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Protect yourself at salons

By Kristen Hackney-redman | AVALANCHE-JOURNAL

Thursday, July 10, 2008
Story last updated at 7/10/2008 - 1:42 am

When you walk into a salon, do you visually inspect your surroundings or do you rummage through the magazine pile while your stylist finishes up with another client?

You might want to put down that magazine until after you've looked around.

OAS_AD('Position3'); While it is unlikely you would catch a disease from a salon, it is possible. However, you can protect yourself with some simple, practical guidelines.

First impressions count

When you first walk into your salon, look around for overall cleanliness, said Dr. Ray Smith, a family practice physician at Covenant Hospital's Health Plus Clinic. Dr. Sina Aboutalebi, a dermatologist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said to look around to see if new instruments are being used from one person to the next.

Darla Dorman, a stylist at The Gallery, said when walking into a salon, clients should look for proof of the most recent health inspection and a sign stating who to call in case of a complaint. Health inspections occur, at the very least, once a year, Dorman said. Inspectors make sure cosmetologists follow health and safety guidelines, and if an inspector sees a violation, she or he will issue a citation, which carries a fine, Dorman said.

Smith said the first question you should ask your stylist is "How do you feel today?"

If she or he is sick, Smith suggests rescheduling to avoid contracting an illness from your stylist. Remember, however, that if you're sick, you should reschedule to avoid exposing your stylist to your illness.

Aboutalebi said you should ask your stylist: "Are these instruments clean? Were they cleaned before you used them on me?"

Hairy situations

When seeing a hair stylist, once you're in your stylist's chair, look for his or her tools in the green liquid that sanitizes the combs and scissors.

Stylists should have a disinfecting spray cleanser and hand sanitizer as well. The spray should be used between clients to clean chairs and counter tops.

Look for your stylist's little pink book: "Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for Cosmetologists." If you don't see it, ask your stylist to see his or her copy. It must be available for customers to read, if they ask, Dorman said.

While you're sizing up your stylist, be aware your stylist is also sizing you up.

Hairstylists are trained to look for communicable diseases while working on your hair, Dorman said.

Some of the diseases stylists look for include ringworm, scabies and head lice, Dorman said. If it can be transmitted to others, your stylist will not work on you, she said.

Once someone is identified as having lice, she or he isn't even allowed to remain in the waiting area of the salon, Dorman said.

Nail salon concerns

Smith said fungal infections are the most commonly transmitted infectious diseases in nail salons.

"Fungus is pretty much everywhere," Aboutalebi said. "Some people are more prone to it than others."

Orange sticks used to push back cuticles are porous, so they cannot be cleaned properly, Smith said.

As for the other instruments, or implements, used during manicures, Ray said the green liquid you see in jars containing the implements should say it is tuberculocidal.

Shelly Walker, a hair stylist and nail technician at The Gallery, said she uses Let's Touch, a sanitizer, for her manicure instruments. It is tuberculocidal, meaning it will kill the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, but it also kills other bacteria, viruses and fungi.

The liquid in the jars containing the technician's manicure tools should be clear, not cloudy.

"If it's cloudy, it's contaminated," Walker said. "It should be clear."

If you're concerned about the cleanliness of your nail technician's tools, Smith recommends bringing your own instruments to the salon.

"It's a lot cheaper than one infection," he said.

One final point to remember about manicures: "It shouldn't hurt to have your nails done," Smith said. If it hurts, the technician is pushing your cuticles back too far, Ray said.

Tanning salons are the least safe

Tanning does not make people more attractive, Smith said. Instead, tanning makes people look old and leathery, he added.

But most importantly, tanning poses a health risk: skin cancer.

Aboutalebi said tanning of any kind prematurely ages the skin and puts you at risk for skin cancer.

"Tanning booths are no less likely to cause skin cancer than the sun," Smith said.

While a person's best tan provides an SPF of about two to four, a tan from a tanning booth or bed is more shallow than a tan from sunbathing, Smith said. As a result, the tanning bed tan provides even less protection from the sun than a sunbathing tan.

"Both cause wrinkling and an increased risk of skin cancer," Smith said.

While you may hear that it's good to tan because you need vitamin D, Aboutalebi said tanning is unnecessary to receive your vitamin D, especially in West Texas.

Smith said because tanning beds and booths specialize in UVA light, you don't get the benefit of vitamin D from them.

Diet can provide your daily vitamin D, without the risk of sun exposure, Aboutalebi said.

"I see far more patients with skin cancer than with vitamin D deficiency," Aboutalebi said. "Every day I see someone with skin cancer."

Aboutalebi has seen someone as young as 23 with a kind of skin cancer caused by sun exposure.

Because bare skin comes in contact with tanning beds, if you do decide you want to tan, you should be sure the bed is cleaned before you get in it.

"Make sure they're cleaning tanning beds between use," Aboutalebi said. "If someone has a nick on their body and the bed is dirty, there is a risk of getting infection."

If a tanning bed isn't cleaned between uses, someone could contract crab lice, Smith said.


To comment on this story:

kristen.hackney@lubbockonline.com 766-8713 shelly.gonzales@lubbockonline.com 766-8747


What to look for in the salon

• Look for overall cleanliness.

• Look for the salon's health inspection.

• Look for a display showing who to call for complaints.

• Look for your stylist's license.

• Look for clean floors - your stylist should sweep up any hair from his or her last client.

• Look for the containers of green liquid (should be clear) containing the stylist's tools.

• Look for a spray disinfectant cleanser.

• Look for a hand sanitizer.

• Look for the pink book, "Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for Cosmetologists." If you don't see it, you can ask your stylist for it.