(This is a picture of my work station, notice how shiny everything is?!)
There’s nothing better than a great salon service but all too often trying a new salon can lead to bad results and possible permanent damage. After getting my first surprise visit from state board official I thought it would be a good time to help average consumers spot the red flags that they look for.
Give the whole salon a once over. The first thing you should do before sitting down to receive a service is ask where the restroom is. Usually they are located somewhere in the back so it is a quick way for you to scope the place out. This will give you a general feel for the tidiness of the place. If there is hair left on the floor while the customer is receiving a color treatment or if all the nail stations are covered in nail dust these are bad signs. If the most basic housekeeping RULES are not being followed you can bet your bottom dollar sanitation RULES are being ignored as well. I intentionally capitalized RULES because they are in fact apart of a beauty technician’s job, sweeping and cleaning up after every client are not only a required regulation to being a licensed professional- they are the entire reason why states require licensing.
Find out who has a license so you know who doesn’t. On your way back from the restroom make a mental note of how many people are working on clients, if there are more people working then there are licenses posted that means some of them are working illegally! This can be harder to spot, some salons will have them posted in a group picture frame and others will have them at their work stations. Licenses are required to be displayed in an obvious location so if someone has to squirrel away for a few minutes to show you their license its best to take a good long look at it. It is well within your rights to ask to see a license so don’t take no for an answer!
All tools must be sanitized prior to each use, and in some cases a record must be kept to prove what kind of sanitation was done and when. The best example I can give is related to pedicure foot spas, which happens to be an area I find it to be of the utmost importance as well!
There are three levels of sanitation for foot spas, one for after each client, one for the end of each business day, and one to be conducted at least once a month. Failure to adhere to the sanitation guidelines can give way to the spreading of fungi, bacteria, and even blood born pathogens.
If it can’t be sanitized, it only gets used once. This will include anything that isn’t plastic or metal. This means one nail file per client and a new wax applicator stick for every dip in the communal pot. This is another very important step to keeping fungi, bacteria and other pathogens from spreading that is all too often over looked. Waxing in particular worries me the most because all germs thrive in dark warm places and that makes wax pots the perfect place for them. I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories, some of which I’m not entirely sure they could be true, but not too far fetched to be over ruled.
If it hurts, burns, or feel uncomfortable in any other way something is wrong. I had a client come in the other day with a fiery red scalp, and I commented that she must have just dyed it to its current shade of red. To my shock she informed me that it had already been a week and that she could keep the color on her head more than 5 minutes at a time. It is very common for a colorist to slap color on to the heads of anyone who walks in off the street but this can be a very dangerous practice. The chemical composition of the color and your genetics will determine how your body reacts to it, in most cases only a sight irritation will occur and any dye residue will leave the scalp in about 2 washes. It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to products you have used before so don’t assume you’re safe because everything was ok before. There is a procedure called a patch test that will determine if it is safe for you to use hair color and must be done 24 hours prior to the service. It might be a pain to wait an extra day or go to the salon the day before but this small inconvenience is much better to deal with then the repercussions of a bad allergic reaction. Some of the top services to keep this in mind for are bleaching/highlights and any kind of chemical straightening.
HOW TO STOP A BAD SALON
The first line of defense against a bad salon is you! State board officials will asses the salon before it opens but are only able to check back anywhere from every 6 months to a year after! If you encounter a bad service and suspect that the rules and regulations of running a safe salon are not being followed inform your state board. Most states want a complaint in writing so be prepared to write something out. Each state has their own reaction time to letters, but they are often handled swiftly. I once wrote a letter about a nail salon, mailed it through the USPS and an inspector followed up the next day with over $2,000 worth of fines. Your complaint might not shut a business down but it will affect them monetarily and hopefully make them think twice about their business practices.
DON’T BE AFRAID
Don’t let this discourage you from trying a new salon or service! If you come across something that worries you research it with your states board and ask lots of questions at the salon. Any reputable salon staffer will be more than happy to explain every step of a service to you.