Every day, women all over the country head off to the nail salon for a manicure, pedicure or both. While the majority of the nail salons are safe, it pays to take a few minutes and look around to make sure the salon is clean and sanitary. Most of the warning signs are visible but, if not, don't be shy about asking the manicurist or owner. In addition, if you notice unsanitary conditions, don't be shy about leaving.
Licenses. Look for licenses. While each state may have their own licensing regulations, you should see a business license and licenses for each technician. Look around the walls. Many business owners hang the license on the wall, near the entrance or around the cash register. If you don't see any licenses, ask.
Check the waiting area. Cleanliness is important all around the salon, not just at the individual stations. Arrive a few minutes early and take the time to check out the waiting area. Magazines should be fairly new (raggedy corners or magazines from a year ago signal not much maintenance and cleaning is going on in the shop). The area should be neat and clean, free of dirt and dust.
Take a tour of the salon. Ask your technician to show you around the salon. Look at the individual stations. Each station should be clean and organized. You should see single-use items, such as cotton swabs, easily discarded after each appointment. Some obvious signs are unwashed towels lying around or used, stations not cleaned after each appointment, dust or dirt on the shelves, decorations or floor. If the technician or owner is hesitant about showing you around the salon, they may have something to hide.
Talk about cleanliness. It's okay to ask about cleanliness and sanitary procedures. Ask the technician what procedures the salon uses to sterilize tools in between appointments. While in the waiting area, watch for technicians who are finishing up with a client and pay attention to the steps they take before bringing a new client to their station.
Smell the air. You shouldn"�t smell any strong chemicals. If you do, the ventilation system may not be working properly or isn't strong enough to remove all the nail dust, dead skin cells and other airborne particles. Besides making you nauseas while you are there, it can potentially make you sick.
Ask if the salon shaves calluses and, if so, what instruments are used. In many states, using a credo blade is illegal and considered a medical procedure. Even so, shaving calluses is not a good idea. Your calluses will only grow back - often thicker than before. Calluses protect your feet, smoothing them with a pumice stone rather than shaving them off is a much better idea.
Decide whether to bring your own tools. Some women feel that bringing their own tools is a safer way to go, however, this isn't always the case. If you have someone use your tools and then put them back in the case without sterilizing them, sterilized immediately before being used on you - that means scrubbing off any debris and soaking in a hospital-grade sanitizer.
Look at the quality of the nail polish. Nail polish bottles should look fairly new. That means you shouldn't see any settled pigments or nail polish clumped and dried around the tops of the bottles. Some women prefer to purchase their own nail polish, including base coats and top coats, and bring it with them to their appointment.
Products in unmarked containers. All products used by the technicians, and all around the salon, should be clearly marked. You don't want someone accidently using the wrong product during your manicure or pedicure, cleaning products, sanitizers, polish remover, etc. should all be in original containers and clearly marked.
Washing hands. Both you and the technician should wash your hands prior to beginning a manicure. If you are not asked to wash your hands, and provided with cleanser and a sink with hot water or if the technician doesn't take the time to wash her hands before beginning your manicure, this is not the right salon.
Remember, if you don't feel comfortable or have any questions about the conditions or procedures, you should ask the technician or the owner. There are plenty of reputable nail salons - in every town and city across the U.S. - if one doesn't feel right, find another one.
"What to Look Out for in Nail Salon: INTA/NMC Consumer Guidelines, Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Professional Beauty Association