service. This may sound obvious, but I have witnessed people re-using a gown for a second client, changing only the top sheet, and throwing a damp towel back into the hot-towel cabinet. This way there is less to wash and less time to change things between clients. And you know the round sponges we use? They should NEVER be re-used on different clients, ever! But they sometimes are. They cost an esthetician approximately $.25 per sponge, so if they’re trying to cut corners, it’s an easy place to start. Even if the sponges are put in a sanitizing cabinet, they are not sterile. I always have my new, compressed sponges next to my water bowl at the beginning of a service, so the client can see they haven’t been used yet. If the client doesn’t want to take them at the end of their service, they go into the trash. Every time.
Product cleanliness: If a skincare product comes in a jar, the product should never be removed from the jar with a finger! Fingers are germy! Fingers have nails that trap all kinds of dirt and bacteria underneath! One of the many virtues of the Dermalogica products I use is that they come in containers that cannot be double-dipped, such as tubes and pumps. When I use a product that comes in a jar, I remove the product with a clean spatula every time. Be sure your esthetician does too!
Double-dipping the wax applicator: I’ve seen everyone from the esthetician at the local nail salon on up to waxing instructors use one wax applicator for the entire waxing session. Think about this. Wax is used to remove hair from a wide variety of body parts. Do you really want wax that has been double-dipped during someone’s Brazilian wax to now be applied to your upper lip? A fresh stick should be used EVERY time it goes into the wax pot. And the argument that the wax will kill bacteria is bogus. Wax that has been turned high enough to kill bacteria would be WAY too hot to use on a person’s skin. There should be a pile of used wax sticks at the end of any wax service. If not, there is no way of telling whose germs have been put in the wax pot before you.
I’m not saying that if a service is inexpensive, that corners are being cut, or for that matter, that an expensive spa will be the most sanitary. I’m just saying be careful where your health and safety are concerned — and make sure your esthetician is too.